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Moto G (2014): The best smartphone under US$200

Florence Ion | Oct. 1, 2014
This is absolutely the best mid-range smartphone you can buy at a decidedly low-tier price.

A very basic camera phone
The Moto G's new rear-facing camera is a definite improvement over its predecessor, but it's still just a mid-range shooter. The Moto G features an 8-megapixel camera sensor with a f/2.0 aperture, rear-facing LED flash, and 4X digital zoom. It can shoot slow motion video, burst shots, HDR, and panorama. You can also choose between a 6-megapixel widescreen or 8-megapixel standard resolution for your photos, and store your photos directly on an SD card. (You'll probably want to set that up anyway, since the phone only comes includes 8GB of storage, with a 16GB variant coming soon.)

The photo quality is about on par with last year's Moto X, but definitely better than the old Moto G. The end result looks pretty good if you have ample lighting, and though the color quality is fine out in broad daylight, you'll see some fading when the clouds are out.

That 4X digital zoom isn't "Chloe, enhance" quality, but it works if you're just zooming in a little bit on a subject to share a picture on social networks. Its 2-megapixel front-facing camera is great for selfies and video chats. Both the front- and rear-facing camera sensors are a big improvement over last year's Moto G. 

Video is impressively smooth if you're shooting while standing still, but it's incredibly shaky if you're walking or moving around--I actually had a bit of motion sickness when playing back a video I filmed of me walking up the street. The slow motion camera is a neat add-on, but while you can edit the video so that only a part of it is slowed down, there's no way to precisely adjust the amount of slo-mo. 

Plain Jane Android
Oh, beautiful stock Android. You are so simple, and yet so aching for customization at the same time. The nice thing about the Moto G's stock Android 4.4 is that there's no interface overlay to bog down the device, but you will want to spend some time tweaking the interface to your liking.

The Moto G doesn't have any of the Moto X's always-on, always-listening goodies, but it does come with some of Motorola's apps, like Alert, which will keep you safe by keeping you connected with family and friends through a virtual buddy system, and Assist, which will automatically silence the phone when you're sleeping or in a meeting.

It's worth the buy--even as a backup device
The Moto G is yet more evidence that you don't need a heaping of bells and whistles and powerful components to make a great smartphone. You can have a perfectly functional device for a mere $180, so that even if you don't plan to use it as your daily driver it's worth having just as a backup phone. The Moto G is also available with two SIM slots.


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