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Motorola Moto G (2015) review: the best budget phone you can buy

phenomenon

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The low-cost Moto G is the most popular smartphone that Motorola have ever made. The new third-generation model is out now, with an improved design, better cameras and the same rock-solid price to performance ratio. Let's take a look at the 2015 Moto G!

 

Features

 

  • Advanced water resistance
  • 13 MP camera
  • 5" HD display
  • Expandable memory
  • All-day battery
  • 4G LTE speed

 

Design

 

The Moto G is an attractive phone, hitting the same design notes as its predecessor but with a little more style. The front of the phone is dominated by its five inch IPS display, running at 1280 x 720p. That makes for 294 pixels per inch, so it's hard to make out individual pixels. It's a sensible display resolution for a phone like this, as it offers good clarity without the extra battery demand of a 1080p or 1440p display. The screen's viewing angles and colours are both medium to good; I have no real complaints.

 

Above and below the display we have its front-facing stereo speakers. They give the phone a nice symmetric look, and are much clearer than more common back or downward-firing speakers. There's also a five megapixel front-facing camera here.

 

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The back of the phone has a diagonal pinstripe texture, which provides plenty of grip and looks good too. The 13-megapixel camera, LED flash and Motorola dimple have been placed on a strip of plastic in the centre, which seems a nice touch.

 

The back is slightly curved, with the phone getting thinner at its edges. That means it'll spin around quite happily on a slick surface, which is amusing but not that useful.

 

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When  it comes to ports, we have a nicely symmetric design once again: headphone jack centred on top, micro USB centred on the bottom. On the right hand side we have the volume rocker and lock button, placed an ergonomic two-thirds up the phone. 

 

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If we take the back off of the phone, we see the micro SIM and micro SD card slots at the upper left. The battery inside isn't removable, but it looks like we could remove some screws to get at the Moto G's innards. The phone comes with a stern warning to replace the back cover and ensure it's tightly fastened, as this provides the IPX7 waterproofing that you may need to rely on at some point.

 

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The phone feels solid and weighty in the hand, which isn't a surprise given that it's the heaviest of the four 5-inch phones we've compared above (Moto G 2nd Gen, Xperia M4 Aqua, Galaxy S4). It feels like a flagship device; it doesn't creak or flex when put under moderate pressure. The absence of metal and glass is perhaps a giveaway that this isn't a top-of-the-line model, but for a plastic phone the third-generation Moto G feels really well built.

 

Specifications

 

Here's how the new Motorola Moto G compares to its predecessor and two other phones available from giffgaff at around the same price, the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua and the Samsung Galaxy S4. Please note that the Galaxy S4 is a refurbished model, hence its lower-than-normal price, and the 2014-era Moto G is no longer available from giffgaff.

 

  Moto G
(2015)
Moto G
(2014)
Xperia M4
Aqua (2015)
Galaxy S4
(2013, refurb)
Display 5-inch
1280 x 720
5-inch
1280 x 720
5-inch
1280 x 720
5-inch
1920 x 1080
Chipset Snapdragon 410
quad 1.4GHz
Snapdragon 400
quad 1.2GHz
Snapdragon 615
octa 1.5GHz
Snapdragon 600
quad 1.9GHz
RAM 1GB / 2GB 1GB 2GB 2GB
Storage 8GB / 16GB
Micro SD
8GB
Micro SD
8GB
Micro SD
16GB
Micro SD
Cameras 13MP + 5MP 8MP + 2MP 13MP + 5MP 13MP + 2MP
Battery 2470mAh 2070mAh 2400mAh 2600mAh
OS Android 5.1.1 Android 5.0 Android 5.0 Android 5.0
Launch July 2015 Sep 2014 June 2015 Apr 2013
Colors Black, White,
MotoMaker
Black, White Black, White
Coral, Silver
White, Black,
Blue
Size 142 x 72 x 11.6 mm 142 x 71 x 11 146 x 73 x 7.3 137 x 70 x 7.9
Weight 155 grams 149 grams 136 grams 130 grams
Price £149 £135 £179 £179

 

As you can see, for the price the Moto G is quite competitive, even with the refurbished Galaxy S4. It seems that mid-range phones have about the same level of performance as flagships of two years before, although some areas have shown little improvement (e.g. storage and thickness).

 

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Above: all the geeky information you crave, courtesy of CPU-Z.

 

The newer Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor holds its own against older, higher-end CPUs, while display resolution, RAM and camera quality has also steadily improved. The Xperia M4 Aqua looks to be the strongest competitor, thanks to its faster processor and greater RAM, although I think the Moto G's software package is cleaner and better overall.

