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    Motorola Moto G 2nd Gen Review


    Mark Dearlove

    Introduction

    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.

    31-Oct-2014_DSC04860.jpg

    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

    Dual SIM

    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.

    31-Oct-2014_DSC04862.jpg

    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.

    30-Oct-2014_DSC04833.jpg

    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.

    Software

    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.

    30-Oct-2014_Screenshot_2014-10-29-16-00-52.jpg30-Oct-2014_Screenshot_2014-10-30-17-13-32.jpg

    Camera

    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.

    Conclusion

    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.

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    I bought one for my wife (after she fell out of love with my old nexus 4) and agree with you - it's a really great phone. Hard to find fault with it plus lots of really neat features (water resistant, dual sim, removable sd, useful enhancements to Android - first device I've used with additional apps which add value). Makes me miss some of these features on my Nexus 5

    Can't recommend it highly enough!

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    Thank you for a superb review, Mark. I have had a Moto G 2st gen since March, and last week I excitedly took my £150 and bought the 2nd gen from Argos (useful to know that Argos stock it, if you're in a hurry for one: http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Product/partNumber/2583367.htm (stock code 258/3367- [8GB variant, black] ) ... well, maybe I was just an impatient geek :P). I have had the official Motorola "Flip Shell" (turquoise) on my 1st gen almost since day one, and I have just put an official "Flip Shell" ('Lemon and Lime') on my 2nd gen, too - VERY much worth the pittance that they cost (around £11 & free shipping) from "Kikatek" - they're around £18-22 elsewhere - just a bit too much. If you want to buy the 2nd gen Flip Shell from Kikatek, Google this phrase: "flip shell g5* kikatek"

    Cumulatively, I have owned three 1st gen Moto G (one review unit, which spurred a purchase which I then sold, and I then came into some money and immediately bought another one and the same flip shell) and the people who the other two went to were equally as impressed and delighted, and I'm talking about a friend who can often be overly picky and fussy over most tech things, and he's an Apple fan, to boot - a very high recommendation, from the years of knowing him. The 2nd gen is equally as impressive, if not more so, due to the incredible screen (who "needs" more than 720p? I think this is a poor argument from anyone owning a 5" phone with this resolution - you'd have to hover over it with a jeweller's loupe and a VERY critical mind, to find any fault with the screen whatsoever).

     

    As someone who shoots around 50-200 nature photos per day, I can say that the camera on the 2nd gen Moto G is *much* better than the 2st gen (which was in no way a horrible experience, but had a very blurry, over-post-processed look when zoomed in), but then, it's not up to the standard of shots expected from a Nokia Lumia, nor are the controls anywhere near as fine tunable (Nokia Camera allows EVERYTHING to be manually adjusted). In it's own right, without the tedious and endless comparisons to every single mobile phone camera that has ever been made, the camera is absolutely fine (good photography comes from a photographer who is adept enough to make the best out of any scene, it's not ALL hardware specs).

    Additionally, if you root your Moto G (or maybe root isn't needed? Not sure - I've only tried this on the rooted 2nd gen) and modify your "build.prop" as detailed in the tutorial linked under this paragraph, suddenly you'll see extended image controls available for the camera app, including the ability to turn off panoramaic AE lock, wavelet de-noise post-processing etc:

     

    http://forum.xda-developers.com/moto-g/general/how-to-unlock-advanced-camera-settings-t2884035


    Here's some of the options that appear in the camera app, once you've done the above mod:
     

    15508213159_074385fe37_o.png
     
    15694087405_7caed076dc_o.png

    Finally, just last night, I shot a comparison of the 1st and 2nd gen official Motorola "Flip Shell" covers, so I hope you find the video as helpful as this superb review from Mark was.

    Motorola Moto G 1st and 2nd generation Flip Shells compared and reviewed:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jqCg80lTRc


    As for microSD card expansion, my SanDisk Ultra 64GB (the red and silver one - part No: "SDSDQUI-064G-U46") works perfectly in the Moto G. Just ensure you have it formatted to FAT32 (it comes as exFAT) and that the cluster size is 32KB; I use "Rufus" tool to format my cards, when using Windows: http://rufus.akeo.ie




    If there is one recommendation I would give to a Moto G owner, it is this; I *URGE* you to buy the *official* Motorola "Flip Shell" - there is no other case built to the same degree of fit and finish for the Moto G, and I can't imagine there being another case which protects it SO well, and which provides such a cheerful, colourful level of personalisation to the phone, AND which affords the fingers a HUGE amount more purchase on the otherwise rather slippery stock battery shell. Niggles in my video aside, you would be wise to get one.

