The phone ships with a soft touch matte plastic black back that's grippy and fells great in hand. The relatively small size of the phone and its ergonomic curves are a delight, as are the affordable, colorful optional shells (back covers). Motorola sent us the teal blue back and it looks great, though it's not as soft touch and luxurious feeling as the stock back. The rear cover takes some effort to remove. You'll pull it off at the micro USB port and work your way around the edges; it's on tight. Putting a cover on is much easier than removing it. Motorola also sells cover shells, and these are replacement backs with an integrated flip cover that's lined inside with soft felt. The flip has a magnet that wakes the phone when you lift it off the display. These are available in the same colors as the back shells and cost $35.
Calling and Data
This is a good sounding phone with average earpiece volume and clear, full audio for incoming and outgoing voice. Loudspeaker volume isn't terribly loud, but if you hold it close in a very noisy environment, you'll be able to hear it. As mentioned, it's unlocked, and that means you can use any GSM carrier's micro SIM in the phone. It has 2G and 3G that work on AT&T and T-Mobile, but it won't work on Sprint and Verizon (they're not GSM carriers, but rather CDMA). Motorola lists a CDMA model, but we don't know if and when it's coming to the US. There's no LTE 4G here, that's a casualty of the price and inexpensive unlocked phones rarely have LTE. It does have 3G HSPA 21 Mbps (but not the faster 42 Mbps standard). We tested it with an AT&T SIM card and saw download speeds in the range of 6.5-9 Mbps and upload speeds of 1 Mbps (3G upload speeds are often capped to allow for faster downloads). That's fast enough for good webpage load times and it's sufficient for streaming YouTube video. Even Netflix is decent at those speeds, but we suspect most folks switch to WiFi when streaming long form video to avoid eating up their monthly data allowances.
Performance and Horsepower
Remember: this isn't a phone for power users who want the very best specs and are willing to pay top dollar. You get a 1.2GHz quad core Snapdragon 400 CPU with Adreno 305 graphics, and that's low man on Qualcomm's current totem pole of mobile CPUs. That doesn't mean it isn't completely adequate for average use: it is. You'll notice that very large applications like 3D games take longer to load, and you won't get as smooth frame rates on the Moto G as on the fastest phones like the 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 equipped LG G2 when playing tough games like Asphalt 8. Casual games like Plants vs. Zombies 2 and Angry Birds play perfectly and games that are designed to run well on a wide array of hardware like Dead Trigger 2 will do fine. Phone addicts will likely want a faster CPU, but average users won't be able to tell the difference in performance between this phone and some faster models on the market. The one place we'd have liked a little more speed was in Chrome where pinch zooming and YouTube video playback were less spritely than on the Nexus 5, HTC One, LG G2 and Moto X with faster hardware.
||GFXBench 2.7, 2.5 Egypt Offscreen
|Google Nexus 5
|Samsung Galaxy S4
|Samsung Galaxy Note 3
|Sony Xperia Z
|LG Optimus G Pro
|LG Optimus G
||59 pfs (v.2.5 used)
|Samsung Galaxy S III
||51 fps (v.2.5 used)
The Moto G has a decent 1.3MP front camera for video chats and selfies. It's not a stunning camera, but it's adequate for the task and fits the price. The rear 5 megapixel camera is obviously low resolution compared to more expensive phones, but it takes good photos. Given the Moto X's camera growing pains, and Motorola's distinctly mediocre reputation for cameras on phones, we feared the worst for the Moto G, but happily it's a decent shooter. Colors are saturated and sharpness is good, and our only complaint beyond the low resolution that doesn't allow for much cropping is the sometimes slow focus. It's not slow every time: much of the time it's within normal bounds, but every once in a while it take a second or three.
The rear camera can shoot at 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios, and it has 4x digital zoom as well as an LED flash. The camera supports HDR with auto HDR, and it has panorama mode, slow motion video, 720p video recording and tap to focus. The UI is minimalist and settings are sparse, and the camera uses Google's circular wheel UI that we hate (it's hard to control).
Big screens, fast CPUs and LTE are the big power consumers, and they're notably absent here. That translates into good battery life and the 2070 mAh battery easily makes it through a full day on a charge with moderate use that includes email, web, 30 minutes of phone calls and streaming several YouTube videos. As noted, the battery is sealed inside--don't be tempted by the removable back cover and attempt to pry it out with a screwdriver. It's sealed inside quite well. If you need more power on the road, use a micro USB battery pack to top up the battery.
If you're looking for a budget Android smartphone that doesn't look or feel budget in the least bit, the Moto G is hard to beat. Better yet, it has a clean Android build, will likely get updates as long as the hardware can support it and it's backed by a company you can trust. The screen is very sharp and colorful, albeit not wildly bright, the GPS is solid and the phone feels snappy in general use. Of course, you won't get a huge and high resolution screen, dual band WiFi with wireless display or the fastest CPU, but I suspect that's just fine with many folks. The lower resolution camera and lack of LTE 4G are likely the more important things you'll give up, but you won't find those features on any non-contract phone at this price. In fact, you won't find a phone with this quality and styling for $179.
Price: $179 for 8 gig model. $199 for 16 gig model.
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