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Motorola Moto G review

Is the Moto G the best budget Android smartphone ever? Find out in our full hands-on review

When the budget is tight and you want a smartphone it’s easy to think that you are going to get a very much lesser handset if you don’t have lots of money to spend. Motorola has set out to dispel that idea with its Moto G which offers some extremely tempting features for a handset that costs less than £150.

Well, that’s not quite true – the bit about the Moto G costing £150. There are actually two versions of this phone. They’re identical in every respect except for their built in memory.

For £150 you can have 8GB. Up your spend to £174 and you can have 16GB. Make your choice carefully as there’s no MicroSD card slot. On our review handset – an 8GB model, there was 5GB of free storage space.

If you are hunting down a thin and attractive phone this might not be the place to look. At 11.6mm thick the Moto G is a bit chunky, and it is heavy too. It feels somehow heavier than its 143g. But really, don’t let those things bother you as this is a great phone.

Motorola has though carefully about how to make its Moto G stand out, and has come up with the clever idea of allowing you to personalise the phone with shells. There are flip shells which are fitted by removing the rather tight-fitting rubberized backplate and replacing it with a textured back that is hinged into a front cover.

There are also grip shells which fit around the back of the handset and add some protection and some colour to the Moto G. There are plenty of colour choices in both cases so you can spruce up the device from time to time when you feel it is looking a little old and dowdy.

The Moto G goodness doesn’t stop with shells. For a low cost handset is it quite remarkable that Motorola has been able to make it water resistant. There’s no coveted IP rating here, but still, we think it should be puddle-proof, and definitely rain-proof. The battery is sealed in place to help protect it from water splashes.

One area where low cost handset makers can often make the wrong decision to compromise on features is the screen.

Motorola has not made a mistake here. The 4.5-inch screen has 1,280 x 720 pixels making it good enough for ebook reading, video viewing, web browsing and other date intensive activities. The viewing angles are good, and Motorola has used Gorilla Glass 3 which isn’t something we see on every low cost phone.

Android has been left alone for the most part, but Motorola has added in an app called Assist which can turn the phone to silent mode at set times even checking Google Galendar to find out when you are in meetings. It’ll let persistent callers through the barrier so emergency calls should be catered for.

You get an FM radio as well, plus a handy tool for migrating your data from your old handset.

The 1.2GHz processor is very efficient, and there’s a big kick in the teeth for other low cost handset makers in that Motorola has built the Moto G around Android 4.3, with a promise of an upgrade to 4.4. Android 4.4 is only currently available on Google’s Nexus devices – and doubtless the reason Motorola can offer it so early is that Motorola is now owned by Google.

Most budget handsets launch with an outdated version of the OS and stay there.

We can’t help wondering if via Motorola Google is trying to do with the Moto G at the lower end of the market what it has done with the Nexus 5 at the higher end – offer a superb handset that really gives the competition a hard act to follow. If that’s the strategy, we’d say it has been implemented well.

Written by Sandra Vogel