Motorola Moto G (3rd gen) Review

Software

The Moto G (3rd gen) comes with Android 5.1.1 out of the box, but it’s on Motorola’s list of devices to be upgraded to Android 6.0 Marshmallow in the future. Ever since Google bought Motorola and launched the Moto X in 2013, the company’s phones have kept a rather clean and close-to-stock Android UI. It seems that Lenovo, the latest parent company of Motorola, has decided to keep to this strategy for the time being, which has helped Motorola provide faster software updates than most of its competitors and for longer periods, too, at least at this price level. Most competitors rarely, if ever, provide updates for phones that cost $200 or less.

The operating system UI looks just like you’d expect from stock Android, starting with a clean, uncluttered home screen. Because it’s using the Google Now launcher, the left-most screen will be reserved for the Google Now feature if activated. Swiping down from the top opens the notification shade. Swiping down again reveals the quick settings pane for controlling wireless connectivity and toggles for auto-rotate, location services, flashlight, and the ability to cast the phone’s screen via Chromecast. If these controls are not to your liking, you’re out of luck, because they cannot be customized.

The Moto G (3rd gen) comes with all of the standard Google apps and relies on them almost exclusively. Motorola does replace Google’s stock camera app with its own version and includes the open source Gallery app in addition to Google’s Photos app.

Motorola supplies a few more apps as well such as Migrate, which helps you transfer data from your old phone. For existing Android users, your apps, Wi-Fi settings, contacts, and photos (only if syncing is enabled in the Photos app) can be synced from your Google account. The Migrate app just fills in the gaps by transferring your text messages, call history, SIM contacts, and any local photos, videos, and music. The app can also transfer contacts over Bluetooth for feature-phone users, but iPhone support, which was provided by a third-party service, has been discontinued.

The Moto app is the gateway to enabling a few Motorola specific features. Moto Assist provides additional controls based on locations or activities. For example, you can create a “Sleeping” activity to mute the phone and keep the screen turned off so it does not wake you.

Moto Actions provide gesture based shortcuts such as opening the camera app by twisting your wrist twice and turning on the flashlight by making a chopping motion with your hand. Like the Moto E, the Moto G lacks the sensors that would allow you to wave your hand over the screen to activate Moto Display, and it also lacks the hardware to enable Motorola’s always-on voice controls.

Moto Display is similar to Android Lollipop’s Ambient Display feature, which was modeled after Moto Display. It will show notifications on the lock screen as they arrive in a simplified black and white motif. This is a nice power-saving feature for phones equipped with AMOLED screens, but since the Moto G uses an IPS display, it still needs to activate the whole backlight, negating this benefit. Moto Display’s ability to turn on the screen by tapping on it or by picking up the phone is a nice convenience feature, though.

Another feature the Moto G shares with the Moto E, and one that’s not very common on smartphones, is an FM radio. The phone uses the headphone cable as an antenna, so you cannot listen to the radio with the external speaker. Despite this minor restriction, it’s a feature that some people will certainly enjoy.

Even though the Moto G (3rd gen) comes with 64-bit CPUs, it’s still running 32-bit Android, thereby negating any of the benefits included in AArch64, including access to ARM’s new instructions for accelerating cryptography. This means that full disk encryption is disabled by default, and enabling it would incur a significant performance penalty. Not having a viable disk encryption option leaves your data vulnerable if the device is stolen.

Ultimately, there’s not a lot to say about the Moto G’s software since it’s basically stock Android. If you prefer an uncluttered software experience that adheres to Google’s vision and will not miss the extra features and user interface tweaks found in other OEM skins, then you’ll be happy with Motorola’s light-handed approach.

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24 comments
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  • utroz
    Not bad for a relatively cheap phone..
  • InvalidError
    Yay, one more seemingly decent ~$200 phone that isn't Asia-only.
  • MasterWandu
    Just got the 16GB phone. Best value for money phone I have ever owned. Cannot believe the quality / specs at the price point. It's about as quick / specc'ed as my Nexus 4 that it replaces, but it trumps the Nexus 4 with it's expandable memory and 4G/LTE capabilities. Couldn't recommend it more!
  • gangrel
    I don't game on my phone, so that's never been an issue for me. I do note that app install speeds are very good; download speed I can't really say, as I do all of that on wifi, not cell. I'm quite happy with it.
  • RCFProd
    Had to choose the even cheaper Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 over this one.
  • Glock24
    Why is the ZenFone 2 listed in the specs / comparison table , but not on benchmarks? It's $20 cheaper than the Moto G 16GB/2GB
  • MattBoothDev
    Only issue is it released a couple of months ago, but isn't getting Marshmallow. Bit poor, that.
  • RCFProd
    2118962 said:
    Only issue is it released a couple of months ago, but isn't getting Marshmallow. Bit poor, that.


    it is getting Marshmallow no?
    http://www.androidstandard.com/android-m-will-hit-moto-g-3rd-gen-and-2nd-gen-in-this-fall/
  • ZolaIII
    Not impressed. There are similar spec Chinese phone's with more than 2x lower price like for instance Elephane Trunk. I know it's weird Elephone made a decent phone but strange things happen. As much as Motorola got a developer community and long suport it's not worth 2+x.
  • MobileEditor
    Quote:
    Why is the ZenFone 2 listed in the specs / comparison table , but not on benchmarks? It's $20 cheaper than the Moto G 16GB/2GB


    There are two different versions of the ZenFone 2 (well more if you count the special editions). The less expensive version is shown in the spec table since it's closer in price to the Moto G. We only tested the more expensive version with a faster SoC, so that's why it's not in the benchmark charts. Plus, we already included the more expensive/faster Z8 as the upper bound in the charts. I figured this was more relevant, since it has a more common SoC configuration.

