Small, medium, large. That's Motorola's phone strategy in one line. We got our hands on the mid-range Motorola G 4G, and for a medium phone, it certainly delivers large value.
What Is It?
The Moto G 4G, as the name suggests, is the Moto G that overseas markets have fawned over for months now, but with the added benefit of 4G for the Australian market.
For $299, you get a 4.5-inch phone powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400, 1GB of RAM.
You also get 8GB worth of on-board storage, which is thankfully expandable up to 32GB with a microSD card, a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, Bluetooth 4.0 support and support for Australia's 4G networks.
We thought that putting a power-hungry 4G chip into a small smartphone alongside an already well-powered quad-core processor would mean a massive battery drain, yielding a total life of less than a day. The reality is in fact the opposite case: the battery life on the Moto G 4G is astoundingly good. We got three days of heavy use out of the battery before we needed to connect the charger. Amazing performance, which is good considering the battery is glued in there. We'll get to that.
The camera, despite only being a pokey 5-megapixel shooter, is reasonable for this model and this price point. It's not about to replace your digital camera and it can't hold a candle to premium smartphone cameras, but it's good to have in a bind.
Stock Android (more or less) makes a triumphant return on the Moto G, with no horrendous third-party skins or UIs slowing down your experience. There are a few things that Motorola snuck in under the radar, mostly in the form of a piece of software called Motorola Assist, but it’s far from bloatware, and actually pretty handy.
The Assist software is similar to the Smart Actions software we saw on the RAZR smartphones of yesteryear. Basically, it figures out what you’re doing when, and changes its own modes so you don’t have to. Have an 11pm bedtime and a 6pm alarm? Assist recognises that and automatically turns on Do Not Disturb mode so as not to make a peep. Keen to not be disturbed in that meeting you have on your calendar? The phone switches automatically to silent mode during scheduled meetings as a result. Going more than say 10km/h? The phone will switch into a driving mode so that you don’t have to touch it when it goes beep. Nifty.
All that pales in comparison to the real star of the Moto G 4G: the price tag.
For the price, you get a lot of phone compared to the Moto X. The Moto X has a slightly bigger screen, slightly more powerful processor and a slightly better camera. The Moto X doesn't turn everything up to the proverbial 11 versus the Moto G 4G: it's only that little bit better. Plus, you save around $100 by making that compromise: the Moto X will set you back $400, while the Moto G 4G costs $300, give or take a few dollars depending on your retailer of choice.
Mind you if you're shopping on price, you'd have to really want 4G support to buy the Moto G 4G over its standard 3G counterpart.
Because the Moto G 3G has been out in the marketplace for a while, you can get a better deal on it to the tune of around $70 less than the 4G variant.
Do the maths again on the Moto G 3G versus the Moto X and you get a really great deal on the former. $229 for a good phone beats $400 for a slightly better (but still mid-range) phone any day of the week. If you're buying purely on price and bang-for-buck, the Moto G has you covered in both 3G and 4G options: both are great value.
If you're buying the Moto G, take a second to have a look at your carrier's 4G maps and see if it's worth the extra dollars, otherwise, save that $70 and get yourself something (else) nice.
Sure it's a bargain, but what's the downside you have to live with as a result?
What's Not So Good?
As it so often goes on cheap smartphones, you're not about to get a device wrapped in unobtanium or some other luxurious metal for the budget price you pay. Instead, you get a device that feels almost like the back of a whiteboard eraser in the hand. It's a bit disappointing from Motorola, which usually throws a few curve balls when it comes to making cheap handsets feel well-designed. The Moto E and Moto X on either side of the Moto G 4G both feel like exceptionally well-built handsets, so this one's a rare misstep.
The device also feels pretty cheap to use, too. The removable back cover combined with a slightly overzealous haptic feedback function rattles — literally rattles — the device with every keystroke. That's something you're going to want to turn off, ASAP.
We've marked down HTC for such things before on devices like the One Max, and one year on it's clear that smartphone manufacturers still care not for the plight of the power user. Mind you, given the battery performance we found on the Moto G 4G, you may only need one battery to get you through a hectic two days on the road.
Should You Buy It?
We love Motorola's take on the cheap smartphone. Between the E, G and X, Motorola has captured the spirit of Google's Nexus program and diversified it, giving people more for their money in every possible way.
While we love the Moto G 4G, its wonderful connectivity features and exceptional battery life, we'd have to advise caution before buying it.
Like we said above, double check with the wallet police whether 4G connectivity is really worth the money in your circumstances. Especially given the fact that it doesn't support either the 2600MHz (Optus) or 2400MHz (Telstra) networks headed for the Australian market (read: not entirely future-proof). If that turns you off, perhaps try the standard 3G Moto G. Either way, you're getting a Moto G, but weigh up your options before you buy. You could save a reasonable amount of cash and still get a great phone.