Review – Motorola Moto G (2014)

Saqib Shah
September 25, 2014

[alert type=alert-blue]Technical details[/alert]

Price: £149.99


OS Android 4.4 KitKat

Processor 1.2GHz quad-core

Screen 5 inches

Resolution 1280 x 720 pixels

Memory 1GB RAM

Storage 8GB, 16GB

Micro SD compatible? Yes

Camera 8MP rear-facing, 2MP front-facing

Video 720p

Connectivity 3G

Dimensions 141.5 x 70.7 x 11 mm

Weight 149g

Battery 2,070 mAh

[alert type=alert-blue]Introduction[/alert]

It may seem a little confusing at first, but the Moto G (2014) is a new phone. Motorola has refrained from renaming its entry-level bestseller, hence the year at the end of the title – elsewhere you may see it named the Moto G (2nd gen) or even the Moto G2. As the great William Shakespeare once wrote; “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. In the case of the Moto G, however, we may have to modify that phrase a tad bit to “A device by any other name would perform as well”. The namesake matters not, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. And boy does Motorola have another winner on its hands.

First the bad news. For a second-gen device, there’s no 4G LTE capability here. If it’s super-fast mobile broadband you’re after, it’s the Moto G 4G you need. Additionally, the resolution, battery and processor all remain exactly the same. The upgrades come in the form of the size (5 inches as compared to 4.5, in line with the trend toward larger displays in the smartphone market) and a beefed-up 8MP rear-camera. The new specs may not seem like much on paper, but they make a visible difference when using the device.

[alert type=alert-blue]Design[/alert]

The lack of physical control buttons on the front of the Moto G make it harder to discern the top and bottom of the phone. We reviewed the white handset, which with the curved bulging back of the phone, looks rather bland. The option to customise the back with an additional seven different coloured covers – as is usually the case with Moto handsets – is fortunately retained. Since the launch of its e-store earlier in September, you can now purchase the individual covers (priced at £10.99 each), directly from Motorola.

Motorola - Moto G 2nd Generation Front

Aside from the size, the Moto G remains largely the same. The three physical control buttons (lock and volume controls respectively) can still be found on the right-hand side and the back contains the larger 8MP rear camera. Also on the back is the small Motorola ‘M’ logo, which thankfully looks better than the logos of its rival brands.

Placing the headphone port at the top of the device – and directly in the middle – isn’t easy on the eye and only makes it that more visible when it should be more subtle. It’s really only a small complaint. You won’t here us complain about the bezels, however, which have been reduced in order to fit in the larger display.

[alert type=alert-blue]Performance[/alert]

As we already mentioned, the 1.2 GHz quad-core processor on the new Moto G is not an upgrade. It still does general tasks well, so that shouldn’t be a concern to the average user.

As has always been the case with the Moto G, its display is bright and its UI extremely smooth for an entry-level handset. There may be cheaper devices out there but they don’t perform this well or look this good while doing so.

In regard to apps, Twitter opens quickly but switching between the image-heavy Discovery tab and our personal profile took a second longer to load. Facebook on the other hand was faster and a breeze to browse through. The same can’t be said for web browsing via Google Chrome, as web pages took a few seconds longer to fully load than apps. Still it was hardly a long wait and may not be noticeable for those accustomed to entry-level handsets.

Motorola - Moto G 2nd Generation Isometric

Next up we tried some of the games available on the Google Play Store. The powerful, open-world western shooter Six Guns ran smoothly after some initial lag affected the gameplay. We also played the DC comics beat-em-up Injustice, which had incredibly smooth gameplay. Both powerful titles ran well with very little lag and short loading times. Here we must also add that gaming on the larger 5-inch display certainly increases the visual impact. The 0.5 inch jump in terms of screen size seems more of a leap when you are doing anything remotely visual on the Moto G.

Therefore, the same goes for video playback. As it is not a mid-range or premium device, Motorola has still not upgraded the Moto G to full HD and it remains 720p. This will certainly be a setback for those in possession of the first-gen handset but, believe us, the larger screen is worth the price of admission alone. Again, YouTube videos load quickly over WiFi and still look sharp on 720p. For the pixel purists looking for better resolutions, the only options are pricier devices, with the likes of the £499 LG G3 able to reach 1440 QHD resolutions. For its class, however, the Moto G still offers an unbeatable visual experience.

[alert type=alert-blue]Features[/alert]

The camera on the Moto G is as simple as they come on Android handsets in terms of functionality. Naturally, the upgrade from 5MP to 8MP leads to clearer, more sharper images. Video, on the other hand, remains the same at 720p.

It’s the camera’s toolbar that is minimal and could have done with more of an update. The lack of options and simple touch controls (tap anywhere on the screen to shoot) are fine for no-nonsense users but more camera modes would certainly have helped. Still if it’s more tools you’re after you can download third-party apps, such as Hyperlapse (for timelapse videos) and the Google Camera or Photo Sphere (for more capture modes).

Nonetheless, the HDR and panorama modes are useful and add some variation at least. The ability to switch from auto-focus to manual focus (drag the square to the part of the screen you wish to focus in on) and from 6MP widescreen (16:9) to 8MP standard (4:3) aspect ratio will also appeal to more hands-on users.

Again, Motorola took a practical approach to the camera by simply beefing up its pixel count – after all that’s what affects images directly. If it’s editing tools you’re after, then you may have to spend some time getting acquainted with the photography apps on the Google Play Store, some of which you may even have to spend some change on.

[alert type=alert-blue]Conclusion[/alert]

With the launch of the Moto E earlier this year, the original Moto G was no longer the ultra low-end device in Mototrola’s lineup. The Moto E also has solid specs in itself, therefore the Moto G required an upgrade. Like so many manufacturers, Motorola got itself in to a bit of a mix up by releasing one too many devices when it launched the Moto G 4G recently. That was simply a case of capitalising on the Moto G’s success, but it makes the launch of a second-gen Moto G all the more problematic. Can we really call a device second-gen when it doesn’t even boast the latest mobile broadband technology?

To its credit, Motorola has improved the specs that count. The larger display is a welcomed addition and it bestows the device with a more premium look compared to its compact counterparts. The 1st-gen’s 5MP camera also needed improving and, thankfully, Motorola held off from adding any pricey gimmicks such as a ‘selfie cam’. To sum up, the Moto G is still a solid device that is definitely worth a look if you’re after an entry-level Android handset. Adding 4G and perhaps a slightly faster processor would really have been the icing on the cake.

[alert type=alert-blue]Verdict[/alert]

Motorola’s unwillingness to increase the new Moto G’s numerical value hints at the fact that this isn’t the type of upgrade we’re accustomed to. Still, the device benefits from a larger screen and photography enthusiasts will be pleased to find a better camera on the back. The price is still affordable but a lack of 4G is disappointing.

About the Author

Saqib Shah

Tech/gaming journalist for What Mobile magazine and website. Interests include film, digital media and foreign affairs.

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