    - Matt Humrick, Mobile Editor, Tom's Hardware
  • gangrel
    How many of those Chinese phones are available outside Asia? And what else are you sacrificing with them?

    One major advantage of the Motorola phones is *minimal* add-ons, and most of em aren't intrusive at all. I don't like most skins. Another point: I have high confidence that Motorola will release security patches very quickly. I have no confidence that some budget Chinese maker will put ANY effort into this.
  • InvalidError
    764133 said:
    I have high confidence that Motorola will release security patches very quickly. I have no confidence that some budget Chinese maker will put ANY effort into this.

    No need to look at no-name brands either: Acer has a poor reputation with dropping firmware updates for their low-end devices merely months from launch.
  • ZolaIII
    764133 said:
    How many of those Chinese phones are available outside Asia? And what else are you sacrificing with them? One major advantage of the Motorola phones is *minimal* add-ons, and most of em aren't intrusive at all. I don't like most skins. Another point: I have high confidence that Motorola will release security patches very quickly. I have no confidence that some budget Chinese maker will put ANY effort into this.

    Not much but hire is one & from Chinese firm behind it that is known for regular updates. It's currently available only in Asian Pacific region but Alcatel is officially present in much more (especially EU) countries than Motorola so it's expected that it arrives & on other markets. By all means it's not perfect but it beats Moto G 3rd gen in lot aspects that are important by the view of general users.

    As I don't want to advertise anyone I will mention only manufacturer & product name so if you are interested in more details browse & particularly pay attention to user opinions & review about it.

    It's Alcatel Flash 2.
  • cypeq
    Moto continues to stomp the market with budget offering that leaves 600$ phones with big question mark near 'why bother'.
  • RCFProd
    309074 said:
    Moto continues to stomp the market with budget offering that leaves 600$ phones with big question mark near 'why bother'.


    As a former 2nd Gen Moto G owner I'd say It's far from that situation.
  • kaalus
    The biggest problem with this phone is poor screen resolution. 5" screen with 720p is way too low. Get a Nexus 5 instead (still available through eBay). It's cheaper. It's smaller with a proper screen. Has no SD card or waterproofing though. But has a faster CPU and already runs Marshmallow.
  • gangrel
    Alcatel Flash 2 is Asian market, and has limited LTE bands...questionable whether it'd work in the US.
  • InvalidError
    173767 said:
    The biggest problem with this phone is poor screen resolution. 5" screen with 720p is way too low.

    720p on a 5" display is already 293ppi, high enough that most people won't really notice resolution any higher than that unless they specifically look for differences. It may seem "way too low" for marketing purposes but as far as real-world usability is concerned, it is perfectly fine for an almost entry-level device.

    Personally, the lack of an SD slot on Nexus devices is a much bigger deal-breaker.
  • DbD2
    Quote:
    How many of those Chinese phones are available outside Asia? And what else are you sacrificing with them? One major advantage of the Motorola phones is *minimal* add-ons, and most of em aren't intrusive at all. I don't like most skins. Another point: I have high confidence that Motorola will release security patches very quickly. I have no confidence that some budget Chinese maker will put ANY effort into this.


    You can buy them all on amazon, they don't generally come with much bloat, and you get twice the phone the current moto g gives you. The main place you suffer is android updates. Imo this latest moto g is still not what the first one was. When that came out it combined what was at the time mid range hardware/screen/etc at a significantly lower price. Now it's distinctly low end with it's low res screen and slow processor.
  • RCFProd
    The 1GB RAM was actually a big issue with the Moto G 2014. It was actually quite slow. Has this been fixed with the new 1GB RAM 2015 model?
  • MobileEditor
    Quote:
    The 1GB RAM was actually a big issue with the Moto G 2014. It was actually quite slow. Has this been fixed with the new 1GB RAM 2015 model?


    As shown on page 7 of the review, the new Moto G has significantly more memory bandwidth than the previous model, in addition to better CPU performance. So no, memory speed is not an issue like it was before.

    - Matt Humrick, Mobile Editor, Tom's Hardware
  • RCFProd
    Actually looks very solid. I love the phone's design even more this year aswell. It's worth considering over the Xiaomi Redmi Note 2, because the support for the phone is simply very very good.
  • RealityOfIt
    Motorola does not sell the XT1548 on their web site and it is not for sale unless through a carrier or service provider. Even though they advertise it as "unlocked". This article should have made this information clear to the readers.
  • RCFProd
    I bought one since I've become a big fan of Motorola since Google took over. The phone runs decent enough, the Android stock experience is beautiful and the phone's design is great and very well built.

    I'm scared because Motorola has been making solid phones but they're not making profit so Google sold them to Lenovo. It's sad when absolutely great phones go unnoticed by the majority because of the Samsung and Apple hierarchy. Hate the fact Motorola is no part of Google anymore. Hopefully Lenovo has great plans with Moto.