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Review: Motorola Moto G (3rd Gen)

Hardware Software Wrap-Up Comments  1  

Aug 5, 2015, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

Motorola's mid-range masterpiece, the Moto G, is a formidable smartphone that should not be overlooked. It is waterproof, customizable, and outguns the competition on many fronts. Moreover, the $179 price tag makes it an incredible value for the dollar. Here is Phone Scoop's full report about this capable Android handset.

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Is It Your Type?

The Moto G is for people who want the best mid-range handset money can buy. No other phone provides as much value for the dollar as the Moto G, and it puts much of the competition to shame.

Body

Motorola's middleweight contender has always represented a good value. Since it arrived in 2013, it consistently delivered a solid experience for less than $200. From an appearance standpoint, the 2015 Moto G makes only slight changes. Much of what's new is under the hood, but the hardware has been improved in several significant ways.

To start, Motorola now lets consumers customize the Moto G to a certain degree through its online Moto Maker tool. Black and white are the only two options for the front of the G, but Motorola is offering 10 different colors for the rear shell and 10 colors for the accent. The shells are all the same plastic material (no wood, no leather). Where there are thousands of ways to iterate with the high-end Moto X, there are only a few hundred ways to customize the Moto G. Even so, that's far more owner-input than most phone makers offer to their mid-range handsets.

Motorola's three main smartphones (X, G, E) bear a striking family resemblance. Each has the same basic look and shaping, with horizontal slits above and below the screen, rounded corners, and a figured rear surface that tapers towards the edges. The colorful rear shells are what give each handset its personality. The G shares these characteristics with its brethren.

By modern standards, the Moto G is an average-sized handset. Thanks to the 5-inch screen the phone is somewhat big, but it stops short of being over-sized like Motorola's own Nexus 6. The dimensions are nearly identical to last year's handset: it's 1mm taller, wider, and thicker, and just 0.2 ounces heavier. Most people will be pleased with the size, as it's easy to use one-handed. The phone could be thinner, but the overall footprint is acceptable. It should fit into most pockets without problem, but it might be noticeable if your pants are tight.

Motorola used good materials to assemble the phone, which is put together tightly. The rear shell is formed by a coated rubber and the seams are snug. The glass panel on front is fitted well in the polycarbonate frame that holds it in place. The G isn't made from the highest-quality stuff, but it's still made well enough.

Body  

The slits for the earpiece and microphone are the most obvious design elements visible on the front face of the phone, Sadly, these don't double as stereo speakers. The user-facing camera is also visible. The G does not have any physical buttons interrupting the glass face. There are no logos or trademarks anywhere, and I rather appreciate that.

Motorola placed the screen lock and volume buttons on the right edge of the Moto G. The buttons have a metal finish and jut out significantly from the speckled gray frame that holds the G together. The buttons are easy to find and use, and travel and feedback are quite good. I do wish the button positions were reversed, with the screen lock below the volume toggle, but maybe that's just me. The headphone jack is on the top edge and the USB port is tucked into the bottom edge. This leaves the left edge clean.

One of the biggest improvements the 2015 G offers when compared to its predecessor (and many other handsets) is its new waterproof design. The Moto G can handle up to 30 minutes in one meter of water, which means it will be safe from accidental drops in the pool, tub, toilet, or your morning bowl of Wheaties. I tested it under running water and in the pool and had no trouble with the phone. It survived a shower and a swim just fine.

In order to make the phone waterproof, Motorola futzed with the design of the rear shell. It's a bit more flexible than the shell on last year's phone, but is fitted much tighter. You won't have any trouble peeling the shell off, but take care to make sure it is fully reseated to ensure the gaskets are sealed, especially near the camera module.

The G supports micro SIM cards and microSD memory cards. The slots are positioned next to one another near the camera module under the rear shell. The battery is sealed inside.

Motorola redesigned the camera module. In the 2013 and 2014 models, it was simply a round circle on the back surface. Now, the module is part of a larger, bar-shaped metallic element that measures close to two inches long. It includes the camera lens, dual LED flash, and the now-standard indented Motorola "M" logo. The finish of the camera module is one aspect of the G that can be customized. You can put it to good effect to provide some contrast to the rear shell if you pick the right color combo for the two.

