Motorola's Moto G Offers Big Specs on an Itty-Bitty Budget (Updated With Hands-On)

By Gerald Lynch on at

Motorola has lifted the covers off its oft-leaked Moto G handset, the company’s first globally-available smartphone effort since snuggling under Google’s sizeable wing. Looking to court the many smartphone users that can't afford premium handsets, it's looking to push the boundaries of what a smartphone in the mid-tier price bracket can offer. And from our early hands-on play, it's looking promising, especially considering its sub-£140 price tag.

Featuring a 4.5-inch 720p display, the Moto G runs off a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, clocked at 1.2GHz and backed by 1GB of RAM. Running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean (with a KitKat upgrade planned for January 2014), it's a snappy device. Swiping through homescreens and jumping from 3D gaming apps to the camera, there was not a stutter in sight. On first impressions, it certainly seems far more flexible when it comes to intense multi-tasking compared to similarly priced Android rivals.

Quite a curvy handset, it's neither eye-poppingly slim nor feather light, but its plastic frame sits comfortably in the hand. A range of removable back plates will be on offer in various colours, some merely sitting flush with the handset's body, others that offer quick-lock flip covers, and a slight texturing on each gives a slightly more premium feel to the overall package. With an "edge-to-edge" display (there's still a slight bezel visible to my eyes), the handset's screen is protected by a sheet of Corning Gorilla Glass and makes use of a waterproof nano-coating to defend it against unexpected dunks.

Motorola's own software aims to complement the stock Android experience rather than compete with it, keeping performance optimisation as the most important factor. It's pretty much stock Android, with all the most-used Google applications organised into a folder on the front homescreen from the off. If stock Android is your thing, and you couldn't get hold of a Nexus 5, the Moto G looks to be a viable alternative.

Users of Motorola's older handsets will recognise the "Assist" app as being a stripped back take on the company's "Smart Actions" feature, automating selected tasks (such as in-meeting auto replies and notification-free quiet time during sleeping hours). For the time being, those are the only two moments that can be automated however, which is a bit limited, but Motorola's team promise that this will expand over time.

The rear camera, a 5MP number, was the only area that immediately jumped out as a weak link. Though the interface itself is clean (tapping anywhere on the screen takes a snap, holding down activates burst mode and a swipe from an edge brings up image capture options), the resultant photos lacked sharpness, with the sensor struggling to focus at speed.

Keeping affordability in mind, an FM radio is also included for those who can't afford a subscription to streaming services or individual MP3 downloads. In a nice touch, the user's headphones act as the antenna for picking up the FM signal, keeping the overall price and size of the handset down a tad.

It's no slouch at any price point, but at £135 for the 8GB version off-contract (including VAT), it becomes all the more attractive. It's well priced for smartphone bargain hunters, and even the 16GB version jumps to a still-very-affordable £159. Hitting UK stores from today, you'll be able to pick up the Moto G on contracts from Orange and T-Mobile, O2, Phones 4u, TechData and Tesco Mobile too.