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Moto G 2015: The best Android experience around $200 can buy

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  • Editors' rating
    9.5 Spectacular
  • $139.40

Pros

  • Great overall experience for the price and provides many flagship attributes including a much improved camera.

Cons

  • Missing a few nice-to-haves, such as NFC, a gyroscope and wireless charging.

As someone who typically uses high-priced flagship phones, I have a confession to make. I've been using a $219.99 Moto G for the past two weeks and I don't miss much from the handsets that cost three to four times more.

That's my biggest takeaway from the 2015 edition of the Moto G, which launched last month: You don't have to spend so much money these days to get a solid smartphone experience. Instead, you can pay as little as $179.99 for a base Moto G although I'd highly recommend spending the extra $40 for more storage capacity and more memory.

Building on the past

In many ways, the new Moto G reminds me of the first Moto X phone, Motorola's 2013 flagship.

It has a similar style, most of the same features, a slightly larger display with the same 720p resolution as the original Moto X and most of the same useful Motorola software added to a stock Android interface. Indeed, most of the time I've used the Moto G, I've felt like I was using my old Moto X from two years ago.

That's not a bad thing at all because the 2013 Moto X was an excellent device that cost a hundred more than this year's Moto G. While I know that hardware components decrease in cost and improve over time, I'm still amazed at how much Motorola packed into this handset for the price.

Suprising performance

The 1.4 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, typically found in low- to mid-range phones admirably powers the Moto G. I think it helps that Motorola isn't using a fancy, custom interface because it keeps the phone performing well; rarely did I feel like the handset was lagging or slow. The Moto G easily handled web browsing, running multiple apps, watching video and even some light gaming activities without any noticeable hiccups.

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Is it as fast as the latest and greatest Android phones on the market? No, but the difference was negligible in my usage.

And I had multiple people use the phone for some apps just to make sure it wasn't me. In every case, they were stunned to hear the price of the Moto G because they felt like it was providing flagship-worthy performance. For the majority of people and most uses, the Moto G has more than enough horsepower.

Note that my testing wasn't with the base model which has 8 GB of storage and -- more importantly -- 1 GB of RAM. That's why I recommend upgrading to the 16 GB model for $219.99: The storage bump is nice but Android will run smoother with the 2 GB of memory. On either model you can expand the storage yourself with a microSD memory card.

Hardware rundown

Other hardware features include Bluetooth 4.0 LE, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz only), 4G LTE support -- an optional upgrade on prior year's models -- Gorilla Glass 3, FM radio and water resistance. The Moto G has an IPX7 water rating, so it can last for up to 30 minutes in up to 3 feet of liquids. You do have to make sure the grippy back cover is fully snapped in for water resistance, however.

The phone has an integrated 2,470 mAh battery that always got me through a full day. There's no wireless or quick charging but I found the handset to recharge quickly nonetheless. Plug it in for 60 to 90 minutes and you'll likely have a full charge.

Pretty as a picture

And then there's the camera.

Even at the flagship level, Motorola's cameras have left something to be desired. So the company made a smart move: It took the 13 megapixel sensor from the Google Nexus 6, which it builds, and placed it in the Moto G.

The result is a flagship-quality camera in most cases on the cheap. In low light, the Moto G still struggles a little bit but overall, image results are outstanding for a phone at this price. Aside from stills, where you can manually adjust exposure and focus, the Moto G also captures 1080p video. A front-facing 5 megapixel camera is used for selfies.

Smart, simple software

From a software standpoint, the Moto G offers a clean Android experience. There's no crapware installed and just a few Motorola apps. The good news is that these are useful and familiar apps. There's Motorola Migrate to move data from an older phone to the new Moto G and there's one Moto app that includes Assist, Actions and Display settings.

For those who haven't seen it on another Motorola phone, Assist helps manage communications intelligently by muting notifications based on calendar events, sleep times or locations. You can also set up automatic replies to favorite contacts during these quiet times.

Actions are also carried over from earlier Motorola phones. You can turn the handset's flashlight on or off with a simple double-chop motion. A quick twist of your wrist two times fires up the Camera app; one of my favorite and most-used gestures.

The Display app isn't quite as useful on the Moto G than it is on the Moto X, but it's still handy. The phone can wake your display for incoming notifications unless you have the handset face down or in a pocket. Drag up on a notification and you'll see more details. Since the handset uses a traditional LCD display, it doesn't have the same pulsing notifications, or Ambient Display feature as the more expensive Moto X and its AMOLED screen.

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It's worth noting that the original Moto X was the first Android phone that was "always listening" for voice commands. That functionality has migrated over to Google Android software and Google Now. Even with the Snapdragon 410 chip, the Moto G supports this feature, although it's not on by default. Once I enabled it in the Google Now settings, I was able to use the "OK Google" command from any screen or even when the phone was locked.

Customizing your phone

Motorola made one other very smart choice for the inexpensive Moto G that adds a bit of premium experience: Moto Maker.

