Dec 18 AT 1:16 PM Dustin Earley 24 Comments

Motorola Moto G review


If $350 is the new $650, then $200 is the new $350. That’s the best way I can prepare you for the Moto G review you are about to read. Just last year, it seemed crazy that a device like the Nexus 4 could come in at only $349, completely unlocked and off-contract. Google and the Google-owned Motorola are making that kind of pricing a habit now. Starting at just $180, the Moto G is the phone that will put Motorola on the map. If low-end devices are where the next huge market share boom is going to come from, Motorola is leading the charge. And companies like Samsung should probably be afraid.

Build quality and design

The Moto G has a lot of what I’ve been asking for in an Android phone for a long time. And that starts with the build quality and design. I’ve come to the thinking in recent years, especially after the debut of the HTC One X, that a phone doesn’t need to be made out of metal or glass to feel like a completely premium device. Plastic is perfectly acceptable and in some cases more appropriate. Two companies have really proved that this year. Apple, who is synonymous with quality-built products, and Motorola, also known for their build quality in the past, have both stepped it up this year in terms of how plastic is being used in handsets.

The Moto X, in my mind, is exactly how you’d want a plastic phone to look and feel. The Moto G inherits this, and adds a little something extra. Where the Moto X has a permanent, non-removable colored back, the Moto G’s is replaceable. I expected this to take away from the quality of the device, but not at all. It still looks and feels fantastic. There are some very minor size sacrifices made (the Moto G is a little thicker), but if I could choose, I’d rather the Moto X have a replaceable back as well. There’s something fun about switching the color of your phone on the fly using Motorola’s flip shells (which are great).

The buttons on the Moto G feel extra clicky (though they do have a little wiggle room) and there are no creeks or bends on the body. Nothing about the Moto G looks or feels cheap. The Moto G suffers from the same problem the Nexus 5 does, in that there aren’t enough places people can go get their hands on one and check it out for themselves. You really need to hold a Moto G to truly appreciate the work that has gone into making this affordable handset feel so nice.

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In the past, I’ve argued that the display is probably the most important part of a phone. It’s where you spend all your time on a device. Perhaps that’s why I like the Moto G so much.

I am a sucker for the incredibly over-saturated colors and deep blacks of AMOLED displays, but the Moto G was never hard to look at. For the most part, I can say I even prefer the display on the Moto G over other more expensive LCD sporting devices.

It’s a great size. Right around the 4.5 inches, the Moto G feels just about perfect. The 720p resolution is more than dense enough. And the colors look great to my eyes. But I do have some complaints. I have a dead pixel in my display. I have talked with other Moto G owners, and I am the only one who was unfortunate enough to have a display with a dead pixel. I imagine Motorola, or Amazon, would be kind enough to replace the device.

And then there’s the light leak. On my Moto G, there was a small amount of light leak near the top of the display. In other words, there was a bright spot where the lights behind the display were showing. On colorful, full-screen images, you would never know it was there. But with Android still sporting a black bar at the top most of the time, it was noticeable. I am happy to report that not everyone seems to have light leak problems, but I did find a couple people who noticed it as well, all to varying degrees. Buying a phone, no matter what price it is, means you are playing the panel lottery. Sometimes you get a really good display, sometimes you need to pitch a fit to receive a replacement. With a sub-$200 phone, perhaps the win-to-lose ratio is a little worse than with a $350 or $650 phone.

The main thing you should take away from the display on the Moto G is that despite both of these problems, which a replacement device would almost surely help with, I can still say it has a display that can rival much more expensive phones. And can stomp other devices in its price bracket into the ground. Color, density and viewing angles are great.


There are two major areas where the Moto G cuts back in order to reach the price point Motorola was looking for. Connectivity is one of them. There is no LTE and no NFC, the consequences of which are pretty straight forward.

Without NFC, things like transferring files between Android phones, using a Moto Skip and wireless payments are either harder or impossible. Was there a single time I thought, I wish this thing had NFC? Not at all. Maybe you have some sort of setup or routine that requires NFC, but I do not. I imagine most people will be in a similar situation as me.

As far as missing LTE goes, that didn’t bother me much either. On T-Mobile’s HSPA+, I was sitting at about 6Mbps down throughout Lansing, Michigan. If you spend most of your time around WiFi and don’t do much other than check email, Facebook, Twitter and post Instagram pictures, then HSPA+ is fine. I think at this point most people know if not having super fast LTE data is going to be an issue for them.

The WiFi worked as it should and so did the GPS and Bluetooth 4.0. No complaints there.

