Mobile Technology

Moto G (2014) review: The best deal for the most people

Moto G (2014) review: The best...
The new Moto G is more of a handful (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
The new Moto G is more of a handful (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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The 2nd generation Moto G has grown up a bit (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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The 2nd generation Moto G has grown up a bit (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
The Moto G remains just $179 (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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The Moto G remains just $179 (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
Dual front-facing speakers are one of few hardware upgrades (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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Dual front-facing speakers are one of few hardware upgrades (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
The display delivers crisp colors (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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The display delivers crisp colors (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
(Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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(Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
The trademark Moto dimple on the back remains(Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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The trademark Moto dimple on the back remains(Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
(Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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(Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
Physical volume buttons now control the camera shutter (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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Physical volume buttons now control the camera shutter (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
The new Moto G is more of a handful (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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The new Moto G is more of a handful (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
The new Moto G is more of a handful (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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The new Moto G is more of a handful (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
The display is readable in direct sunlight (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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The display is readable in direct sunlight (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
SIM and MicroSD card slots are found under the back cover (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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SIM and MicroSD card slots are found under the back cover (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
Removable back covers are swappable (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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Removable back covers are swappable (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
Removable back covers are swappable (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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Removable back covers are swappable (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
Removable back covers are swappable (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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Removable back covers are swappable (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
The Moto G in black and white (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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The Moto G in black and white (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
This phone can handle heavy metal (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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This phone can handle heavy metal (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
No LTE yet on the 2nd gen Moto G (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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No LTE yet on the 2nd gen Moto G (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
The 2nd generation Moto G and Moto X (right) (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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The 2nd generation Moto G and Moto X (right) (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
The 2nd generation Moto G and Moto X (right)(Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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The 2nd generation Moto G and Moto X (right)(Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
The Moto G is thicker than the Moto X (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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The Moto G is thicker than the Moto X (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
The Moto G is thicker than the Moto X (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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The Moto G is thicker than the Moto X (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
The Moto G is thicker than the Moto X (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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The Moto G is thicker than the Moto X (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
A photo take outdoors with the Moto G (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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A photo take outdoors with the Moto G (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
In lower light, photos are noticeably less sharp (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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In lower light, photos are noticeably less sharp (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
Another photo taken with the Moto G in direct sunlight (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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Another photo taken with the Moto G in direct sunlight (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
The Moto G camera doesn't pick up all the contrasts here (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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The Moto G camera doesn't pick up all the contrasts here (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
Numerous back covers are available (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
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Numerous back covers are available (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
View gallery - 28 images

The Moto G is the phone taking over the world that many folks have never heard of. Now the 2nd generation of the device is in the wild and Gizmag was among the first to get our hands on one. Let's see if it will continue its global conquest.

Before getting on with our full review of the 2014 Moto G, let me share a moment with you that sums up this phone the best from my perspective. It was perhaps the most awkward silence during my hours-long tour of the Motorola complex in Chicago earlier this month. During the portion of the afternoon when I and a handful of other reporters spoke with members of the team behind the latest iteration of the mid-range, inexpensive Moto G, someone asked why there was no 4G LTE radio included.

"We aren't making an announcement about that at this time," one of the leads for marketing the Moto G responded.

That was over two weeks ago, and there's still no word on a second generation Moto G with LTE, which is a shame because it's the one flaw that's tough to forgive in a phone that delivers lots of value for just $180 (or £150 and AU$269 in Australia). A GSM LTE version of the first-generation Moto G was released in June for $219, and even with the improvements in the new Moto G, it's hard not to recommend grabbing the available LTE version or waiting for the 2nd generation to get 4G.

I've always felt that once you go 4G, going back down to 3G is almost too painful to bear, but there are certainly plenty of potential Moto G customers out there who don't prioritize fast data speeds nearly as much, or may not even have access to a 4G signal. Indeed, the Moto G is Motorola's best-selling smartphone ever, thanks to adoption in huge emerging countries like India and Brazil. Still, 4G coverage is beginning to come online in places like Sao Paulo and Kolkata, both among the world's twenty largest cities, so the appeal of an HSPA+ 3G-only smartphone will inevitably decline, perhaps sooner than later. Now that we have my chief complaint out of the way, let's continue on and look at what else the new Moto G has to offer.

MVP: Most Valuable Phone

As I've already pointed out, the Moto G is Motorola's biggest seller ever and it's easy to say why. It brings with it almost the same experience you get in Motorola's flagship Moto X, but for a low price tag that provides unmatched value as far as I've seen. Sure, the specs are a step down from the Moto X, but it's available for 60 percent of the cost of an unlocked Moto X (2014) and the specs are definitely not a 60 percent step down from the Moto X.

The 2nd generation Moto G and Moto X (right) (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
The 2nd generation Moto G and Moto X (right) (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)

The 2nd generation Moto G actually maintains most of the original guts from its first generation, including 1GB RAM, a Snapdragon 400 1.2 GHz quad-core CPU and Adreno 305 GPU. Clearly, Motorola decided not to fix something that wasn't broken. However, some of the latest, more resource-demanding apps and games may tax the Moto G, creating more lag and hang time than you could have expected to experience with the same specs in 2013. That's just the way the technology game is played.

It's not all the same this time around, though. Like most other 2014 phones, the Moto G is larger than its predecessor, growing from a 4.5-inch 720p display to a 5-inch 720p screen. This IPS display performs surprising well, delivering quite vivid color, but photos and videos lack a bit of the contrast of higher pixel-density displays and there is a tendency for warm hues to wash out. That said, most users will probably find little to complain about.

