When the original Motorola Moto G was released almost a year ago it drew critical acclaim as the best low cost device around. It did so well in fact, that it became the best-selling smartphone Motorola have ever released. The initial first generation device lacked a few things, 4G and Micro SD slot to name but two, but on the whole was a great device for the price.
Motorola fixed both the aforementioned issues with the subsequent release of the Moto G 4G version and between the two versions they have pretty much annihilated the budget competition since.
So what of the second generation device? Well if you have a great device you don't need to start from scratch and the latest iteration keeps much of the DNA of the first device with some tweaks along the way.
In the box
Well the unboxing is pretty straight forward - a tiny box containing the phone, a getting started leaflet, and a white charging cable sans wall wart. Not sure why they went for a white cable with a black device but hey, I will just add it to the pile of cables I already have.
That's it, no fuss, no frills, and very matter of fact.
Hardware - Overview
So who wants some specs? Not that they seem much to shout about at first glance:
5” HD display (294ppi)
2070 mAh Li-ion battery
Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor with 1.2 GHz quad-core CPU
1GB DDR3 RAM
8GB/16GB Storage with micro SD slot
Android 4.4, KitKat with guaranteed upgrade to Android L
Rear-facing camera: 8 megapixels (3264x2448 px), autofocus, LED flash
Front-facing camera: 2.0 megapixels (720p) HD video recording @ 30 fps
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, BT 4.0LE
GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz) UMTS/HSPA+ up to 21 Mbps (850, 1700 (AWS), 1900 MHz)
141.5mm x 70.7mm x 6.0-11.0mm (curved back)
Initially you may look at the specs and think, hmmm. No change in the processor, ppi is down from 329 in the first gen device, same 1GB of memory, same capacity battery - what is the point? Well, continue reading and you will find out.
Hardware - Around the device
There is no getting away from the fact that the device is a black plastic slab, although a decent looking slab. The curved back has a soft touch feel to it, but for me it makes it a little slippery in the hand. There is the obligatory Motorola dimple logo, camera lens and flash on the rear, while the front has 2 speaker grilles in contrasting silver, and front facing 2MP camera. Completing the outward design are the silver volume and power buttons, a headphone jack on the top, and charging port on the bottom.
The device has a nice feel in the hand due to the curved rear profile that is 6mm on either edge and contours up to 11mm at the thickest point.
Motorola made a decision with this iteration to increase the screen size from the 4.5" of the first generation to a 5 incher this time round. This makes a lot of sense - smart phone screens are generally increasing in size due to consumer pressure. What I am not sold on though is the decision to keep the resolution the same 720p as the old device. This results in the second gen screen being less sharp than the old one, although the colour reproduction and brightness are pretty good. Others may prefer the way the colours pop a little more on the first gen. What I do have to remember though is that this is a device that sells for around £140 so there have to be compromises somewhere.
I do have a bit of an issue with this screen that I have not experienced before though - I find it really had to type accurately using any of the swipe-to-type keyboards. Tapping away is fine, but my preferred method is swiping. The screen seems to have some kind of coating on it that means your finger kind of sticks, and then jumps rather than smoothly moving across the screen like on pretty much every device I have ever used. Maybe it is my finger but I don't experience the same issue on my G2, iPads, Hudls etc.
The front facing speakers do a decent job - they are much better than my trusty LG G2 for instance. You are never going to get great sound out of any device this size so Moto have done a sterling job here to make the sound acceptable. My only issue here (and with headphones) is the lack of top end volume.
Under the hood, one of the things Motorola have added is dual-SIM capabilities. This is one area I was keen to play with as I travel extensively and usually end up with 2 handsets in my pocket. Dual-SIM hasn't been seen a lot in Europe, unlike in Asia, due to the way our contracts tend to work. I stuffed my Three personal SIM in the left slot, and my work Vodafone card in the right. Being in a Three Feel at Home country when I was testing the device meant I could keep data switched on for the main SIM. I will cover the software aspect of the dual-SIM setup later.
Finally, the Moto G comes with a 2070mAh battery and a micro SD slot under the clip on cover too. It is a bit fiddly to get at the SIM slots, battery etc. unless you have decent nails, although it does become easier the more you take the cover off.
