Motorola Moto G 3rd-gen (2015) Review: The new Moto G 3, refreshed for 2015, packs some massively updated flagship-quality camera tech and a fresh new water-resistant body, making it a worthy budget phone.
At first glance, Motorola’s 3rd-generation Moto G looks unsurprisingly similar to last year’s model. It’s still a chunky 5-incher with rounded corners and a plastic body, available in a variety of colours – although you now have the option of personalising your handset via the online Moto Maker service, which gives you lots of colour combo options and the ability to engrave with slushy messages or obscenities.
It’s fair to say that the Moto G looks like a budget device – after all, we’re yet to see a truly stunning mobile for around £150 or less. Still, the bright and colourful back plate, which can once again be swapped out for another cover, adds a bit of vibrancy to keep the design from looking stale. Our review model has a bevelled texture to help with grip, although I would have personally preferred a smooth, rubbery finish.
The big change in design is the new Moto G’s water resistance, which means you can drop it in the bath or the toilet without it sinking to a watery grave. After checking that the back cover was firmly snapped into place, I dunked the phone in a metre of water for a few minutes and sure enough it was still alive and well when I fished it back out. Of course, the screen is still unusable if it gets wet, as it thinks that several fingers are prodding it all at once. So don’t expect to be able to use the Moto G in a rainstorm.
As for weight and dimensions, there’s no real change over last year’s Moto G. So far I’ve had no trouble using the new Moto G one-handed, despite the thickness of those screen bezels. It sticks nicely to the palm and the screen is a good size, so you don’t have to stretch your thumb to reach the far corner.
Prise off the back cover and you’ll spot the micro SIM slot and microSD memory card slot, although the battery is built into the phone so you can’t pull it out and replace.
Screen and media
My biggest disappointment with the new Moto G is the 5-inch screen, which sticks with a basic 720p resolution just like last year’s model.
Two years ago, finding an HD screen on a £150 phone was bloody wonderful. Motorola finally taught us that just because we weren’t shelling out £300 or more on a mobile, we didn’t have to expect grainy, dull images.
Flash forward to 2015 and now we’re simply spoiled, with the likes of Voda’s Smart Ultra 6 offering up Full HD 1080p visuals for just £125. As a result, the Moto G’s screen seems oddly outdated.
That said, the new Moto G still sports a crisp and colourful panel that does the job for movies, games and everything else when you’re on the move. Viewing angles are pleasingly wide and the screen is bright enough to clearly read, even in strong sunlight.
Last year’s Moto G thankfully introduced a microSD slot to expand the tiny amount of on-board storage and once again you have a memory card slot, for adding to the 11GB of usable space.
Motorola has also been kind enough to add 4G support to the 3rd-gen Moto G, something missing from prior models. So at least we don’t have to hang around waiting for the 4G version to hit stores in a few months. I found that the Moto G kept its 4G signal until I was well out of the centre of London and had no trouble streaming YouTube videos, so anyone with a decent data plan should consider jumping to this new handset.
Motorola has once again stuck with a mostly vanilla Android Lollipop experience, which is fine by me. It’s a clean, stress-free interface that packs all of Google’s latest features, including Smart Lock and multiple user support, while Motorola’s restraint when it comes to modifying the OS means that future Android updates should roll out to the phone quickly.
Check out our complete guide to Android Lollipop for our take on Google’s latest features.
However, Motorola has made a couple of additions, which we’ve seen before on Moto handsets. For a start, the Motorola Migrate feature is very handy for copying your settings and other bits from your old phone, even if you used to use an Apple device.
And then there’s the simply-titled Moto app, which is basically an extra assistant. Moto can help out by making sure you aren’t disturbed at night by notifications (you set the times you sleep, although there’s no way to differentiate between weekday and weekend) and also adds a couple of gesture-based actions. So for instance, you can turn on the flash to use as a torch by chopping the Moto G wildly through the air, like an axe murderer hacking down lusty teens.
Performance and battery life
I was a little worried when I heard that the Snapdragon 410 powered the Moto G, as the same generation of chip was packed inside the LG G4c and that phone ran with the odd stutter and pause even from fresh. Not too surprising, as the 410 is already a year and a half old.
Thankfully the Moto G 3 has been a smooth experience for several days, with apps opening as soon as you tap them and no sign of the G4c’s struggles. Whether this will persist over time is another matter, although last year’s Snapdragon 400-packing Moto G is still running smoothly these days, so fingers crossed.
As for battery life, the Moto G lasts around 24 hours per charge with reasonable use. If you want to stream video over 4G or Wi-Fi, you can expect around five and a half hours of entertainment before the battery dies. That’s about average for a modern mobile.
The highlight of this new Moto G is undoubtedly that 13-megapixel rear camera, the same snapper found on the premium-priced Nexus 6.
Motorola’s usual user-friendly interface is in place, so you can once again load the camera app with a quick wrist-flick and then take a shot instantly just by tapping anywhere on the screen. The autofocus seems to cope with pretty much any scene, as long as you don’t get crazy close to your subject.
That said, most of my macro shots were still sharp and focused and packed with detail. And if you want to manually control focus and exposure, you can quickly pull up the focal wheel by flicking right across the screen and selecting it from the menu. This wheel works particularly well for getting up-close snaps, with some nice background blur. Otherwise, just stick with the excellent auto mode which also handles HDR for you.
When the lights go down, the dual LED flash on the new Moto G’s back copes well with dark and dingy interiors too. And if it’s selfies you’re after, the 5-megapixel front-facing lens is fine in all but dim light.
The 3rd-generation Moto G is a solid budget handset, with a brilliant premium-spec camera and thankfully smooth performance. The 5-inch screen may not be as razor-sharp as we’d hoped, but for anyone who loves snapping every moment of their everyday lives, it’s easy to recommend this bargain blower.