Motorola secured a name for itself with its extremely popular clamshell Razr V3 phone back in 2004. With the rise of the smart phone however, Motorola has somewhat fallen into the background. Its more recent line of Razr phones, while perfectly fine, didn't really do much to stand up to its Apple and Samsung competition.
Get used to hearing the Motorola name though as it's come out from the shadows with all guns blazing. The Moto G is a 4.5-inch smart phone with a 720p resolution, a 1.2GHz quad-core processor, Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, a 5-megapixel camera and -- prepare yourself for this one -- a mind-blowingly cheap price of £135 SIM-free. I'll let that sink in for a moment.
Should I buy the Motorola Moto G?
The Moto G is the best value phone around by miles. It has a great screen, plenty of power, a good battery, colourful, interchangeable cases and a good battery -- all of which would normally demand a considerably higher price. Make no mistake: there is nothing else at this price that even comes close.
It handles all the everyday essentials perfectly well and will tackle more intense tasks too. Its Android software is easy to use whether you're an Android veteran or a smart phone newbie. Sure, its lack of expandable storage might be frustrating for some, and it doesn't have 4G, but its phenomenal value means these aren't massive issues.
It's not just a brilliant option if you're on a budget, it's a superb choice for anyone who just isn't that fussed about buying the top-end kit.
Design and build quality
The Moto G has a fairly plain but nonetheless quite attractive design. The front is simply an unbroken slab of glass, but the back holds more interest. It has a soft-touch, matte plastic back, which is available in a host of colours. You can opt for the black model if you're not keen on bright designs, but the white version looks very smart, while the hot pink and turquoise models will appeal to those of you looking to stand out from the crowd.
With its 4.5-inch screen, it's smaller than many top end phones that pack in huge displays, which helps make it more comfortable to use, particularly for those of you with smaller hands. That's helped too by its gently curving back, which sits neatly in your palm.
At 11.6mm at its fattest point, it's quite a chunky little chap, and its 143g weight is quite noticeable when you first pick it up. It's certainly not going to drag your jeans down when you're walking around with it in your pocket though.
It feels very well put together. There's no creaking or flex in the chassis, the volume and power buttons on the edge all have a satisfying click and the glass front is made from toughened Gorilla glass. It definitely feels like it can take a few knocks and bumps, and you can always swap the back cover for a new one when it starts to look a little knackered -- or if you just fancy a change of colour.
Motorola reckons that the phone is water resistant too. Moto says you can take a call in the rain without fearing for the phone's life, which is pretty helpful here in grey Britain. It's not submersible though, so don't take it in the shower and definitely don't take it swimming. If you want to do that, get the fully waterproof Sony Xperia Z1 -- but expect to pay vastly more money.
As well as the buttons, the edges of the phone are home to the 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro-USB port charging the phone and for transferring data between it and a computer.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the phone is the fact that it's only available with 8 or 16GB of storage (for £25 extra). There's no SD-card slot either so you're not able to expand it. If you download lots of big games like Real Racing 3 or store lots of music locally then you'll blow through 8GB of space pretty quickly, so I highly advise opting for the 16GB model.
If you only really use a smart phone for calls, texts, tweeting and checking Facebook, then even 8GB of space will be sufficient. While it's a shame not to see more storage available, its super low price means I have to forgive it a little.
As a sweetener though, the Moto G snags you can extra 50GB of Google Drive cloud storage, on top of the 15GB you'll already have for free. That's a great amount of storage, but you will need to have an Internet connection to use it and it won't help you in installing large apps to your phone.
The Moto G's 4.5-inch screen has a 1,280x720-pixel resolution, which is a very impressive amount of pixels for such a cheap phone. It gives it a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch, which is the same as the iPhone 5S's retina display -- but the Moto G costs £414 less. It's the same resolution too as last year's Nexus 4, but the Moto G is marginally sharper as it packs the same number of pixels into a tighter space.
Sure, it doesn't have the Full HD bragging rights of phones like the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One or Sony Xperia Z1, but for most people, that resolution -- not to mention the sheer size of the screens -- is probably just overkill. Side by side, I doubt you'd notice a huge difference between those phones and the Moto G, at least not for everyday tasks. Icon edges are crisp, high-resolution photos and videos look sharp and small text in Web pages is easily readable.
Resolution aside, the screen is very impressive. It's bright, and its colours are enjoyably rich and bold, without looking oversaturated. It's more than good enough to handle high-definition games and movies on Netflix. It displayed my favourite test video, Art of Flight, with vivid blue skies, and crisp, clear flurries of snow. It has good viewing angles too, meaning you don't need to stay completely square on to the screen to get the best view.
If you want a huge display for games and videos, the 5-inch or larger phones will suit you. For most of you just wanting a phone for everyday use, the Moto G's screen is more than good enough. At this price, it's without a doubt the best screen you can get your hands on. Samsung's Galaxy Fame has a similar price tag, but its 320x480-pixel display doesn't even come close to the Moto G's.
The Moto G is one of few phones released these days that doesn't support 4G networks. That means you aren't able to take advantage of the much faster data download speeds offered by EE, O2, Vodafone and soon Three.
While that's a shame, the cheap price of the phone does make this a forgivable omission. I'd also argue that if you're looking for a phone with such a budget price, you're perhaps not likely to want to fork out for a 4G contract, which are considerably more expensive than their 3G-only counterparts.
The only exception to that is Three, which has promised not to increase its costs for 4G when it launches in the UK in December. If you're a Three customer currently, you will be automatically upgraded to 4G speeds in December, but you will need a 4G-capable phone to benefit. If you're desperate to get faster data, the Moto G isn't the phone to get.