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This is the custom ordering process Motorola introduced two years ago for its flagship. You can choose the phone's front color (black or white), removable back cover color -- there are 10 options -- accent colors for the back plate, order a cover case, or, for an extra $5, have a custom engraving on the phone. Essentially, you design your Moto G look within certain parameters. This is also where you can opt for the additional memory and storage.

Summary: It's a winner

Are there better Android phones on the market? Of course there are and they'll offer slightly better performance, sharper images from the camera or other features that can't be had in the Moto G, such as wireless charging or an NFC radio.

Are there better Android phones on the market at this price? That's a different question entirely and I don't think there are; at least not right now. I'd have no hesitation recommending the Moto G to anyone that uses or wants to use Android. And that goes for people who are considering a nearly $1,000 investment on an Android flagship.

You can spend nearly five times more for a phone but it won't be five times better than the Moto G.

Specifications

Details
Form Factor Touch
SAR Value 1.13 W/kg (body) / 1.06 W/kg (head)
Integrated Components Rear-facing camera, front-facing camera, audio player, voice recorder, navigation
Body Color Black, White
Cellular
Technology WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
Type Smarthphone
Integrated Components audio player, front-facing camera, rear-facing camera, navigation, stereo speakers, voice recorder
Navigation A-GPS, GLONASS, GPS
Band WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM 850/900/1800/1900
Mobile Broadband Generation 3G, 4G
Phone Form Factor touch
Service Provider not specified
Operating System Family Android
Operating System Android 5.1 Lollipop
SIM Card Type micro SIM
SIM Card Slot Qty dual-SIM
Input Device Multi-touch
Phone Features
Dual SIM Card Capability Yes
Phone Functions Speakerphone, call timer, conference call, flight mode, vibrating alert
Sensors Accelerometer, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor
Additional Features Dual microphones, Multitasking, Dual microphones
Miscellaneous
Sensors accelerometer, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor
Messaging & Internet
Cellular Messaging Services MMS, SMS
Mobile Services Video Call
Messaging Services MMS, SMS
Supported Social Networks and Blogs Yes
Communications
Communication Features Internet browser, mobile Email client
Data Transmission EDGE, GPRS, HSDPA, HSPA+, HSUPA, LTE
4G LTE Band Band 17, Band 2, Band 4, Band 5, Band 7
Wireless Interface Bluetooth 4.0, IEEE 802.11b/g/n
Processor
Clock Speed 1.4 GHz
Type QUALCOMM Snapdragon 410
Manufacturer Qualcomm
Processor Core Qty Quad-core
Display
Display Resolution 1280 x 720 pixels
Pixel Density (ppi) 294
Diagonal Size 5.0 in
Diagonal Size (metric) 12.7 cm
Smartphone Diagonal Size 5 in
Protection Corning Gorilla Glass 3 (scratch resistant glass)
Color Support color
Organizer
Personal Information Management alarm clock, calculator, calendar, reminder, synchronization with PC
Camera
Digital Zoom 4
Focus Adjustment automatic
Camera Light Source dual LED flash
Features Burst mode, panoramic pictures, Color Correlated Temperature (CCT) flash, video recording, Panorama, Quick Capture, Slow Motion mode
Front-facing Camera 2 Megapixel
Media Player
Supported Digital Video Standards MPEG-4, H.264
Multimedia
Graphics Accelerator Qualcomm ADRENO 305, Qualcomm ADRENO 306
Memory
Supported Flash Memory Cards microSD, microSDHC - up to 32 GB
Battery
Run Time Details Mixed usage: up to 24 hrs
Digital Camera
Digital Zoom 4
Lens Aperture f/2.0
Focus Adjustment automatic
Self-Timer Delay Yes
Camera Light Source dual LED flash
Video Recorder Resolutions 1280 x 720 (720p), 1920 x 1080 (1080p)
Features Burst mode, panoramic pictures, Color Correlated Temperature (CCT) flash, video recording, Panorama, Quick Capture, Slow Motion mode
Header
Brand Motorola
Product Line Motorola Moto
Model G (2nd Gen.), G (3rd Gen.)
Packaged Quantity 1
CE Input Device
Type touch sensitive screen (multi-touch)
Features
Sensors accelerometer, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor
Phone Functions call timer, conference call, flight mode, speakerphone, vibrating alert
Additional Features Dual microphones, multitasking
Digital Player (Recorder)
Supported Digital Video Standards H.264, MPEG-4
RAM
Installed Size 1 GB, 2 GB
Flash Memory
Internal Memory Capacity 16 GB, 8 GB
Max Supported Size 32 GB
Supported Flash Memory Cards microSD, microSDHC
Graphics System
Graphics Accelerator Qualcomm ADRENO 305, Qualcomm ADRENO 306
Optical Sensor
Sensor Resolution 13 megapixels, 8 megapixels
Front-facing Camera
Sensor Resolution 2 Megapixel, 5 Megapixel
Lens Aperture f/2.2
Focus Adjustment focus free

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Where To Buy

Motorola Moto G (2015, black)

Part Number: 00772NARTL