Motorola Moto G

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This handset will shake-up the budget market overnight. The Moto G’s specifications equal a phone that costs twice as much. Motorola has redefined the benchmark for cheap smartphones

About 10 years ago Motorola was one of the biggest names in the UK mobile market. You couldn’t watch the TV for five minutes without hearing the “Hello Moto” slogan and seeing someone on the street with a RAZR. But a slew of unimpressive product releases and lacklustre distribution reduced Motorola’s relevance to the point where it was thrown a lifeline by Google, which purchased the handset division a couple of years ago.  Not before time.

Motorola’s last big launch, the Moto X, didn’t even release in the UK and only sold around 500,000 units in the USA. Compare that to the millions of iPhone 5s handsets sold over the first weekend of its launch.

So why is the Moto G here? How can it succeed where others have failed? Simple – an unbelievable (for the spec) £135 pricetag for the 8GB model and only £25 more for a 16GB model. The Moto G offers fantastic value. The spec sheet matches a handset double the price.

A simple design, powerful processor and stock Android  has at last given us a Motorola phone with the potential to shake-up the budget market.  Overnight, Motorola has redefined the benchmark for a cheap smartphone. Yesterday’s £250 budget phone is this week’s “wow – that’s expensive” model.  Granted, the Moto does not support 4G.  But is that really a problem, bearing in mind only EE has any sort of national coverage (and at a premium price)?

Shell shock
The Moto G’s looks won’t cause Sir Jony Ive to lose sleep. The front is plain with a shiny plastic casing keeping it smart. The bottom of the Moto G could have been fitted with some buttons. Instead these buttons appear on the screen, wasting display space.

You can customise the phone with a range of colourful plastic ‘Shells’, which you or I might call a case.  The standard shell is black. But you can change it for another colour or  use a case with a protective front cover. The shells are sturdy pieces of plastic that don’t bend easily. The standard shell doesn’t have a set price yet but a protective ‘Grip Shell’ is £10 and the front-protecting ‘Flip Shell’ will cost £18.

Software
Despite being owned by Google, Motorola insists that it doesn’t get any special treatment when it comes to selling a phone with Android OS. That’s certainly true here. The Moto G runs a stock version of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, with the latest 4.4 KitKat version promised for January. So Moto G is easy to use, with a menu identical to Google’s own Nexus phones. The number of built-in apps is kept low. You won’t find dozens of obscure apps that you can’t delete. Motorola has added Assist (which lets you schedule auto-replies and silence your phone for periods you select). Other admin apps include a direct line to customer services and a service to transfer files from your existing phone easily. Samsung and Sony etc., take note. Usable storage space is much more desirable than manufacturer-installed bloatware.

Performance
The cheapest £135 Moto G has 8GB of space. As we’ve explained,  you’ll actually have most of this to yourself. Remember the Acer E2 and HTC Desire 500 (reviewed this issue) offer only 4GB storage space but cost around £70 more.

What is even more amazing abut the pricing is that the Moto G uses the Qualcomm quad-core Snapdragon 400 chip. More expensive phones have the weaker Snapdragon 200. The 400 is by no means the most powerful chip. But it can deliver most games you find on Google Play Store. We did encounter a few games that the phone itself warned us wouldn’t be compatible, such as Thor: The Dark World.

Games look great on the 720p display. It’s not quite the true HD 1080p but its perfectly acceptable for a phone that costs much less than £200.

The cheap price makes itself known in the camera. A five-megapixel rear-facing camera spoils the Moto G’s winning streak. Most other budget phones usually have eight megapixels. Under perfect conditions the Moto G can produce crisp images. But make sure you hold the unit still if you want to avoid blurred photos.  The camera app is run by the stock Android app. There is no obvious camera icon. Instead you take a picture by touching anywhere on the screen. This is meant to make the app easier to use but it may confuse people used to seeing a camera icon to press.

Motorola claims you will get a day’s use out of a battery charge. We actually got two days of use with plenty of calls, texts, and the odd gaming session. A recharge took three hours.

Conclusion
The Moto G is designed to be the king of the budget market. And it certainly succeeds. At £200 this would have been a keenly-priced Android handset. The £135 tag makes it unbeatable as a budget phone. The Moto G easily withstands comparison with phones twice the price if you can live without 4G.

Verdict
Motorola deserves to succeed with the Moto G.  Samsung, Alcatel OneTouch and HTC etc.,will now be rethinking their budget strategy.
Jamie Feltham, What Mobile

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