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Review: Moto G (2014, G2)

By Leigh D. Stark | 2:31 pm 14/10/2014

Big phones are in, and to go with that trend, Motorola is upgrading one of its entry-level handsets, increasing the screen size of its G series phone to make it a sub-$300 5 inch handset, but is the G2 better or just a bigger version of the same?

Features

It’s time for a new Moto G, with Motorola applying a new size to the last Moto G, which can still be found on the market.

In the new edition, you’ll find a quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 paired with 1GB RAM, 8GB storage, and working alongside the Adreno 305 graphics set. The storage can be upgraded with a microSD card, with the slot found underneath the plastic casing of the back.

Google’s Android operating system runs here, with version 4.4 provided out of the box, also known as “KitKat.”

Connection options are fairly basic, with Motorola including support for 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and GPS, while mobile broadband is handled by a 3G modem, and wired dealt with via the microUSB port found at the very bottom of the handset.

Cameras are included as well, with an 8 megapixel camera with flash on the back, while the front-facing camera is rated at 2 megapixels.

This technology sits under a 5 inch In-Plane Switching (IPS) display, protecting by Corning’s scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3 and running the 720p resolution of 1280×720.

No soft buttons can be found printed on the unit, with these included as part of the software, changing based on what you’re doing.

That said, you’ll find two physical buttons on the Moto G 2014 handset, with both the power button and volume rocker found on the right edge, with the power button sitting above the volume.

Ports equal the buttons in number, with a 3.5mm headset jack found at the very top and centre of the phone, while the microUSB charge and data port sits at the bottom centre.

The Moto G 2014 edition arrives with two microSIM slots in Australia, making it possible to run two services at once, both of which can be found by removing the back of the phone. The microSD slot can also be found when the back cover is removed.

The battery is not removable in the Moto G and is rated at 2070mAh.

Performance

It doesn’t seem like the Moto G 4G version has been out in Australia all that long — a few months, barely — but here we are with a totally new model, and just in case you weren’t confused yet, it even carries the same name as its predecessor.

Yes, it’s the Moto G, but you can call it the Moto G second-generation, or Moto G2 like other people. Or, you can call it the Moto G, because that’s what it says on the box, not really discerning itself all that much from the still-available 2013 Moto G out there in the world.

That said, we’re told the 3G 2013 Moto G will be disappearing in retailers, and while the 4G model will stick around for a while, it is a little different from this 2014 model, even though they have similar names.

In the hands, the feeling is a larger version of what we’ve seen in the past since Motorola’s re-invention, with Motorola’s stickler for hand-ready designs, including a soft plastic back that curves into the palm quite nicely allowing you to grip the body easily, soft plastic edges, and a glass front that exudes quality.

One obvious change is the inclusion of a bigger screen, jumping half an inch from the 4.5 inch of the other G up to a full 5 inches, and keeping the resolution in tact at 720p or 1280×720.

Switch the phone on and while it’s obvious the screen has changed, Motorola has still provided a relatively sharp display, with vibrant and crisp colours, especially for something at this price point, and a screen that has no problem nailing the various angles you’ll want to view your information at.

From a technical standpoint, the identical resolution on a bigger display means the pixel count has gone down, with the Moto G2 providing less than the Retina pixel clarity of 326 pixels per inch, but at 296ppi, Motorola isn’t off by a huge distance, and many will have trouble discerning the difference in sharpness, as this is still a pretty nice screen on the eyes. It isn’t the excellent display that Samsung’s Galaxy S5 has, nor is it the benchmark that LG’s G3 holds, but it’s still nice all the same.

Using the phone is more or less like every Motorola we’ve seen this year, with the company providing Android the way Google envisioned it.

Thanks to that lovely ownership Google once had over Motorola, the company’s learned trick of keeping things mostly stock has paid off, and this is basically a budget version of a Google Nexus phone.

As such, the version of Android here has had pretty much no tweaks to its operation, with several homescreen, a drop down notification bar, app menu screen, and a persistent Google Now search bar that sits at the top of the screen.

Also included is the Google Now screen, which sits at the very left of your homescreen and is there whenever you need it, much like any other Android user can get if they download the Google Now launcher and use that for their phone.

All in all, it’s a simple interface, and much like the other Motorola phones, is one of the most up-to-date of any handset we’ve seen, thanks to Motorola loading their modifications on top of what Google does, making it possible to have the very latest ready for the phone, compared to the weeks to months Android users normally wait for updates.

