TOYBOX: Motorola Moto G

Motorola's owner, Google, uses this killer-price phone as an Android showcase, packing it with features

Motorola Moto G

HOT:  Motorola’s owner, Google*, uses this killer-price phone as an Android showcase, packing it with features
NOT: So-so camera specs, only 8GB onboad storage and no SD card slot (but 50GB free Google Drive cloud storage), no 4G
TECH SPECS: 4.5-inch, high definition (1280 x 720) 339ppi display, 5 megapixel rear camera, 1.3 megapixel rear camera; 1.2GHz quad-core processor; 129.9x65.9 x11.6mm; 143 grams, Android 4.3 (aka Jellybean); see full tech spec here
PRICE:  $299
NETWORK: 2degrees from early Feb (compatible with Telecom, Vodafone SIM cards); also available through Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi from Jan 21

*Shortly after this review was written, Google sold Motorola Mobility to Lenovo


Overseas critics have called this the king of the low-cost Androids. And I can see where they’re coming from. For $299, you get a lot of features, such as a grunty quad-core processor, usually found in handsets sold for three times the price.

A number of top-shelf Androids have larger displays, but the Moto G’s 4.5-inch high definition screen is half an inch larger (on the diagonal) than the latest iPhones. And, more importantly, it’s 339 pixels per inch (ppi), a shade ahead of the Apple competition.

Why would Motorola shovel high end specs at you for a low price?

Google bought Motorola’s phone business for $US12.5 billion in 2011. In part, the deal was to secure the treasure trove of patents owned by Motorola (the inventor of the cellphone) – a key weapon in the ongoing legal wars over smartphone hardware and software design.

But the purchase also allows Google to use Motorola to showcase its Android software, and mobile apps and services.

Now that almost every smartphone maker uses Android, they often try hard – often too hard – to “enhance” Google’s mobile software with overlays and add-on features.

If you find that all a bit over-the-top, you’ll appreciate the Moto G’s unadorned Android 4.3 (aka Jellybean).

And where it can sometimes be confusing or uncertain if an Android handset made by the likes of LG, Samsung, Sony or HTC can be upgraded to the next version of Google’s mobile software, the Moto G comes with a guarantee it will support Android 4.4 (aka Kit Kat) with an upgrade by year’s end.

And while there’s only a modest 8GB of onboard storage (Americans also get a 16GB option) and the usual SD Card expansion slot is absent. But you do get 50GB of onboad storage free for two years; Google is using the Moto G to nudge people toward uploading content to the cloud rather than store it on their handset.

The curvy case is mostly plastic, and leans toward the basic, but it’s very comfortable to hold. It is a little thicker and noticeably heavy than the 112g, 7.6mm-thin iPhone 5s, which has the same size screen (and is three times the price).

The most obvious downside is that there’s no 4G – which might be why the Moto G has turned up on 2degrees (which won’t launch the faster mobile data technology until late this year). That’s a glaring omission on the tech spec front in this day and age, but with mobile data still relatively expensive in NZ and data caps relatively low (meaning 4G speed can chew up your monthly data allowance in a heat beat), it’s not a killer draw back. Still, it would give me pause.

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