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    Thanks Glossy White - it is a great device with a few small shortcomings but they are outweighed by the positives (and that price!). I will take a look at that camera option.

    It is a shame that Motorola haven't been able to nail their cameras - if they could sort out the small niggles then they would have an even better device.

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    Thanks Glossy White - it is a great device with a few small shortcomings but they are outweighed by the positives (and that price!). I will take a look at that camera option.

    It is a shame that Motorola haven't been able to nail their cameras - if they could sort out the small niggles then they would have an even better device.

    I'm sure Motorola will improve the camera as time goes on. They clearly listen to feedback, since they've now added front facing stereo speakers and a 5" screen, and on the new "Flip Shell" cases, they've improved the texture of the inside of the protective flap, from a grease-absorbing velour, flock type texture, to the texture of craft card (imagine the texture of a piece of smooth blotting paper) - this is much better.

    I am extremely impressed with Motorola customer service in the UK. When you call them, you get through to someone polite and calm (in their Edinburgh call centre) and willing to help, who resolves your issues politely and with utterly professional service. When my second first gen Moto G had a creaking battery shell, they immediately sent me a replacement within days, without any hassle or fuss. My new "Lemon and Lime" Flip Shell for the 2nd gen has a weak magnet and a slight warping of the protective flap (see the video in the previous post), and I called them this evening, and they are shipping me a replacement immediately. Now that is Apple-esque customer service. The fact I've bought three Motorola phones within 9 months, shows I am very impressed with them, as a customer - I'll go back and get the next gen Moto G (or whatever they call it, then) - I truly believe they are on top of their game, and I am very cautious giving that sort of praise to tech companies. Also, the fact that my handset will have seen AT LEAST THREE, *OFFICIAL* Android iterations - in updates, speaks volumes.

    Here's a recent Moto G / Moto X Google hangout event:

    Edited by glossywhite

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    Good to see a review of a dual sim device, although I understand that this is largely on the back of the first generation Moto G.  I am particularly interested in dual sim models as I currently have two phones, albeit with numbers on the same network, and wonder if anyone has experience of using two numbers in this country?

     

    I am still inclined towards the Sony Xperia M2 dual because it has NFC, but does this feature have any real practical use?

     

    At least if I ultimately decide on the Moto G 2, I can leg it down to my nearest Argos rather than buy online. 

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    Good to see a review of a dual sim device, although I understand that this is largely on the back of the first generation Moto G.  I am particularly interested in dual sim models as I currently have two phones, albeit with numbers on the same network, and wonder if anyone has experience of using two numbers in this country?

     

    I am still inclined towards the Sony Xperia M2 dual because it has NFC, but does this feature have any real practical use?

     

    At least if I ultimately decide on the Moto G 2, I can leg it down to my nearest Argos rather than buy online. 

     

    Hello.

    I have made a quick screencast for you, to show you the various options which the 2nd gen Moto G gives, as regards dual SIM settings. It really is VERY simple and VERY effective - I live in England, and I have a "Three" SIM and a "Virgin" SIM installed, and both work flawlessly.

    >> 

    As for choosing NFC as a "reason" to buy a phone? I can't comment much on NFC, as I've never needed to use it; is it a MUST have feature for what you do, or are you considering it just because it's what everyone who's obsessed with the novelty of having it, implies that it's useful and "vital" it is as part of a modern phone? If you have never missed it, you're very unlikely to. Let me make the decision slightly easier, hopefully:

    #1 Motorola support is TOP NOTCH. Motorola hardware is also, top notch.

    #2 Motorola support is in Edinburgh, so no language barriers, and the staff are courteous and highly efficient (I speak from experience, having called them 10-12 times)

    #3 Motorola invented and conceived the mobile phone. Sony make phones which are known to be riddled with varying degress of hardware and software bugs, screen issues... I won't digress.

    #4 Motorola are owned by Google, and I am sure you know that this means that the phone gets Android updates almost as soon as Google release them to Nexus devices. Sony? I'm not so sure they care - you could be waiting many months, if they don't abandon your model altogether. Also, you don't get ugly, broken customised Android - you get virtually STOCK Android.

    #5 Motorola allow immediate bootloader unlocking (as long as you need this - it says unlocking bootloader will void your warranty, but I've unlocked ALL my Moto G's, and still had warranty support)

    #6 The battery on the Moto G *always* lasts me at least a day, if not a day and a half. Just make sure your Google account sync is OFF, apart from the vitals like contacts and Gmail, or that battery life will DRAIN.

