Motorola unveils the affordable Moto G

With a decent specification and a competitive price, Motorola's Moto G looks likely to shake up the entry-level smartphone market.

Motorola has thrown down a gauntlet to its smartphone competitors with the launch of the Moto G — the company's second handset to appear since its acquisition by Google in 2012. Earlier this year saw the introduction of the well-received Moto X, but only (so far) in the Americas: today's London launch event (with a live video feed from São Paulo in Brazil) was the first glimpse in Europe of the fruits of the Google-Motorola partnership.

Starting at a SIM-free price of £135 (€169, $179) with 8GB of storage, the new Moto G slots in at the entry level of Google's Android handset portfolio, with the recently launched Nexus 5 (£299 / €349 / $349 for 16GB) as the flagship.

Motorola Mobility CEO Dennis Woodside launching the Moto G, on a live link to London from São Paulo, Brazil. Image: Charles McLellan/ZDNet

Aimed at the multitude of potential and price-sensitive smartphone users, Moto G has a solid spec based around a 4.5-inch 720p HD screen, a quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor running at 1.2GHz and 8GB or 16GB of internal storage. It runs the 'pure' (skin-free) Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean) and, like the Nexus series, will get timely OS updates — Motorola promises that the latest 4.4 (KitKat) version will be available in January 2014. To enhance its consumer appeal, the Moto G comes with removable backplate shells in seven colours, along a with range of flip-cover shells and other accessories.

The 4.5-inch Moto G comes with a range of colourful accessories, including flip-cover backplates. Image: Charles McLellan/ZDNet

Speaking at the São Paulo event, Dennis Woodside, CEO of Motorola Mobility said: "most people in the world can't afford a $500 or $600 smartphone: in fact, the average price of a smartphone is close to $200 — the problem is, the experience that smartphones in this class provides is really, really bad". It's this experience — generally provided either by a new low-end handset or a 2-3-year-old flagship device — that Motorola is seeking to improve with the Moto G.

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Image: Charles McLellan/ZDNet

To this end, the Moto G sports a 4.5-inch, 1,080-by-720-pixel display with a pixel density of 329ppi — a class-leading spec, according to Motorola. Similarly, the quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm SoC with its 450MHz Adreno 305 GPU and 1GB of RAM is a cut above the usual budget smartphone fare. You get either 8GB ($179) or 16GB ($199) of internal storage, with 50GB of free online Google Drive storage available for two years.

Mobile network connectivity is limited to quad-band GSM and 3G (UMTS), with CDMA available for US markets. No LTE support here. Also wi-fi doesn't run to the latest 802.11ac standard as in the Moto X, covering 802.11b/g/n only. Bluetooth 4.0 is present, along with GPS (with GLONASS support).

The Moto G is heavier than its X sibling, at 143g compared to 130g, but with its curved back and understated design feels anything but 'budget' in the hand. The handset is powered by a 2,070mAh battery, which Motorola claims will deliver up to 24 hours 'mixed usage time'.

The Moto G will eventually be available in over 30 countries, starting immediately in certain territories.