It’s been said before but it’s worth repeating. The Moto G’s main purpose is to tackle the international market. Developing areas lack LTE and are highly unlikely to have widespread access to NFC systems. Cutting both of these out to save money makes sense. Next year will be a different story.


The other area that was cut back on to save money was the camera. And it really shows.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it: the 5MP camera on the Moto G is pretty lackluster. Is it OK enough to snap pictures to send through text messages and social networks? Yeah, it gets the job done. I suppose for $180, that’s all you can really expect right now. This is another area that we expect to see big leaps in next year.

For now though, it gets the job done. In the right lighting, using HDR and after a couple tries, I was actually able to snap some pretty decent photos with the Moto G. Motorola’s custom camera software, with tap to focus and burst mode, seems to help.

The 1.3MP front facing camera is surprisingly good, and video is is surprisingly bad. Especially slo-mo mode. It’s a neat concept, but it looks so bad it’s clearly just for fun.

There isn’t really a whole lot I can say about the camera on the Moto G that I either haven’t glossed over above, or that the sample photos I’ve included below don’t say for themselves. The Moto G is not for the budding photographer, nor will it ever replace your point and shoot.

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Before I received the Moto G, I kept asking myself what kind of performance I should expect out of the handset. I could care less about benchmarks. I just wanted to know if it could load Jelly Splash quick enough. Would it switch back and forth between apps without giving me a prolonged black screen? Open the app drawer without stuttering? Jump into Google Now at a moment’s notice? For $180, I decided that some stutter here and there was acceptable. I figured I’d be happy if most things just ran without major problems. I was in for a huge surprise.

The Moto G is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400, Adreno 305 GPU and 1GB of RAM. Whatever Motorola, or Qualcomm, is doing is nothing short of impressive. I compared the Moto G to a Galaxy Nexus, Google Play edition Samsung Galaxy S4, Moto X and an iPhone 5c. I couldn’t get over how fast the Moto G felt. The Galaxy Nexus was incredibly slow in comparison, but the Moto G didn’t show any major signs of performance degradation next to the S4, Moto X or 5c.

The performance of the Moto G is great. I can’t say it enough. The speed of the device combined with what really is all-day battery life will not leave you regretting a Moto G purchase.


One of my favorite things about the Moto G, and probably a good part of the reason why it’s so fast, is that it runs stock Android 4.3. You can nit pick all you want about what “stock Android” really means, but this is stock Android.

The only custom apps loaded on the device are Motorola Assist, a handy way to automate things like silent mode and auto-reply while you’re driving, in a meeting or sleeping. Moto Care for getting help with your Moto G. And Motorola Migrate for moving things like contacts, media and text messages from your old phone to your new Moto G. There’s also the custom camera software I mentioned above and an FM radio app.

Everything else is just as you would see it on an AOSP device. There’s no Google Experience Launcher like on the Nexus 5 and no always listening mode or active notifications like on the Moto X. Motorola will probably plump up the Moto G with features in the future, but for now it’s still a joy to use. A lot of that is thanks to stock Android.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, Motorola is promising an update to Android 4.4, KitKat, in the beginning of the year.

Motorola Moto G8.5 / 10

It’s hard to assign the Motorola Moto G a simple score. Among all the Android devices available on the market, it’s decidedly low-end. In the low-end, however, the Moto G is the best phone available. Some phones might have LTE, some phones might have a very slightly better camera, but none of them can the boast the full package like the Moto G can. If you’re on the fence about picking up a Moto G, don’t be. Buy one.

With the Moto X, Motorola turned the mid-range device sector on its head. The Moto G does the same thing with the low-end. We can’t wait to see what the refreshed Motorola has in store for us next.

Buy now from Motorola or Amazon

Dustin Earley: Tech enthusiast; avid gamer; all around jolly guy.

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  • redraider133

    I like what moto is doing. Yes its not breaking edge top of the line but it gives an option for those who Dont need a $600+ dollar phone, that they can still get a good fluid experience. Can’t wait to see what this year brings for moto and the moto x version 2 for this year.

  • goncalossilva

    Got a Moto G a couple of weeks ago. I was unexpectedly impressed too. Amazing, fast, beautiful device.

    My only gripe is the same you have: the camera sucks. Your sample pictures are actually way better than those I was able to take.

    And although it’s definitely stock Android, there’s a small detail which annoys me deeply: the fact that the network name is shown at all times in the status bar. Considering my network’s name is “Vodafone P”, it takes a lot of space. I can’t seem to remove that thing.

