The internals of the Moto G may not jump off the spec sheet, but they’re nothing to sneeze at, either. For a phone this cheap, most people wouldn’t expect a respectable 1.4 GHz, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 under the hood. It’s true that the 8 GB of storage and 1 GB of RAM of the base model will leave some users wanting, but for another $40 you can upgrade to 16 GB and 2 GB, respectively. If storage is your only concern, then you can rest easy knowing that both models have expandable memory via micro SD card slots up to 32 GB.
One other fun aspect of the device is that it’s water resistant, making the thing tougher than many of the top-tier, flagship phones out there. According to Motorola, it’s equipped with IPX7-rated water protection, which means the phone’s good for immersion in up to 3 feet of water for 30 minutes… provided you keep that back cover clicked on tight.
Looking at the benchmarks, the Moto G scored 498 on the Geekbench 2 Single-Core test, and 1494 on the multi-core test. This does not compare well against the current flagships on the market. The Samsung Galaxy Note5 scored 1465 and 4610, respectively, while the Moto X Pure Edition scored 1256 and 3558. Of course, benchmarks often aren’t indicative of real-world performance, and while the Note5 is a more powerful device, side-by-side comparisons with the Moto G would not suggest its 3x as powerful.
Motorola is often lauded for how its phones offer an experience about as close to as pure Android as you can get without getting a Nexus device, and that’s easily one of the best strengths of the Moto G. This is a smooth, clean experience thanks to Motorola’s contributions that are neither excessive nor obtrusive; any additional features are actually useful, and they’re so subtly integrated (with nearly all of them being optional) that I hesitate to even call it a skin.
Equally pleasant is Motorola’s very limited inclusion of preloaded apps on the device straight out of the box. When I first powered it on and pulled up the app drawer, I found a mere page and a half of apps (and this included all of the Google apps). That’s the sort of light, clutter-free approach to Android most users like to see.
The only drawback as far as software is concerned is that as much I love the suite of features that Motorola offers it users – like the low-power Moto Display, gesture shortcuts like twisting the phone twice to launch the camera, etc. – some didn’t make the cut on the Moto G. For instance, the best feature (in my opinion) of my Moto X is how I can just wave my hand over the screen for the Moto Display to pop up and show me the time and any pending notifications. This “Approach for Moto Display,” along with a couple of other cool tricks, unfortunately aren’t on the Moto G.
Camera & Battery life
The Moto G’s 13-megapixel camera is likely better than what you would expect from a budget smartphone like this (the Apple iPhone 6S only has a 12-megapixel camera), but it still shouldn’t be used for anything more serious than pictures of your food. The biggest issue for me was that the lens has a hard time pulling things into focus; I often found myself waiting multiple seconds for the autofocus to catch up when targeting something new. It’s definitely worth pointing out that in proper lighting photos come out looking sharp, but the moment you try to snap a photo in an even remotely low-light environment, you begin to see some noise. That said, you still may want to keep the camera’s auto-flash off; I found that it defaulted it to using it a little more than it should have and boy, did those pictures end up looking blown out.
On a better note, the battery life here is excellent. Phones with unobtrusive UI skins and smaller displays tend to win in the endurance category, and the Moto G is no exception. Granted, our test unit did not come with a SIM card, and maintaining a data connection is admittedly much more draining than being on a Wi-Fi connection all day. Nevertheless, I managed to squeeze a good four days and change out of the thing on a single charge of the 2470 mAh battery, which again, is sealed in and not user-replaceable. I couldn’t use it on the road too much without the data connection, but I still managed a good hour or so of streaming video, along with snapping some photos, managing email, multiple hours of streaming music, and web browsing, all with the display brightness cranked to the max.