Hands on: Motorola Moto G (2015)

The New Moto G is the best phone you can buy for $180

If you’re looking for a good phone, don’t need the greatest, and have $200 – look no further than the 2015 Moto G.

Motorola set the gold standard for budget phones with the first Moto G, and its new one is set to raise the bar yet again. Other sub-$200 phones will turn green with envy over the 2015 Moto G’s fun customizable color options, waterproof build, and sharp 13-megapixel camera. It’s a killer budget phone, and Motorola’s selling it for just $180 — $10 more than HTC’s sleek Desire 626S, which has slightly less powerful specs.

The kick-ass camera and Moto Maker customization options are the cherries on top an already sweet deal, but is it worth buying if you’ve got an older Moto G or some other budget phone? We’ve used the new Moto G for a few hours – Here are our first impressions.

Make it your own with Moto Maker

Most budget phones are as ugly as homemade sin – with the noted exception of HTC’s Desire 626, which was recently released. Motorola’s new Moto G is prettier than most, and Motorola offers some truly fabulous colorful back covers that will overjoy anyone who’s bored to death of black. We saw a charming golden rod yellow, hot pink, bright green, and a number of other excellent color options at the Motorola launch event. You can even customize the metal accent on the back of the phone with a bright pop of color.

The fact that the Moto G has LTE, costs $180, and is fully waterproof is incredible.

It’s a brilliant idea to expand Moto Maker’s customization engine to the Moto G. Even though it’s Motorola’s cheapest smartphone, it’s also one of its most popular devices ever – especially in emerging markets. Anyone who wants to buy their kid a cool looking phone or just wants to save money on their own device will be glad to have more than the basic black option.

The build is mostly solid, and despite lacking a metal frame, the Moto G feels sturdy and solid. The slight curve to the back makes it comfortable, though it is chunkier in the middle than HTC’s Desire 626. The only issue we had with the back cover is that it creaks if you press down next to the metal insert in the center on the back. The Moto G is a budget phone, so it can’t be perfect, but after holding the HTC Desire 626, which has a seamless plastic build that feels wildly premium for such a cheap phone, the little creak was disappointing.

It could simply be an issue with our early review unit, though. The models on the tables at the event seemed fine – of course, it was impossible to hear the tiny creaky sound what with all the tech journalists bustling about.

It’s waterproof

It’s also important to note that the Moto G is waterproof in 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes, thanks to an IPX7 rating. We saw a Moto G take a dive into a shallow pool and live to tell the tale. It even played a movie the whole time it was underwater. Waterproofing is something that should be on every phone, but it’s not – even on many leading flagship phones. The fact that the Moto G has LTE, costs $180, and is fully waterproof is incredible.

Solid specs for a sub-$200 phone

The Moto G’s durable waterproof body sports a 5-inch touchscreen with a 720p resolution. Although it’s not 1080p, the Moto G’s screen is luminous and sharp. If you want to pick a fight about pixels, you shouldn’t even look at phones that cost less than $400. That said, 720p looks great on the Moto G, and only pixel purists will notice the absence of those extra pixels. Unlike some previous Moto G phones, this one is also fully loaded with 4G LTE high speed capabilities.

Powering the new Moto G 2015 is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 410 processor, a quad-core 64-bit chip running at 1.4GHz. It may not be the fastest processor in the world, but it’s a lot faster than the Snapdragon 210 in the HTC Desire 626, which is still better than what you’d find in almost any budget phone. Motorola will offer two versions of the Moto G: a 2GB RAM and16GB storage combo, and another 1GB RAM and 8GB storage version. Regardless of which one you choose, the MicroSD card slot will allow you to expand the memory significantly.

A 2470mAh battery powers the phone, and should last all day – especially with that 720p screen. Just like the Moto X and all of Motorola’s phones, the Moto G runs pure Android 5.1.1 Lollipop as Google intended. Fans of stock Android will be very pleased with the nice clean look.

A flagship phone’s camera on a budget phone

The camera alone is likely motivation enough for many wallet-conscious shoppers to consider the Moto G. After all, the exact same 13-megapixel camera on the back of the Moto G can be found on the Nexus 6, which in case you’ve forgotten is a $600+ flagship smartphone made by both Motorola and Google. Although Motorola gets a lot of complaints with its cameras, the Nexus 6 camera was pretty decent, and it’s more than good enough for a budget phone.

Moto G 2015

Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends

The camera also sports an improved lens, an IR filter, an f/2.0 aperture, and a dual-tone color-balancing flash unit. We’ve taken a few pictures of it on this sunny day in New York, and it took some lovely pictures of the Empire State Building. Indoor shots are iffier, and we’ll need to test it more before we make a definitive ruling. Even so, it’s undoubtedly one of the best cameras on a sub-$200 phone.

A 5-megapixel selfie camera sits on the front that’s higher resolution than the front-facing cam on any iPhone, which again, costs $500+. Motorola invested in cameras on the Moto G, which makes perfect sense, people buy smartphones, in part, to take nice pictures. However, most budget phones offer terrible cameras with super low resolutions. Not so with the new Moto G.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a good smartphone, you don’t need the latest and greatest, and you’ve got $200 burning a hole in your pocket – look no further than the Moto G. Based on our first few hours with the device, it’s a splendid budget phone. The customization options, high-res camera, and decent battery take it to another level that most budget phones don’t come close to approaching.

We’ll post a full review in the near future with more details on the camera, performance, and battery life, though, so stay tuned.

Highs

  • Excellent value for the $180 price
  • Customizable back covers
  • Waterproof rating of IPX 7
  • Great 13-megapixel camera

Lows

  • Not the fastest processor
  • Plastic back is a little creaky
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