It’s very rare for me as a reviewer to get excited about an affordable Android smartphone.
This is because normally the only thing smart about an affordable smartphone is its name.
The key reasons for this are:
Most of smartphones that cost less than 200 have such woefully poor internal components even basic tasks like web browsing are a slow and painful process. They’re low end tech means they usually don’t get upgraded to new versions of Android.
Most companies seem to think a low price is a justification for poor build quality and a boring design.
However, in this sea of monotony there has been one player that has constantly bucked this trend and released an actually smart cheap smartphone – Motorola.
Motorola initially did this in 2013 when it released its first generation Moto G. Despite costing a modest 135 the 2013 Moto G featured fairly decent specs.
Chief of these were a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, 4.5in HD display and use of a close untouched version of Google’s then up-to-date Android Jelly Bean operating system.
The combination of factors let the Moto G 2013 offer the performance of phone’s close to twice its price and made it a milestone moment in smartphone history.
If fact, it was so impressive that walking into Motorola’s London event on July 28, I didn’t have high hopes it would be able to repeat its 2013 success.
To my surprise though, it seems Motorola has done exactly that, unveiling a new 2015 Moto G it claims will offer features and performance traditionally seen on handsets three times more expensive.
Having tested the device for a full hour on event’s the showroom floor, while it’s too early to give any definitive verdicts, I have to say I am in impressed and the 2015 Moto G appears to have addressed all three of my regular concerns with affordable phones.
Nuts and bolts
Kicking off with my first issue about power and performance, the Moto G’s key specs include:
A 13MP rear and 5MP front camera. 5.0in HD display Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor. 2,740mAh battery Motorola claims will last “up to 24 hours mixed use.” Android 5.1.1 Lollipop Either 8GB (159) or 16GB (179) of internal storage with the option to add a further 32GB via its microSD card slot. I’m not going to pretend these specs come close to matching flagship smartphones, like the Nexus 6, but considering the fact the Moto G is radically cheaper, the specs are pretty amazing. This is especially true when you consider the extra features Motorola’s added to the Moto G.
For example, the Moto G’s 13MP rear camera has the same sensor as the one used on the Nexus 6.
While I didn’t get a chance to see any of the images I shot during my hands on blown up on a big screen, I found the Moto G’s camera was suitably responsive and had a fairly reactive autofocus.
The display also looked suitably sharp and colour balance levels were realistic and didn’t look overly saturated.
Though I didn’t get a chance to see how the Moto G dealt with heavy tasks, such as 3D gaming, during my hands-on I also didn’t notice any serious performance issues.
Moving onto my second issue regarding upgrades, Motorola has played the canny trick of not skinning Android on the Moto G.
This is a big deal, as devices running unskinned versions of Android are able to receive updates from Google far faster than their skinned counterparts. This is because the custom code on altered versions of Android, like those seen on the Galaxy S6 or HTC One M9, needs to be tweaked to work with the update, a practice that can take weeks or even months.
As a result, by running a nearly untouched version of Android, the Moto G should be able to get future Android software updates faster.
A Motorola employee on hand at the launch event backed up this notion when he told me “he’s 99 percent certain the will be upgraded to Android M” when Google launches the update later this year.
I’ve reached out to Motorola for confirmation of this.
Android M is the developer preview of Google’s general software update, which is scheduled to arrive at an unspecified point later this year.
The final question
Regarding my final concern about build quality, here the Moto G again appears to deliver. Motorola’s designed the Moto G to be IPX7-certified.
The certification means the handset should resist both water and scratches.
Specifically, the certification means the Moto G can survive water submersions of depths up to one metre for 30 minutes.
During my hands-on, Motorola was generous enough to let me test this claim and try and drown one of the demo units in a water tank on the showroom floor.
I didn’t get a chance to keep the Moto G underwater for the full half hour it survived its 10 minute submersion with no hassles.
I also got to drop test the Moto G onto the carpeted event room floor, where again it survived free of scratches and marks.
Having had a solid hour with the 2015, I am very impressed. The handset appears to answer all three of my primary concerns about budget smartphones.
Hopefully my positive impressions of the Moto G will ring true after I’ve more thoroughly put it through its paces for Business Insider’s full review – which I’m working on now.