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Motorola Moto G 2013 review

Verdict

A high-quality budget Android handset with an excellent screen and long battery life

Review Date: 16 May 2014

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: Free, on a £16.00 per month, 24 months contract.

Buy it now for: £152
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
6 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

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Now that Motorola has announced an updated version of the Moto G (with 4G and a microSD slot) the price of the 2013's popular 3G model has dropped to £99, which is unbelievably good value. Take a look at our Moto G 2013 review to find out why this smartphone is such a bargain at this price. See also: the 11 best smartphones of 2014.

Moto G 2013 review: overview

Moto G 2013 review

The popularity of the Nexus range and Nokia's low-cost Lumia handsets has proved there's a voracious appetite for affordable yet high-quality smartphones, and Motorola is hoping to share the spoils with its new Android-based Moto G.

The 8GB version of the Moto G costs a dirt-cheap £99 SIM-free. That isn't quite as cheap as the Nokia Lumia 520, which goes for as little as £108 these days, but the specification goes far beyond what Nokia's budget baby can offer.

Moto G 2013 review: screen

The headline is the IPS screen, which at 4.5in and 720 x 1,280, is both larger and sharper than the Nokia's 4in, 480 x 800 unit. It has an impressive pixel density of 329ppi – which is slightly higher than the iPhone 5s – and isn't lacking in quality at all. It's bright – we measured it at a maximum 436cd/m2 – it has an excellent contrast ratio of 991:1 and it boasts colours that leap from the screen with more verve than you've any right to expect on a phone this cheap.

It's a good start – and it isn't the end of the Moto G's talents. Topping that display, for instance, is a layer of tough, scratch- and shatter-resistant Gorilla Glass. In addition, all the components sport a water-resistant nano-coating – as has become customary with Motorola smartphones in the past year or so – and so should resist a drenching without the phone going pop.

Moto G 2013 review: design

As far as the design is concerned, this is clearly a smartphone that's been built to a budget, but it's far from ugly. The rear panel is built from slightly hollow-sounding plastic, but it's gently curved and sports a smart-looking, grippy matte finish that sits comfortably in the hand.

As with the Lumia 520, it's possible to pop off the rear panel and replace it with a selection of coloured alternatives; there are rugged and integrated cover shells in the range. On the downside, the battery isn't user-replaceable, there's no microSD slot for expanding the storage and there's no 4G compatibility.

Moto G 2013 review

Moto G 2013: performance

Performance is a bit of a mixed bag. Motorola says it's worked hard at tweaking the Moto G so basic tasks take less time and the battery lasts longer, and while we've no problem with the phone's general responsiveness – it's nippy in and around the Android OS –it's less impressive elsewhere.

The processor is a quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, which outstrips the Lumia 520's dual-core Snapdragon S4 – or so it would appear. However, this processor is a long way behind the fastest on the market. When scrolling and zooming in complex web pages, the Moto G felt a little laggy, and this was backed up in benchmarks: it scored a mere 1,442ms in SunSpider, 11fps in the demanding GFXBench T-Rex HD test and 1,157 in the multicore Geekbench 3.

Battery life is much more impressive, however, with the Moto G retaining 70% of its capacity after our 24-hour rundown test – above average in today's smartphone market, and on a par with the excellent Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

Moto G 2013 review

Moto G 2013: software

Another plus is the software, which is pleasingly clean: Motorola has added few of its own tweaks to the base Android 4.3 OS. The most extensive alterations are to the camera app: the shutter button has been removed, leaving a minimalist, gesture-based front end. It's a shame the quality of the 5-megapixel camera isn't great: our test shots frequently came out blurry and out of focus, even in good light, and the JPEGs it produces are heavily compressed.

That's no different from our experience with any number of other budget smartphones, though, and it doesn't dent the Moto G's appeal, especially as it comes with the bonus of two years’ free 50GB Google Drive storage. It has a fantastic display, the design is fine and the water resistance is a bonus no other cheap handset can boast. We've no hesitation in recommending it for those on a tight budget – it's our new favourite low-cost handset.