 

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Above: AnTuTu benchmark (left, centre) and Geekbench 3 (right).

 

Benchmarks show that the phone a little below the level of 2013 or 2014 flagships; phones like the HTC One M7, LG G3 and Nexus 5. For a phone that costs £150, that seems reasonable, and again underscores how quickly phones are getting more powerful. I've heard a lot of recent sentiments that phones have gotten "quick enough", even at the low end, and that seems reflected here.

 

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Above: Vellamo benchmarks for web (left), single (centre) and multi-core performance (right).

 

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Above: 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited (left), comparison (centre), Sling Shot ES 3.0 (right).

 

Software

 

There's not much to say here, as the Moto G runs nearly stock Android 5.1.1. There are a few tweaks here and there, like the dial-UI camera app, but the vast majority of apps and the Settings menu remain unchanged.

 

Performance was fast and fluid throughout, with apps installing and launching extremely rapidly. The only issue I ran into was running out of space - 8GB goes fast! Thankfully, more storage can be added via Micro SD cards, with up to 128GB cards being supported.

 

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The few additions are genuinely helpful things like motion gestures to activate the camera and flashlight (Actions), context-aware adjustments (Assist), and showing notifications on the screen without turning it on (Display).

 

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The initial setup is nice too, with options to restore apps and data from a backup (thanks Lollipop!), migrate your data from iOS and Android devices, and of course that warning to maintain water resistance.

 

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Stock Android has gotten very good, and the Moto G is one of (many) examples of companies getting it right: add some useful features, don't muck around too much. Awesome.

 

Camera

 

In good light, the camera on the Moto G is a strong performer, capable of reasonable colour accuracy and good detail without washing things out. Shots of Lake Geneva and the Avon Gorge in Bristol looked fairly true to life, with strong colours as appropriate.

 

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Low light shots were more problematic, with even the well-lit streets of Geneva resulting in considerable noise and little detail. Many shots turned out very blurry, and the remainder lost their detail in processing. Still, photos were at least recognisable.

 

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We'll conclude with the front-facing camera, which seems reasonable enough for taking selfies thanks to its five megapixel resolution. Even in limited light, the results were more than respectable. Apologies for three of basically the same picture, but there's not much else you can photograph with a front-facing camera!

 

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All in all, the camera on the Moto G is much better than its predecessor and the equal of many other mid and even high-end cameras on Android phones. The very best performance, from the likes of Samsung's Galaxy S6 and the iPhone, are still out of reach, but this is great performance for a phone at this price point.

 

Conclusion

 

It's hard not to recommend the third-generation Moto G. It continues the trend of its predecessors by redefining what you should expect on a shoestring budget in terms of performance, design and even software additions. While there are other viable low cost options, none are as well-rounded as Motorola's star performer. Long live the Moto G!

 

Pros

  • Excellent performance for the price
  • Design is much improved, and feels great in the hand
  • Cameras are much closer to high-end Android phones
  • Motorola's new gestures are useful and reliable

Cons

  • Storage remains tight on the 8GB model
  • Low-light photography is hit-or-miss

And if you would like to watch the video review of this phone, then head over here!

30 Comments
oracle
Sounds good. Shame that it's not dual SIM in the UK like the 2nd gen Moto G was.

giffgaff should be selling the 16GB Moto G 3rd edition. It would sell far better than the 8GB version that they decided to sell!

newcomer

I really do like this phone but I have optedfor the Oneplus 2......check it out www.oneplus.net/uk

dabbler
Yet again an excellent article but I feel Motorola are not as 'cutting-edge' as they were with the original Moto G. The reason I say this is due the the competition increasing (and surpassing?) the status quo, especially with the offerings from China and India. Even reading the earlier article about Wileyfox, oh yes indeedy. @jeff_elephant, I would assume GG is selling the 8GB version due to cost constraints but agree 16GB would be better option (ho hum).
phenomenon

Great review, thank you! And I did do a bit of a double-take at the fork in the lake. Smiley Very Happy Looks like a great phone, but I agree that 8GB doesn't really keep up with the competition these days. 16GB+ affordable phones are becoming more readily available now. But nonetheless, my sister swears by her 2nd gen Moto G, so I can't see this being a poor choice. Smiley Happy Thanks!

supporter

Android definitely makes some good budget handsets but I'll stick to my iPhone next time I upgrade.

genius
Looks like a good phone
Looks good!
soothsayer
The 16GB 2GB ram moto g 3rd generation is now available on Amazon as a pre order for 22nd October for the price of £179.00 for £30.00 it's got to be better value
enigma
Great review, looks like a great phone. I just dropped my phone and now one of the speakers isn't working... So I'll need to buy a phone soon. 😢😢😭