Hands-on review: Moto G (2015)

The Moto G has been a hugely popular phone in the past two years, bringing a new level of power to the ‘affordable’ smartphone market – and with the new Moto G, the brand is hoping to continue that trend.

The talk on stage was of the new Moto G being the ‘Moto G-killer’ and with the spec list on offer, it looks promising.

The big upgrades here are to the camera and the design, with IPX7-rated protection against water (thus enabling you to take it into the shower… if that’s your kind of thing) and a new 13MP camera.

Moto G review

Given that this is a phone that will cost £159 when it lands in the UK (around $250 / AU$340), but more accurate pricing to follow) that’s not a bad thing – Motorola is claiming the Moto G will have a ‘best in class’ camera experience, which seems to be borne out in testing.

The reason this ‘guarantee’ has been unveiled is that the new Moto G packs the same 13MP sensor that we saw on the Google Nexus 6 – that wasn’t a market-leading camera experience, but that was on a phone that was three times the cost.

Moto G review

The new Moto G also packs in an IR reflector to help reduce glare in photos, so while it might not be as good as the Samsung Galaxy S6 in terms of photo-ability, it should wipe the floor with its rivals.

It also has the same twist-to-open camera experience, as well as the ‘touch anywhere’ ability when taking a picture. I’m still not convinced that this is a great way to open the camera – the double tap of a button is a much easier gesture to remember, which is why it’s weird that Samsung was the one to get it right first.

Moto G review

The touch-to-capture idea is designed to be simple, letting you take a picture by tapping the screen. However, tapping the screen on most other phones lets you focus on a specific part of the picture, and that gets confused here. The Moto G does seem OK at working it out though, and most pics came out fine.

If you want to get a little artier with your shots, for example by putting an object that’s closer to you in focus, then you’ll need to head into the settings to get a better picture, something I found myself doing on more than one occasion.

Moto G sample

Moto G

The design of the phone is a little hard to explain, given that the Moto G will be adding the handset to the Moto Maker experience. You can choose the memory, accents, the back cover and other features to help it make it ‘exactly how you want it’.

The main ‘new’ design experience people will get with the Moto G is the textured plastic back, available in white or black from the off – but other colourful shells will be available soon.

Moto G review

The feel of these is, once again, a big upgrade on last year’s model, with the extra grippiness helping when you’re using the phone in wet conditions. The smooth plastic of last year has gone, and the change definitely helps it feel more premium.

The 5-inch display doesn’t overpower in the hand either – if you’re coming from the first Moto G then you may find that you’ll have to shift the phone around in the hand a little more, but it’s nothing terrible, and it’s a much more compact experience than holding most of the flagship smartphones on the market.

The screen itself, a 720p 5-inch affair (which is what I’m taking from the fact Moto said ‘HD’ rather than ‘Full HD’) is pretty bright and vivid for a low-cost handset – it’s a little washed out at times, but again for the price it’s excellent.

Moto G review

Being waterproof (well, ‘repellent’, which means you can drop it in stuff and it’ll keep on going) will be a big seller to those looking to get something in the more rugged category without spending a lot of money – the irony being that at the price, you could afford to break it and feasibly buy a new one.

Another big attraction is the offer of a purer Android experience – the simple overlay will appeal to many who like their phone to be more of a blank canvas, but to me it feels like there aren’t enough tweaks to keep the experience special for Motorola.

The fact it only comes in 8GB and 16GB flavours will hurt in the future, although the fact it comes with a microSD slot as well will be a real attraction to help with the low memory; it’ll still suck when you want to plop a lot of apps on there, though.

Moto G review

It does mean that the speed of opening and closing apps is very impressive, with very little lag. The camera takes a few seconds to open up though – you can’t have everything at this price.

Early verdict

When you’re constantly trying out the hottest, most powerful and expensive phones on the planet, it’s easy to be snooty when playing with handsets that are third of the cost.

Not so with the Moto G. I’d only marginally criticise it if it was in the same price bracket as the LG G4, but for the price it’s brilliant.

The only big issues I can see are with the lower capacity, which might upset some, and the 5-inch screen being a bit large for those who don’t like to spend loads on a handset – these tend to be users who like their phones a little smaller.

But it’s far from massive, and if you’ve got a couple of hundred of your local currency to spend on a new phone it looks like the new Moto G should be very much in your thoughts.