When Motorola launched the first Moto G, it struck a chord with people who did not want to pay $600 or more for a smartphone but needed a basic phone that “just worked.” Now in its third generation, the Moto G has evolved, overcoming many of its earlier shortcomings.
The upgrade to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 410 SoC brings a 4G LTE modem and a significant boost to system performance. The user interface is more responsive, web pages load quicker and scroll more smoothly, and overall lag is reduced. More memory bandwidth and faster internal storage also help apps launch quicker and help the Moto G feel more mid-range than entry-level. This is especially true if you spend the extra $40 to get the model with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage.
While overall system performance improves, graphics performance takes a small step backwards. The Moto G (3rd gen) is about 10% slower when playing games compared to the previous generation, whose performance was hardly stellar. Most casual games and 2D scrollers should play smoothly, but more intense 3D titles, while mostly playable, will experience some stutters and possibly be missing some graphical features.
One area where the Moto G (3rd gen) really shines is battery life. It’s relatively large 2470mAh battery, 400mAh bigger than the previous Moto G, makes it one of the longest-lasting phones we’ve tested while running a moderate workload. In normal use, we were getting anywhere from one to three days of battery life depending on how frequently we turned it on and how bright the screen was.
Speaking of the screen, Motorola continues to place an emphasis on display calibration, improving on the previous generation and giving the Moto G what's likely the most accurate display of any mid-range phone. Color accuracy is better than on some of the flagship phones we've tested. Screen brightness and viewing angles are also good, but one flaw tarnishes an otherwise good display: a hazy coating reduces sharpness and vibrancy.
The Moto G’s new rear camera is capable of shooting some nice photos, especially in bright light or when using its flash. In these conditions, image noise remains low but noise reduction processing smears away fine detail. Its color accuracy is generally good, but there’s a tendency for photos to appear a little too yellow. The Moto G’s HDR mode presents a similar story: It produces some nice results, although its results can look a bit less natural than other cameras. With less light available, the Moto G’s camera performs on par with other 13 MP shooters.
All of this hardware is wrapped in a simple but attractive package. The third-generation Moto G keeps to the design language used by Motorola on previous phones, but gets an updated removable rear cover with a pattern of ridges, making the phone easy to grip. There's also a new metal accent strip surrounding the rear camera. What really sets the Moto G and other Moto phones apart from the crowd, however, is the ability to customize the appearance through Motorola's Moto Maker website. Combining different colors for the front, back, and rear accent strip is a fun way to custom order a phone that satisfies your personal taste.
The Moto G runs 32-bit Android Lollipop as it comes from Google, providing a clean and uncluttered experience that’s free of the typical OEM and carrier bloatware. Motorola does replace the stock Android Camera app with its own simplified version and adds its Moto app for controlling the few features it adds such as gesture-based controls for quickly opening the camera or turning on the flashlight and Moto Display, a different spin on Android’s Ambient Display feature. The only downside is that stock Android is missing a few capabilities most OEM skins add, including customization options. You’ll need to be comfortable installing third-party solutions if you want more control over how the operating system looks and works.
The well-calibrated display, quality internal components, good cameras, solid build quality, and uncluttered software experience give the Moto G a polished feel many phones in this price range lack. Combining this with a relatively large battery that lasted longer than nearly every phone we’ve ever tested, makes Motorola’s latest mid-range phone a compelling choice.
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware, covering News. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.