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Moto G 3rd Generation

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating star
Carrier: unlocked GSM, unlocked CDMA
Manufacturer: Motorola

What's Hot: Affordable, has 4G LTE, unlocked for use with any carrier (except Verizon), lots of color options, clean Android and good support.

What's Not: It's a budget-priced phone, you won't get the best of anything here.


Reviewed August 3, 2015 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

Moto G

The Moto G 3rd generation is by no means the best Android phone you can buy, but it may be the cheapest good phone you can buy. And I mean really cheap-- $179 full retail for a name brand phone with good warranty and support and 4G LTE? Wow. No monthly payments for the phone and no carrier ties; just $179 and you're good to go. The specs aren't scraping below your knees either: it has a quad core 1.4 GHz Snapdragon CPU, a quite decent 13MP camera with two-tone LED flash, a sharp 5MP front camera and a generously sized 2470 mAh battery. Throw in a nice looking 5" HD display, IPX7 water resistance, an SD card slot and a variety of back cover colors plus the option to build your own look on the Moto Maker website, and you're getting a lot for your money.

Yes, 2015 is the year of affordable Android phones, particularly unlocked GSM models like the Moto G. But none are quite as cheap, making the Moto a go-to phone when every dollar is dear or if you just need something unlocked and dependably decent for world travel. Throw more money at it and you can get slimmer, bigger screen phones with full HD resolution like the $249 Alcatel One Touch Idol 3. Spend $299 and you can get the higher end model of the Asus ZenFone 2 with a full HD display and a fast CPU. It's good to have options! It gets interesting when you consider the lower end model of the US ZenFone 2--it's $199 and has a higher resolution full HD display and more storage and RAM than the Moto G 3rd gen for $20 more. The ZenFone 2 deserves to do well, but Motorola's established name and retail presence at stores like Best Buy mean it will likely outsell the Asus. It also helps that Moto has an excellent track record for delivering clean Android OS phones with no bloat, and they get updates quickly.

Moto G 3rd gen

The Moto G 3rd generation is an unlocked GSM phone (model XT1540) and there's a CDMA model for Sprint, US Cellular and Virgin Mobile (XT1548). Sorry, there's currently no Verizon compatible version. We look at the GSM unlocked version for our review, which has 4G LTE that works on AT&T and T-Mobile (with T-Mobile's band 12 support) as well as smaller regional carriers. The phone runs clean Android 5.1.1 Lollipop on the 1.4 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 CPU. That's a 64 bit CPU with Adreno 306 graphics that sits in the lower-middle of Qualcomm's lineup. The $179 model has 1 gig of RAM and 8 gigs of storage. There's a $219 model that doubles RAM and storage to 2 gigs and 16 gigs respectively. Thanks to the near stock Android experience with no UI overlays or heavy customizations, the phone feels quick despite the lower end specs. We used the 1 gig RAM version, and it didn't bog down and it even handled games like Asphalt 8 fine.

The phone has a 5", 720 x 1280 HD IPS display with Gorilla Glass. It's bright enough for indoor use but it's not bright enough to combat direct sunlight well. Colors are pleasing and decently saturated, contrast is good and viewing angles are mediocre for an IPS display but adequate unless you like to share your screen with pals. The speaker is loud and fairly full and the 294 PPI has sufficient pixel density to look sharp when playing Netflix and YouTube videos.

Moto G 3rd gen

Call quality is excellent on AT&T and T-Mobile, the dual mic setup works nicely for outgoing voice with noise cancelling that doesn't turn you into a bad imitation of a robot when calling from a noisy location. Reception is as good as any carrier-branded phone on those networks, and data speeds were a tad slower than carrier-branded offerings on AT&T, likely because AT&T tunes their network to recognize and prioritize their own phones. But we're talking 16 Mbps download speeds on the Moto G vs. 21 Mbps on one of AT&T's own phones--speeds are still good.


Moto gets it: camera quality and battery life are widely important features, and if you're going to skimp, don't do it here. Sure, it's a budget phone so you don't get dual band WiFi or 802.11ac support, there's no NFC and the screen resolution won't win a PR contest, but both the front and rear cameras on the Moto G 3rd generation are quite good. This is doubly pleasing and surprising since Motorola has managed to disappoint us with cameras so often in the past.

Moto G 3rd gen

The phone has a 5MP front camera that's perfectly suited to today's selfie-mania. It's also quite good for video chat and you won't look hideously pixelated or washed out when catching up with distant friends and family. The front camera has an f/2.2 lens and it can shoot 1080p video.

