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Moto G (2015) REVIEW — I absolutely love this budget smartphone

by Todd Haselton | August 11, 2015August 11, 2015 5:00 pm PDT

Motorola unveiled several new phones late last month during an event in New York City. The world was introduced to the Moto X Pure Edition (also known as the Moto X Style), the Moto X Play and the Moto G (2015).

I admit, at the time, it was hard to be that excited about the Moto G (2015). I mean, of the three devices, it was the most entry-level. Everyone left the event talking about the Moto X Pure Edition, perhaps a hair saddened that it would not launch until this fall.

But there I was, Moto G (2015) review unit in hand ready to check it out. The first version was a great budget buy and last year’s model was solid. I expected to use it for a few days and draft a review naming it a good budget device but one that really didn’t blow my socks off.

And here I am, expectations blown, using it as my daily driver. What the heck just happened? Well, I fell in love with the Moto G (2015).

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Hardware

The Moto G (2015) isn’t the best-looking phone on the market; it’s also not the worst. It’s not crafted out of high-end material like aluminum and is instead a mostly plastic and very “plasticky” feeling device. My wife said it looked cheap when I asked her what she thought of the phone and it’s customizable plastic back panels. It does. But it is cheap. That’s the whole point of the Moto G (2015), and so some costs had to be cut.

Thing is, I — and not my wife — happen to actually like the way it looks. I think it actually does look cool, fun even. My model has the aforementioned neon green back cover with a small metallic orange slice that includes the 13-megapixel camera, the dual-LED flash and a small indent that offers a nice place to put your finger while holding the phone.

And the plastic ridges that look sort of cheap are useful because they offer great grip, particularly if you get the phone wet. Drop it in a puddle, the toilet or take it for a quick swim, the Moto G (2015) is water and dust resistant (IP67 rating), so long as you place the back cover on properly. The exposed 3.5mm headphone jack and microUSB port — on the top and bottom of the phone, respectively — are not supposed to be at risk from submersion in freshwater thanks to what we presume is a water-resistant nano-coating.

Don’t, however, plan to take it in the pool for a very long time or out on a kayak as I did. I learned that, while it can be submerged in water, prolonged splashing even on the deck of my kayak caused issue. The speaker won’t work when wet — don’t worry it comes back when it’s dry — and my microUSB port didn’t charge properly for a day or so after my kayak ride in a bay. Motorola doesn’t advertise this use case, and I regret taking it on my kayak, but this is nonetheless something I haven’t experienced with similar IPX7 rated devices that I usually take fishing with me. If your Moto G is exposed to these sorts of elements: rogue waves taking over your beach towel, for instance, try to wash out the 3.5mm headphone jack and microUSB port with freshwater as soon as possible.

Some other thoughts on the hardware: it doesn’t support NFC, which I found to be a bummer when I went to pair it with my nfc-enabled Bluetooth speaker. Also, Quick Charge is not supported, even though the Snapdragon 410 processor technically supports the standard. I’m not sure why it was left out (maybe cost?), but it was.

And speaking of the Snapdragon 410 chip: you might think you need faster Snapdragon 8xx processors, 4GB of RAM and more in your smartphone, but the Moto G performs just fine with just 2GB of RAM and a relatively low-end CPU.

I was able to install plenty of applications and run them in tandem. I played graphics intensive games such as Vain Glory just fine. No, they don’t run as smoothly or look as great on a 720p screen, but they work. The expandable storage worked with my 64GB microSD card just fine, which meant I was able to store thousands of songs and plenty of movies for offline viewing, despite the relatively small amount of local storage (my unit had 16GB).

Let’s discuss the software now.

Software

The Moto G runs Android 5.1.1, the latest public version of Android available, and it operates smoothly and without lag on the Snapdragon 410 chip. That’s because Motorola takes a minimal approach, only adding a few features that build on top of an otherwise very stock Android experience.

You get features such as Moto Assist, which conveniently put the phone into quiet mode when it knew if I had a meeting or was going to bed. You can program it to behave differently at different times, but I mostly left it to just keep notifications to a minimum when I had meetings. Moto Display has been around for a few generations now and it still performs admirably, showing detailed notifications on the lock screen with a simple tap. Moto Actions, another app, lets you chop the phone twice to turn on the flashlight, or quickly joggle it back and forth to launch the camera. I love that last feature, and used it all of the time to launch the camera in a blink of an eye.

The rest of the experience is pretty much stock Android. You’ll find Google Now on the left-most homescreen panel, the standard Lollipop app drawer, plenty of Material Design and really solid software performance.

If you like it pretty barebones, as I do, you’ll like the software experience on the Moto G.

Camera

Motorola told us that it used the same 13-megapixel camera on the Nexus 6 for the Moto G (2015). That’s pretty impressive. The Nexus 6 doesn’t have a particularly noteworthy camera, but it’s also a $500 smartphone.

Out on the beach and around the pool, where the sun was bright, the Moto G really shined. Details in my images were crisp. Though not as impressive as photos you’d find on far more expensive phones, I was more than pleased with the pictures I was able to grab.

As it got dark, performance started to drop: lights would cause blurring in my photos thanks to the lack of optical image stabilization, and there was noticeable noise. You can see this in a shot of my setup working in a coffee shop in the gallery above. A few other shots still came out great, even in lowlight, but they were more rare than when the lighting was better.

And for fun, I took a few pictures under water during a day at the pool, too. You can do this, but don’t keep it submerged for too long and wash it with freshwater when you’re done. As I noted above, its ports don’t seem that protected from damage from water despite the IPX7 rating, so be careful.

Battery Life

I really despise saying this because it seems so obvious: the battery life is going to come down to how you use your phone. Thankfully, the Moto G (2015) has all of the right pieces for a long-lasting smartphone. You don’t have a juice-hogging display, you have a relatively large 2,740mAh battery and a relatively low-powered Snapdragon 410 processor.

In my tests, I was able to take the phone off the charger at 7 a.m. and get until the late evening (9 p.m. or so) before the phone died. I used this as my primary smarphone for all emails, texts, web browsing, chatting with friends on GroupMe and gaming, so that performance is pretty good. If you idle or just check your phone occasionally, you’re going to last a lot longer and possibly even into a second day.

But I’m a power user and the Moto G (2015) was dead by bedtime. I wish it lasted longer, or charged faster so I could juice it up again in a few minutes, but it doesn’t. Again, for $220, not bad.

Everyone should consider a Moto G.

I went into the Moto G (2015) review not really expecting much, still excited for the fall launch of the new Moto X instead. I walked away surprised, though. I really love the Moto G (2015), especially for its price.

Sure, it doesn’t look first class, but I really enjoyed the splash of color on my phone. The hardware isn’t the fastest on the block, though it’ll tide you over just fine and is more than capable of running the latest games, at least during my tests. Expand the storage and you’ll have plenty of room for additional media, too.

My favorite features ultimately came down to the form factor — I really love the 5-inch size and how nicely it felt in my hand. I also really dug the camera; it’s not the best, but it’s also a really solid shooter for a $220 phone. And, finally, the battery life was pretty solid.

Motorola provided two Moto G (2015) units to TechnoBuffalo, one for our written review and one for filming. Todd tested the phone for two weeks before writing his review. Mark tested it for a week and a half before filming the video.


Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...

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