Monday, November 25, 2013

Motorola Moto G review

The Moto X was one of the most leaked (and hyped) Android phone of 2013. While it might not have lived up to the retail expectations of other similarly priced Android smartphone flagships, the Moto X was a daring change in Motorola's strategies and was pretty unanimously praised by critics as a very compelling offering. Motorola's next offering takes a different route, as it's comes at an astounding $200 price point. Today we see if Motorola can break the stigma that low price means low quality in our review of the Motorola Moto G.

Overall Construction
Like the Moto X, the Moto G is made almost entirely of plastic and once again it still feels like a premium device. In fact we'd go as far to say that if you didn't explicitly know it was a Moto G, it would be completely possible to pass it off as a Moto X. This is great given that we really enjoyed the feel of the Motorola flagship.

In terms of design, feel and ergonomics, every feeling we had with the Moto X came rushing back to us when using the Moto G. From the curved back, to the sweeping taper at the top where the 3.5mm headphone jack resides, to the minimalistic front of the device, the Moto G is a very well built and well-designed phone.

At 11.6mm thick and at a deceptive weight of 145g the Moto G is obviously thicker but surprisingly heavier than the Moto X and most other Android flagship devices. The added thickness did not reduce the one handed usability of the Moto G and the extra heft was actually quite welcome as it allows for a nice balance in hand.

On the front of the device lies the 4.5 inch LCD display. Give this size screen and the very close footprint to the Moto X, there is significantly more bezel but not enough to be a major sticking point. It's important to note that it is an LCD as it leads us to the final big difference between the Moto X and Moto G and that is the inclusion of a notification light. While we prefer to have active notifications we have to assume that an LCD display is more cost effective than an AMOLED panel for a phone in this price range.

Lastly, we have to mention that the back on the Moto G unlike the X is removable. Under the cover all that can be accessed is a micro SIM card slot as the battery is not user replaceable and there is no slot for microSD card expansion. This allows Motorola to offer Moto Maker-like customization to the rest of the world as Moto Maker was exclusive to the US. Official Motorola colored case as well as flip cases have already been announced and will be available for purchase with the Moto G.

Motorola Moto G

As we mentioned earlier, the Moto G sports a 720p LCD display. While 1280x720 isn't the highest resolution we've seen this year, on a 4.5 inch it still looks very good. With a pixel density of 326 PPI the Moto G is right in the wheelhouse of displays like the Retina display found on iPhones as well as most of the displays found on most of last year's Android flagships.

While pixel density is one thing, color accuracy, contrast and black levels are certainly another thing. While we unfortunately didn't have a Moto X to directly compare it to, we put the Moto G up against the venerable One X's Super LCD 2 display and quite frankly it didn't fare as bad as we thought it would.

Colors weren't as vibrant as on the One X and black levels were noticeably grayish compared to the Super LCD 2 display. Viewing angles also suffered a bit in brightness when looking at the display at off center angles but there colors stayed accurate unlike on AMOLED displays.

That being said this is still a very respectable screen and will most likely be the best display you'll see on a $200 phone for a very long time. It just isn't a showstopper like the display of the LG G2.

One last thing worth mentions is that the (almost) gapless joint between the outer edge of the body and the screen of the Moto X did not make it to the Moto G, as there is a noticeable divide from where the screen end and where the edge frame begins. This isn't a deal breaker by any stretch of the imagination but it certainly small details like these that make the Moto X feel like a flagship device.

Buttons much like on the Moto X were very pronounced and are distinguishable without having to look at the device. They had good travel and a satisfying "clickiness" to them although they both had a slight wobble. Like the Moto X we would have preferred for the power button and volume rocker to be on separate sides but that's a very minor complaint.

Unsurprisingly like the Moto X, the Moto G sports software rendered buttons. As we've said in the past this is the setup we believe is ideal for users and the Android Ecosystem.

Battery Life
With the reduction of potentially power hungry features like Touchless controls as well as the "downgrade" in hardware to a less powerful Quad Core and a relatively similar sized battery at 2,070mAh one would expect that the Moto G would have good battery life and fortunately that is most certainly the case.

In our time with the Moto G, we easily got through a day's use with light to moderate usage that resulted in around 2-3 hours of screen on time with around 30-40% of battery remaining. With a little heavier use which included 3D gaming and more browsing, battery life still didn't falter but of course dipped an addition 10-15%.

Overall, we were very pleased with battery life. For those who might be even heavier users or plan to do a very battery taxing activities like wireless tethering, Motorola has included a battery saver mode to maximize battery life.

We can imagine that many people interested in the Moto G would get the phone sans-contract and perhaps even without a data plan. If one were to forego having wireless connectivity on the go, you can expect even better battery life.

