Nokia in 2012/13 managed to get single to double digit market share in many markets with its Lumia 520. Motorola had been brought over by Google decided to take that concept to the next level in the Android world, and put out the Moto G. Until the emergence of the Moto G, budget android phones were very badly spec’d and compromised in many ways, specially in the area of build quality. While leading Chinese players such as ZTE, Huawei did produce better products than the big gun Samsung, they still had build quality issues and inferior internals.
So what makes the Motorola Moto G so popular, and a rebel in the world of mid tier budget phones.
The Moto G packs in a very decent configuration, with very little compromises.
Processing and graphics
From a processing aspect it packs the same kind of hardware found in the Samsung S4 mini and HTC One mini featuring a quad-core 1.2Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor(with a slightly inferior processing core, the Cortex A7 vs Krait 200/300 on the Samsung and HTC) and an Adreno 305 GPU. The phone also came with a healthy 1GB memory.
The processor is definitely well about the cheap brigade that usually featured dual-core units, which were either outdated/low end units, or less capable units with compatibility issues such as MediaTek or Broadcom. 1GB RAM was also a premium configuration, as most were either 512 or 768MB in this price range.
The Adreno 305 GPU may not be gaming powerhouse, but for day to day computing it was more than capable, and could provide a decent gaming experience at HD resolution. Again the 305 GPU packs a lot more than what you see on other budget phone which feature the 302 Adreno or less capable PowerVR or severely detuned Mali GPU units. The other advantage being with Qualcom now the top dog in the mobile arena, the gaming compatibility for Adreno is among the best.
An area usually compromised by budget phones was the display, and Motorola really created a major wave here, as the Moto G featured a 4.5″ IPS LCD display that was a proper HD resolution (720×1280), and also had the latest Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection layer to go with it. The display is not the typical budget type, and has very decent sunlight legibility, brightness, and had a very good punch in color. Competing models in this range typically had lower resolution (480×800 or at most 960×480 display’s). The resolution in the Moto G is superior to the much pricer Samsung S4 mini (and for that matter even superior to the IPhone 5!), and it really offered a great pixel per inch for its price.
Another strong point with the Moto G was that it had a comparatively large 2070mAh battery, that would allow the phone to easily last a day with data and general usage, even though it packed quite a powerful chipset and a large display.
The one place that Motorola did NOT do that much was the camera (an area of weakness that Motorola has long had, though the Moto X did do quite well), as the sensor and camera capability’s were more into the budget range. however the camera to most in this price would be considered “A-OK”, featuring a 5MP sensor with autofocus, and a F/2.4 lens, and a fairly powerful LED flash to back it. The front camera is a 1.3MP.
One of the customized apps strangely is the camera app, though you download third party camera apps and even the Goggle Camera app to use. The Motorola camera app is rather primitive and can make taking decent photos with the limited camera capabilities hard. I used the Google Camera app to get better results than the native Motorola camera app.
The native camera app has a tendency to shoot fast, without getting proper focus, and though the native interface saw some tweaks with the Android 4.4.4 update, I was able to get much better focus results with the Google Camera app on the same phone.
Under low light, the photos tended to be very noisy, and lacking in detail and sharpness. The flash is quite powerful, but when taking indoor portraits the flash can be overpowering, and the photos tend to have overexposed wierd effect.
The camera has no software or hardware stabilization feature (not seen any in this budget to feature such capability), and this means videos can be choppy unless you hold the camera firm. Strangely though the Snapdragon 400 chipset supports FullHD video recording, Motorola has limited this to 720HD for videos. However considering the capabilities of the camera keeping it to 720HD maybe a wise option 🙂
The front camera performs similar to many others, in that it functions and can provide decent footage if the lighting good, and can get grainy and dark if the lighting is poor.
The phone was initially launched with a measly 8GB, but it was soon backed by an 16GB version. With no SD card expansion, I recommend that you avoid the 8GB version unless you are seriously budget restrained, as you barely have 5GB storage once the OS aspect is covered, and you are sure to run out of storage very quickly.
The trend the Motorola Moto X started as being part of Google continued with the Moto G, which meant you got Android updates nearly as fast as the Google Nexus range. The Moto G launcher and customizations were minimal and hence updates were simpler on the part of Motorola.
The design of the phone does not have any great innovations, but has a very nice tapered feel in the back that makes it easy to use single handed. The great part of the design is the build quality, as its generally creak free and well put together. The customizable back cover is also a nice feature that should go well with the younger crowd.
One of the features of the phone that is less mentioned is the splash resistance design (might be also why Motorola made the battery a sealed type though the back cover is removable).
