Motorola Moto G review: Cameras
At 5Mp for the rear and 1.3Mp at the front, cameras are mid-ranged at a budget price. Both cameras perform pretty decently, especially when you consider what you're paying for the phone. You can even shoot in burst, panorama and HDR modes. Geotagging is another potentially useful option. These are very rare for a budget smartphone and the HDR mode even has an auto setting so the phone decided whether it's necessary or not.
There's no section of the menu to decide what picture quality you shoot at, but you can switch between 16:9 widescreen and 4:3 aspect ratios. Click on the test photos below to see full size.
Camera test using the default 16:9 widescreen setting and HDR switched off.
Here's the same shot but with HDR mode switched on. You can see a vast difference in the sky, on the building and on the trees.
Here's a macro camera test using default settings.
Motorola has tweaked the camera app so you can touch anywhere on the screen to take a snap which means you'll be relying on the autofocus. Luckily you can still control focus manually by switching it on in the slide out menu. With it switched on you can drag a circle round the screen to choose your focal point.
Video can be shot in 720p HD quality (our test footage is above) and there's an unexpected slow motion recording mode. As you can see in our slow motion test, you can select a particular section of the clip to be slowed down while the rest remains full speed.
Motorola Moto G review: Software
Just as Motorola promised, the Moto G has now been updated to Android 4.4 KitKat. Although it doesn't look dramatically different on the surface (the Nexus 5's launcher is exclusive to Google's phone), it does bring a number of new features as well as bug fixes and enhancements.
A location services tile has been added to the quick settings portion of the notification bar for starters. That's a minor addition but a much bigger one is KitKat's Immersive Mode which allows apps, such as Play Books, to go full screen.
There isn't much else to speak off with the KitKat update. Minor features include support for wireless printing which may or may not float your boat.
A cool feature of the Moto X, the Moto G's bigger brother, is touchless controls. You can use voice commands even if the screen is off and the device can read you txt messages when you're driving. Unfortunately these features haven't made their way to the Moto G but the "Ok Google" voice command has. Sadly you have to be in the search app to start with so it's not exactly the best way of adding the feature.
The interface is predominantly vanilla (as Google intended it to be), which is good, but there are a handful of Motorola flavoured additions. Motorola Migrate helps you bring all your content such as photos, videos and text message history – as long your old phone was Android.
Motorola Assist helps to avoid disruptions by muting your phone when you're in a meeting or asleep which we've found extremely handy. It does this by looking at your calendar and you telling it what time you will be in bed.
The annoying thing is that Moto Assist is a replacement for Smart Actions, Motorola's old app which allowed much greater control over automations.
Other than this, there are the all the Google services which you'd expect to find on an Android phone and you can do what you like in terms of customisation. See how it looks compared to the Nexus 5 below.
Motorola Moto G review: Software - Messaging
Now updated to Android 4.4 KitKat, Hangouts has become the messaging app of choice but you're not forced into using it like the Nexus 5. The older and more familiar 'Messages' app can still be used for a traditional and simple approach. The interface has a no frills approach and gets the job done in an efficient way. It's easy to message multiple people, add attachments and read threads - the kind of things you want to do daily without even thinking about it. Who needs a messaging app to have frills anyway?
Google may be promoting Hangouts as the new place to be but it's something of a confusing experience. And that's speaking as a long time Android user, so that will no doubt be heightened for newer users. Hangouts displays regular SMS- and instant (internet) messages for the same person in different threads which somewhat defeats the point.
Since the Moto G is running on Android, you're probably going to use the Gmail app to manage your emails. If you don't have a Google account then you'll need one to download apps anyway.
Alongside this, the standard Android 'Email' app is pre-installed. You can optionally use this to add other email accounts you want to access on the Moto G. This might be a work email address or simply other accounts which you own – POP, IMAP or Exchange. The latest version of the app looks very much like the Gmail interface, showing the inbox in a classic list and a menu bar swipes in from the left.
With almost stock Android installed on the Moto G, the default web browser is Google's own Chrome. That's a welcome change from the overwhelming amount of smartphones which have multiple browsers installed straight from the box, no doubt confusing many users.
Chrome is one of the best web browsers for mobile devices. The interface is simple and easy to use but the software is still packed with handy features. Just like the desktop version, you can perform a Google search in the address bar and it's easy to manage multiple tabs. They're displayed in a visually pleasing vertical list of card which you can even scroll through by tilting your device.
If you're a desktop Chrome users then you simply have to sign in with your Google account to get all of your open tabs, bookmarks and omnibox data from your computer. There's very little to dislike but if you do, for whatever reason, the beuty of Android is the freedom to install an alternative browser which you do like. (You can install additional browsers on iOS but the default browser must be Safari).
Motorola Moto G review: Battery life
Motorola touts 'all day' battery life for the Moto G and this is certainly the case in our testing. The Moto G will last a day and if you are a light user then you'll probably even get a couple of days from the handset.
Despite having a removable rear cover and being able to see the 7.7Wh battery pack, you can't actually remove it. Battery life software is basic with just a simple battery saver which will restrict background data when you're running low on power
Moto G 4G: Specs
- Android 4.3 Jelly Bean OS
- 4.5in display (720x1280), 326 ppi
- 1.2GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 CPU
- Adreno 305 GPU
- 1GB RAM
- 8/16GB internal storage
- 5Mp rear camera with LED Flash
- 1.3Mp front camera
- Video recording at up to 720p
- Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
- Bluetooth 4.0 LE
- GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
- HSDPA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
- 7.7Wh non-removable battery
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