Internal Hardware
If the Moto X was Motorola's way of "stepping out" of the specifications arms race, the Moto G can be compared to a complete disarmament. That's not to say that the Moto G's hardware is anemic but it most certainly won't be the selling point for the device.

- 1.2 GHz Quad Core Snapdragon 400 Processor
- 1GB of RAM
- 8GB of Internal Storage (16GB version not available in Canada)
- Adreno 305 Graphic processor
- HSPA+ capable chipset
- WiFi b/g/n
- 5 MP camera with LED flash and 720p video recording capabilities

In normal smartphone operations (swiping different homescreens, launching various apps, text input, etc.) the Moto G was surprisingly snappy and responsive. Like the Moto X, we aren't sure if this is due to software/hardware optimizations, or because of the pristine stock installation of Android. We figure it probably has to do with a bit of both.

In benchmarks the Moto G doesn't fair as well as a powerhouse device like an LG G2 for example. In Antutu the Moto G scored in the modest 17000 points range while in Quadrant it scored in the 8600 points range and finally in 3D Mark is unsurprisingly scored in the relatively low 4400 range.

With a lower clocked Quad Core and a significantly lower powered GPU we aren't surprised by the low benchmark scores. But as most will say, benchmarks aren't everything and that is especially applicable to the Moto G. Our experience was that from browsing to 3D gaming the Moto G handled itself quite well. We could browse through full desktop version webpages without much problem and 3D games like Dead Trigger 2 played wonderfully with good framerates.

Again like with the 16GB only Moto X, we were disappointed to see that TELUS/Koodo would only be offering the 8GB version and that the larger 16GB version would not be made available (at launch at least) in Canada. Out of the box this leaves about 5 GB of storage available to the user for games, apps and media. Considering that games are reaching over 500MB careful rationing of internal storage will probably be necessary by App hungry users.

HSPA+ Capabilities
While LTE is the norm and is even starting to make its way onto midrange devices, the Moto G isn't your average midrange device. Motorola has made it clear that while it didn't skimp out on certain features like the screen and build quality, but an LTE radio was a luxury that the Moto G couldn't afford.

Despite that, HSPA+ speeds were actually quite surprisingly good. In our tests around Montreal, the Moto G consistently got 10+mpbs and regularly was in the 13mbps range. While this pales in comparison with the 90+mbps seen on other devices, we didn't feel like the lower speeds were a major detriment to our browsing experience.

Perhaps TELUS' HSPA+ network in Montreal is more sparsely populated given that two generations of iPhones are now on LTE but these were easily some of the fastest HSPA+ speeds we've seen in a long time. Your mileage will vary as we have to assume that areas without LTE and have more traffic congestion on HSPA+.

Speaker and microphone
Speakers and microphones have typically been a strong suit for Motorola and on the Moto G wasn't any different. Call quality was good and clear. The loud speaker on the other hand wasn't as good as the one we remember from the Moto X as it sounded quite loud but had a significant "tin" sound to it. Nevertheless we didn't expect to get studio quality sounds from a device this affordable and in all honesty, the performance will be good enough for most people's needs.

To say that we've been disappointed with the cameras on Motorola phones would be quite an understatement. One needs not look any further than the Moto X to see that we wish Motorola gave us more in the camera department.

Like the Moto X, the Moto G produces some disappointing stills and video. In good lighting, the Moto G does decently but pictures are softer than we'd prefer as we expect that Motorola's camera software is a bit overzealous in post processing not unlike the Moto X.

In the right lighting conditions the Moto G actually produces some nice decent looking shots with decent colors and sharpness. Where the Moto G falters a bit is if you decide to use the pictures in situations that are unforgiving to the 5MP resolution such as large prints of using pictures as desktop backgrounds. While we don't think that this specific use case is as prevalent as your average Instagram or Facebook upload, we expect that shutterbugs will probably want to pass on the Moto G.

Like on the Moto X, the camera app on the Moto G is the same super simplified camera experience that puts the focus squarely on getting the picture and go on with whatever you were doing. The problem is that the Moto G isn't exactly a barn burner when it comes to shutter speeds as focus and capture time was quite noticeably slow.

Video quality was okay, and about what we expected from the experience with still. Video is limited at 720p which is a bit of a disappointment as other midrange devices as well as the flagships from the past two years have all been capable of 1080p.

Overall, while our impressions of the Moto G's camera don't seem positive, we have to cut it some slack in that this is a $200 device, and with that consideration camera performance is actually quite good.

Sample Pictures


Stock Android 4.3
Like with the Moto X, the Moto G is running an almost stock experience. In fact, with the lack of Touchless Controls and Active Notifications, the Moto G is running an even more "Stock" version of Android in our opinion.