Author: Jonathan Bray

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User comments

"On the downside, the battery isn't user-replaceable"

That's a shame, I've been think of getting a new phone for my mum to replace her v3i but user replaceable battery will be essential as she will make it last for years.

By tech3475 on 19 Nov 2013

Why bother with the Nexus 5 ?

As the Moto G is running stock Android, with an update to KK due in January, is the Nexus 5 really worth double the cost of the Moto G for minimal gain in spec and capability?

By GoneWithTheWind on 19 Nov 2013

No 4G

It's a great handset, but a real pity it has no 4G. Sure, it's not a killer feature now. But if you're cash-conscious, presumably you'd expect to keep a phone for 2 or 3 years, by which time 4G will be very much more ubiquitous. It wouldn't have added much to the price, and would have made it a total no-brainer.

By JimmyN on 19 Nov 2013

Nice price

Seems like a bargain for the price. But, as with Moto handsets of old, they never seemed to get to grips with cameras. I remember the old Windows Mobile flip phones they did (I had two of them)and while the handsets were well built and great to use, the cameras were worse than abysmal. If only they had put a decent camera in it, it would have sold like hot cakes.

By everton2004 on 19 Nov 2013

@JimmyN

It depends on what you want a phone for, my dad only really uses the internet on his to check his email.

By tech3475 on 19 Nov 2013

one question

what on earth is non-marketing translation of nano coated please?

By khellan on 19 Nov 2013

@khellan

Waterproof-ish AFAIK!

By EddyOS_2K9 on 19 Nov 2013

"nano coated" = An extremely thin coating.

I'm not sure if that definitely translates as 'waterproof'. Without more information, it could just be a nanocoating of sugar.

By grimerking on 19 Nov 2013

It wouldn't have added much to the price

Why stop there? As well as 4G, why not have 2 gig of RAM instead of 1. A microSD slot "wouldn't cost too much more" either, ditto LTE support, and let's add an 8 meg camera instead of 5, a Carl Zeiss lens for clearer pictures, and how about an aluminum body for more durability? Now, let's add up the cost of all these minor tweaks....

This is a budget phone. Do you really think that someone buying into an expensive 4G contract is going to settle for being offered a Moto G?

For the money the spec is quite amazing. Hopefully they will sell well and encourage similar devices from other manufacturers.

By Alfresco on 19 Nov 2013

Moto G is revolutionary

Oh come on, this phone is excellent. As someone fitting commented in another online publication, the Moto G marks the beginning of the end of £600 highend "plateauing" smartfones. 4K displays I hear you cry in defence of the £600 smartfone?? On a five inch display...Hilarious.

By popeye91 on 19 Nov 2013

NO SD card unacceptable

Even for a budget phone of excellent spec, most people want extra storage for music etc OFF LINE. An SD card is the most effective way.

Must be a rare beast these days NOT to include one

By jstol on 21 Nov 2013

Excellent phone upgrade!

I love this phone, had the Motorola Fuath for a few months and was pretty disappointing in comparison. http://versus.com/en/motorola-fuath-vs-motorola-mo
to-g I love the reslution on the Moto G, and the external memory slot as I use it alot, other then the no 4G it still does me well and for the price I won't complain! :)

By ZaraZaraPerkins on 18 Dec 2013

Unacceptable SD card?

@jstol

I feel like a moto apologist, but doesn't that mean the nexus line is off the table for you as well? And the G2? I don't think the One came with micro SD either.

Admittedly I'm running pretty close to my 16Gb internal memory, but that's with music and apps and the associated data.

By khellan on 2 Jan 2014

Storage is fine

I got the 16GB version and don't miss the MicroSD slot.

The useable memory is 12.92GB. This is more than adequate offline storage. Who needs their entire music collection on the phone all the time? The 50GB cloud storage gets bumped up further still with the Quickoffice freebie.

Coming from a Galaxy Fit with 0.16GB internal and 2GB MicroSD card it is acres of space to me.

By mr_chips on 9 Jan 2014

KitKat 4.4.2 OTA update available now

Just a quick line to say my phone prompted me to install the update tonight. It was roughly 185MB and downloaded over wifi. It took 5 minutes to install.

By mr_chips on 15 Jan 2014

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