In 2013, four out of every 10 smartphones sold in the world were priced below $200 (approximately Rs 12,500), according to IDC. Shocking as it may sound, there is not a single Android smartphone in this price segment that stands out. Most smartphone vendors manage to hit that price point by cutting corners and using inferior quality components. This is more the case with tier one vendors, who struggle to let go of overhead costs and margin pressures. The result is that users are expected to make compromises and they have been forced to adhere to the notion that you can only get so much at this price.
Motorola seeks to change that with the Moto G. Priced at Rs 12,499 for the 8GB variant and Rs 13,999 for the 16GB version, Motorola claims that the Moto G can provide the same experience as a flagship smartphone at a third of the price. Does it? Let’s find out.
At a glance, the Moto G is a nondescript smartphone devoid of any special design touches. The front, like every other smartphone, is dominated by the display but comes without any dedicated menu buttons – those are now on-screen. By default it comes in all black color, though users can buy shells and flap covers in myriad colors and add some life to the otherwise boring design.
But hold the phone and everything changes. The back is slightly curved that makes the phone comfortable to hold. Even though it is made of plastic, the Moto G feels extremely sturdy. Everything snaps into place perfectly and the phone does not creak when held tightly. The back panel doesn’t flex either. The Moto G’s overall build quality is much better than what we get from other products priced much higher than it.
On the specifications front, the Motorola Moto G is not exactly game changing. So we are looking at a 4.5-inch 720p display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor humming at 1.2GHz with 1GB of RAM and an Adreno 305 GPU. Other features include dual-SIM support with both SIM card slots being 3G-enabled, a 5-megapixel rear camera and a 1.3-megapixel front facing camera. There is a 2,070mAh non-removable battery and it comes in 8GB and 16GB variants. It lacks a microSD card slot.
But specs on paper tell just half the story. The Moto G’s specs might sound similar to those available from local Indian smartphone brands but what differentiates the two is the quality and performance. Let’s start with the display. There are many brands that come with a 720p display at this price point but we are yet to come across any that can provide the same color reproduction, viewing angles and sunlight visibility as the Moto G’s display. The display is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 protective layer, which means coins or keys in the pocket won’t scratch the display. I have been using the Moto G for a week now and I’m not the most careful user, often ending up with two phones or a phone along with coins or keys in the same pocket. There’s not a single scratch on the display.
Rather than using an older generation processor, which is what many smartphone vendors do at this price point, Motorola has gone for the latest Qualcomm chipset aimed at this price segment. With an almost stock Android UI, using the Moto G does not feel very different from using a high-end smartphone for most daily tasks. Of course, there is a noticeable performance dip if one is multitasking with processor intensive tasks. However, in my usage, I didn’t encounter that very often.
Apart from the specifications and build quality, Motorola has added a very unique feature at this price point – it has added a water repellant nano coating both inside and outside the device. It does not mean that you can submerge it in a bowl of water (though there are videos online demonstrating that), but having this feature gives a sense of security that nothing will happen to the phone in case you accidentally spill anything on it or get caught in the rain.
Motorola has been able to take all these hardware components and mesh them together into a pleasing experience. While other vendors try to differentiate themselves with various skins and launchers on top of Android, it is the Moto G with its almost pure stock Android that stands out from the crowded smartphone market. It provides the most fluid user experience at this price point and in certain situations can even compete with some of the flagship smartphones. The Moto G currently runs on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean but Motorola has already started rolling out Android 4.4.2 KitKat update in some countries and has promised to release the update in India in coming days.
The one area where the Moto G disappoints is its camera. While the photos usually come out with decent sharpness and color reproduction, those are good enough just to post on social networks. You would rarely every get a shot that would make your jaw hit the floor. Yes, its camera quality would be similar if not slightly better than competing smartphones in this price segment but that is the standard the Moto G has set for itself – a low priced smartphone does not have to mean the user should compromise on the experience and be constantly reminded that they are using a budget smartphone.
Using the Moto G as a primary smartphone for a week has been nothing short of a revelation. For doing most of the regular tasks, the Moto G does not feel as if you are using a budget smartphone. Watching videos on its 329ppi display, browsing the web with its HSPA+ connectivity (most phones in this price range top out at HSPA) or just the build quality of the phone makes it feel more premium than phones priced much higher.
Then there is the battery, which consistently lasted me about 15 hours of heavy usage that included about 4 hours of browsing, an hour of calls, two email accounts configured for push, two Twitter accounts and one Facebook account. I had 3G switched on at all times with occasional Wi-Fi usage. Another thing I noticed was, plugging in the phone to charge even for 15 minutes would add an hour or so of overall battery life.
But that does not mean there is nothing amiss in the Moto G. I believe Motorola should have given a microSD card slot in the Moto G. It would have been perfectly alright with even 4GB of internal memory and a microSD card slot instead of having 8GB and 16GB variants. I wonder if Motorola could have priced the Moto G even lower had it done that? The back cover gets dirty easily and seems to pick up skin grease while the gap between the raised edges and the display is a perfect spot for dust and pocket lint to accumulate. The camera could have been better too.
Despite these shortcomings, the Moto G provides a far better experience than most smartphones – even those priced at Rs 20,000. I find the 4.5-inch display size to be perfect for one-handed usage. If you are in the market looking for the greatest smartphone priced below Rs 20,000, look no further. Even if you have a budget higher than Rs 20,000 and are not much into gaming or photography, even then the Moto G is a great buy!
Photographs: Paranjay Dutt