Motorola Moto G review
Still the best budget smartphone, the Moto G is an incredible bargain that punches well above its weight
Review Date: 21 Feb 2014
Price when reviewed: £135
Reviewed By: Seth Barton
UPDATE - Its been three months since the Motorola Moto G came out and annihilated every other budget smartphone. At present it's still the smartphone to buy for everyone who isn't after a flagship model. However, will it stay this way, and will the Moto G itself be about to disappear from shelves?
Right now, based on what we know, there's nothing that is going to compete with the Moto G at this price. It will be getting some stronger competition in the mid-range market with handsets around £200 with equivalent specs and better cameras likely to launch in Barcelona. However we doubt anyone will manage a direct competitor, even three months on.
The reason for this is that the Moto G is most likely being sold at almost no profit whatsoever, as Motorola's then owner Google would have been making money after the initial sale via the Google Play store. However, now that Lenovo has bought the company this is no longer true, and we may indeed see the Moto G disappear from retail as soon as its new owner can come up with a replacement. A replacement that may well not be as brain-stunningly good value.
Our advice then is to rush out and buy yourself a Moto G today if you have any interest in buying a good, cheap smartphone (caveats about the camera noted below). It may not be around for much longer.
MOTO G REVIEW
It may not have been accompanied by the flash and razzmatazz of a flagship phone launch, but the Motorola Moto G is still a huge deal, in both senses of the phrase. It's the first handset launched by Motorola in the UK since it was taken over by Google; and it costs just £135 for an impressive specification.
MOTOOGLE OR GOTOROLA
Google has long had its Nexus-branded handsets, but these were made by other manufacturers and at just one high-end handset a year, mainly sold SIM free, they weren't exactly mass market. In comparison Samsung released 20 handsets worldwide in 2013 alone.
By buying Motorola (or to be precise its Mobility devices arm), Google now has its own smartphone manufacturer. It feels like a new business too, we really liked the macho-styled RAZR handsets, but all that is gone for more curvaceous, colourful, friendly designs that fit well with Google's other offerings.
MOTO G SIZE AND SHELLS
The Moto G isn't the kind of handset that jumps out at you, in fact it's very safe, very plain and a little boring. Given its price though, it's a success, it doesn't feel or look cheap just utilitarian. At 66x130x11.6mm it's not the slimmest handset but the bezels are small and its fairly compact for a handset with a 4.5in display. Though it feels a bit weighty at 143g.
The gloss black front is complemented by snap-on rear covers in seven colours, for £13 each. There's also tough shell cases with front flip covers that stay shut thanks to magnets and automatically turn on the phone when you open it. They cost £25 but look to be well worth the extra expense, given the protection they give, and again they come in seven colours. There's also a Grip Shell with a rubber frame for extra grip and impact protection
Speaking of protection, one feature that has made the transition from previous Motorola handsets is the splashproof coating. This means that it should survive anything short of a complete immersion in water, we spilt a pint over the first RAZR with no ill effects. It also has Gorilla Glass 3 to protect its screen from scratches.
MOTO G ANDROID 4.4
Of course what you see onscreen is arguably more important than what surrounds it, and with Motorola being owned by Google we were hopeful that the handset would ship with the latest version of Android. The handset initially shipped with 4.3, but an update to the latest version, Android 4.4.2, has now been released. You should update your phone immediately if required - go to App tray, Settings, About phone, to check the version number.
Motorola has left Google's OS, largely untouched, just adding a couple of useful features and tweaking the camera app. The Assist app makes your phone more intelligent, for example you can set the hours you usually sleep for and the phone will automatically go silent, or only allow favourite callers, or those who call twice in succession through. It will also go on vibrate if you have a meeting in your diary. Both could be useful, though they're still a little inflexible for our liking.
The 4.4.2 update brings a few changes. The phone dialler has been changed and you can now bring up contacts quickly via the numberpad by simply entering any string of letters or numbers that appear in that contacts name or number. For example, typing 533 will bring up any contact with LEE or JED in their names, or any contact whose number contains that string of numbers. You also get intelligent caller ID, with the phone searching for unknown numbers and providing you with information based on that search, so you have some idea who it is before you answer.
Motorola has also expanded what you can do with photos from within the gallery app. You can apply a wide range of filters now to photos you shoot, add frames around them, crop them in various ways, and even write (or draw) on the screen with your finger in any colour you like. You can also print photos straight out of the gallery to services such as Google's Cloud Print.
Android 4.4 also supports the new version of Hangouts which combines your instant messaging and SMS apps into one, though you still need to switch between these two streams to keep track of all your conversations via both.
The lockscreen now also show the appropriate album art for the music you're listening to and includes basic playback controls, so you don't have to unlock the phone to pause or skip tracks. You also get immersive mode, where the status bar and controls go away, allowing apps to go full screen until you swipe from the top.
And if you're not that keen on Google's own launcher, then you can toggle between the default version and any custom ones you might download. To do this just head to Settings – Home and then choose the launcher you want and press Home to switch to it.
MOTO G MIGRATE
Motorola has made it easy to move from another Android handset to the Moto G. You do this by first installing the Motorola Migrate app from the Google Play Store on your old handset. Once done you connect the two phones directly via Wi-Fi, which requires nothing more than pointing the camera on your old phone at the QR code displayed on the Moto G. The transfer then starts automatically.
For once, it's actually as easy as the promotional video makes it look
The app will pull across call logs, text messages, pictures, movies and music on the old phone. We got a warning that all the data may not be transferred (but then we were testing with a 16GB Samsung S3 and an 8GB Moto G). It takes a while to complete the transfer, but you can use the phone for other things at the same time. In our case it transferred the call logs, pictures and music fine, but text messages didn't come across and it ran out of space copying the videos (a sensible choice to leave).
Contacts and emails will be transferred anyway as they are part of your Google account, so this is just Motorola tidying up the things that Google hasn't dealt with. It's very neat, very clever and should relieve the worries of those who don't want a clean slate on a new handset.
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