The rear 13MP camera with two-tone LED flash and f/2.0 lens is the same camera module used on the more expensive but older Nexus 6. It takes very good photos with balanced exposure, little whiteout in sunny settings, well-controlled noise in dim settings and pleasing sharpness that doesn't look artificial. Camera controls and UI are standard Google stuff, and you won't find the wealth of options available on high-end photo-centric phones like the LG G4 and Samsung Galaxy S6. Since most folks tend to stick with automatic mode, that's fine with us, especially on such a low priced phone. The rear camera can also take 1080p video, and the camera has auto HDR mode and panorama.

Deals and Shopping:


Moto G 3rd Gen Video Review



  Quadrant 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited AnTuTu Sunspider JavaScript Test (lower is better)
Moto G 3rd Gen 14,855 4399 22,861 1430
Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 22,198 7775 31,006 1188
Asus ZenFone 2, 2.3 GHz 24,044 20,302 48,796 665
OnePlus One 23,958 18,370 37,235 1135
Moto E 2nd gen 13,741 4481 22,057 1296
LG G4 23,730 18,655 46,043 760
HTC One M9 22,323 16,658 36,309 831
Samsung Galaxy S6 33,355 21,160 61,873 420 (webkit)/1025 (Chrome)
Nexus 6 13,595 23,520 49,961 795
Samsung Galaxy S5 23,643 18,329 35,357 398
Moto X (2nd gen) 22,170 19,924 44,340 776
HTC One M8 24,527 20,896 36,087 776
Nexus 5 8808 17,828 27,017 718

Geekbench 3: 526/1558

Battery Life

The 2470 mAh Lithium Ion battery is sealed inside--don't let the removable back cover fool you. That's a very high capacity battery for a phone with a low-midrange CPU and a 720p display, and the result is excellent battery life. Unless playing Asphalt 8 for hours on end, it's hard to fully drain the battery in less than a day. In fact, with light to moderate use, it routinely lasted 1.5 to 2 days on a full charge.


If you're looking for the least expensive Android smartphone available with US 4G LTE, US warranty and support and a clean Android experience, the third generation Moto G is a strong choice. Yes, you can spend more to get a higher resolution display, more storage or dual band WiFi, but if you want to spend as little as possible the Moto is the most reputable and lowest price option. Even though it's a budget priced phone, you can order it in a variety of colors (even the accent color is customizable), and Motorola sells colorful back covers for $15 and shell flips for $30 that protect the display too. The clean Android experience with Moto's usual tasteful customizations like the active display, shake twice to take a photo and do a chop-chop motion to turn the flashlight on are welcome additions to the basic Android experience. You'll also enjoy Android OS updates that should arrive in a timely manner, and the phone is sold unlocked without contract, so you're not tied to a carrier. If you are interested in spending a bit more, the bigger screen, higher spec Alcatel One Touch Idol 3 and Asus ZenFone 2 are also worth a look.

Price: $179 and $219


Related Reviews:

OnePlus X Review

Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 Review

Asus ZenFone 2 Review

Moto G 2nd Gen Review

Moto X 2nd Gen Review

Moto E 2nd Gen Review


Moto G 3rd gen


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Display: 5" IPS display with Gorilla Glass. Resolution: 720 x 1280. Has accelerometer, ambient light sensor and proximity sensor.

Battery: 2470 mAh Lithium Ion Polymer rechargeable. Battery is not user replaceable.

Performance: 1.4 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 quad core, 64 bit CPU with Adreno 306 graphics. Available with 1 gig RAM and 8 gigs storage or 2 gigs RAM and 16 gigs storage.

Size: 5.59 x 2.85 x 0.48 inches. Weight: 5.47 ounces.

Phone: GSM quad band world phone with EDGE 2G. 3G and 4G LTE (LTE bands 2, 4, 5, 7, 17). Sprint/US Cellular/Virgin Mobile has GSM and CDMA (800, 850, 1900 MHz) and LTE (bands 2, 4, 5, 12, 17, 25, 26). Uses a micro SIM card.

Camera: 5MP front camera with f/2.2 lens and 1080p video recording. Rear 13MP camera with f/2.0 lens, two-tone LED flash and 1080p video recording.

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated single band WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 LE.

Software: Android OS 5.1.1 Lollipop.

Expansion: 1 microSD card slot.


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