The original Motorola Moto G launched back in 2013. With its great build quality, good specs and low price, it immediately became the best budget smartphone around.
Somewhat confusingly, that was followed in 2014 by an otherwise identical Moto G phone that added 4G support. And now we have the 2015 edition.
So what’s new? It's a little more expensive than before, but is waterproof and has a new design. And it’s more colourful too.
But a lot has changed in the mobile phone market since 2013. Almost every one of Motorola’s rivals has realised the value of having a decent cheap smartphone, and launched their own takes on the Moto G.
Competition is now fiercer than ever at this end of the market, with the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 and EE Rook impressing us recently.
So can the Moto G still cut it? Let's find out.
PROS AND CONS
- Waterproof for half an hour in 1m of water
- Better screen compared with 2014’s model
- Great performance thanks to powerful processor
- Pricier than last year’s edition if you want the 16GB model
- Camera isn’t great, but it’s easy and comfy to hold
- Smaller screen than some comparably priced phones
From the front, the Moto G looks just like last year's model, with the same curved corners and top and bottom speakers. But since there was nothing much wrong with that phone’s design in the first place, we’re fine with that.
The 5-inch screen is the perfect size in our minds too. Just big enough without being unwieldy.
AT A GLANCE
- Solid build quality, despite plastic backplate
- Feels quite thick by the standards of modern smartphones
- Swappable back means you can customise your phone
While the front of the Moto G looks largely unchanged, turn the Moto G around and you'll notice a slew of changes.
For starters, the smooth plastic back has been dropped in favour of a textured, grippier one. It's removable too, so you can swap it for another colour if you like.
We like the new colour options. They’re a cheap way to put your stamp on your handset.
But if making your phone your own is important to you, you can go the whole hog and use the Moto Maker online customisation service if you're willing to pay a little extra.
This lets you choose the colour of the phone’s shell and accents, as well as select how much storage you want.
AT A GLANCE
- Colourful backplates mean it really stands out
- Ample scope to customise your phone with Moto Maker
- Motorola’s trademark indentation on the back, or ‘dimple’, has gone
- Build: Glass and metal
- Weight: 155g
- Dimensions: 142.1x72.4x6.1-11.6mm
A 5-inch display with a resolution of 720p is no longer as cutting-edge as it once was, but it's still perfectly decent.
Colours are accurate, it's brighter than last year's model, and we had no issues with the contrast (that’s the difference between white and black). Not a spectacular screen then, but a solid all-rounder.
AT A GLANCE
- Readable in bright sun
- Display dimensions are just right
- Very responsive
- Size: 5 inches
- Resolution: 1,280x720 pixels
- Technology: IPS LCD
The camera has always been a weak point of both the Moto X and the Moto G.
So it's refreshing to see Motorola try a bit harder with the third-generation Moto G.
The rear camera is essentially the same as on the much pricier Nexus 6. It’s a 13-megapixel effort with a dual LED flash.
The front-facing camera is even better, packing in five megapixels to the Nexus 6's two megapixels.
It also has the same cool Quick Capture feature as the Moto X. Just twist your wrist twice quickly and the camera launches, even if the phone is asleep.
Colours are nice and bright, and shots have plenty of detail.
It also has an HDR (high dynamic range) mode, which is impressive at this price. This takes three snaps and combines the best parts of each into one photo.
It isn't the best example of HDR around, but it certainly improves your pics.
We can live without 4K video recording at this price. But the lack of optical image stabilisation is disappointing, so expect to end up with a fair bit shakycam-affected footage and images when shooting conditions are challenging.
AT A GLANCE
- Better than previous Moto G handsets
- No image stabilisation makes for grainy low-light snaps
- No 4K video recording
- Camera: 13MP
- Optical image stabilisation: No
- Unique features: Quick Capture
PERFORMANCE AND BATTERY LIFE
We have no complaints with the Moto G’s performance when it comes to everyday use. Apps open as quickly as you could want, and you zip around the menus.
It handled the games we threw at it too, and played all manner of HD videos without a hitch.
You also get the same Active Display as the Moto X. This wakes the screen in such a way that it shows only notifications when you put your hand over the phone or move it.
Hold the notification (an email, say) and you can see the subject line and sender.
Swipe up to open it, down to unlock your handset and go to the home screen, or right to dismiss it.
It's very intuitive, and something we think other manufacturers will adopt the system very soon.
The Moto G runs Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, which is the latest version of Google’s software. And because there's minimal bloatware (extra software added by the manufacturer), it should be at the front of the queue for software updates.
AT A GLANCE
- Very useful software additions, such as Active Display and Quick Capture
- Performs well for a budget phone
- Battery lasts a day and a half
- RAM: 2GB (16GB storage model), 1GB (8GB storage)
- Battery capacity: 2,470mAh
- Storage: 8GB or 16GB
- OS and version: Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
VALUE FOR MONEY
The Moto G starts at £159 from networks, or £179 direct from Motorola.
This latter option lets you choose the colours and materials using the Moto Maker software. The 16GB model starts at £209.
That’s more expensive than last year's model. But considering the improvements, it's still an absolute steal.
VERDICT AND KEY FEATURES
- Camera much improved
- No optical image stabilisation
- Better battery life than previous models
- Expandable storage for fitting on more music, films and photos
- Bright, decent-sized screen, though unremarkable resolution
- Impressive performance
- Neat software additions
There are bigger, cheaper smartphones around that are well worth considering. Not least Vodafone’s Smart Ultra 6.
But for us, the Moto G remains the best all-round budget-priced phone money can buy.