    Other than that, it’s a truly great phone.

    • SGB101

      The network in the bar is annoying, it’s the first UK android phone I’ve seen do this, but screen shots of us phones all seem to.

      Im so glad the reviewer basically echoed all I’ve seen in the G, I need to find another ad I’ve basically stole my daughters Xmas pressie.

      It’s a shame you have a dead pixel and bleed, mine had neither.

      Regarding the tesco £99, sold out everywhere, but do they put an app on? Got to do something to knock £30 off the device. It’s over 1/4 of the price.

  • Matt

    Just a heads up for UK readers. This Moto G is currently in Tesco for just £99 off contract. Astonishing value

    • SGB101

      Is there a tesco app pre installed, like on the Hudl? It won’t bother me for 1/4 off.

  • Thomas Biard

    If this phone is open for CDMA MVNOs and not just Verizon Prepaid, then it will blow up in the Prepaid market. Having the ability to flash phones now, a $180 phone will absolutely dominate. Considering if you’re prepaid, you’re either paying retail for a phone or buying a used one off craigslist, this is a steal. Most decent not-too-old phones on CL are easily over $200 and usually closer to $300

    • Sean

      In January there will be a CDMA version of the moto g.

      • Thomas Biard

        I know but it is rumored to be for Verizon Prepaid only. We need an open CDMA version.

        • kazahani

          Open and CDMA don’t belong in the same sentence. I seriously doubt this happens. It would be awesome and game-changing, but not likely to ever come to pass imo.

  • Donald Williams

    Without reading anything yet I purchased one for my daughter because of your praise in episode 4 of the podcast.

    There are plenty of cheap options (to own) out there however when you start to stack them up against each other, the moto g blows them out of the water in specs,support, and style. Granted it’s a bit more but we get more out of it.

    Thank you for your thoughts and review. Looking forward to the read and playing with my daughter’s new phone in 2 days.

  • alexanderharri3

    Great for a unified prepaid phone where LTE isn’t necessary or necessarily even offered. It does low end well and unified with a mid-end feel. Samsung could learn from this approach instead of splashing the world with so many low end Galaxy phones I can’t even name a tiny fraction of them. MotoGoog optimized lesser specs into a phone that could easily sell for $300 (or $99/149 on contract by pesky Verizon/ATT) to those who didn’t know

  • ihatefanboys

    At least he was honest and called it “low end” Just as the X is “mid tier”

  • perry

    The Moto X has a non removable back?? I thought that was the purpose of the whole moto maker thing. To get the backing you wanted and still be able to get additional backs. Bummer.

    And as to the issue of NFC; does anybody really use it? I’ve had it on my phones for the last 2+ years and never once found the need for it.

    The G sounds like a great device for the price point and all the reviews I’ve read or seen all say the same thing. Will pick one up for the Mrs for Christmas.

  • Vance

    My only issue with cutting back on the camera sensor quality is that a lower priced, lesser specs phone, in my world, is ideal for my wife, or my Mom, or my teenage brother in law, all of whom rely heavily on their phone for image capturing and less for multitasking, running resource intensive apps, etc. I’d love to see a device in the same price range supporting an 8 megapixel camera, enhanced with leading edge imaging software that makes cuts elsewhere… My two cents..

    • SGB101

      I think it’s a perfect phone for teens, they take crap pic on anything, then put a filter on anyway. A teen will no than love the device

  • donger

    Great budget phone.

  • kurkosdr

    At last, some company is using Moore’s Law to make devices more affordable. Most others use it to put moar stuff in $700 flagships

  • kurkosdr

    Also, one thing not mentioned is that the phone ships without a charger.

  • LL

    Nice phone, however, I bought one just over a month ago and connected to an existing EE account. Currently the data stream just drops out, no email no internet No Connection which is really annoying even if the phone still works as a phone. Cant find any help from Motorola and EE aren’t interested even though I bought the thing from an EE shop. Back to Blackberry i think

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  • Savita

    I bought the phone 2 weeks back.nice one. But after 2 days, the status top bar wherein internet connection symbol, battery symbol, sim card symbol is ther showing grey and not colorful. Can anybody tell me Wht has happened? Either wid setting or device problem? N how to make the status bar colorful..pls help

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  • Paul

    On the topic of dead pixels, I got a free upgrade of a Moto G a few days ago and discovered a dead/stuck pixel after a few hours. I got a replacement yesterday and yet again there is a stuck pixel. It’s a shame as I really like everything about the phone, hopefully it will be third time lucky.