Motorola Moto G (2nd gen): First impressions

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The Moto G is the Moto X’s little brother. It’s a good-enough smartphone that’s cheaper than the Moto X, just like a kid brother who’s aspiring to be like his older brother. Along with the All New Moto X (2nd gen), Motorola also announced another a new little brother, the Moto G (2nd gen).

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It’s no secret the Moto G has been a huge hit, especially in developing countries; it is the company’s best-selling smartphone to date. The combination of dirt-cheap $180 no-contract pricing (for the 8GB model) and decent performance (and later the addition of an LTE model) has pulled Motorola back from the brink of irrelevance in the Apple and Samsung dominated mobile war.

As with the Moto X (2nd gen), I also got to play with the Moto G (2nd gen). To cut to the chase: I think Motorola has another budget hit again.

Design

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As with the leap from the Moto X to the Moto X (2nd gen), the changes between the Moto G and Moto G (2nd gen) are subtle. The Moto G (2nd gen) still takes very much after the Moto G, but it’s still not quite as svelte as the Moto X.

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On the front of the smartphone is a front-facing speaker (on the bottoM), a 2-megapixel front-facing camera.

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The back is a matte polycarbonate plastic that resembles last year’s Moto X more closely.

Specifications

The internal hardware itself didn’t change at all. It has the same entry-level 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, Adreno 305 450MHz GPU, and 1GB of RAM, which is enough to run Android 4.4.4 fluidly, but only because it’s pure Android. Motorola says it will be one of the first devices “guaranteed” to updated to Android L when that arrives. It will be interesting to see how last year’s processing power handles Android L.

Product NameMoto G (2013)Moto G (2nd gen) (2014)
Weight143 g149 g
Street Price$179.99 (8GB)$179.99 (8GB)
Resolution1280 x 7201280 x 720
Size (Diagonal, Inches)4.5″5″
Processor Name1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 4001.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
RAM1GB1GB
Operating System (OS)Android 4.3Android 4.4.4
Memory Card TypeNoneYes
Built-In Storage8,16 GB8,16 GB
Rear Camera5 MP8 MP
Front Camera1.3 MP2 MP
Battery Capacity (mAh)2070 mAh2070 mAh

Size / Display

5-inch smartphones are the new 4-inch smartphones. That is, most people consider a 5-inch display to be the entry-level baseline (unless you’re Apple, of course). The Moto G (2nd gen)’s display now sits at 5-inches, up from the 4.5-inch display on the Moto G.

The larger display doesn’t mean a higher resolution, though. The Moto G (2nd gen) retains the same 1280 x 720 resolution as its predecessor, which is a bummer because while the new screen is sharp, the 5-inch size is a natural fit for Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution.

In regards to the size of the Moto G (2nd gen)…well it’s not uncomfortable. It’s just barely usable with a single hand (I have small hands). As I noted in my Moto X (2nd gen) first-impressions, the 4.7-inch Moto X (2013) and the 5-inch LG G2 (2013) are really the perfect size in terms of large-enough display/one-handed usage compromise.

Camera

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The Moto G (2nd gen) has a new 8-megapixel camera and slightly better 2-megapixel front camera. I didn’t have a Moto G on hand to compare the image quality, so I can’t judge yet. I’d say the image quality is okay, but not great. I can see some more detail when zooming in on photos, but the shutter is still slow (the lens/aperture animation doesn’t help at all). Details get washed out easily. I need to test it in more detail before I can determine if the camera is really a dud or not. But my first impression is that the camera is only marginally better.

Front-facing Speakers

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Sound is another thing Motorola says original Moto G owners wanted improved. The Moto G (2nd gen), like the new Moto X (2nd gen) has a front-facing speaker. I admit, sound is clearer and less tinny on the Moto G, but only because the audio is now projected towards you and not away from you.

But there is one difference: the Moto G (2nd gen) has stereo speakers, whereas the Moto X (2nd gen) only has a single-front-facing speaker.

This is a personal preference, but I’m not a fan of the two metallic rod-like speaker grills. Something more akin to the micro-drilled holes on the HTC One (M7) and HTC One (M8) is more attractive.

Dual SIM + DTV (Select models)

Smartphones equipped with dual SIM card slots are rare in the Western world, but go to China and Latin America and it’s a common sight. For whatever reason, some people want to manage two phone numbers on one smartphone. The Moto G (2nd gen) lets you do that, kinda.

By that, I mean there will be three models of the Moto G coming out. In the U.S., the only model is the single SIM one. In other regions, a dual SIM model will be available. And if you’re in Brazil, a 16GB model with dual SIM card slots and DTV (digital TV tuner) will be available.

Storage Expansion

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One of the reasons why the Moto G is so affordable is because it starts at $180 for an 8GB model. That may have been a lot of storage in 2008, but it’s insufficient today. The addition of a microSD card slot to the Moto G (2nd gen) is very welcome for those who want to start small, but add more storage later for cheap (seriously, microSD cards are ridiculously cheap nowadays).

But don’t run out and buy a 128GB microSD card. The Moto G (2nd gen) only supports up to 32GB microSD cards.

More Moto Shells

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The Moto G doesn’t have Moto Maker, but it does have swappable rear covers. The Moto G (2nd gen) has the same removable rear covers aka Moto Shells. Black-colored devices come with black covers and white with white covers.

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A Flip Shell with a built-in magnetic cover that protects the screen will also be available in numerous colors.

Pricing and Availability

Motorola is selling the Moto G (2nd gen) as an unlocked and no-contract device today in the U.S. on Motorola.com for $179.99 (same price as the 1st gen Moto G). The Moto G (2nd gen) is also available in the UK, Brazil, Germany, and Spain on their own respective Motorola websites.

Read more about android 4.4.4, Moto G (2014) and Motorola.

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Key SpecsMoto G (2014)
StatusReleased
Display Diagonal5"
Processor/Soc NameSnapdragon 400, 4-core, 1.2 GHz
Street Price (Approx)~ $145
Search low Moto G (2014) price (Amazon)
Max. Total Storage Capacity48 GB
Megapixels8 MP
Battery Capacity (mAh)2070 mAh
Complete product dataMotorola Moto G (2014) Full specs and details


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