That's not to say that there haven't been some tweaks from Motorola. Motorola Assist, Motorola Migrate and Motorola Connect are all that Motorola includes with the Moto G and that's both good and bad. On the good side, this keeps the phone nice and clean from bloatware. This is especially important for the smaller 8GB storage.

On the bad side this does mean Moto G owners will be missing out on Active Notifications and Touchless Controls. Both omissions are forgiveable however as the Moto G is lacking the X8 processor leveraged by the Touchless Controls and Active Notifications requires an AMOLED display to be battery efficient.

Lastly, like the Moto X, the Moto G is almost completely devoid of carrier bloatware. All that is included on the phone is a lone shortcut Icon to the TELUS My Account application (which is probably the only carrier app we'd like to see pre-loaded on our phone) which opens a link to the Google Play store for the Application itself.

Big credit to Motorola and TELUS for delivering a such clean install of Android. For more info on Motorola Assist or Migrate checkout our Moto X Review.


You've certainly noticed the endless comparisons of the Moto G to the Moto X. At the end of the day this is a great sign. While the Moto X might not have sold as well as a Galaxy S4 or an iPhone 5S, it most certainly was one of the most compelling smartphone offerings of the latter half 2013 and did so without glitz and glam of a mile long list of specs or software features.

In many ways, the Moto G is a continuation of the trend, if not a more extreme example, that hardware and more importantly its cost should not be a major hurdle to a good overall experience. If it wasn't evident with the Moto X it most certainly is with the Moto G. At $200, prospective buyers can look forward to the best that Android has to offer without breaking bank.

While 8GB, the lack of LTE and a less than stellar camera can easily be deal breakers for many, the idea that a new smartphone user can experience what's great about Android at such an affordable price is an incredible feat by both Google and Motorola. The bar is now raised for what $200 can get and and most certainly smashes the stigma that budget phones translate to a bad Android user experience. If you're looking for the best value for a no-contract/no-tab device on TELUS and Koodo the Moto G is easily the best choice.

Final Verdict
Overall Appearance: 9/10
- Extremely solid feeling despite plastic construction and removable back. Fantastic ergonomics.

Screen: 8/10
- Isn't the best display but isn't trying to be either. Solid display that is a wonder to behold at the Moto G's price level.

Buttons: 8.5/10
- Good but slightly wobbly hardware buttons. Great to see Software rendered buttons.

Internal Hardware: 8/10
- Quad-Core Snapdragon 400 was surprisingly good. The hardware won't burn up the benchmark charts but delivers good responsiveness and good frame rates in the most popular games. Lack of LTE was disappointing but HSPA+ speeds on TELUS was also surprisingly good.

Battery Life: 9.5/10
- Good battery life that will last at least a day's use for just about any usage pattern.

Speaker and Microphone: 7/10
- Good speaker/microphone and decent loudspeaker performance.

Camera: 7/10
- Disappointing camera performance, easy (in some cases too easy) to use camera software.

UI Changes: 10/10
- Nothing to write here, stock Android means no significant changes to the core OS experience which is a huge plus, less is more.

Addition Enhancements: 7/10
- Good simple camera software, Motorola Assist, Motorola Connect and Motorola Migrate are all nice features but the loss of Active notifications and Touchless controls are significant.

Included Apps/Bloatware: 10/10
- Pristine installation of Android, only one shortcut to TELUS My Account App. Great job done by Motorola and TELUS.

Final Score: 8.4/10


  1. Nice review. I wish if you could share a full video review of this phone soon. Thanks

  2. It's nice that Canadian tech blogs are one of the first ones to publish comprehensive hands-on review for a breakthrough phone. One question that many people are trying to get answered if the specific version of Moto G sold by Telus, if unlocked will work on Wind network (given their specific AWS frequency). To add to the intrigue Canadian Motorola site is not listing specific frequencies, while UK and German Motorola sites do have Wind's 1700/2100 frequency listed under UMTS. It seems that the only way to find out is to try, but few people were lucky to get their hands on Telus Moto G.

  3. Thanks for the kind words Alex.

    I can't confirm if the Moto G can do AWS 3G as the phone is locked to TELUS.

    It would probably be possible to unlock the device but as it's a loaner device from Motorola, I'm fairly certain they would not be pleased that I unlock their device.

    I will try to get more information from my contacts at Motorola about the compatible bands.

  4. The Moto G is a top notch, low cost smartphone and I wholeheartedly recommend this as the best budget mobile currently on the market. And if you have decided to become a proud owner of this device, perhaps you’re in the market for a solid and beautiful protection case as well.