Motorola Mobility has a long history of making cellphones, and its Droid series of phones, launched in 2009, are widely considered to be the smartphones that kick-started Android’s rapid growth to be the number one mobile OS worldwide.

In 2011, Google bought Motorola Mobility, only to sell it to Lenovo earlier this year. Still, the three devices born from that partnership, the Moto X, G and E are very much like Google’s Nexus-branded series of phones. They are almost pure expressions of what Google envisions an Android phone should be.

Moto_G_front-1

The Moto G is the model we are looking at today, and it comes in two different flavours. The first model is the Moto G, which only has 3G cellular connectivity, and was released in late 2013. It is available in Canada unlocked from Staples and also from a number of carriers including Telus, Virgin Mobile and Wind. The second model is the new Moto G LTE, which adds support for faster 4G data-connectivity and a microSD slot for additional storage capacity. This model is only available from Fido and Rogers. Other than the data connectivity and storage options, both models have identical hardware.

While it certainly doesn’t have specifications that can compete with other flagship Android devices, not every business user needs all the bells and whistles of those high-end handsets. They just need a well-made and dependable communications tool that gets the job done, like the Moto G. In addition, the area where the Moto G LTE beats all comers (and the reason it is in our top 10) is its value for money. At an outright price of $225, there is no other Android phone that comes close to the Moto G LTE in features and performance for the same price. The 3G Moto G, while lacking a few features, is also a terrific value for money, especially since you can buy it unlocked from Staples.

MOTO G & MOTO G LTE SPECIFICATIONS
Screen 4.5” IPS LCD @ 1280 x 720 (329 PPI)
SoC 1.2 GHz Quad-core Snapdragon 400 (MSM 8226/8926)
RAM 1 GB
Storage 3G Model: 8 GB/ 16 GB, not expandable

LTE Model: 8 GB with microSD expansion slot

Battery 2,070 mAh (non-removable)
Speakers Mono
Rear Camera 5 MP Aptina AR0543 sensor, f/2.4, 37 mm, LED flash, 720p HD video
Front Camera 1.3 MP, 720p HD video
LTE Model Bands 700/850/1700/1900 MHz
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, microUSB 2.0
Build Materials & Colour Black Plastic with optional interchangeable coloured back covers.
Element Protection ‘Water-repellent’ coating
Dimensions & Weight 129.9 x 65.9 x 11.6 mm (5.11 x 2.59 x 0.46 in), 143 g (5.0 oz)
OS Stock Android 4.4.3 with light Motorola customizations

Hardware

Compared to most of the other phones in our top ten business smartphones list, the Moto G is quite small. It only has a 4.5-inch screen, which would have been considered average only a year ago (and large the year before that) for an Android phone. Of course, its screen is still bigger (and higher-resolution) than the 4-inch one of the iPhone 5s, a phone that is more than three times its price.

The Moto G’s screen is just HD (1280 x 720), but since it is only 4.5-inches, it still has a respectable 329 PPI, making it very sharp. It is also an IPS LCD screen with excellent viewing angles, and its colour reproduction and brightness (455 nits maximum) are class-leading. In fact, the Moto G’s screen is comparable in everything but resolution to the screens in some of the top Android flagships current available, and is one of its best features.

While the Moto G is a compact phone when it comes its length and width, it is not the slimmest of smartphones. Motorola obviously had to make some compromises to keep the price down, and we are sure one area was the engineering needed to pack in the components into as slim a space as possible. Of course, at 11.6 mm thick, it is no more than a couple of millimetres thicker than even its thinnest competitor. It is very comfortable to hold, with curves in the right places, and feels very solid in the hand, unlike some other budget handsets that just feel cheap. It is also fairly light at 143 grams.

Moto_G_3_viewThe Moto G’s fit and finish is top-notch — its back cover is made from a premium feeling plastic with a soft-touch matte finish. The Moto G LTE that we tested comes with a black back, but Motorola does offer replaceable back covers in a variety of colours. As far as its buttons and ports go, the Moto G does not break the smartphone mould and has a traditional layout as can be seen in the image above. It also has on-screen Android navigation controls, which has become the standard now, with Samsung being the only holdout that still uses physical buttons below the screen.

