The Moto G is an anomaly in the smartphone space. It is a cheap off-contract smartphone that delivers the build quality and user experience we expect to find on a phone that costs twice as much.
For $179 users get a device that delivers everything a user needs in a smartphone, but leaves several features off the table to arrive at an incredibly low price. Three main features missing are 4G LTE, a 1080P HD display and a great camera. Even with these missing features users still get access to HSPA+ or 4G networks which are fast enough for many users, a good-looking 720P display and a 5MP camera that delivers decent results most of the time.
$179 sounds like a lot compared to a “free” iPhone or a $99 Android smartphone, but when you buy a smartphone at a carrier like AT&T or Verizon that low price is built in to a two-year contract. With the Moto G, you don’t need to be eligible for an upgrade or to sign any contract to get the $179 price.
While the Moto G may not meet the needs of power users looking for the fastest processors and the best camera in the market, it is a very capable smartphone that delivers an incredible value to users who don’t want a long-term contract.
Because the Moto G is unlocked and affordable it is also a nice choice for using with a prepaid carrier that uses T-Mobile or AT&T towers, such as Red Pocket Mobile, Straight Talk, AT&T Go Phone and others.
Moto G | $179 | Unlocked
Moto G Review Guide
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The Moto G review video below highlights the features and design of this new, affordable Android smartphone from Motorola.
The Moto G design is very similar to the Moto X which we reviewed earlier this year. The Moto GO is slightly thicker than the Moto X, but the same height and width, despite a slightly smaller screen. The Moto G is heavier than the Moto X by 13 grams, which is noticeable when holding both phones, but not something that will be a hassle to carry every day.
Moto G owners will appreciate the solid design that comes from a premium feeling plastic on the front and on the removable back. The phone feels like a premium device that should be on the market at twice the price thanks in part to a solid inner construction. The back is removable, but the battery is not user replaceable and there is no Micro SD card slot.
The Moto G is not customizable to the same degree as the Moto X, but owners can buy different color backs and pick from a variety of color coordinated flip covers and accessories.
The Moto G uses a 4.5-inch 720P HD display which looks nice even though it is at a lower resolution than most competing Android smartphones. The Nexus 5 and Samsung Galaxy S4 use come with 1080P HD displays which means more pixels per inch for sharper text and crisper photos.
With a smaller display Motorola is able to get by with a lower resolution without many users noticing the difference in day-to-day use. The display still offers 326 pixels per inch, which is on par with the iPhone 5s.
During the last month I’ve used the Moto G in place of more expensive phones like the iPhone 5s and Nexus 5 and the display was never a pain point for me as I read one and a half kindle books, browsed the web and looked at photos stored on Google+. While we all love higher resolution displays, there is nothing wrong with the Moto G’s 720P display.
The Moto G uses a less powerful Snapdragon 400 processor, but it is powerful enough to deliver a good user experience and is more than capable to handle the top free games in the Google Play Store like Subway Surfers, Angry Birds and the new Angry Birds Go. Real Racing 3 also performed very well on this affordable phone.
While using the phone to check email, browse the web, chat and make phone calls users will not notice any slower load times than we see on the Moto X. Switching apps and other activities are also fluid and swift on the Moto G.
One thing that mobile professionals will miss is 4G LTE connectivity. The Moto G comes with HSPA+ or 4G, which is fast enough for many consumers, but not as fast as 4G LTE. In our tests the Moto G delivered speeds of 2-5Mbps down and 1-1.75Mbps up on the 4G connection which is good. A 4G LTE connection on AT&T can go as fast as 20-30Mbps down and 10-15Mbps up, depending on the network.
A 4G connection is fast enough for many users and will be as fast as some pre-paid plans offer, so while the lack of 4G LTE is disappointing it is not a deal breaker for a phone at this price.
The Moto G battery is not user replaceable so there is no way to pop it out and pop in a new one if you run low. During our use the battery was not an issue, even though it is slightly smaller than the Moto X’s battery. The lower resolution screen and lack of 4G LTE help out with power usage.
With a ittle gaming, a decent amount of web browsing on 4G and WiFi and a few phone calls, the Moto G battery life is good enough to get through a full day of average use, but you may need to top off if you plan to go out all night and be sure to bring a charger for a weekend trip.
The Moto G call quality is good with callers reporting we sound the same as we do on the iPhone 5s. Callers sounded good on the phone as well. In short the call quality is good, but nothing special.
The small speaker on the back of the Moto G fails to deliver great sounding music with distortion on most songs when turned up past 2/3rd’s volume. You’ll definitely want to invest in a Bluetooth speaker or some good headphones.
The Moto G rear facing camera is a 5MP camera which is big step down from the Moto X and from other flagship smartphones like the iPhone 5s and Galaxy S4.
The Recent Android 4.4.2 update helps deliver a better overall photo thanks to smarter focusing, and the ability to manually set the focus and exposure by dragging a bracket across the screen did wonders for usability.
Overall the Moto G camera is OK thanks to the improved controls, but users will need to deal with a slower than average focus and slower than average shutter speed, which means starting a shot earlier and possibly missing photos of moving subjects like pets or kids. Night time photos and those in low light are quite blurry so you will need to fire the flash on most occasions. The camera also includes Auto HDR on by default to help deliver a better looking photo despite the camera. Users can also toggle on a slow motion mode for video.
The rear facing camera can record in 720P and the front facing 1.3Mp camera can deliver 720P video for video chats. Check out the Moto G camera samples below.
The Moto G comes with what is essentially a stock version of Android, and Motorola made good on the promise of a fast update to Android 4.4.2 which means the $179 smartphone is already running the latest Android software.
Users won’t find any skins or add-on overlays that come with some smartphones from HTC or Samsung. While there is no promise of Nexus speed updates in future, it wouldn’t surprise us to see the Moto G at the front of the line.
As for pre-installed apps, the Moto G brings the basic Google apps as well as Motorola Migrate to help users switch from another phone, Motorola Assist which can silence the phone when you are in meetings or sleeping as well as Quick Office and Google Drive complete with 50GB of storage for two years.
The Moto G does not include Active Display notifications like Moto X, which is disappointing, but not a deal breaker on a phone of this price.
The Moto G is a great smartphone for $179. It may not deliver all the features as the Moto X, HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5s, but it is a third of the price without a contract.
It is rare that we see an off contract smartphone below $200 worth buying, but Motorola delivered just that. While the Nexus 5 is a better option for users looking for a bigger higher-resolution screen and 4G LTE it is double the price.
For users looking to buy a great off contract unlocked smartphone, the Moto G fits the bill. despite a few missing features it is a phone I am able to swap into daily use between other flagship devices with only a few concessions. It would have been great for Motorola to bump the price up $20 to include a better camera, but overall this is a phone well worth its price.