The phone has the basic connectivity, with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (4.0) supported. Data wise except the 4G version, the rest are limited to 21.1Mbps 3.5/3.75G capable. The only omission is NFC, though i am sure most won’t be disappointed on that 🙂 The 3G speeds are pretty decent, with speedof.me test 4-6Mbps download speeds, similar to what i get on my nexus 5 in 3G mode.
One feature the Moto G support that is not possible with the Nexus range is to OTG feature, which allows you to connect an external storage device (such as a flash drive or hard disk).
Another of the areas the Moto G does well is on audio quality, the in-call audio is very good, and importantly the speakerphone performance is also good (something the LG made Nexus phones has struggled in recent times).
So how well does this Motorola G perform. Here are some tests that i have run on the processing and browsing aspects.
The budget Moto G, provides surprisingly good performance, and with Antutu optimized for multi-core, it manages to provide better scores than the two premium phones from Samsung and HTC (the One mini and S4 mini). Interesting it also gives a better score than the Nexus 4, which featured a Snapdragon 600 processor, but was known to be under clocked to avoid heating issues due to the glass back design. A closer look at detailed test shows that the Adreno 305 GPU provides similar performance to Xperia Z, and twice the performance of a Tegra 3 based device. Clearly you are getting a phone that can do more than fine for your general gaming needs.
The Vellamo test has now been beefed up beyond pure web testing, and we see that it performs decently matching the capability of the Xperia Z on both browsing and processing capabilities. If you have used an Xperia Z or an S3 you will notice that these phones are still quite nippy, but the Samsung is dragged down by the heavy TouchWiz customization, and older Android version. The fact that the much less priced Moto G provides the same performance is a good indicator that this phone can hang around for a while if you are not the type to change phones quite frequently.
NIGGLES AND ISSUES
The Moto G features a radio, and here it seems that going with vanilla Android, the Motorola developers forgot to add the essential features everyone wants. For instance to use the FM radio you need to hook a headset so it works as an antenna. However when you play the radio there is no feature to change the audio to speakerphone in the phone, or to a Bluetooth Audio unit! You can use the HF Button Widget (Alpha) app to route the radio to the internal speaker phone, but i could not find a way to route it to my Divoom Solo BT speaker (seems you can route it to BT headset but not a speaker).
The Android 4.4.3 and 4.4.4 update also have the 3G connection bug. The bug makes the phone struggle to maintain 3G connection, and it keeps dropping back to 2G (edge). However this has a relatively simple fix that i found when having similar problems trying Korean-region Samsung phones. You can use apps in Google Play such as Network (by Philipp Mangelow) and Phone Testing (by diewland) to force the phone into WCDMA mode, and once you do, your 3G connectivity issues should be history.
Initially it was just a 8GB version that was launched in US, and very quickly followed up with a 16GB version. This was then followed by a more global launches, and a dual-SIM variant. All three had super pricing that made them hot favorites. A recent version was the 4G LTE version, but this also came with a price hike, that made it move closer to more expensive premium offerings.
The Moto G packaging also differs from region to region. The 16GB version I tried from the US market was one of the most skimpy, with the box only having the phone and a tiny micro USB cable. No charger, no handset! However the second model I tried was the XT1033 dual SIM, and this was targeted for the middle east region, and this included a charger and a very “low cost” handset. The charger was the type which had the cord as part of the unit, so if you wanted to copy stuff you will need to get a separate micro USB cable.
The Moto G 2014 edition (aka Moto G 2), an minor evolution than expected
Motorola just launched the Motorola Moto G 2014 edition in Sep 2014, and though many expected a big change in the internals, the changes sadly have been minimal, seemingly to keep the price down to the same as the first gen Moto G. The internal core processing capabilities remains unchanged with the Snapdragon 400 processor and Adreno 305 being retained, though many were hoping to see the Snapdragon 405 to be featured on this phone.
The phone now has a larger 5″ display, and also fixes one of the major concerns of the phone, the storage as it now have a SD card expansion slot. The camera is now a 8MP back unit, with a f2.0 lens, which should mean better photos under low light conditions than the first version. The front camera has also seen an improvement in spec atleast, as it now has a 2MP front unit. The main camera can now record video at fullHD it seems.
Strangely Motorola has not increased the capacity of the battery, considering the display is now a larger unit. Theory says the battery life should be inferior to the 4.5″ Moto G, but internal tweaks and possibly the power efficiencies of the display may help compensate and help the 2014 Moto G (2) achieve the same battery capabilities of the first gen Moto G.