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Motorola Moto G review: When good phones go cheap

Florence Ion | Jan. 2, 2014
The Moto G has all the essentials of a smartphone—a stylish chassis, near-stock Android, and a sizable form-factor—and it only costs $179.

The 5-megapixel camera isn't much to boast about either, though I didn't expect much after my disappointing time with the Moto X's photo-taking abilities. The Moto G's camera was too inconsistent: Photos would sometimes come out blurry, with washed-out colors, while others appeared normal, with proper white balance. 

Getting the camera to focus was also a weird struggle, due in part to the spot focus feature that lets you drag around the exposure point in the preview window. I had to try hard to make it work for each individual photo situation, and there were only a few instances where I didn't totally hate the end result of a photo.

If you're looking for a phone you can just set and forget in your pocket, the Moto G's 2070 mAh battery pack is good for that. The phone lasted through 8 hours and 45 minutes of constant video streaming, and it barely ate through 20 percent of its battery life while hanging out in my bag over the course of a weekend.

A screen that's nice—just nice
The Moto G's 4.5-inch LCD display would have been considered top notch a few generations ago. But while it has a better pixel density than the Moto X, a side-by-side comparison shows some obvious differences. The Moto G's whites and black appear a bit washed out, even at the highest brightness level. 

Still, the Moto G's 720p display is not a low-quality one, and its viewing angles are such that you could share the phone with a friend to watch a video clip. And at least there's no light leaking or issues with color saturation, problems that usually plague other midrange devices.

Same ol' software
I'm happy to report that the Moto G sports a mostly untouched version of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean—even more untouched than the Moto X, since some of its variants feature carrier bloat. Its pristine, mostly stock nature also means you won't get the neat features of the Moto X, like its Touchless Controls or pulsating Active Notifications.

Motorola couldn't actually bundle those in with the processor that's inside the Moto G, so it just omitted it altogether. It does have an FM Tuner, however, which is a rarity these days. And Motorola provides a few extra apps, like Assist, which puts the phone into certain modes depending on whether you're driving or in a meeting, and the proprietary camera application with the same slide-from-the-left-for-options interface as featured on the Moto X.

Motorola has announced that it's rolling out Android 4.4.2 KitKat to the Moto G. It's unclear how long Google will support the phone with updates, but if it goes by the same timeline as the Nexus devices, the Moto G will likely be supported for at least 18 months. 

 

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