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The much awaited Moto G, Motorola's economy Android smartphone, has finally been launched in India. The phone has won accolades the world over for its low price and great performance combo, and for bringing the focus back to usability instead of high-end specifications, a trend Motorola started with the Moto X, its flagship smartphone. We try to find out if Moto G really lives up to the hype surrounding it, in our review.

What's in the box

Unlike the international version of the Moto G, the Indian version imported by Flipkart includes a charger and a headset. It doesn't include a USB cable so you'll need to buy one to transfer data to the phone. Other than these, you'll find the user manual and a warranty-related document. The Moto G comes with a standard black coloured back panel, but additional back panels in other colours can be ordered separately.




Build and design

One of the most striking things about the Moto G is its minimalist no-frills design. The phone's look is essentially based on Moto X which is not available in India at this moment.

Moto G feels good to hold despite it being heavy at 143 gram and a bit thick at 11.6mm due to its curved back and rounded corners that take care of ergonomics. The phone is made from plastic materials but feels durable. Although it comes with a removable back panel, the construction is excellent. The back panel fits snugly, with no creaks and wobbles.

At first glance, the only thing you notice is the Moto G's shiny black front panel devoid of any distractions. There's no branding and no hardware buttons. The 1.3MP front camera and a notification LED placed next to the earpiece are the only other components visible.

Turn on the phone, and the 4.5-inch 720p IPS edge-to-edge display comes to life bursting with pixels. The phone's front bezel is designed in a manner so as to put all the focus on the display, making it the centre of attention. On the sides, the bezel is pretty narrow, but it takes up considerable amount of space below the display, which is a good thing as the navigation controls are easily accessible.

There's a minor gap between the edge of the front panel, which is slightly raised, and the display that tends to attract dust particles. The edge may also be susceptible to wear and tear once you start using the phone. The display comes with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection guarding the screen against scratches. Moto G is the only phone in this price range to feature Gorilla Glass 3.

The right edge of the Moto G features the narrow Power/ Screen lock keys which are made of metal and offer decent tactile feedback. However, we wish the volume rocker key would have been a little longer as we ended up hitting the power key during the initial period of use.

The 3.5mm headset jack sits at the top while the micro-USB port is placed at the bottom edge of the phone. There are no ports or buttons on the left edge.

The back of the phone, which is essentially the removable back cover, is curved and sports a rubberized soft matte finish, that makes holding the phone a pleasant experience. It features the phone's 5MP rear camera lens, an LED flash and Motorola logo (in an indent). We also found the back prone to smudges, but it is thankfully easy to clean.

Moto G also comes with a nano-coating that makes is water resistant up to a certain level. It will be able to handle minor splashes, but most likely won't survive a dip in the pool.

Overall, the Moto G is a compact and durable no-frills smartphone that is built to last.

Software

The dual-sim version of Moto G available in India comes with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. Motorola has promised that the phone will get the Android 4.4 KitKat software update in the coming days. At the time of filing of this review, our Moto G unit had not received an update and was still running Jelly Bean.

Moto G runs an almost stock version of Android complete with on-screen navigation controls. The interface is close to Google's Nexus 4 except that Motorola also includes some of its own apps. Thankfully, these apps are not bloatware and add to functionality. One of the Motorola app called Assist changes how the phone alerts you during meetings or sleep. If you've used an iPhone, you must have used or come across the Do Not Disturb; Assist is similar and allows you to silence or auto reply to missed calls while you're in a meeting or sleeping. You can choose exceptions for Favourite callers or when someone calls twice.

Another Motorola app bundled with the phone is Moto Care. The app is not only a searchable user guide featuring Tutorials, FAQs, How-tos and actionable tips, it also offers a shortcut key to get in touch with Motorola's customer care. Motorola Migrate allows you to transfer content and settings from your old Android phone or iPhone.

The dual-sim Moto G also comes with settings for managing the behavior of two sim cards, allowing you to choose the default connection for data, calls and messaging.

That's about it. You get a pretty neat slate to customize as per your own preference and use the apps that you wish to.

The Android 4.4 KitKat update is expected to bring some minor cosmetic improvements including white notification icons and a transparent notification bar, a new Phone dialer app, some camera improvements in addition to other changes under the hood.