Motorola has also included its own little bits and bobs, such as its “Migrate” app which will help with anyone making the jump from another Android phone to this one, or even an iPhone to this one, while its “Assist” aims to provide support while you’re in meetings to silence would-be callers based on your calendar, as well as working out when to switch you to drive mode and activate that Bluetooth.

Android’s regular stuff is also here, including gesture typing built directly into the keyboard, and thanks to the two SIMs you can install, you can choose which of the two will handle data and voice.

The camera is improved, too, jumping from a 5 megapixel shooter to an 8 megapixel camera, which offers a little more quality with more of Motorola’s simple “touch and fire” interface.

Camera sample from the Moto G (2014)

Overall, this camera isn’t the best around, but it does at least include auto focus which is relatively snappy, and there’s a flash here too, in case you need it.

But really, the best positive that the Moto G second-gen offers is its battery, which manages two days without problems.

That’s two days of web surfing, phone calls, texts, emails, social networking, camera use, a bit of gaming, and listening to streaming music, otherwise known as the things most people are doing.

Two days is pretty impressive, and if you use your phone less than us, you might even eat into the third day a bit, though you’d have to curb that usage to make this possible.

But perhaps we’ve been spoiled by all that 4G has delivered, because the 3G speeds of the Moto G second-generation just make us yearn for LTE more than ever, which the Moto G 4G provided and this does not.

Make no mistake: the Moto G2 is not a 4G phone at all. Motorola may well come out with one later on like it did with the original Moto G, but this generation is strictly 3G, so if you’re looking for a value-packed 4G phone, this is not it.

In fact, the speeds here aren’t even good enough to make this phone suitable for the ageing Telstra 3.5G NextG network, which should offer speeds as high as 15-20Mbps in practice.

Rather, with our Telstra SIM — which has seen speeds as high as 150Mbps on some devices — we were only able to nab barely 6-7Mbps down, showing this phone works at the bottom end of the 3G technology.

If you don’t care about the high speeds, you’ll be fine, because this phone can’t deliver them, but if you do, any you’re reliant on services such as Spotify or Google Play Music, the times you hear empty spaces or silence between tracks will be often, as the phone just isn’t fast enough to stream music, or play YouTube, or do anything you might expect out of a high-speed web-connected world.

Also not doing tremendously well is the system performance, which is usable, but is by no means as fast as some of the other budget phones we’ve seen.

While Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 400 quad-core chip isn’t bad, the inclusion of merely 1GB RAM appears to be the bottleneck here, providing a second or two before the phone usually responds to apps that you’ve asked to load.

For many people, this slight lag will be fine, and certainly for the price it sits in, Motorola isn’t likely to collect a lot of vented frustration or anger, but there could be more speed delivered here for its owners.

There’s also no Near-Field Communication, one of those wireless connection standards we just expect to see in a 2014 model handset. That’s missing in action here, as is 802.11ac WiFi. You’ll get the regular b/g/n WiFi, but none of that high-speed stuff, with the omission of both of these communications standards cementing the fact that yes, you really are using a budget piece of kit with a 5 inch screen.

Conclusion

Every manufacturer has responded to the increased screen sizes of 2014 in a similar way, with all flagships sporting increased sizes, even those from Apple.

But the Motorola G isn’t a flagship, and it’s not even a mid-range, offering a value closer to bang-for-your-buck, with 5 inches of screen size and just enough power to let you get stuff done.

The problem with the Moto G second-gen is the price in comparison to similar models, and with a tag $30 less than its 4G 4.5 inch cousin — a phone with almost identical specs except for the camera, download speeds, and display size — you’re not really getting any huge increases over its sibling.

In fact, we’d happily pay that $30 difference for faster mobile speeds, as they’re seriously needed in a bigger phone, with a display that basically encourages you to view more of the web, watch more video, and enjoy more from that vast internet on the go.

That said, if you can live without good speeds and are happy to download everything at work or home and take it with you, the second-generation Moto G offers a reasonable amount of value, just don’t say we didn’t tell you so if the 3G speeds are a little too hard to take after a week.

Price (RRP)

$269

Pros & Cons

Product Pros

A dual-SIM phone; Feels great in the hands; Excellent battery life; Upgradeable memory; Bleeding edge version of Android, totally up-to-date, moreso than a lot of the flagship phones we see;

Product Cons

3G performance is among the slowest of the 3G phones we’re used to seeing, likely due use of two 3G SIM card slots; Mediocre system speed; No NFC;

Ratings

Overall

Features

Value for money

Performance

Ease of Use

Design

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