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Why the super-cheap Moto G isn’t as good as everyone says it is

The Moto G promised so much for a device costing £130, but did it deliver those promises? Clare Hopping splashed out, but now she isn’t so sure.

Six months ago, I was in the market for a new smartphone. I’d just shattered my Nexus 4’s screen, which, in my opinion, was the best low-priced smartphone out there.

Unfortunately, by this time, Google had replaced the £159 Nexus 4 with the £299 Nexus 5, which may have a much better spec, but it was just far too beyond my rather low-end price range.

I set out to find a cheap Android phone that would do everything I needed. I thought as Google owned Motorola at the time (Lenovo actually bought the company from Google in January), the Moto G would be the device to go for. It wasn’t too small, had a pretty inoffensive look and feel, the UI wasn’t overloaded with manufacturer bloatware and it was retailing for £130. 

It had ace reviews, with many websites branding it the best budget smartphone ever. I thought I’d found my partner for the next two years.

Trying to get my hands on the device was a pretty big challenge. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one who’d spotted such a bargain. Almost every high street retailer had sold out so I was forced to order it online from Argos, where it wasn’t in stock in any branches near my home in Essex or London where I was working at the time.

When the Moto G arrived, I excitedly popped my Three SIM card in, imported all my data from Google backup and I was back to 2014 (or so I thought) after using a 2010 HTC Desire for a week.

For the first few weeks, I was very happy with the Moto G – it did everything I wanted and I couldn’t fault anything, but it’s as though the device knew our relationship was getting too serious and things started going downhill.

Camera ‘unavailable’ errors

I don’t claim to be a professional photographer, but I do have a penchant for taking pictures of random things, like food, a selfie when I get a new haircut or my kitchen garden’s proudest produce. 

For about a month, until Moto upgraded the firmware on the Moto G, I had to restart my phone whenever I wanted to take a picture because I would get a ‘camera unavailable’ error every time I fired it up or tried to use Instagram.

It would seem I wasn’t the only one with this problem. There have been plenty of people reporting the same issues on Motorola forums across the Internet.

Persistent crashing

When Moto issued an update that sorted out the camera issues, it added another unwelcome bug: random app crashes.

This wasn’t reserved to one application and it made multitasking impossible. The first app that showed signs of a problem was Facebook. 

If the social networking app was running in the background and I fired it up, I was presented with a black screen. If I minimised the app and reopened, it would still be stuck. The only option was to close the app by swiping if off the multitasking screen and re-launching.

Shortly after Facebook started showing signs of illness, so did other apps – Google Drive, BBC News and Hangouts – the apps I use more often. Even if I uninstalled and re-installed these apps, they would work for a day or two then return to their broken state.

Native apps like email seemed to function fine, but third-party apps, not a chance. Thankfully, the Android KitKat update came along a few months later.

Hanging up on calls randomly

But, as was the case with the camera issue, this update had another knock-on effect. The one feature that had remained consistent throughout – the ability to make and take phone calls gave up on me after three months.

I’d never had an issue with calls hanging up when I had the Nexus 4, even using the same SIM card, but with the Moto G, this was an issue.

If I make a call and it goes through to voicemail, the call function crashes, leaving a greyed out bar and me wondering if I’m leaving a random curse-addled message to whoever I’m calling as I fumble for the power button.

Sometimes, I’m mid-call, and it will end abruptly, again, crashing halfway through the hang up process. The weird thing is, it always seems to be in the same place.

At first, I thought it was a network problem, but surely that wouldn’t crash my phone with the only remedy turning it off then on again?

I want the problem fixed, but I live in fear that any update will result in something else breaking. 

Is the Moto G worth £130?

I can’t deny the Moto G is a very good phone when you consider it’s now available for £100 if you want to go prepay on Vodafone or O2, or £130 SIM free. Buy one, by all means — but I would recommend you avoid all updates because that, for me, seems to be the root of all my problems.

If you’re wary about avoiding updates for the fear of security problems or otherwise, update at your own risk, or better still – wait until the next update is released and read forums about how it behaves before upgrading. 

I’m certainly not the only one who has experienced issues with every update Moto has rolled out and I wish I’d held back from updating with just the annoying camera crash issue affecting my Instagram abuse.

Have you had issues with your Moto G? Let us know in the comments below.

-Clare Hopping

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