The Moto G has a mono speaker on its back which has a decent amount of volume for speakerphone conference calls, but whose sound is not of the greatest quality. As for overall call quality, that is one of the Moto G’s weaknesses, at least from our experiences using a demo Rogers’ unit. The sound quality on calls simply wasn’t as good as many of the other phones we’ve tested, but it is not by any means unusable, you just have to lower your expectations a little.

On the data connectivity side, the Moto G supports HSPA+ connectivity with speeds of up to 21 Mbps. The Moto G LTE supports much faster LTE speeds on Fido and Rogers of up to 75 Mbps.

While the Moto G is not waterproof or water-resistant, it does have what Motorola calls a water-repellent coating that should prevent damage to the phone if splashed with water, such as in a rainstorm. However, none of its ports are sealed so it would not survive being submerged in water for any period.

Moto_G_inside-1As mentioned above, the back cover is removable so you can change it to something more colourful, and on the 3G Moto G the only other purpose this serves is to gain access to the SIM card slot. On the Moto G LTE, it also allows for access to a microSD slot to expand the phone’s storage capacity. On both models the 2,070 mAh battery is sadly not removable, but seeing as the Moto G has pretty good battery life, this is not that much of a loss.

Both the Moto G and Moto G LTE have a 1.2 GHz Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC (system on a chip), that while considered entry level today, is still a pretty powerful chipset that is faster than the SoC’s found in many high-end phones from a few years ago.

RAM is another thing that Motorola cut to save costs and both models only have 1 GB of RAM. While this is still a sufficient amount to run any Android app that you throw at it, having such a small amount of RAM can effect performance when you have a large number of open applications doing tasks in the background. It would be wise to make a habit of visiting the task manager fairly often on the Moto G to close apps that you are not currently using.

As for storage, the Moto G is available with 8 or 16 GB of internal storage. Since this version does not have a microSD slot, we would have a hard time recommending the 8GB model since there is not a huge amount of storage space available for applications, images and documents. The Moto G LTE also only comes with 8 GB of storage, but it thankfully can be expanded using the microSD slot, and this is something we’d highly recommend you do – memory cards are pretty cheap now, and you can pick up a 32 GB microSD card for as low as $25.

Performance

Benchmark Results
  Moto G Galaxy S4 Nexus 5 iPhone 5S
Overall System: AnTuTu X 17165 27340 30076 N/A
CPU: Geekbench 3 Pro Multi-Core 1132 2095 2863 2570
GPU: 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited 4590 10403 16404 14965

As you can see from the performance chart above that compares the Moto G LTE’s overall system, CPU and GPU performance, it certainly isn’t the most powerful smartphone when you look at the raw data. While the Moto G’s overall system performance is about 65 per cent of a flagship phone from last year, the Samsung Galaxy S4, it simply can’t compete on the pure CPU and GPU performance side of things with any of the other phones above. In fact, the Moto G’s performance is more in line with that of flagships from two years ago, such as the Galaxy S III.

When you compare it to entry-level Android phones that have similar specifications and level of performance, you can see why the Moto G is such a great value. Other Snapdragon 400 powered ‘budget’ Android phones, like the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini or the HTC Desire 601, cost up to double the price of the Moto G.

Lastly, for the kind of work that the average business user will use the Moto G for, such as checking email and viewing office documents, the Moto G’s performance is more than sufficient.

As for battery life, while we were not able to formally test the Moto G LTE  to give you a definitive run-time (which can vary drastically anyways, depending on how you use the phone), our experience with it was very good. The phone easily ran well into the evening for us, even with multiple email and social media accounts synchronized to it.

Camera 

Moto_G_back-1

On paper, the Moto G’s camera specifications are not the greatest, but again, this is to keep the cost down. It only has a 5 MP camera on the back and a 1.3 MP at the front. Despite its low megapixel count, the Moto G’s camera does have a f/2.4 aperture, which is better than average for a budget phone, and means its low-light performance is not terrible. Unfortunately, the Moto G’s lens has a 35 mm camera equivalent focal length of 37 mm, which is not particularly wide. This means that you cannot fit as much of what you see into the frame as you can with the cameras found on higher-end phones with wider lenses. Both the front and rear cameras shoot only 720p video.

The Motorola camera app that comes out of the box with the Moto G is very basic. For shooting modes, it just has HDR on/off, slow-motion video mode and panorama mode. There are no scene specific settings or manual controls. The only other setting you can adjust is to change the picture aspect from the full 5 MP 4:3 aspect ratio to a lower-resolution wider 3.8 MP 16:9 aspect ratio. If you want a few more shooting options you can download the official Google camera app, which adds a few more modes, such as Photo Sphere for taking 360-degree images.

