Our long-term review of the Motorola Moto G, third edition: Six months after Motorola launched the third and most recent model of Moto G, do we still think that this £150 mobile is a solid affordable phone? Here’s our long-term review for 2016.
In 2015 we saw the mighty Moto G finally challenged for its ‘best value mobile’ crown by the likes of the Wileyfox Swift and the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6, which also offered HD visuals and dependable performance for well under £200. However, the third Moto G, which launched in summer 2015, had one killer feature that elevated it above all others; the same awesome 13-megapixel camera found in the premium-priced Nexus 6.
So, six months on is the Moto G still one of the best affordable phones you can buy? Here’s our 2016 re-review.
A splash of colour
One of the biggest design updates with the Moto G was its inclusion in Motorola’s Moto Maker service, which basically means that you can customise the look of your phone online when you order it. There’s a decent selection of colours to choose from, although the Moto G’s rear can be pulled off and replaced with another at any time.
We got a small selection of back plates with our review model, and we love popping on a different colour whenever we feel like refreshing the Moto G’s design, something you can only do with other mobiles by slapping them inside a case. We definitely recommend picking up a selection with your Moto G; the majority are refreshingly vibrant, to really stand out from the black and white crowd.
Despite that removable back plate, the Moto G has another big design change over previous generations: full water resistance. Now you can drop the G in the tub or rock it in a rainstorm without the thing dying on you, providing the rear end is tightly fitted.
That plastic finish is reassuringly hardy too. We try and treat our review handsets with plenty of disrespect (throwing them into bags with keys and other sharp-edged implements, for example), to see if their screens get scratched up or their bodies chipped. Thankfully the Moto G has survived six months of rough handling and still looks great, with nary a blemish.
HD on the cheap
Something that hasn’t changed with this third iteration is the Moto G’s 5-inch 720p display, which is pretty much the same IPS lCD panel from the previous generation. And while a Full HD screen would have been a welcome addition (especially as the slightly cheaper Smart Ultra 6 boasts 1080p visuals), we never find ourselves longing for a boost in resolution.
Images are perfectly crisp, comparable to the sharp visuals found on the likes of Sony’s Xperia Z5 Compact - a mobile that costs twice as much. Admittedly the Xperia Z5 Compact boasts more vibrant colours, but the Moto G’s screen produces natural, eye-pleasing images, while also proving bright enough to cut through the worst kind of glare.
You get a choice of 8 or 16GB of built-in storage, but the Moto G also supports microSD memory cards so you can expand without trouble. We filled out our 16GB model in next to no time (especially as only 11GB roughly is usable), but still haven’t had to delete any media or apps thanks to that handy card slot.
After playing with something like a Huawei or LG phone, with their complex overlays and plethora of bonus features, it’s quite refreshing to come back to the simple, streamlined nature of vanilla Android. That’s what you get with Motorola’s handsets; a straightforward experience that’s well suited to smartphone noobs and tech lovers alike.
At this price point, you won’t find built-in fingerprint sensors or heart rate monitors or any other fancy-pants gadgetry. However, the Moto G does offer some neat Motorola additions such as the handy Migrate app for transferring all of your important stuff from your old phone, as well as the Moto assistant who can keep your from being disturbed while you get your beauty sleep.
And besides that, you get the full range of Android Lollipop features including Trusted Devices/Places for automatically unlocking your phone and multiple user support. And the Moto G should be receiving the Marshmallow update from every UK network very soon, bringing some great tweaks such as the ability to grant or deny apps access to your private data. Check out our Android Marshmallow feature for more info.
So, the Snapdragon 410 processor packed inside the Moto G is now about two years old, which in dog years makes it about a hundred and twelve. Age doesn’t seem to be an issue though, because the Moto G is still running smoothly six months on. Perhaps it’s a result of the vanilla Android UI, which doesn’t have extra layers running on top of it, but we rarely see a stutter while flicking through menus or a pause when attempting to load an app.
We were also relieved to see 4G come as standard with the third generation Moto G, something missing from previous incarnations until a ‘special edition’ 4G version was released. This keeps the Moto G competitive in the value market, and means it’s a lot less frustrating for YouTube and Netflix obsessives (like ourselves) when streaming on the go.
Battery life is still about average for a phone of this size, six months on. We usually make it through a full day without having to top up the Moto G, which is the least you’d expect from a modern handset. There’s no built-in support for wireless charging, but it’s not a miss.
Easily our favourite part of the Moto G is the excellent 13-megapixel camera, which just happens to be the same snapper found on the Motorola-made Nexus 6. That’s especially impressive considering the Nexus 6 came out just a few months before the Moto G, and still costs more than this cut-price mobile.
Since the Moto G’s launch, we’ve taken it on holidays and business trips. We’ve pulled it out in nightclubs and theme parks and taken shots in both harsh daylight and in the dingiest of basements. And almost every time, the resulting photos are great. That dual LED flash is great for low-light environments and the camera handles HDR situations better than many premium handsets, while colours are realistically reproduced. And the home movies we’ve shot are just as strong, with crisp shake-free visuals when watched back on a larger screen.
Read next: Google Nexus 6 re-review after one year
Motorola’s camera app is also pleasingly simple to use, so all you need to do is point and tap to shoot. There are detailed settings available if you want to tweak and fiddle about, but most users probably won’t even touch them as the auto mode is so good.
After six months, we’d still happily use the Moto G as our full-time phone. Performance hasn’t dipped despite the older chipset and that camera never fails to impress considering the Moto’s very reasonable asking price.
There may be strong competition from rival phones like the Wileyfox Swift, but the Moto G is holding its own beautifully.