Camera

Moto G is an economy smartphone and despite the phone delivering more than what other smartphones in the price segment offer, the limitations are apparent when it comes to the camera.

The phone comes with a 5MP rear camera and a 1.3MP front facing camera. The rear camera can capture 720p video and also comes with an LED flash for taking pictures in low-light conditions.

Motorola ships its own camera app with the phone which is pretty bare bones when it comes to offering granular settings but designed keeping in mind the casual camera user. You'll only see two controls - one for switching to the video camera and the other to switch between the front and rear lenses till you swipe from the edge to the right side of the screen to reveal an arc shaped dial that features controls for HDR mode, LED flash, focus & exposure, slow motion, Panorama mode, geo-tagging, widescreen mode and shutter sound. Similar to the Windows Phone camera app, you click pictures by tapping anywhere on the screen. The soft viewfinder can be moved up and down to zoom in and out or shift focus.

We were pretty impressed by the images captured by the Moto G outdoors, during daylight. The images had good amount of detail, reproduced colour accurately and good contrast, especially in HDR mode. Pictures captured in low-light conditions and indoors were not that great but noise levels were comparatively lower than other phones in the same price range.

The rear camera can capture 720p video and we found the quality to be satisfactory.

The front camera comes in handy for taking selfies and for video chats, and does a decent job.

Performance

Moto G is known for offering the level of performance which is only delivered by phones costing Rs 10,000 more than it. At the heart of the phone is the 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor coupled with Adreno 305 graphics and 1GB RAM. We did not notice any lag whatsoever while navigating through the phone's menu, launching apps and switching between them.

We were able to play games like Temple Run 2, Banana Kong, and Asphalt 8 without encountering frame drops or freezes. Despite the limited RAM, the phone is a great gaming device.

In synthetic benchmarks, it beats competitors like the Micromax Canvas Turbo Mini by a margin. The phone scored 17,404 in Antutu, 8574 in Quadrant and 57.9 in Nenamark 2 benchmark tests. Some of these scores are better than the Nexus 4.

Out of the 16GB storage, 12.92GB is available to the user. Unfortunately, you can't expand the storage as the phone doesn't come with a memory card slot. Google is offering 50GB free cloud storage in Google Drive with the phone but we don't see cloud storage going mainstream till data connectivity gets better and data tariffs go cheaper.

Moto G offers Bluetooth, WiFi and GPS connectivity options. Interestingly, it comes with a trusted Bluetooth feature allowing you to disable lock screen when the phone is paired with a device specified as 'trusted.' This means you don't need to unlock the screen to change tracks when listening to music via Bluetooth headphones.

Moto G offers excellent call quality and signal reception and we did not encounter issues while making calls even in areas where cell signal is relatively weaker. The phone was able to lock to GPS without any hiccups.

Moto G offers FM radio but unfortunately, you can't listen to it through the phone's speaker even when you've plugged in the headphones to use as an antenna. It also doesn't offer a recording feature. We were able to play most popular video and audio file formats.

The external speaker on the phone offers loud sound output though it lacks bass. Of course the sound gets muffled when the phone lies on its back, which is an issue.

The phone is backed by a 2070 mAh battery and will last you a complete day even if you put the screen brightness at the highest level and use 3G data all the time. You'll be able to make about 2-3 hours of phone calls, play some casual games and browse the web in this time period. The phone can play video continuously for 7 to 8 hours.

Overall, the Moto G offers impressive performance and using it as our daily driver turned out to be a pleasant experience.

Verdict

There has been a vacuum in the Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 price segment when it comes to quality Android smartphones. Indian brands do somewhat fill the gap but the after-sales experience has left many customers high and dry. Also, the build quality and finish of these devices leaves a lot to be desired.

The Moto G addresses this very segment delivering great performance at an affordable price. We would not shy away for calling it a value for money proposition as the phone is well built and comes with the promise of latest software. We hope Motorola (even after completion of its acquisition by Lenovo) continues to offer software updates and ensures good level of on-ground after sales support.

There's no other Android phone we can recommend in the price segment. If you're fine with Windows Phone and want a better camera, the Nokia Lumia 720 is a good option.

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