• Motorola Moto G 2nd Gen 2014 Edition Review

    Last year Motorola destroyed the low-end Android market. Cheap smartphones had been available before but usually at a huge trade off; poor processing power, a lack of updates and support, plus questionable build quality were just a few thorns in the sides of those just wanting something modern and affordable.

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    So the original Moto G was the handset to answer the call of thousands of consumers. Under the watchful eye of Google’s ownership, Motorola crafted a solid, well-designed and bang up-to-date smartphone that ticked almost every box. It also provided a sense of familiarity and trust from a brand synonymous with mobile technology and reliability. It’s or surprise to this reviewer that the original Moto G was the least-returned, high-selling handset at Clove last year. So here we are 10 months later – what’s changed and is it for the better? Well for a start Motorola’s range has a notch lower to entry-level with the dual-core Moto E. This little cracker comes in at below £100 and took some of the market the original G captured. They then decided to improve upon the G by adding 4G capabilities. The Moto G 4G is still about the cheapest way to get hold of LTE capabilities in an affordable phone. So why the need for this new 5-inch 3G only model? Especially since it comes with the same name and risks muddying the brand somewhat? There’s no denying this new 2014 edition Moto G is an excellent phone It’s a difficult question to answer, although there’s no denying this new 2014 edition Moto G is an excellent phone (SPOILER – it’s still the best phone at this price point). In the smartphone world bigger is certainly better at the moment and bridging the gap to a 5-inch screen allows the new Moto G 2nd Gen to sit more comfortably on the shelf next to more powerful phones whose price it scoffs at. It’s also a shout out to other manufacturers – as long as Sony, HTC, Samsung et al. all fail to release a quality handset that matches the Moto’s specs and price, Motorola continue to be the king of this particular castle. You might not need that 5-inch screen. However you should be finding it hard not to marvel at how you can have it for under £150. Read on for the full review. The Moto G 2014 isn’t going to set the world on fire, however the combination of tech for this price is stunning to look at. Not a lot has changed from last year, instead making incremental improvements in all the right places: Android 4.4.4 KitKat (Confirmed update to Android L when available) Overall speed and performance matches last year’s model, which is no bad thing at all. There’s no real need to move up from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 400, unless you happen to be a big gamer or multitasker, exactly the customer Motorola are avoiding at this range. The 400 is a quality SoC that is more than capable of handling anything a standard user can and will throw at it for quite some time to come. With a micro SD slot Motorola have addressed one of the biggest concerns with the original G, although the 8GB of base storage might leave you stretching after several months if you install a lot of apps. That’s nothing new though and at least it’s not dreaded 4GB minimum. Another thoroughly unexpected addition is the Dual SIM specification. Normally not released in the UK, we can confirm that the first stock to land at Clove has this and will continue to. Perfect for balancing a work and personal account, those who often call abroad or frequent travellers, it’s great to see dual SIM on a major manufacturer’s release in the UK. Not much has changed in the design or build quality in 10 months. The new Moto G does look a lot like you’re looking at the original through a magnifying glass, they are so similar. The face is a simple black slab with two silver strips for speakers at the top and bottom. The bezel to the sides is pleasantly thin making for an easily grippable phone despite the 5 inch screen size. The bezel to the top and bottom is on a par with Sonys of a similar size. It may be just a touch too big for those with small hands, although personally I think this is probably the ‘sweet spot’ between big and small phones. Any larger and it would be uncomfortable for too many people, as it stands more people should be OK with this size than not. The USB port is in the correct place in the centre at the bottom (it really doesn’t make sense to have it anywhere else). The headphone socket is bang in the centre at the top which looks a little odd if you’re used to having them offset, although is a functional position. Power and volume take up place on the right hand side, again the best place as a top mounted power button is fiddly on a phone of this size. Build quality is excellent which is to be expected. There’s not a lot to get wrong with a design as simple as this but Motorola make sure the phone feels solid in the hand. The subtle curvature of the back makes for a very comfortable hold; this is something HTC and LG have realised, Samsung have struggled with, whilst Sony still seem to have not figured out at all with their angular blocks. The soft-touch back feels as warm and satisfying against skin as ever. It also has the added benefit of not picking up scratches and marks anywhere near as easily as the glossy covers of more expensive competition. Just like the 1st generation, this can be swapped out for a rainbow of differently coloured spares for quick customisation. A mixed bag here, the increase to 5 