One final thing of note that is missing is LTE. This was the same when the first Moto G was released into the wild but Motorola added a 4G option after a few months. Will we see them do the same with this generation? Maybe, but there is nothing out there to suggest this will happen just yet.
The G comes with Android 4.4.4 out of the box and Motorola has promised that there will be an update to Android Lollipop soon after Google releases their launch devices. There are very few changes to the standard Android build, just a few extra apps that Motorola have bundled.
Alert helps you notify friends/family in case of emergencies. Assist allows you to automatically silence your phone when in meetings or sleeping. You can also have the phone read your texts out loud when you are driving or get home. The functionality is available from other apps but it is nice to see baked in too. Finally Migrate assists you when you want to setup your new device from an existing device. Just install migrate on your old device and the software will take care of the rest.
Another area that I played around with in the software was the dual-SIM settings. As previously mentioned I loaded mine up with 2 SIMs to test out the capabilities. The dual-SIM option is very straight forward - pop in your 2 SIM cards and you are ready to go. There are various settings that you can tweak as you can see in the screenshots below. Naming your SIMs is handy if you swap them around a lot as the names are remembered as you remove and re-insert them. You can also colour code each SIM to more easily distinguish them. You are able to quickly switch data capabilities from one card to the other - no fiddly swapping cards when you run out of data allowance on one card. I found this quite useful as I arrived and departed Hong Kong - the back stayed on and I just flicked the switch to allow my Three SIM to pick up the data network. It is all pretty intuitive stuff. You also have the option to decide how to handle whether voice or data take priority, and if you delve into the settings a bit further you can setup voicemail numbers, call forwarding, and a few other bits per SIM. I found a bit of a bug here - the naming of the SIMs on my device did not carry all the way through as you can see below. Other than that it all works seamlessly.
I had low expectations for the 8MP camera on the latest device, and I was sometimes happy with the results. It was never going to be a top level snapper but it is OK for a casual user in the right light and when the focus works as intended (more on that in a second). I got some good results when I was out and about on a brightish day, colours are fairly good, and images are pretty sharp. I did tend to see lens flare quite often but again, this is common with phone cameras. The Motorola camera app which is perfectly serviceable if lacking fine tweak options, however the addition of an Auto-HDR setting is a nice touch and it is not over the top as some HDR jiggery pokery can be. Although this is an 8MP unit, the default setting is for 6MP 16:9 snaps.
Low light is hit and miss, but I think that is more to do with the focus issue I will touch on in a moment. If you use the manual focus option in mid to low light then you can get satisfactory result. Obviously, the worse the light, the poorer the picture gets and in very low light shots it is hard to make anything out at all. Comparing to some other devices I have handy, the G is definitely at the lower end of the low light performance list.
The main bone of contention for me with the camera is the extremely random focussing. Sometimes it is spot on, other times it requires you to exit the app or take a picture to prompt the software to focus correctly. The focus point also seems to change every time you take a picture. Couple that with the pretty average low light performance and it becomes a bit of an issue. There is a manual focus mode you can activate but really this should work out of the box. If you only ever want to take pictures in bright, sunny conditions and have time to wait for the focus to sort itself out you will be happy with the G.
Performance and Battery
I have spent quite some time with the Moto G and have found it to be as quick as almost every other device I have used recently. The lack of bloatware, and the lower res screen means Motorola can extract maximum speed from the SD400 chip. I have not experienced any stutters from the software, nor any dropped frames during video playback of gaming. This is a perfectly usable device with no issues we see on other manufacturers devices associated with their Android overlays.
The battery life is good - I achieved 15 hours during heavy use, with screen time during that stint of around 3.5 hours. This is very heavy for me and in normal use I managed around 30 hours between charges - not the best out there, but certainly not the worst.
If I could only ever use the 2nd gen Moto G, I wouldn't be unhappy. It is a fantastic device for the price. In fact it is a decent device at any price - why spend twice as much for something similar from another manufacturer? Indeed why would you ever want to buy one of the low cost Samsung devices available when you could have a Moto G that is fast, with a good screen, good battery, and no frustrating bloat or overlay (yes looking at you Touchwiz).
My advice if you have 140 quid in your pocket and the need for a new phone, or a second device - don't even think about it, just press the buy button on your chosen stores website. You won't be disappointed.