Moto G 3rd Gen review (2015) - the best compact budget smartphone now with Android 6.0
Processor: Quad-core 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410, Screen Size: 5in, Screen resolution: 1,280x720, Rear camera: 13 megapixels, Storage (free): 8GB (4GB) / 16GB (12GB), Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 142x72x6.1mm, Weight: 155g, Operating system: Android 5.1.1
When it comes to budget smartphones, no one does it better than Motorola. For three long years, the Moto G has reigned supreme over every other cut-price handset around, and with the launch of the new Moto G4, Motorola looks set to continue that reign long into the future.
So where does that leave last year's 3rd Gen model? Well, while the Moto G4 is a significant step up from the 3rd Gen Moto G in almost every way - including speed, battery life, camera and general screen quality - it is also considerably larger, as its screen measures 5.5in rather than 5in like its 3rd Gen sibling. Not everyone wants or might be happy with such a big phone in their pocket, so the 3rd Gen model is still worth considering if you're after something a bit more compact.
Of course, there will come a time when the 3rd Gen Moto G will become increasingly hard to find, but thankfully that moment hasn't come just yet, as it's still widely available SIM-free for £130 and on contract for around £9.50-per-month on contract with an upfront cost of £20 from Carphone Warehouse.
It's still a great smartphone, too, and it continues to beat almost every other cheap handset you can buy today. Likewise, the fact that you can now download a free system update for Android 6.0 Marshmallow as well means it's as bang-up-to-date as it can possibly be.
The 3rd Gen Moto G is a much more refined handset than its chunky-looking 2nd Gen predecessor. Admittedly, its specs haven't moved forward quite as much as I'd hoped, but Motorola's superb build quality and sheer number of extra features more than make up for it.
^ If you choose to customise your Moto G using Moto Maker, you can personalise the rear shell cover and metallic accent
However, it's important to note that there are actually two versions of the 3rd Gen Moto G you can buy at the moment, as there's a basic model which comes with 8GB of default storage and 1GB of RAM, and a more advanced model with 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM. Admittedly, the extra storage isn't so much of a problem thanks to the Moto G's microSD card slot, but the extra RAM will affects the phone's overall speed and multitasking capability. I'll explain more about this on the next page.
With two different specifications, that also means two different prices. The entry-level model, for instance - the type available to buy through most retailers and networks, as well as direct from Motorola via its customisable Moto Maker service - is currently available for around £130 SIM-free. If you want the 16GB and 2GB of RAM model, you'll have to pay an extra £30, taking the total to £150.
Regardless of which model you choose, though, the new Moto G's design is far superior to any other budget handset I've seen from Motorola so far. Taking several design cues from Motorola's Moto X series, the metal effect frame curves almost seamlessly into the removable back plate, creating lovely smooth contours.
While its overall girth of 11.6mm isn't particularly svelte, the edges taper to a pleasing 6.1mm and its weight of 155g makes it feel very strong and durable. I much prefer it to the flat, angular edges of the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua and Samsung Galaxy A3, and even the gorgeous rubbery finish on the HTC Desire 626 can't quite compare to the sheer comfort afforded by the 3rd Gen Moto G. The machined, textured finish on the power button is a particularly nice touch as well, as this makes it much easier to find in comparison to the flat volume rocker.
The Moto G's removable rear panel is also a boon rather than a curse. These come in a variety of different colours and can be swapped in and out as you please, making it much more personal and customisable than any other handset at this price. It certainly beats having to make do with the slightly dull finishes on the EE Harrier and Vodafone Smart Ultra 6, and each Moto G grip shell and flip case also comes with a subtle ribbed texture. This feels very classy under your fingers, and provides an excellent amount of grip, which is vital if you're going to use Motorola's ingenious hand gesture shortcuts to access certain parts of the phone.
A double karate chop will turn on the phone's rear flashlight, while a double twist of your wrist will instantly open the camera. I wouldn't feel quite so confident performing these actions on other handsets, and it's these kind of thoughtful handy features which help set the Moto G apart from the rest of the crowd.
Likewise, when the back is properly clipped into place (and you're reminded as such as soon as you turn on the phone), the Moto G becomes waterproof thanks to its IPX7 rating, meaning it can be dunked in up to one metre of water for up to 30 minutes without taking damage. It's not entirely watertight, though, so if you do happen to drop it down the loo, you'll need to make sure you take off the back and give it a quick wipe, as we found a fair few droplets still lingering beneath the shell during our testing.
Underneath the rear panel, you can access the micro SIM card slot and microSD. There's full 4G support, of course, but it's a shame the microSD card slot only takes cards up to 32GB. Still, that should be plenty for most users, in addition to the 8GB or 16GB of memory provided – although only 4GB or 12GB is actually available to the user after taking Android and other apps into account.
As far as I can tell, the 3rd Gen Moto G uses an almost identical screen to the one used on the 2nd Gen Moto G. Both have a 5in 1,280x720 resolution display, which I think strikes just the right balance between screen size and pixel clarity, and our colour calibration tests bore very similar results.
^ The 3rd Gen Moto G (left) has a much more refined design than the 2nd Gen Moto G (centre) and the 2nd Gen Moto E (right)
For instance, our colour calibrator showed it was displaying 85.4% of the sRGB colour gamut. This is around average compared to other budget phone displays, and while it obviously can't compare to the rich vibrancy of the Galaxy A3's Super AMOLED display, our resulting colour gamut had a very even spread across all the main primary colours. Reds were weakest, but skin tones looked much more natural than rival phone displays, such as the HTC Desire 626, when I lined them all up side by side. I also preferred it to the 2nd Gen Moto G's screen, which also looked very warm and pink compared to the new model.
Black levels were reasonably dark at 0.36cd/m2 on max brightness, and the screen's contrast levels of 1,061:1 provided plenty of detail. Likewise, the Moto G's viewing angles were excellent, even at more extreme angles. However, you'll struggle to make out darker images and video scenes when using the phone outdoors, as its peak brightness of 339.38cd/m2 is only really suited for web browsing and using apps with lighter backgrounds when you're out in the sun.