The Moto X is one of our favorite smartphones of 2013, and now Motorola has introduced the Moto G, which is essentially a watered down, budget version of the Moto X – and boy is that a good thing. For $179 you get an unlocked smartphone with solid specs, that make this phone a really good value.
Yet, despite its low price tag, Motorola hasn’t cut corners with the 4.5” display on the Moto G. Instead, the phone comes packing a 1280 x 720 HD display with 329 ppi. Overall, the display is excellent, with vibrant colors, and sharp visuals, and it’s really quite surprising to behold, especially considering the Moto G’s price point. And when it comes to processing performance, the phone also comes running on the capable 1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor which earned a score of 8716 under the Quadrant benchmark app.
The Moto G looks and feels a lot like the more premium Moto X, so much so, that we were a bit taken aback. To that effect, it offers a similarly solid build quality, as well as a similar ergonomic and comfortable grip to the Moto X. However, it is a bit heavier. It also offers some customization options, just like the Moto X. However, instead of ordering your color choices online, the Moto G has interchangeable backs, called shells, which are available in a selection of 8 colors. These shells retail for $14.99 each. The shells are a bit retro-tastic – circa the days of Nokia and their interchangeable faceplates, but we totally approve.
So where has the Moto G actually cut corners? The battery is not removable, and the memory is not expandable either. So you’ll be stuck with 8GB or 16GB of storage forever. But hey, isn’t that exactly how the much pricier iPhone models operate?
The Moto G also lacks many of the bells and whistles you’ll find on more premium phones like the Moto X, such as voice control. It also lacks support for LTE, but we suppose that you can’t have everything at this price point. Still we saw very respectable speeds on AT&T’s network. Using the Speedtest app we observed downloads to be at 7.56 Mbps down and 2.43 Mbps up.
At this price, Motorola could have opted to leave out a front-facing camera altogether, but they didn’t. Instead, the Moto G packs in a 1.3MP front camera and a 5MP rear camera with LED flash and 4x digital zoom. Unfortunately, the camera is pretty poor, but we wouldn’t expect much from the camera at this price point. In any case, photos tend to often come out blurry, colors are washed out and completely inaccurate and they tend to have lots of noise. That said, we’re excited to see that Motorola has carried over the same great camera software to the Moto G that is on the Moto X. That includes tap to focus, a burst mode, slow motion video, a panaroma mode, and auto HDR – and these are all camera features that we would not easily expect to see on a budget smartphone.
When the Moto G was first announced, we initially thought that this would be a phone that would only be available in emerging markets. Fortunately, it’s now available in the U.S. The thing about the U.S. smartphone market is that there are plenty of budget smartphones, but anything half decent requires a contract. What makes the Moto G so appealing is that for just $179 you’re getting a super solid smartphone, that is unlocked and contract free, making it a truly great value. So the Moto G ends up being not just a phone for emerging markets, but it’s a phone that is very appealing to the growing prepaid phone customers in the U.S. – or anyone looking for a solid unlocked phone on the cheap. The only other phone we have seen come close to the Moto G in terms of value is the Nokia Lumia 521 Windows Phone, but it’s not sold unlocked.
The truth is, many users won’t miss the bells and whistles of the Moto X and other premium phones. But sure, the lack of LTE is not for everyone. That said, we’re really impressed with how much value the Moto G provides for its low price tag of $179. All in all, the Moto G is as good as it gets for under $200.
The Good: It’s super cheap! Customizable shells are fun. No compromise display and build quality. Truly all day battery life. Solid performance.
The Bad: No LTE. No removable battery. No expendable storage. No bells and whistles. Camera is poor. The Moto G comes running Android 4.3 but a Kit Kat upgrade is promised.
Update 10/7/2014: Check out our review of the 2nd gen Moto G.