Of the many things the technology press is to be blamed for, giving far too much importance to hardware specifications and synthetic benchmarks would rank among the top. We don’t take a minute to write off a gadget based purely on its specifications or what score it gets on some popular synthetic benchmarks. Hands-on “reviews” are written and filmed based on spending minutes with a device, that basically tell nothing but the specifications of the smartphone. If a smartphone with better specifications is available at a lower price, it automatically becomes a better device without any consideration given to the user experience. With the third generation Moto G, Motorola teaches an important lesson – we should stop judging a smartphone by its specifications.
Motorola invented the cellphone and it is safe to assume that its engineers know a thing or two about making them. One of the key learnings the company has thankfully retained is that user experience comes first and foremost. While most smartphone makers are in a downward spiral competing against each other to offer the best hardware specifications at the lowest price, Motorola continues to focus at providing the best user experience at the lowest price.
Most of us confuse the terms ‘features’ and ‘specifications’ to mean the same thing. A smartphone might have great specifications, but it might not have great features. It might have an octa-core processor (a specification), but it isn’t exactly a feature if it heats up or drains the battery. It might have a 13-megapixel camera, but the photo results of an 8-megapixel camera on another smartphone might be superior.
Apple has taught everyone the importance of focusing on user experience and not specifications. People don’t buy an iPhone because of the number of cores in its processor or the number of megapixels in its camera. They buy an iPhone because of its fluid UI and the results they get from its camera. Not many users would even know or care to know about what it the clock speed of their iPhone’s processor or the RAM it has.
Unfortunately, that cannot be said about Android smartphones. They are marketed, bought and even used mostly according to their specifications. The trouble with that is many companies are more focused on ensuring their products have the latest and greatest specification in its price point, especially in the mid-end and entry-level segments. The hardware becomes the USP, user experience be damned. At times like these, the Moto G comes as a whiff of fresh air.
On paper (and in the minds of those who care more about the hardware specs), the Moto G 16GB priced at Rs 12,999 is dead on arrival with its Snapdragon 410 processor and 720p display. Heck, companies are giving octa-core processors and full HD 1080p displays for under Rs 10,000. But if you use the Moto G (third-generation) for a week, you would understand the difference between specifications and features. The Moto G is a feature loaded smartphone for its price. It isn’t the thinnest smartphone in its category. It doesn’t have the fastest processor in this price segment. The Moto G doesn’t even have the highest resolution display either. Yet, it provides one of the best user experience you can get under Rs 15,000.
The smartphone feels reassuringly solid and sturdy to hold. This time around, the Moto G has a textured back that provides good grip. The designers have also added a metal insert around the camera that also houses the two-tone flash and the dimpled Motorola logo.
The front is dominated by the 5-inch 720p display, which is flanked by considerably thick bezels on the top and bottom. The bottom bezel houses the front-firing speaker. The edges are now inspired by the Moto X with its smooth curves and faux metal trimming. The Moto G (third generation) might not be a show stopper but is quite a looker nevertheless.
The magic starts as soon as you pick up the phone. With the Moto Display feature you will get to see notifications on the lock screen without even turning the display on. This is a feature that was available on the higher-end Moto X and has percolated down to the Moto G. It is a neat little feature that minimizes the need to switch on the display every time there is a new notification. It certainly ends up saving battery.
Talking about the display, while it might not be full HD, I found it to be good enough with punchy colors and bright enough to be legible under direct sunlight. It comes with Gorilla Glass 3 protection. If I were to nitpick, the colors tend to distort at extreme viewing angles.
Like all Motorola smartphones, even the Moto G (third generation) runs on stock Android with minor UI changes. This has multiple benefits. The first one is that Motorola has proved time and again is that about fast Android updates. In fact, Motorola has pushed out the latest Android updates to its phones even before Google could push them out for Nexus devices. Currently, it runs on Android 5.1.1, but I won’t be surprised if it is one of the first smartphones to get upgraded to Android M, whenever Google releases the final version.
The second big advantage is that it runs fluidly even on a Snapdragon 410 chipset. I had the 16GB variant for review, which comes with 2GB of RAM and I did not face any lags whatsoever. This cannot be said for most smartphones in this price range that come with their own UI skins on top, which lag and stutter even when they run on faster processors.
Motorola says the camera module on the Moto G is the same as the one it used on the Nexus 6. It shows. Photos in well lit conditions are crisp and detailed. Those in low light tend to be grainy, especially if like me you try avoid using flash. The camera UI like earlier Moto phones is clutter-free and clean. It starts in auto-focus mode by default where you just have to tap the display to click a photo. Swiping on the display from left to right brings in more options. Sadly, there are not many manual options. There is a bracket mode where you can choose where to focus and adjust the exposure using a dial, but that’s about it.
The front-facing 5-megapixel selfie camera managed to click quite some decent shots even in low light conditions. In such situations, once you frame the shot and press the display or volume button to click the photo, the display turns white to illuminate the subject for a better shot that what you would get from most selfie cameras.
Another feature of the Moto G that no other smartphone under Rs 15,000 (barring the Moto E) is its water resistance. The Moto G has IPX7 rating, which means it won’t get damaged when kept under 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes. While we won’t suggest you go to the shower with it, but the phone can resist a few splashes or accidental drops into puddles.
In terms of other features, the Moto G supports 4G LTE and comes with dual-SIM card slots. It also has a microSD card slot, which can accommodate up to 32GB cards. Motorola claims that the 2,470mAh battery would last an entire day but in my experience, I could squeeze out about 16 hours of moderate usage before having to reach out for the power plug.
The only thing that bewilders me about the Moto G is the existence of the 8GB variant that comes with 1GB of RAM and is priced at Rs 11,999. I don’t understand why Motorola even bothered to launch this variant considering the 16GB variant with 2GB of RAM is available for just Rs 1,000 more. It is a no-brainer which variant you should buy.
While there might be smartphones with better specifications at a lower price in the market, the Moto G (third generation) beats all of them in terms of pure experience and features. If you are looking for a smartphone that won’t get obsolete quickly and would also last you for a long time, the Moto G (third generation) should be in your shopping list.
Photos: Manish Sinha