    I can think of zero reasons to buy ANY Sony phone - their "support" is AWFUL.

    Google the phrase "Sony support awful", then sit back and enjoy a few hours reading all the complaints.

    I think this basically sums it up, and backs up what I've said:

    Sony:

     

    15548971579_7762944a4c_b.jpg

    Motorola:

    15550014750_78f567ab38_b.jpg

     

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    Thanks for the comprehensive reply.  It's reassuring to know that there are no dual sim usuage issues here in the UK.

     

    I had a Motorola phone about 10 years' ago, which cost a small fortune then, and was quite happy with it.  By the way, google sold Motorola to Lenovo.

     

    To be honest, all I know about NFC is that it stands for 'near field communication'.  I continue to hope that the 'smartphone' will actually be smart some day and that I can load credit direct to my handset and use it to pay for goods and services anywhere.  Google wallet and now Apple pay have their own facilities, but there is yet to be a universal version.  In the meantime, I have contactless and Oyster, though I don't use this so much now.

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    Good to see a review of a dual sim device, although I understand that this is largely on the back of the first generation Moto G.  I am particularly interested in dual sim models as I currently have two phones, albeit with numbers on the same network, and wonder if anyone has experience of using two numbers in this country?

     

    I am still inclined towards the Sony Xperia M2 dual because it has NFC, but does this feature have any real practical use?

     

    At least if I ultimately decide on the Moto G 2, I can leg it down to my nearest Argos rather than buy online.

    I am currently testing the Dual Sim Desire 820 - look out for a review coming in the near future. I have used both the Moto G and the Desire 820 in the UK in dual SIM mode with no issues.

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    I looked up the HTC Desire 820, but at over 5" it's far larger than anything I would consider.  However, I will be interested to read your review and think that there should be a lot more focus on dual sim models for use in the UK.  I suspect that there are millions of people who have more than one handset.

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    I have ditched the Blackberry and put the £75 I got for it towards the Moto g2. However, no three pin plug was in the box. Would it be unwise to use my iPod/phone plug?

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    I have been using my iPod plug to charge the phone, seemingly without problems.  However, I have a query about the external sd card which I have posted on the Moto g thread.

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    Honor 3C has got to be a realistic competitor for this device, and you get to keep 30 squids in your pocket. Seems as good or better in every way except for the front stereo speakers and android version. For my money it's better overall, on paper anyway.

    Edited by mrrog

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    Love the phone

    Until a couple of weeks back, just as it passed it's 4 week birthday, my wife forgot to put it on charge overnight and the battery must have run down completely

    It has since stubbornly refused to accept charge

    Or do anything at all, actually

    The internets tell me that this is a pretty common problem with both the G and the G-2nd ed and that there are various things you can do to get it to accept charge (eg, leave it to discharge fully then plug in and hold the power button and vol - for two mins. That didn't work.  Nor did 15 mins)

    Anyway, Amazon don't want to know since it's >28 days old

    Motorola have been fine about taking it back and replacing it.  Just a PITA as it's going to take a while

    Alledgedly this problem will be fixed in a firmware update

    The moral of the tale - don't run your battery down

    Edited by The Soup Thief

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    I cannot get data from my Co-Op sim card which is in slot 1 and has data enabled.  I have been back and forth with The Phone Coop with no success.  No problem with my Vodafone card whether in slot 1 or 2.  Does anybody have suggestions which does not involve rooting as I am  reluctant to jump through the fiery rings that this entails.

     

    Thanks, people.

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    I cannot get data from my Co-Op sim card which is in slot 1 and has data enabled.  I have been back and forth with The Phone Coop with no success.  No problem with my Vodafone card whether in slot 1 or 2.  Does anybody have suggestions which does not involve rooting as I am  reluctant to jump through the fiery rings that this entails.

     

    Thanks, people.

    Go straight to the horse's mouth - Motorola Support. The CO-OP know about their many CO-OP products, whereas Motorola agents are highly trained with regards to your specific handset - CO-OP will just offer you generic answers, and they don't even sell the phone. I've dealt with Motorola UK many times, and they are absolutely superb, VERY polite and patient and infintely helpful:

    Motorola Mobility UK Ltd.

    0870 901 0555

    Edited by glossywhite

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    After writing a strongly worded letter to Co-Op phone customer services and without bothering to tell me, the data problem has now been fixed.  The data charge may be half that of Vodafone, which is why I switched in the first place, but I really cannot recommend Co-Op phone.

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