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Motorola Moto G (2nd Generation), First Take: Bigger and better, but still affordable

Can Motorola's new Moto G continue the company's success in this year's more competitive affordable smartphone market? Early signs look good.

Motorola's second-generation Moto G, announced and on sale today, succeeds last year's Moto G , an affordable stock-Android handset that quickly became "the best-selling phone in Motorola's history", according to corporate VP EMEA and APAC Magnus Ahlqvist at yesterday's London press preview. The original £135 (unlocked) 4.5-inch Moto G was upgraded in May 2014 with 4G (LTE) connectivity and MicroSD storage expansion, this 'first-generation-plus' model costing £149.

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The new 5-inch Moto G comes in white or black for the moment: coloured backplate shells will be available in October. Images: Motorola

Motorola has now equipped the Moto G with a bigger screen, stereo speakers, faster wi-fi and better cameras, plus dual SIM slots — all for a similar £144.99 price (for the 8GB model). Motorola's aim, as last year, is to offer "a premium smartphone experience at one-third of the price", as Ahlqvist put it. We've had a review unit for 24 hours, and here are our initial impressions.

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The 5-inch second-generation Moto G, next to the 4.5-inch first-generation model. Image: Charles McLellan/ZDNet

The first thing you notice about the new Moto G is that it's bigger, thanks to the increase in screen size from 4.5 inches to 5 inches. The resolution stays the same at 720 by 1,280 pixels, so the pixel density drops from 326ppi to 294ppi. It still delivers a usable image, though, and is still protected by tough Gorilla Glass. Another noticeable change is the pair of front-mounted stereo speakers, sitting above and below the screen (the original Moto G had a single speaker at the back).

The new model measures 70.7mm wide by 141.5mm deep and has a curved back that goes from 6mm at the sides to 11mm at its thickest (0.5 thinner than the original model). The device sits comfortably in the hand, and is only a few grams heavier than its predecessor (149g versus 143g). Our review unit was white, but the second-generation Moto G also comes in black. Backplate shells in other colours will be available in October, according to Motorola.

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Inside the new Moto G: note the dual SIM card slots, Micro-SD card slot and non-removable battery. Image: Charles McLellan/ZDNet

The new Moto G runs the same 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC as its predecessor, with the same 450MHz Adreno 305 GPU and 1GB of RAM. Our review unit had 8GB of internal storage, but a 16GB model is also available. Take the backplate off and you'll see two Micro-SIM card slots, which Motorola claims support 'intelligent calling' where the system learns the SIM choices you make when placing calls. Also under the backplate is a MicroSD card slot for storage expansion, and you'll notice that the 2,070mAh battery (the same capacity as used in the original Moto G) is not removable.

The specs page on Motorola's UK website is silent on the 3G/4G status of the second-generation Moto G, but enquiries reveal it's a 3G phone (our test SIM got an HSPA connection). There's no word yet on whether a 4G (LTE) upgrade will appear, as happened with the first-generation Moto G. The wi-fi has been upgraded though, from single-band (2.4GHz) 802.11b/g/n to dual-band (2.4/5GHz) 802.11a/b/g/n/ac. Bluetooth 4.0 is present as before, along with an FM radio.

The cameras are upgraded too: the front camera goes from 1.3Mpixels to 2Mpixels, while the rear camera goes from 5Mpixels to 8Mpixels. As before, you drag up and down to zoom, tap to take a single shot, and tap/hold to take multiple shots.

Performance-wise, we'd expect the new Moto G to be very similar to its predecessor, given the specs. This is indeed the case, and to put the Moto Gs in context, we've added the results from a top-of-the-range, premium-priced smartphone — Samsung's Galaxy S5.

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Benchmarks aren't everything, of course, and unless you're planning on running demanding workloads like 3D games, you should get an acceptably responsive experience from the new Moto G.

We haven't had time to test the new Moto G's battery life yet, but merely note that the 5-inch second-generation handset has the same 2,070mAh capacity is its 4.5-inch predecessor.

Motorola has also announced the next generation of its flagship Moto X  smartphone and the much-anticipated Moto 360 Android Wear smartwatch, both of which will be covered in more detail elsewhere on ZDNet. UK fans of the Moto X will be pleased to note the availability of Moto Maker customisation, which lets you choose different backs (including natural materials like wood and leather), front colours, accent colours and other specifications. You can even have your Moto Maker Moto X engraved with a personalised message.

As far as the new Moto G is concerned, so long as the battery life checks out, we see no reason why it shouldn't continue the success of its predecessor — although there is now more competition in the affordable smartphone space than there was a year ago.

Find more on the Motorola Moto G over at cnet.com.