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Moto G (2nd Gen) Review: Budget Android Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This

The Moto G shook the mobile world pretty hard last year. For $180, the Moto G was an unlocked stock Android smartphone with decent internal hardware, a 4.5-inch 720p resolution display, and a battery that lasted all day. Oh, and you also got interchangeable rear covers and shells for an extra level of customization. The Moto G went on to become Motorola’s best-selling smartphone of all time, and now, the company is looking to land another hit with the new Moto G.

In creating the 2nd gen Moto G, Motorola identified four key improvements that existing Moto G users wanted: a larger display, a better camera, clearer audio, and storage expansion. We’re liking it, although we wish we could have gotten our hands on a Moto G 4G LTE review model, too, which seems like it might be the best possible value here.

If you’re looking for a complete design revamp on this year’s Moto G, you’d best look elsewhere. From a design standpoint, the new Moto G still resembles its predecessor, with only a few small changes here and there. The new Moto G is still a plastic Android smartphone made from matte polycarbonate. Its back still bulges toward the center and tapers towards the sides, which makes for a comfortable grip in the palm. Its thickest point is 11 mm, but since it tapers to 6mm at its slimmest point, I didn’t have any trouble slipping the new Moto G into my front pants pocket.

Bigger screens are what people want, and that’s what Motorola is giving everyone. The new Moto G has a 5-inch display, up from the 4.5-inch display on the previous Moto G. But, a bigger display doesn’t mean a higher resolution. The screen sticks with the same 1280 x 720 resolution as the previous Moto G, so its pixel density drops from 329 ppi to 294 ppi. Text and photos still look good, but they’re not as crisp as on last year’s model. It’s not a deal breaker by any means, so long as you know what to expect. There will be an LTE model available, but unfortunately, we did not get a Moto G 4G LTE review model, so we’re not sure how well that phone will perform.

The front- and rear-facing cameras also got upgraded. The front went up from a 1.2 MP sensor to a 2 MP sensor. The rear camera now has an 8 MP sensor, up from 5 MP. Both cameras take sharper pictures than the old Moto G, which is a plus. My only real peeve is the shutter is rather slow and the autofocus can be finicky. Otherwise, you can still record 720p resolution HD video at 30 frames per second.

The Moto G has the same 2,070 mAh battery as last year’s model. I was able to get anywhere between 8-10 hours of battery life depending on my usage, but it would have been welcome to have a larger battery to power the larger display.

While not particularly attractive, the front of the Moto G has two metal-shaped speaker grills. They’re not quite as attractive as the micro-perforated BoomSound speakers that premium devices like the HTC One (M7) and HTC One (M8) have, but they get the job done. Sound is both louder and more audible now that there are two stereo speakers that project sound towards you and not away from you.

The most important new feature on the new Moto G, however, is the addition of a microSD card slot. The original Moto G was shackled to a measly 8GB of internal storage (hardly enough for anything after you download a few apps and songs and take a bunch of photos). If you take the rear cover off, you will find a slot for adding a 32GB (or less) microSD card. With microSD cards so cheap these days, adding more storage when you need it is super simple.

One thing the new Moto G doesn’t emphasize is its tech specs. Why? Because they’re the same as last year’s Moto G. Under the hood, you get the same 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor, Adreno 305 450MHz graphics chip, 1GB of RAM, and 4G HSPA+. AT&T has also announced that as of October 10th, they will be offering a Moto G 4G LTE model, and if we get a Moto G 4G LTE review model, we’ll be sure to update this review. Don’t get me wrong, the specs are powerful enough to run stock Android 4.4.4 KitKat without any lag, but they’re not going to age well once Android L is released and more demanding apps are released.

Verdict

The Moto G is an upgrade over its predecessor in the ways that matter to its target buyers: larger screen, better camera, front-facing stereo speakers and storage expansion. What the Moto G isn’t is a hardware powerhouse. It has the same internal specs as last year’s Moto G, which is disappointing for new owners, but it’s more than sufficient enough to run stock Android 4.4.4 KitKat without choking up. If you’re looking for an unlocked, no-contract Android smartphone without any gimmicks, clunky Android skins, or carrier bloatware, the new Moto G (2nd gen) is a winner (again). We didn’t get to play around with a Moto G 4G LTE review model, but we have a feeling that will be a great buy, too. Best of all it’s still only $180.

The Good:Bigger screen, clearer audio, slightly better cameras, microSD card slot, no carrier bloatware (unlike the Moto X, which is sold through carriers), Moto G 4G LTE model in the works

The Bad: Motorola didn’t upgrade the internal spec at all, will become obsolete pretty fast