The Moto G is a solid piece of hardware that has some bona fide features (customizable colors, waterproof design) that many competing handsets don't. Toss in the good looks, solid build quality, and ease-of-use, and the Moto G is an all-around winner.

Screen

The G has a 5-inch LCD display with 1280 by 720 resolution. While I'd prefer to see full HD, the 720p HD works well with the G. I was not wanting for pixels. The resolution was more than adequate for watching YouTube videos, browsing the web, and scrolling through social network feeds. I didn't see any pixelated edges or have trouble reading text. Colors are accurate, and the screen produces plenty of brightness. I was able to use the Moto G inside and out with no issue. Viewing angles are decent. There's some brightness drop off when the phone is tilted side to side, but there's no blue shift. The Moto G has a very good screen for the money.

Signal

The Moto G comes in two major variants: one that supports GSM networks and one that supports CDMA networks. The major improvement with the 2015 Moto G is the addition of standard support for LTE networks. It can be used on the LTE networks of AT&T, Sprint (CDMA variant required), T-Mobile, and others in the U.S. We tested it on AT&T's network initially and it passed with flying colors.

The Moto G latched on to AT&T's LTE service everywhere we took it in the NYC region. The phone dipped to HSPA+ a couple of times, but so did other phones we had on hand for testing. The G was always able to make and receive calls and never missed any, even under the worst coverage conditions. I was pleased with data speeds. They were more than adequate for streaming tunes via Spotify, catching up on YouTube videos, and of course sending email, updating Facebook, and downloading apps.

Sound

Um, wow. The Moto G is an impressive voice phone. The earpiece produces prodigious amounts of sound when set at full volume. (It's almost painfully loud.) I easily heard conversations through the Moto G over the din of a raucous coffee shop. The earpiece speaker is prone to a bit of distortion when cranked all the way up, but thankfully you can leave it set at about 75% most of the time for loud and clear conversations. People I spoke to through the Moto G said I sounded "average."

The speakerphone also produces an insane amount of volume, so much so that you can easily hear calls in the car, at noisy backyard BBQs, and even bustling diners at lunch time. In fact, it's so loud I'd recommend you take the call outside or somewhere more private, because everyone will be able to hear both sides of your conversation.

As you might surmise, the ringers and alerts are plenty loud. The vibrate alert is what I'd call average.

I'm disappointed the Moto G doesn't have stereo speakers (like last year's model,) but music pumped through my favorite pair of earbuds sounded quite good.

Battery

Motorola increased the Moto G's battery from 2,070 mAh in last year's handset to 2,470mAh in the 2015 edition. The jump in capacity is nice, but it delivers only a modest improvement in battery life. In my tests, the Moto G lasted just more than a standard day (breakfast to bedtime). It often had 10 to 15% of a charge left at the end of the day. Last year's Moto G ran into trouble by 9pm a few times, but I didn't have that issue with the new model. It made it from morning to night consistently.

Android 5.1 Lollipop includes a basic battery saver tool and it is easily found on the Moto G. It can be set to come on automatically at 5% or 15%, or you can toggle it on/off manually. It reduces performance and limits vibrations, location services, and background data syncing to push the battery a bit more.

Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi

The Moto G includes Bluetooth 4.1 and the most common set of profiles. I paired it quite easily with a handful of other devices, such as headsets, my car, and my computer. I was generally pleased with the quality of phone calls via my car's hands-free system. They were loud and clear the majority of the time. Music pushed through my best set of stereo headphones was decent, but without the aptX profile, the Moto G fell short of what I've experienced with other phones.

The GPS radio worked well enough, but it really depended on WiFi for accuracy. For example, working alone the GPS radio was never more accurate than about 60 or 70 feet. With WiFi on, accuracy improved to about 25 to 30 feet, and that was the best I saw. Some phones can pinpoint me on a dime with GPS alone.

The Moto G does not have NFC.

WiFi worked without issue.

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Comments

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grateful4advice

Aug 8, 2015, 8:56 AM

Best Budget Smartphone?

Great review of the 2015 Moto G but the only version worth considering is the $229 16GB version. I'm still not certain which is the best phone for the money:

Microsoft 640 less than half the price of the Moto G

ALCATEL ONETOUCH IDOL 3 $20 more

Asus Zenfone 2 16GB $30 less
 
 
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