Moto G Camera SampleIf you look at the sample image above that was taken with the Moto G, you can see that in decent lighting conditions it takes pictures that look pretty good. The colours are accurate, and this was a picture of a moving train, so the Moto G’s camera is reasonably fast. However, there is not much dynamic range, and if you were to zoom in, you’d be able to see that there isn’t that much detail, due to its low megapixel count.

User interface

Moto_G_screenshot_1Out of the box, the Moto G runs an almost stock version of Android Kit Kat 4.4.3, with a few minor Motorola customizations and pre-installed applications. While it is stock Android, up until recently the Moto G could not run the Google Now launcher that comes with the Nexus series of Google phones. This launcher allows you to swipe to the right to access Google Now, a very useful contextually aware notification and information centre on your phone. Thankfully, Google recently opened up access to this launcher to any device running Android Kit Kat, and you can now download it from the Play Store to the Moto G.

In the screenshots above you can see the Moto G’s homescreen using the upgraded launcher that also makes the icons slightly larger. Next to it is the Google Now screen that can show information such as prices of stocks you follow, the weather, and any upcoming appointments you have, along with driving directions to them. The Google Now launcher also allows you to give the Moto G voice commands right from the homescreen simply by saying “OK, Google.”

While the all the main applications on the Moto G are the stock Google ones, there are still a couple of useful Motorola apps included. One of them is Motorola Assist, first introduced with the Moto X, which allows you to automate certain functions of the phone. For example, Assist can set the phone to automatically silence itself when you are in a meeting and send a text message reply to whoever is calling to let them know you are busy. This is a feature we are sure many business users will appreciate. 

Security and business software features

Moto_G_screenshot_2For productivity, the Moto G comes with Google’s Quickoffice application for viewing and editing Office documents. However, this application has been discontinued, because Google has integrated its features into the newly released separate Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides apps. These work with Google Drive to give you access to your work stored in the cloud from anywhere. You also have the option of installing Microsoft Office Mobile on the Moto G, shown in the first two screenshots above. For business use, you’ll need an Office 365 subscription to create, edit and save documents. Otherwise, you can only view them. Since Office Mobile is tied to Microsoft’s ecosystem, you’ll have to use OneDrive to store your documents.

The Moto G does not come with any pre-installed third party security applications, and while Android Kit Kat does offer some level of device security, we’d advise business users to install something from a trusted security vendor to help protect the phone from malware. Out of all the major mobile OS’s, Android is still the most vulnerable to security threats.

As far as MDM (mobile device management) goes, for SMB users the Moto G LTE supports Motorola’s Device Policy and Android Device Manager, which both allow you to locate, and remote wipe and lock a misplaced or stolen device from a web portal. For larger organizations, you can use EAS (Exchange Active Sync) or an MDM tool like AirWatch or SOTI to manage the Moto G.

Unfortunately, because it is running stock Android (that does not currently have any of the advanced management APIs which Samsung’s Knox or LG’s Gate add), you cannot apply more sophisticated MDM policies, such as advanced application restrictions, to the Moto G.

Conclusion

Whether you opt for the Moto G or the Moto G LTE, you’re going to get some of the best value available on the smartphone market. While they are not as powerful, or fully featured as the $600 – $700 flagship Android phones, they are both also less than half the price. At the same time, you are still getting a well-made phone with good performance for its class, great battery life, a half-decent camera, and a gorgeous crisp 4.5-inch display. For business users, it makes for a great inexpensive communication and productivity tool, and it is nice to see that you have the option to buy the 3G Moto G unlocked in Canada too, so you do not have to tie you or your business to one particular carrier. Hopefully, Motorola Canada will also extend this unlocked device offering to include the LTE model.

The 3G Moto G with 8 GB storage is available for $0 on a two year contract from Koodoo, Telus and Virgin Mobile. Its outright price varies from $150 – $200, depending on the carrier. The 3G Moto G with 16 GB of storage is available unlocked from Staples for $250, and from Wind Mobile and Videotron for $0 on a contract, $230 outright.

The 8 GB Moto G LTE is currently only available from Fido and Rogers, and is $0 on a contract, $225 outright.

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