The Moto G arrives running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. Given that Motorola is part of Google, it's a little disappointing that is doesn't have the latest 4.4 KitKat software onboard. Having said that, 4.3 is still a very recent version, which is pretty good to see, given the low price. At the Moto G launch, Motorola guaranteed that the phone will see an update to KitKat in January.
The interface isn't really any different from the stock Android interface you'd expect to see on the Nexus phones. It has the standard multiple homescreens, with four app icons sitting in a tray along the bottom for quick access. Any apps not on the homescreen are housed in a grid of apps.
A pull-down bar lets you check your notifications or change essential settings, such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Three navigation keys -- back, home and a multi-tasking carousel -- sit along the bottom.
It's an easy interface to use and isn't difficult for new users to get to grips with. If you're nervous about taking your first steps into the Android world, a device like the Moto G that has a largely untouched version of Android is a good way to go. By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is so vastly complicated that the settings menu has had to be split into four different tabs in order to house everything.
Motorola has popped in some of its own stuff too. The Motorola Assist app looks at your Google calendar and can automatically block, silence or reply with a text to calls when you have meetings or events scheduled. It can also do the same when you're asleep. You can star certain contacts to allow them to get through, just in case.
The Moto Care app is able to give you tips on how to get the best from your phone -- such as how to save battery life -- as well as quickly connect you to a live customer care operative who can answer your queries in an instant-messaging chat. In my own testing I was quickly connected to an agent who clearly indicated how I should go about changing the phone's brightness.
Processor and performance
The phone is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 400 processor, a 1.2GHz quad-core chip, backed up by 1GB of RAM. A quad-core chip in a phone this cheap might seem utterly incredible, but it's a low-powered processor, so don't expect it to be giving your mate's £500 Galaxy S4 a run for its money.
For the money though, its performance is outstanding. I fired up the Geekbench 2 benchmark test and was shown a score of 1,315. By comparison, the similarly priced Galaxy Fame achieved only 476 on the same test, while the LG Optimus L5 II -- 20 quid cheaper at £140 on pay as you go -- scored 564.
Swiping around the Android interface is extremely swift. Unlike other similarly budget phones, there's no noticeable lag when flicking between homescreens, opening menus or pulling down the notifications panel. Switching between open apps in the multi-tasking panel was enjoyably nippy too. Using the Galaxy Fame was considerably less fun, as it meant putting up with the sluggish, often laggy interface.
It copes brilliantly with the everyday essentials of Twitter, Facebook and Gmail, and also casually turns its hand to more demanding tasks like high-definition video playback and gaming. It tackled Riptide GP 2 well, with high framerates for smooth gameplay, even with graphics details set to high.
Both Asphalt 8 and Dead Trigger 2 played well, although the frame rate of the latter did sometimes drop slightly in more intense scenes. I did however have the graphics set to high, which made use of dynamic reflections and shadows that change based on your movement in the game. It might not seem like a big deal, but these graphics can be challenging of a processor -- despite that, the Moto G handled it well.
There's no question that the Moto G is the most powerful phone available for the money. Even if you don't care about gaming, its power results in a very smooth experience that you won't find on other similarly priced phones.
It's not just about the raw power though -- Motorola reckons that the processor, together with some software tweaks, make the phone very power efficient. It has a 2,070mAh battery too, which is a chunky cell for a phone that size. Moto says you can squeeze a full day of mixed use out of the phone, which is a pretty good boast and an accurate one at that.
I found I was easily able to achieve over a day of use from the phone, even with quite intense use. I unplugged the phone at 8am on day one, and throughout the day played various sessions of Asphalt 8, Riptide GP 2 and Dead Trigger, ran benchmark tests, browsed the Web, watched some Netflix and browsed images and videos, all with the screen brightness set to max. The battery still had a couple of per cent remaining at 12:30pm the following day.
That's a very impressive effort, as most smart phones -- including the top end blowers -- don't tend to be able to get far into the first evening before needing a boost. If you're seriously demanding of it, you'll probably want to find a plug in the evening, but with careful use throughout the day, you shouldn't need to top it up too much before embarking on a night out.
Although the back case is removable, the battery itself is sealed in place. This means you can't buy a secondary battery to swap out in case of emergencies, but you will still be able to use any external USB battery pack like the Mophie Juice pack if you know you'll be away from a socket for a while.
Around the back of the phone is a 5-megapixel camera. Up against the 20-megapixel Sony Xperia Z1 or whopping 41-megapixel Nokia Lumia 1020, that might not seem like much, and you'd be right. It's par for the course for phones in the lower price-brackets though and of course, a higher resolution definitely does not mean better looking images.
I took the camera for a spin and was rather pleased with it. This shot across an unusually sunny West London was exposed pretty well, with only the very dark areas on the bottom right being lost to shadows. Its colours, while not astounding, were quite accurate and there's enough detail in the scene to make the small tree-branches visible.
The camera has a bunch of extra settings including a burst mode -- simply press and hold the screen -- and a panorama mode. You can shoot in HDR too, which combines photos of high- and low-exposure in order to create a more balanced scene.
It worked extremely well in my test shot, showing far more detail in areas that were previously shrouded in shadow. It's helped make the red colours on the tree stand out slightly more too.
While the camera doesn't have the high-resolution clarity that you'd find on the top-end phones, it has a good overall image quality that's at least good enough to keep your Facebook page looking interesting. It's certainly among the best cameras you'll get for this kind of money, if not for a fair amount more.
With its colourful, comfortable body, great screen, decent helping of power and good battery life, the Motorola Moto G would be a great phone, even with a higher price. With its bottom-end £135 SIM-free asking price though, the Moto G is an absurdly good bargain, that will suit anyone not fussed about the biggest and best phones.