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Moto G (2015) Review: Hands on with Motorola’s big phone at little cost

The new Moto G isn’t an aspirational device anymore, it’s an alternative device. A phone that could potentially save you a sizeable stack of cash the next time you’re considering a $1000-plus purchase. Because for $369, the Moto G is almost everything you could need from a phone.

It’s fast, just works, and while there are some sacrifices to be made aware of, it’s a phone that doesn’t stop you from doing anything.

Let’s take a look.

Moto G: Design

Moto G front

Let’s talk about what the Moto G isn’t – it’s not a super-premium device that squeezes every last technological advancement into a high-priced phone. It’s something that’s been carefully considered as being the best it can be for every dollar.

The hardware itself is noticeably thick, with a curved, hard plastic shell and a familiar Motorola camera+flash setup on the back. The back shell has lines cut into the plastic to offer some grip, but at the same time if you go with the grain it can feel a little slippery. It’s removable, so you can customise with a different colour or a new back if your one is showing some wear and tear.

Moto G shows off the thickness

The Moto G is thick, but that’s not a bad thing (iPhone 6s on the right)

The overall size is perfect for one hand, and while the device is bulky and weighs more than you might expect, that gives us a bigger battery to play with and accordingly, longer battery life.

Moto G: Screen and features

The 5-inch screen is at a reasonably low resolution of 1280×720 for a 720p or HD display, and for someone who looks at high-end phones all the time, isn’t quite as sharp. It’s not full HD, which is a knock. But with 329 ppi, it’s reasonable and as we’ll come back to constantly in this review, for the price, it’s entirely acceptable.

Just to be clear, if you compare the screen to the best in market, it doesn’t do well. But phone screens have been incredible for some time now, with increasingly small returns on hardware improvements.

Other features from Motorola include water resistance, which means a decent spill or tumble into a toilet won’t hurt it. That’s via internal rubber gaskets and nano-coating, meaning it’s waterproof from the inside out rather than the outside-in. In short, that provides a IPX7 rating, which is strong.

There’s also single-SIM and dual-SIM models, plus expandable memory. There’s more standard features like 4G LTE and Android Lollipop – more on Android later.

Moto G vs iPhone 6s

Moto G – iPhone 6s side-by-side

The other feature is the battery. Motorola have put battery life as one of their top priorities. While the battery isn’t removable, it is a solid 2470mAh, and that means it will last a day. The battery does charge slowly though – a full charge can take two hours, which is notable.

We’ve been using the device for some weeks both as a primary phone and as a back-up for testing different shots. The battery life is one of the best in class – it easily lasts a day, even with high usage while under review.

Moto G: Camera

On any budget device, you can understand that a shortcut must be taken to save money. Often it’s the camera.

But Motorola want you to have a decent camera, with the Moto G sporting a 13MP shooter on the back and a decent 5MP on the front.

The 13MP main camera has a f/2.0 lens and dual-tone LED flash, and just off the specs, that’s a big improvement on the older model’s 8MP snapper.

There’s a minimalist interface, the same as on the Moto X and Moto E, which includes just two on-screen buttons on the right-hand side for video recording and front-facing camera.

There’s advanced settings on offer including HDR with auto mode, touch capture, panorama, geo-tagging, and widescreen mode – what you’d expect. There’s also a twist gesture to launch the camera, which is best left at ‘okay’, while a double-chop gesture to turn on the flashlight is a bit weird, although it does work well. It’s not a negative at all, just something we can’t see you using unless you want to impress/surprise your friends.

The main issue with the camera is an autofocus that is capable but sometimes lacks the ability to focus on what you’re looking for, which can be frustrating.

Here’s a sample of snaps we took on a Sydney afternoon:

Moto G sample shots

Moto G sample shots

Moto G sample shots

Here’s some completely unfair comparisons from the iPhone 6s of the same:

iPhone 6s sample shots

iPhone 6s sample shots

iPhone 6s sample shots

You can make your own mind up – but all in all, it’s good for the price, and average when it comes down to the crunch compared to a super-premium flagship, which is an unfair comparison.

And that’s entirely expected – if it was an equivalent or better, you’d wonder what you were spending your money on when buying top of the line.

Moto G: Software and performance

The Moto G is about as close as you’ll get to a pure Android experience, with minimal bloat or cruft and Android in general runs really well. Most bloatware is to try and get you onto a company’s ecosystem in some way or another, to hopefully tempt you to stay. The only hint Moto G bloatware is the actually useful Migrate app, which beefs up Google’s own application suite.

The Moto G packs a Snapdragon 410 1.4 GHz 64-bit quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM, ensuring a reasonably quick clip that can handle most tasks.

Bog it down with multiple tasks – such as Chrome, Gmail, Twitter, Facebook and Spotify cranking away – and it’ll slow down a little and even stutter, especially when you throw in a complication like a taxing 3D game. However, we didn’t experience seriously poor response times, big pauses, or lock-ups, which can happen when under pressure to even the flagships.

Moto G in hand

Moto G: Overall

While there’s small points that can leave you wanting more – camera, battery charge-speed, only an okay screen – and you may or may not like the thick design, the Moto G is super phone for a comparatively low price.

While the RRP is $369, we’ve seen it under $300 at even just a cursory search. And that’s a massive $700 difference to something at the top level, which just isn’t affordable for some.

We couldn’t recommend it to someone who’s been using a modern flagship – basically anything equal or higher than a Samsung S6, iPhone 6, HTC M9, Huawei P8, etc. You miss out on too many creature comforts that were the reason you went for those phones to start with.

But if you’re hanging in there with your old iPhone 5 or Samsung S3, the Moto G will blow you away for what you get at the price. This will be the new go-to answer for this reviewer to the age-old “which smartphone should I get” to anyone who isn’t a serious power user.

It’s a solid device and it is befitting it gets one of Techly’s rare five-star reviews.

Overall rating: ★★★★★

Review period: Four weeks of solid hands-on.

Update: News is that the Moto G will receive Android’s latest update, Marshmallow. That’s a quick response and keeps you up to date with the best of Google’s Android offering and all that comes with it.

About the author

Tristan has a passion for tech, digital life, sport, and being told he looks better in person.

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