inches is great for browsing & watching videos on the move, although those with keen eyes may be put off by the 720p resolution. At this size you get a PPI of 294. Personally I think it’s a perfectly acceptable resolution, especially considering the target audience. Spending a lot of time with full HD phone screens, and also the ridiculous new QHD screen on the LG G3, my eye was drawn to some fuzzy looking edges around icons and text on the Moto. Getting out of this mindset was difficult at first but after some use I was reminded that for the average user 720p is more than sufficient. Text was never difficult to read nor were movies or videos ever blurry. One thing that did strike me was the screen seemed a little ‘muted’. The brightness didn’t go particularly high, even when manually hitched right up which made outside viewing a bit of an issue. Colour reproduction was pretty good though which made up a little for the lack of brightness. A few dark and brooding music videos were also a little difficult to make out. Of course one saving grace of lower screen brightness is a reduction in power consumption. It’s to be expected of what must be a significantly cheaper panel than those used in higher-end phones, although it’s a clear difference which can be seen in a side by side comparison. Overall the screen quality is certainly passable and to the majority of the Moto G’s customers will probably be considered very good. Bear in mind though if you do decide to double (or even treble) your money and buy a higher end phone you can quite literally see the difference. It’s Android 4.4.4 and it’s pretty much stock. There are a few little Motorola tweaks here and there with some added value apps such as Alert, Assist and Migrate but these stay out of your way if you don’t want to use them. Otherwise the new Moto G runs quite like a stock Nexus or GPe device which is a very good thing. With no bloat or UI customisation to get in the way or tax the processor, the Moto G runs along very smoothly and is quite capable of getting you through the day. The full suite of Google services are available in a folder on the homepage so there’s instant access to YouTube, Gmail, Maps, Hangouts, Drive etc. from the moment you switch on. The best thing that can be said about the Moto G, which also goes for all other new stock or close to stock Androids, is that you don’t really have to think about what you’re doing, or ever really notice the system getting in your way. After the initial setup the Experience launcher, which runs the show on this handset, provides a little guidance the first couple of times you access new features. After dismissing these though it goes away and leaves you to it. Using a new Android like this is a breath of fresh air compared to other major manufacturer’s heavily skinned offerings. The Experience launcher itself, with large, colourful icons and text is also a lot more user-friendly and ‘playful’ than the overly clean and ‘techy’ stylings of HTC, Sony, and LG. It also makes Samsung’s overemphasis on the friendly part of user-friendly seem positively childish. The overall feeling you get from the Moto G is one of simplicity which is reinforced by Android’s recently improved ease of use. For a novice smartphone user or perhaps someone coming to Android for the first time from another system, Google have made your first steps a lot easier than they used to be. Gone are the days when Android was a powerful system but difficult to navigate or ‘messy’ for the uninitiated. Once turned on and ready to go, the Moto G should be a cinch for anyone to start using. When it comes to keeping you connected, the 2nd Generation Moto G does ‘just enough’. Once again everything boils down to what the target audience are going to expect their smartphone to do. When you think of it this way, then everything is covered well: WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and 3G. There’s also support for tethering and Miracast screen casting to compatible devices as well. Anything else is currently superfluous to requirements. It would be nice to have 4G support, an NFC chip, MHL video out on the microUSB port, an infrared blaster and whatever else higher end phones have but really, when all is said and done, these are fancy features that currently add a lot to the cost. If you want them then there are more expensive phones out there. Motorola of course would be more than happy to point you in the direction of the new Moto X. The Moto G is all about ensuring the basics are done properly. With this in mind, the 2014 generation doesn’t just ensure you have a smartphone that does everything you need it to without extra guff, it also gets that done well, without ever drawing attention to how easy it makes it all look. The Moto G kicks out quite a decent amount of noise from the dual front facing speakers. I measured up to almost 100 dB next to the speakers and about 75 dB from arms reach at full volume. The extra weight and thickness of the phone in comparison to others may also help with the amplification somewhat. With the volume up all the way then there’s a fair amount of distortion, the quality and fidelity of say HTC’s Boomsound technology really isn’t there at all. If you want to go to max volume though there’s probably a good reason and the resultant dip in quality probably won’t be much of an issue. For walking down the street or trying to watch a video clip in a busy environment, the volume is just right. If you want to fill your room with noise when getting ready to go out though, then you might be better