Editors' note (September 5, 2014): Motorola has announced the sequel to this phone, the 2014 Motorola Moto G.
With the Moto G, Motorola threw a giant spanner in the works of the mobile world. Its lineup of mid-range specs were paired with an amazingly low price, making it the best value phone by a country mile. It made reviewing phones somewhat repetitive -- time after time I was forced to conclude, "This phone is fine, but the Moto G offers the same performance for much less money."
Its only downsides were a lack of expandable storage and no 4G LTE. In the UK, that wasn't much of a problem as 4G was still very new and still rather expensive. In the US, 4G was much more common, so its omission was more of an issue. Motorola has rectified both, adding 4G and a microSD card slot to this new revamped version of the Moto G.
It remains the same in every other respect, except price -- you still get the best screen at the price, a very capable quad-core processor, a 5-megapixel camera and the latest version of Android, 4.4.3 KitKat.
It's on sale now in the UK for free on contracts starting from £19 per month at retailers such as Phones 4U, or SIM-free for £149 with 8GB of built-in storage from Amazon. In the US, you can get the phone directly from Motorola's online store for $219 off-contract. In Australia, the Moto G is AU$299 -- just AU$50 more than the non-4G original.
That's a small increase on the 3G Moto G's price of £119 or $179 unlocked, with the older version continuing to be on sale alongside the new one. Motorola also has another new phone for you, though, and it's even cheaper: the $130/£90/AU$179 Moto E. You can read all about the Moto E here.
Design and display
Although it now packs a 4G LTE radio inside, the Moto G remains physically unchanged. I found the older Moto G's 4.5-inch body to be very comfortable to hold, thanks to its curved back, which fits snugly into your palm. The new model is exactly as comfortable. It's also not so big as to make you dislocate your thumb every time you try to type with one hand.
The plastic back panels are interchangeable and there are a host of different colours available, along with ruggedised cases and flip covers that protect the screen. The Moto G is also now in white, although the white model is not quite as widely available. I was keen on the new hue at the launch event -- it definitely brightens it up, particularly when it's paired with a light-coloured back, so I'm hoping it becomes easier to get hold of soon.
Underneath the swappable cover is the microSD card slot. The lack of expandable storage was a disappointment on the older Moto G, as it was only available with 8 or 16GB. While 16GB is probably adequate for most people, if you were shopping on a budget and only wanted to spring for the 8GB model, you'd quickly find yourself running out of space once you've downloaded your favourite apps and songs. The new model comes with only 8GB, but with the option to pop in 32GB microSD cards (available for around £10, or $15), storage shouldn't be an issue.
The 4.5-inch display has a 1,280x720-pixel resolution, giving a really good density of 326 pixels per inch. Couple that with its high brightness, vivid colours and decent viewing angles, and the Moto G has easily the best screen available on a budget phone.
Motorola doesn't seem to have fiddled with the display on the 4G model, which still looks every bit as crisp and bold as before, outperforming similar budget 4G phones such as the EE Kestrel (which is UK-only) and the Nokia Lumia 635. Both those phones can be picked up for £100 (around $170, although US prices are yet to be confirmed), which is a decent chunk of cash.
Android KitKat software
The Moto G first launched last year with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean on board, but was updated to 4.4.2 KitKat in January. The 4G model comes with KitKat as standard, with new features such as the ability to display video and games at full screen without the navigation buttons taking up space. It also lets you search for local businesses directly from the contacts app.
Unlike most manufacturers, who like to put their own stamp on Android, Motorola has done very little to the interface. In fact, it's pretty much stock Android, so if you've ever used an Android device before, there'll be nothing new here for you to get your head around. The G does have a couple of additions, including Motorola Assist, which performs set tasks such as automatically silencing your phone when you have a meeting scheduled.
Thanks to the almost complete lack of any interface tweaks by Motorola, the Android experience is extremely easy to get to grips with, whether you're an Android veteran or completely new to the smartphone world.
Processor and battery performance
The 4G Moto G has the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor as the previous version. It's a 1.2GHz quad-core affair, backed up by 1GB of RAM, and I found it to be more than powerful enough for most common tasks. Instagramming food and sending horrific selfies over WhatsApp were handled without any issue.
It turned its hand to demanding games like Asphalt 8 fairly well, although frame rates did drop at times -- more basic games like Cut The Rope are well within its capabilities.