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Moto G review: Bigger screen, better camera, and SD expansion while still priced at just $180

Motorola announced a couple new phones last week and their all-time best selling smartphone saw some nice improvements while keeping the same low sub-$200 price.

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Topic: Mobility
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1 of 6 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

New Moto G in hand

The first generation Moto G is Motorola’s best selling smartphone ever. That is pretty impressive when you consider Motorola really put Android on the map with their Verizon Droid campaign that was followed up with several models of Droid devices.

Some people may have wanted Motorola to stick with that attractive form factor of the G, but its market research indicated consumers wanted to see a few improvements and as you can see with the second generation Moto G Motorola was able to offer up major changes while keeping the price the same.

Hardware

The first change is the move from a 4.5 inch display to a 5 inch display. While the display remains 720p, it still looks fantastic with bold, vivid colors and crisp fonts. I did notice in landscape orientation with my polarized sunglasses on that the display was black so there were some cost savings made with the display quality.

Another change is the addition of a microSD card slot. The Moto G with LTE has a microSD card slot, but that device came out a bit later after the release of the Moto G. Currently, only 8GB of internal storage is available on the new Moto G, but a 16GB model should follow soon.

The camera gets bumped from 5 megapixel to 8 megapixel with the front facing camera going from 1.2 megapixel to 2 megapixel. You can see a few sample shots I took last weekend at the beach and I think they turned out great for a $180 smartphone.

Front facing stereo speakers are also provided on the Moto G and while they are not as robust as those on the new HTC One M8, they still sound fine for sharing videos with family and friends.

The processor, battery capacity, internal storage, and connectivity stay the same. This version of the Moto G is also limited to 3G HSPA+ connection speeds so no LTE support is available. I was able to zip around the device and go for more than a full day with the Moto G.

The Moto G does lose that appealing form factor I came to love on the original Moto X, but it does still have the rear Motorola dimple for your finger and supports replaceable back panels to liven up your device. The Moto G feels rock solid and if I didn’t already have an original Moto X I would probably pick one up as a backup phone.

Software

The Moto G is powered by Android 4.4.4 KitKat and Motorola promises each Moto G will be upgraded to Android L. Like the Moto X, the experience is nearly pure Android with some Motorola extras. There is no carrier garbage loaded on the Moto G since it is a SIM-unlocked, no-contract phone.

The Motorola extras include Moto Alert, Moto Assist, Moto Connect, FM radio, and Moto Migrate. Alert is an application to keep others updated in case of emergency. Moto Assist is one of my favorite apps from the Moto X and Moto G owners will be happy to hear they now get the driving functionality that I find extremely handy in the car.

After to the Moto G, I discovered that Trusted Devices is also now supported on the Moto G so you can have select Bluetooth devices in the proximity of your Moto G keep the phone unlocked.

Touchless Control is not supported on the Moto G, but you can quickly tap on the mic icon to launch voice search or use a Moto 360 with Google Now voice support to control the Moto G. Actually, the Moto G and Moto 360 are quite a pair that are available for less than the lowest cost iPhone 6.

Pros and Cons

To summarize my experiences with the new Moto G, here are my pros and cons.

Pros Cons
Solid smartphone design and construction Non-removable battery
Very low full price with no-contract Larger form factor
microSD memory expansion No LTE support
Dual front facing stereo speakers  
Decent 8 megapixel rear camera  

Pricing and availability

The new Moto G is available now for just $179.99 in white or black. There is no contract associated with the price and the phone works on GSM carriers.

Specifications
Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core 1.2 GHz processor
1GB RAM
8GB internal storage with microSD card slot
5-inch 720p resolution display
8 megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front facing camera
2070 mAh battery
Dimensions of 141.5 x 70.7 x 11 mm and 149 grams

Conclusion

The new Moto G offers up some nice improvements over last year’s model and I am pretty surprised they were able to still keep the price under $200. As long as people can accept the larger size, I think the Moto G will again be an extremely popular smartphone for the masses who don’t want to pay three to nearly five times this amount for a new iPhone 6 model.

While Microsoft has some excellent low-cost Lumia smartphones, Motorola has shown that they too can make a low-cost Android smartphone that provides a pleasant experience without having to worry about a lack of available apps for consumers.

Contributor's rating: 9 out of 10

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2 of 6 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Lime back cover on the new Moto G

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3 of 6 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Mod Pizza captured with the new Moto G

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4 of 6 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

A day at the beach, captured with the new Moto G

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5 of 6 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

A lost crab claw, captured with the new Moto G

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6 of 6 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Flying a kite at the beach, captured with the new Moto G

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