So, I have been looking for a replacement for my aging Samsung Galaxy Spica for sometime now. Having enjoyed the splendid benefits of using stock Android on my Nexus 7 tablet, I wanted to have the same experience on my phone. However, barring the relatively high priced (INR 29,000 or USD 475 approx in India) Nexus 5, there were no real alternatives for a stock android phone. Most other “budget” phones that were available (Samsung, LG etc.) didn’t really cut it in the specifications department, while the phones from Xolo, MicroMax etc looked very promising on paper. Then in December, out of the blue, Motorola finally announced the Moto G, which seemed to tick most of the features I wanted, at a relatively low price point. Motorola then promised a January release for the Moto G in India and I figured might as well wait the extra month.
However, the release date kept being postponed and from early January, the date slipped to mid-Jan and then early February. Finally, the Moto G was available in India sometime in early February (February 6th to be precise). I actually stayed awake till midnight to be one of the first people to order one on Flipkart (the only way to get a Moto G in India currently), but getting hold of a Moto G (16 GB Black) seemed to be almost impossible. I had added a Moto G to my cart at about 00:13 AM and by the time I proceeded to check out 00:17 AM it was sold out !!!
Flipkart got in fresh stock at 12:00 PM the same day, and this time round I pressed pay as soon as I could. About 02 days later the phone was delivered.
The Moto G came in a small little white box. I fully expected the box to only contain the phone and an USB cable (seems the US model ships with only this), but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it contained an AC charger and a hands-free kit.
My initial impression of the phone was – Whoa!!! – this is much slimmer and lighter than I expected. It also had a nice feel in the hand with it’s slightly curved back. Since the phone needed a micro-sim it took me a couple of days to get my regular SIM switched to one. I decided to actually use the phone for about a month or so before writing about it. And boy has it been a fabulous experience. Here is a rundown of the hits and misses:
The phone is mostly plastic (and cheap strong plastic at that), but it surprisingly does not come off as cheap. The build quality is actually fabulous and fits nicely in the hand. The back is slightly curved, and lends to a great grip on the phone. The phone back cover snaps open to reveal access to the SIM card slots.Yes, the Moto G in India is a dual SIM phone, which for me is an added benefit. The battery is not user replaceable and there is no memory card expansion slot, so beyond changing the SIM card there is little you can do. Moto G however offers nifty customization options via what it calls Moto Shells (but more on that later). Overall, I was very impressed with the build quality of the phone.
Hardware, Controls and Ports etc
The Moto G runs on a quadcore 1.2 Ghz Cortex A7 processor, with 1 GB RAM. While this is not the most powerful processor out there, it certainly gets the job done for most day to day tasks. The phone comes in 8Gb and 16 Gb variants, with no memory expansion slots. I bought the higher 16 GB variant, which in my opinion is fairly adequate in terms of storage. The Moto G has a 4.5 inch LCD screen (obviously to keep costs low – so no AMOLED here), that is surprisingly good for an LCD screen. At a pixel density of approximately 326 PPI, this is the most vibrant screen I have seen so far. In addition to this the screen is covered by a Gorilla Glass layer, that makes needing an additional scratch guard unnecessary. I have actually carried this in my pocket, with keys and other metal things, in crowded Mumbai trains and come out without a scratch. Lastly, the phone is supposed to be covered with a water repellent layer, so I guess I will know how useful that is when the monsoons hit India.
The phone actually has fairly minimal controls. It features a power button and volume controls on one side. For some reason, Motorola decided to skip on a dedicated camera control, which for me makes taking photos with the phone slightly awkward. It features a standard 3.5 mm jack on the top to plugin a pair of headphones / hands free kit. The bottom has a standard micro USB port for charging / data transfers. The front of the phone features a 1.3 mp secondary camera and a notification LED (yes, it has a nifty notification LED that lights up when you have messages etc) while the back of the phone has the speaker grille, a 5mp primary camera and a flash. All in all, a fairly decent set up.
Software and Day to Day usage
The phone runs what Motorola terms as its version of “near” stock Android. Rather than following other phone manufacturers and putting it’s own UI (aka HTC Sense, Samsung TouchWiz) on the phone, Motorola chose to keep the stock android UI and only make software enhancements where it made sense. I personally like this approach and it certainly has resulted in a far more zippier experience. So far it has been able to handle most apps without a significant lag of any kind, and has been perfect for day to day usage.
During the launch, Motorola promised that the phone would get KitKat, Android’s latest version. A few weeks after the India launch, it actually followed through on this promise and got the phone upgraded to KitKat via an OTA update. Post the upgrade, had a little trouble familiarizing myself with the new dialler and other features in KitKat, but once I did that its been a delight to use.
The new integrated dialer takes some getting used to, but the voice clarity is fabulous. I also found the speaker on this to be great for taking hands-free calls.
Motorola included a FM Radio in the Moto G, something clearly aimed at emerging markets. The bundled Radio app works quite well, but I found the reception on it somewhat inferior to the kind of reception I get on my “dumb” $40 Samsung phone.
Motorola also threw in a few of its custom app’s like the Motorola Migrate, Motorola Assist etc. which are quite handy. Motorola Migrate is supposed to help you migrate your data etc from your existing phone on to the Moto G. While this may be handy to migrate messages and phone logs, for other items like contacts, photos etc. you don’t really need this app. As long as you sync with your Google account, Android anyway does it for you.Motorola Assist is actually somewhat useful, with features that hold your calls when you are in a meeting or at night (the fabled “Do not disturb” mode). Overall, with the features of Android and the goodies Motorola throws in, it’s been a superb experience to use the phone.
The Moto G features a 5mp primary camera with a flash. While this looks good on paper, the quality of the pictures taken aren’t all that great, especially in low light. In well lit environments though, the camera takes fairly good pictures. The 1.3 mp front facing camera is quite adequate for video calls. My main gripe with the camera is actually the camera app. With the absence of a dedicated camera button, I have found taking pictures slightly cumbersome, with the entire “touch to click” approach. Barring this, if the camera isn’t the most important thing you look for in a phone, the Moto G provides more than a serviceable option. The gallery below showcases some pictures straight out of the Moto G camera.
This is where the Moto G shines the most in my opinion. Motorola promised all day battery life and the Moto G certainly delivers. For the last one month or so, I have been using the Moto G with sync turned on all the time and wi-fi on (6-8 hours daily wi-fi usage). I have been averaging about 2 hours of calls each day and using it for maybe about 1-2 hours in aggregate for surfing. And of course applications like Twitter, Facebook and Gmail are on all the time taking in a couple of minutes every hour on the phone. With all this I generally have about 30% or more battery life left on the phone by the time I am back home each day at about 08:00-08:30 in the evening. While my usage is definitely not heavy, I’m sure most people would be able to get by with similar battery usage on a daily basis.
As of now the only accessories available in India are the various Moto Shells. You have choice between the colored shells, the flip shells and the grip shells. I didn’t really like the colored shells, and the flip covers weren’t easily available in black. After much thought I went for the grip shell. The grip shell encases the Moto G in a nice rubberized bumper like shell. You have to remove the back cover to fit this on, which I felt was a bit weird. It does fit on quite well, and protects the edges from bumps. Only drawback was that the rubberized front is a dirt magnet, so regular cleaning is needed.
Overall for a phone that costs only INR 14,000, the Moto G is a fabulous value for money buy. If your main need is a reliable phone for everyday use, that you can also use for moderate online usage with your favorite apps – it doesn’t get better than this. Go ahead and buy one today.