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Moto G 4G (2015) Review: Is it still the best budget phone?

With only a modest spec update, including LTE, a bigger battery and an 8MP camera, is the second-generation Moto G 4G still the best budget buy?

Officially, the ‘G’ in ‘Moto G’ is meaningless. Android fans have long speculated that it stands for ‘Google,’ ‘generation,’ or even ‘geek,’ but Motorola themselves say it was just a randomly assigned letter. For our part, we’ve always thought it stood for ‘game-changer.’ Back in 2013, the original Moto G turned the phone industry on its head, offering the specs and user experience of a much more expensive handset for around £100. Can we say the same about the Moto G 4G (2015)?

The answer depends. If you’re upgrading from the first-generation Moto G 4G, which came out in Spring 2014, you will be impressed. The original Moto G 4G was only a minor upgrade on the Moto G, adding LTE connectivity and a microSD slot. However, if you’re upgrading from the Moto G’s official successor, the second-generation Moto G which launched last autumn, you’re not going to notice much of a difference, as it’s another incremental update.

The new Moto G 4G looks the same as the Moto G (2014), turning the palm-size smartphone into a 5.5-inch phablet. The dual front-facing speakers deliver impressive-sounding audio for all your musical needs, while the IPS display is easy on the eyes. The screen technically has a lower pixel density than the original with 294ppi, but it still looks perfectly crisp and sharp, both for reading small text and watching 720p video.

If you want to shoot your own video or just pictures, the rear camera is 8MP, which is an upgrade on the original Moto G 4G’s 5MP camera. The flash is also brighter and the camera focuses faster. The f/2.0 aperture also ensures photos are brighter. The camera includes a range of features, including slow motion video and burst mode. We found we got the best results using the HDR mode.

The Moto G 4G also runs near stock Android Lollipop out of the box, adding only a couple of helpful new apps, including Moto Assist. This app will automatically put your phone on silent when you’re sleeping, but still let priority phone calls through, as well as read out text messages when you’re driving.

Like all Moto phones, you can customise the device to suit you. The back of the Moto G 4G pops offs and can be replaced with any number of ‘shells’ – interchangeable cases available in a range of colours.

All of this may be familiar to Moto G (2014) users, with the only upgrades being 4G connectivity and a bigger battery. The new Moto G 4G’s 2,390mAh cell is the same as the premium Moto X, which coupled with Lollipop’s own power-saving features, Motorola claims can deliver an all-day battery life. We found it had enough juice to last 20 hours of moderate use and 10 hours of heavy video-streaming, but we were suitably impressed.

But it’s not all good under the hood. The handset’s Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor and 1GB RAM is the same as the original Moto G sported two years ago. The phone scored 18,678 in our AnTuTu benchmark, which is a lot lower than we’d like to see from a high quality phone in 2015, but we can’t say we noticed much lag using it day to day.

Something the new 4G Moto G lacks is the second SIM card slot of the 3G second-gen Moto G. This has caused some confusion on the internet, with some believing this new version also has two. This is not really a negative for the handset though. Dual-SIM devices are targeted primarily at developing markets; 4G devices are not. A dual 4G version does exist, but its exclusive to China.

However, our main issue with the Moto G 4G (2015) is the price. On the one hand, Motorola deserve credit for selling this handset for the same price it was three years: just £150. In a world where the Samsung Galaxy S6 costs £600 and most midrange phones are around £200-£300 mark, this is still a competitive price tag – but not as much as it used to be.  The ZTE Blade S6 also offers 4G, Android Lollipop and stylish design, along with a superior 64-bit processor, 2GB RAM and a 13MP camera for only £30 more than Motorola’s latest offering. Other manufacturers, including HTC, Asus and Huawei, are also zoning in on the Moto G’s sweet spot of high specs, low prices. With only an incremental update, we’re not sure the Moto G represents the value for money it once did.

Inexplicably, Motorola may have also released the Moto G 4G’s biggest competitor themselves: the second-generation Moto E, which is only £99.99. It lacks the camera or screen quality as the new Moto G 4G, but runs Lollipop, offers a superior Snapdragon 401 processor and, crucially, offers 4G.

If you’re considering getting a Moto for the first time, this handset is still a contender – 4G is the way forward, it looks great and lasts for hours – but its not the clear overall winner it once was. Unless the inevitable third-generation Moto G radically shakes things up, Motorola may find that this time the game has changed around them.