off sticking to other methods as the ‘tinny’ quality in an enclosed space isn’t all that great. For daily use and calls and the odd bit of music or video without headphones, the speakers hold up well and sit comfortably above the power and volume of many other similarly priced handsets. The camera on the Moto G 2nd Generation is going to be chalk and cheese depending on the reviewer and your personal expectations. Personally I’m not much of a photographer and whilst I can appreciate a well taken picture, am not much of one for spending too much time taking them. For me then the camera is about as good as I would care for and I would expect it would again suit the needs of most potential Moto G owners. The 8MP main unit captures a fair amount of detail and colour although I am fully aware there are much better options available across the board. The 2 MP front facing unit is perfect for selfies and Snapchats. What is disappointing about the camera is not so much the results but the actual camera app. The Moto G uses Google’s stock camera application and as has been the case since its first inclusion on the Nexus 4, it’s just not very good in comparison to the rest of the market. As a standalone app it’s functional, there are a few shooting modes and settings to tweak, alongside the inclusion of HDR. It is however easy to see where some extra money goes when you compare this app to the feature-rich options of the other big name brands. You can still get some decent images out of the Moto G, and once again you have to remember just how little this phone actually costs when you consider the results. All that said, if you’re photo mad then it may be worth looking elsewhere and spending a bit more. The Z3 Compact from Sony, or even Motorola’s next phone up in the Moto G. Under the hood is a 2,070 mAh battery. Frustratingly that’s no larger than last year’s model, so with a larger screen and the same processor tech that does mean this phone doesn’t last quite as long as last time around. The difference isn’t much though. Thankfully the cell is still large enough to get you comfortably through a full day, although daily charging is a must. If you heavily use the data connection or games/video then you might also be struggling by teatime without a top up, as Motorola don’t include any ‘battery-saving’ technology such as Sony’s STAMINA mode. In terms of what the Moto G can run, then it’s pretty much everything aside from the highest end mobile games. The Snapdragon 400 / 1 GB RAM combination isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off but it’s more than enough to deliver a decent multitasking experience. Coupled with a decent, lightweight task manager application to kill unwanted apps you shouldn’t ever really experience slowdown. Whilst modern smartphones and gadgets tend to have a clean, easily identifiable and identical look, they can lack a lot of personality. In the age of feature phones, Motorola used to be awesome at crafting designer devices and with the original Moto G, we were reminded that our phones can be fun, through the use of colourful, cheap back plates. The 2014 Moto G has followed suit and so once again you can take your pick from Motorola’s Shells and Flip Shells, in a range of vibrant colours. They’re quick to apply and retain the soft-touch feel of the standard black casing. Aside from these are currently no other official accessories, although the likes of Case-Mate and Otterbox are likely to release a few of their own more robust options for protection soon enough. We also expect Brodit to deliver one of their high quality car mounts very soon. Under £150. Currently £145 inc. VAT at the time of writing and there really isn’t a huge amount more to say on the subject. Once again nothing else on the market comes close to matching both the Moto G’s specification and price which is a great position for Motorola to be in. If you can find the Once again the Moto G is more than sum of its parts. Each section of this review looks at an individual feature or set of components and mentions how they perform well, could be better but are admirable considering the price tag. That is the Moto G in a nutshell. Every part of the phone does exactly what it should, neither exceeding expectations nor underperforming at any point. If that sounds boring then I suppose it kind of is. That though is the tenet of a great piece of technology and design. One that doesn’t need to shout about what it is or what it can do, and just silently sits there working for you without making a fuss. Think of the best car you’ve ever owned, or a laptop that served you well for 5 or more years. Perhaps a watch that has sat on your wrist for what seems like forever. Mobile phones are ubiquitous now so there really should be one that fits this kind of bill. The Moto G could well slip into that niche. It is a simple, understated smartphone that does everything you need it to without ever drawing attention to itself, for good reasons or bad. At almost every turn there is another handset does something that the Moto G either doesn’t or does but not as well. Invariably though you’ll be spending a lot more money and possibly buying into many more features that you actually need. The Moto G is as utilitarian as it gets, doing the most amount of things right for the most amount of people. You won’t turn heads if you choose to get one (unless you choose a bright pink or purple shell for it) but you will definitely get through plenty of days with it by your side.

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