Quick — when you hear the phrase "budget phone," what's the first thing that comes to mind?
If you're anything like me, it's a subpar, low-level experience you wouldn't wish upon your worst enemy. That connotation exists for a reason: Smartphones that cost less than $200 off-contract have traditionally been pretty pitiful devices — junky old phones with poor performance, disappointing displays and outdated software.
Motorola's Moto G
With its new Moto G, Motorola is hoping to change that. The Moto G is sold unlocked and off-contract for $179 (8GB) or $199 (16GB) — and while it's certainly not a top-of-the-line device, it delivers an admirable overall user experience that puts other phones in its class to shame.
So generalities aside, what's the Moto G actually like to use in the real world? I've been living with the phone all week to find out.
Note: The Moto G is currently compatible with GSM networks in the United States, which means it'll work with AT&T, T-Mobile or any of the prepaid carriers that utilize those networks. A CDMA version of the device (compatible with Sprint and Verizon) is expected to be sold via carriers starting in January.
Body and display
At a glance, the Moto G looks a lot like its higher-end brother — the critically acclaimed Moto X.
The Moto G has the same basic shape and design as the X, with a narrow profile and curved back that fits nicely in the hand. The phone's soft plastic casing has a warm and comfortable feel.
Like the X, the Moto G has a dimple in the upper-center of its back that's a natural place to rest your finger while holding the phone. The dimple has a subtle silver-colored Motorola "M" logo, which is the only marking or branding anywhere on the outside of the device.
The Moto G's back can be detached from the rest of the phone. Behind it, you'll find a slot for the phone's SIM card but no removable battery. The real purpose of the detachable back is to provide a simple means of customization: You can buy a brightly colored replacement shell from Motorola for 15 bucks and give your gadget a little extra personality. You can also opt for a $30 "Flip Shell" that has a built-in screen cover with magnets that turn the display on and off.
I tested the phone with a turquoise shell and a blue Flip Shell. I liked the look of the regular shell but wasn't so fond of its material: It has a less smooth and soft feel than the default black panel and struck me as a step down in quality. The Flip Shell worked as advertised, but it has a textured vinyl-like feel that wasn't quite my cup of tea.
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