Motorola just released a hardware Kraken the likes of which we’ve never seen. The new Moto X Style! The battery-conscious Moto X Play! And then there’s the Moto G. Only a few years ago, no one would care about the lesser budget sibling alongside these two powerhouses—but the Moto G is Motorola’s real smartphone champion.
Last year’s Moto G is still incredible. It’s been one of our budget-conscious top picks for many months now, and as smartphones like the Nexus 5 disappear and the OnePlus 2 gets more expensive, the Moto G continues to quietly carve out a niche all its own, a niche that other smartphone makers can’t seem to match.
So, here we are. Motorola’s just released the third generation Moto G, updating a smartphone that by many standards is still the best at what it does—being great for cheap. What’s different? The first big one is LTE. The original Moto G last year was everything you could possibly want in a $200 device, but damnit if it didn’t suck being locked out from LTE speeds in the U.S. Thankfully, instead of waiting a few more months for Motorola to release an “LTE version” of the new Moto G, they’re just going to bake it in from the get-go.
The second is water resistance—IPX7 to be exact, meaning this guy can survive being submerged underwater at 3 feet for 30 minutes and still keep ticking. That’s huge. When it comes to price-cutting on a smartphone, the perceived “nonessential” features usually get the ax. Fingerprint sensors are the first to go. Followed quickly by wireless charging. And then waterproofing. Even if you’re shelling out several hundred for a new phone, it most likely won’t have water resistant superpowers. The iPhone doesn’t. The Galaxy S6 doesn’t. But the Moto G does.
As far as looks are concerned, a lot of things are staying the same. Same curved back, same removable panel (making that waterproofing even more impressive if not slightly precarious), same size, and same feel. But it also isn’t a shot-for-shot remake. The Moto G follows the same design language as the Style and Play around its new 13 megapixel camera, which kinda looks like a years-old Lumia, design-wise, and it also comes with Moto Maker customization that was previously reserved only for the Moto X and the Moto 360 smartwatch.
As far as comfort, the size and weight are nearly identical to last year’s Moto G. But with a textured back instead of smooth plastic, it’s a bit grippier—though not in any significant way. And though it looks like the new Moto G has twin front-facing speakers, sound only comes out of the bottom speaker. The top one is just for, you know, actual phone calls.
The camera is also getting a small performance nudge. Last year’s G had an 8-megapixel camera, whereas 2015 goes with a 13 megapixel. While megapixels are definitely not everything when it comes to a smartphone camera, the 2015 edition does have a slight advantage over its predecessor. Here are two photos from both Moto Gs, followed by a zoomed-in side-by-side.
Moto G (2014)
Moto G (2015)
In the comparison shot, you can see where the old Moto G loses some detail in the brick wall where the new G retains it. It’s a small improvement, but a step in the “better” direction is always a good one.
Unlike the camera, the processor remains relatively unchanged. With the Snapdragon 410 chip, you will see performance dips, especially if you’re used to the blazing speeds of flagship smartphones. For instance, I powered up Hearthstone (because I need an intervention please send help), and I could see a few hiccups when navigating menus and stutters when paging through my digital card collection. But the 720p display looks sharp and doesn’t have that immediate “oh yeah this a cheap phone” feel when it comes to color reproduction, light leakage or brightness.
The new Moto G is impressive, as it always has been. Motorola’s been able to upgrade to LTE and add in some waterproofing without sacrificing its still-incredibly-low price. “What’s the best cheap smartphone?” used to be a tough question, but Motorola’s making sure that it only has one right answer.
Photos by Michael Hession