The display delivers crisp colors (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
The display delivers crisp colors (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)

That extra real estate helped allow Motorola to do away with the single rear speaker on the original Moto G and replace it with two nice, front-facing stereo speakers like those seen on the budget Moto E. While this is a nice change that provides a decent level of volume, the sound quality can only be described as average. Turn it up all the way and expect to swim (or at least wade) in some sonic distortion.

A big addition in the second generation is an SD card slot that can support up to 32 GB of added storage. The slot can be found under the removable plastic back that can be replaced with an array of different colored backs and even a flip cover to provide that extra bit of Moto customization.

Numerous back covers are available (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
Numerous back covers are available (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)

The camera has been upgraded from 5 megapixels to 8, and the front-facer has also received a bump from 1.3 to 2 megapixels. Also new is the ability to activate the camera shutter with the physical volume buttons.

Here's an example of the Moto G's rear shooter in action (note that our images get downscaled for the web):

Another photo taken with the Moto G in direct sunlight (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
Another photo taken with the Moto G in direct sunlight (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)

All this hardware makes for a phone that's thicker and heavier than the original Moto G as well as both generations of the Moto X, but it's a small sacrifice to make. The above specs rival other mid-range versions of big name phones like the HTC One Remix or the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini, but again, the huge difference with the Moto G is that it costs about 60 percent less.

I've generally found the battery life on the Moto G to be a little better than both the original Moto X and the 2014 Moto X. It easily makes it through the day with moderate to heavy usage, and when used a little more sparingly, you can get pretty far into a second day of use without recharging. I've got to assume that the lack of the Moto X's extra sensors, always listening touchless control (now called Moto Voice) and active display that constantly pulses on and off make the Moto G less resource hungry and give the battery more longevity, despite being relatively small at just 2070 mAh.

An FM Radio and optional dual sim and DTV (only in Brazil) models also make the Moto G hardware a little more appealing in markets where such things are a nice bonus.

A soft touch to software

There's not a whole lot to say about the software experience on the Moto G, because it is basically stock Android 4.4.4 with just a few Motorola additions like Assist, Alert and Migrate. The new G also gets Motorola's "Trusted Devices" feature that allows the lock screen to be bypassed when connected to known Bluetooth accessories.

Add that to Google's voice search and the text-to-voice feature included in Moto Assist, and the Moto G still packs some of the best software goodies that helped make the Moto X a critical favorite.

SIM and MicroSD card slots are found under the back cover (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)
SIM and MicroSD card slots are found under the back cover (Photo credit: Eric Mack / Gizmag)

Gizmag's review unit is only 8 GB, and nearly half of that was full before downloading a single app, so the addition of the SD card slot is a big deal here.

Bottom line

Need a smartphone without a contract and want to spend less than $200 on it? Buy this Moto G if LTE is not on your radar. If you're looking for that extra data speed boost, get the first generation Moto G LTE model. It's just that simple.

Motorola is a hugely underrated device maker in a world where Apple and Samsung grab the lion's share of attention. But that could soon change with the company's sale to China's Lenovo and its building momentum towards becoming a major player worldwide.

Product page: Motorola.

View gallery - 28 images
6 comments
Richard Guy
I have one and it's a lovely phone. The only weakness that I can find is that the camera really isn't up to much: it doesn't focus terribly well. This can probably be dealt with using a photo app but "out of the box", it's not a great camera. Otherwise, couldn't recommend it more. Beats the crap out of the Xperia I managed to leave in a cafe earlier in the summer!
herm
need a phone now and am getting conflicting information from ATT, and Motorola; does the new Moto G work with ATT?
Randy Levine
the Moto G's battery life is exceptional in its price class. Near the top. The processor RAM and GPU combination produce a lightning-fast experience with 98% of software written today. Its press and go quite literally. This kind of functionality is unheard of at this price point and is unmatched by anyone anywhere. Starting with the first generation moto G! screen quality is determined in large part by the viewer. You would be hard pressed to tell the difference between this screen and the best of the best in a true double-blind study.
Daishi
As impressive as Moto phones seem to be for the price, I hardly know anyone in real life that uses budget phones. In the US even kids from poor families are walking around with their own iPhones.
I don't think I will ever understand Motorolas decision not to make a $600-$700 phone like nearly every person I have met living in an industrialized country actually uses.
What the hell inspired them to build a US manufacturing plant just so they could build phones for people in poor and developing countries? Is it any wonder they are now having to sell Moto to Lenovo who will almost certainly promptly kill off the Texas assembly plant as a first order of business?
Even the Moto X only comes with 16GB & 32GB options and its supposed to be a flagship phone. Considering USB flash drives cost about $8 and $12 respectively and I am essentially in awe at their decision to opt for a 16GB storage option for a flagship phone that supports recording 4k video and doesn't support a MicroSD card. The storage on that phone probably set them back a cool $4.
It's also sad to see they decided to kill off the Maxx line of phones that came with a huge battery. Some of the newer models could be solid with a Maxx makeover. It's disappointing because Moto has (had) so much potential.
Sven Ollino
I don't understand why some people are so bent about getting LTE. I have never met anyone who requires it for personal use. LTE on a router, sure. I'm not even sure that the implemented LTE is purely IP based either. Can anyone clarify? HSPA+ is more than enough for everyday use.
Facebook User
The Moto G has been a very friendly and most useful phone for me. I have friends with much more expensive Android and I phones, and I hear complaints from them about apps freezing, and slow response. In the three months I've had this I have not had one frozen screen or any complaints about speed or memory issues. The phones camera was a little weak out of the box, but a new camera app has taken care of that for me. For the money I can't imagine a more reliable, and durable phone. Very happy with battery up time and charging rate as well.