Motorola Moto G (2nd Gen.) android smartphone

Making flagships redundant for the low price of $269

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Motorola Moto G
  • Motorola Moto G
  • Motorola Moto G
  • Motorola Moto G
  • Expert Rating

    4.25 / 5

Pros

  • Large 5in, HD screen
  • Stereo speakers
  • Dual-SIM (HSPA)
  • 8MP rear camera
  • Inexpensive at $269

Cons

  • Screen isn't as bright as predecessor
  • No 4G

Bottom Line

Motorola's Moto G (2nd Gen.) is, in few words, the cheapest smartphone flagship on the market. It is rich in features, beautiful in its simplicity and a bargain at $269.

Would you buy this?

Here lies to the follow up to Motorola’s most successful smartphone ever, the second generation Moto G. Time has seen the smartphone grow half an inch in screen size, gain higher resolution cameras and house stereo speakers. Do these changes make a good thing better, or is the smartphone Good Gear Guide unashamedly adored no more?

The original Moto G did to the smartphone what the Nexus 7 did for tablets: it made great technology affordable. Features including its quad-core CPU, retina-grade screen and quality 5 megapixel camera were scarce when it launched for $249. These were flagship features offered for a fraction of the price. It’s no wonder the smartphone broke Motorola records across the globe.

Design

The Moto G inherits a lot from its predecessor — thankfully. The smartphone wears an unassuming shade of black up front, has tapering edges on the sides sides and a curving spine round back.

Growing in height to 142mm has taxed how comfortable the Moto G is in the palm, but compared to other large smartphones, such as the 5.2in Samsung Galaxy S5, it proves more comfortable still.

That was the beauty behind the original Moto G and Motorola has managed to create the same magic again

Flanking the screen are two noticeable accents that assume the roles of speaker grilles. Choosing to feature front-firing stereo speakers has caused Motorola to disfigure the previously uninterrupted smartphone face.

Completing the multimedia repertoire is a screen that is half-an-inch larger at 5-inches. It still comes with the same 1280x720 resolution as its predecessor and, as a result, the Moto G packs a lesser 294 pixels-per-inch. The drop in pixel density hurts little other than bragging rights.

Brightness is another matter. The older Moto G boasted 429 nits of brightness. Bigger and brighter screens demand more from the battery. Considering the Moto G retains the same sized battery, it appears the new Moto G has had to take a cut in luminance to 390 nits. That small difference is enough to take pop from colours; to turn a great display into a mediocre one.

The larger screen is not a pro nor a con for the Moto G. Bigger screens alone don’t improve quality any more than more megapixels improve a camera. The original Moto G had a respectable 4.5in size. Those unphased by half-an-inch extra should seriously consider the older smartphone.

Hardware

Few other changes have been made to the Moto G. Inside it is still powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core CPU, has 1GB of RAM, an HSPA modem, 8GB of internal storage and the option to expand memory by a further 32GB with a microSD memory card.

The Moto G now supports dual-band Wi-FI (802.11ac) and maintains support for Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS. The strains of its price tag become visible with no support NFC or 4G data speeds.

The Moto G is all the better for keeping the OS stock and not desecrating it with a half-baked overlay

Differentiating this budget smartphone from its competition is its ability to take two SIM cards. Most dual-SIM smartphones resign one SIM slot to 2G voice calls only, but the Moto G goes one further by having both slots support HSPA data speeds. It is possible to designate one SIM for data, and designating a default SIM for individual contacts is easy. For instance, sending a text to GGG editor Elias can be set to always send messages from SIM 1.

Accessing the SIM trays and card slot is done by peeling off the back cover. Despite being able to remove the back cover, the smartphone’s 2070 milliamp-hour battery cannot be accessed and therefore cannot be replaced.

Good Gear Guide used the Motorola Moto G as our primary smartphone during our testing period. We loaded it with two SIM cards, used it for calls, texts and Internet browsing, managed our social network account, streamed YouTube and made little use of GPS. During this real-world test, we had brightness set to auto and the battery saver mode off.

The Moto G lasted 21 hours before needing a charge. Enabling the battery saver mode, which disables cellular data when the battery runs low, would have prolonged battery life.

Software

The Moto G runs a version of Android so bare boned that the company has been at the forefront when it comes to software support. But a few apps set the software on Motorola phones from that running on a Nexus device, and the Moto G is no different.

The Moto G’s camera then, like every other part of the smartphone, punches well above its weight

Motorola Alert predefines who should be notified in emergency situations. Tapping one button triggers an automated text to be sent to your emergency contact headlined “I’m in danger”, along with your address and GPS coordinates. An emergency alarm is set off by the smartphone at the same time. Additional modes include “meet me” and “follow me”.

Motorola Assist demonstrates the same intuition by identifying when you’re at work, in a meeting, driving or at home, and then by automatically enabling the relevant profile. The Moto G will automatically silence itself in meetings and respond to missed calls with a text; when driving or at home, the smartphone will read out text messages and narrate who is calling; and, when you’re asleep, it will silence notifications until morning.

Vanilla Android is comprehensive and replete with features. The Moto G is all the better for keeping the operating system stock and not desecrating it with a half-baked overlay. This way Motorola can ensure the software is reliable, quick and uniform in design.

Improved cameras

Better front and rear cameras complete the list of improvements Motorola has made to the Moto G. Both cameras have jumped up in resolution — the front from 1.2MP to 2MP, and the rear from 5MP to 8MP — and both are capable of recording videos in 720p resolution.

Photos captured with the rear camera sit amongst the best within the Moto G’s price range. A wide range of colours are rendered with vibrancy and photos are sharp. Signs of image noise are apparent in dim lighting, but these photos will still look great on a 720p screen.

Motorola’s camera interface remains a joy to use. The clever UI is based on gestures: swiping right generates a settings menu, left opens the gallery and pressing down the screen triggers burst mode. The Moto G’s camera then, like every other part of the smartphone, punches well above its weight.

Sample shots

Final thought

Now more than ever can anyone drop their $900 flagship smartphone, pick up the $269 Moto G and have all of their needs met. That was the beauty behind the original Moto G and Motorola has managed to create the same magic again.

Slowly Motorola is setting up its budget smartphone as a powerful tool for multimedia. The bigger screen will appeal to a great many, while stereo speakers complement it during video and music playback. Throw in proficient cameras and the result is a smartphone ripe for content consumption.

One more thing. The Moto G, with its dual-SIM set-up and 3G modem, was not developed for wealthy Australia, where we can afford to invest in fast network infrastructure and the cost of data. People wanting for a real flagship smartphone without holding out on 4G should consider the Moto G 4G — a variant of the first generation Moto G that comes with expandable memory and a 4G modem.

Whether you invest in the first or second generation Moto G, the end result remains the same: you’re winning.

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Read more on these topics: Moto G (2014), Motorola, Moto G (2nd Gen), Moto, Android, g, 4.4 Kitkat.
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