With various upgrades including a waterproof design, great cameras and stock Android, the new Moto G 2015 is a great affordable phone. The device is still a bit chunky and it’s a shame to see the stereo speakers gone. It’s worth opting for the model with 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM. Now with a price cut to £149, the Moto G 3rd-gen is the best budget phone you can buy.
As expected, Motorola has announced a new version of the Moto G budget phone and we were at the London launch event to check it out. We grabbed a sample at the event so here’s our full and in-depth Motorola Moto G 2015 review. See: Best budget phones 2015.
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Update 18/05/16: Motorola yesterday unveiled the new Moto G and G Plus for 2016, and has therefore reduced the price of this older handset to £149. Read more about the brand-new Moto G in our Moto G4 review.
The Moto G series of phones from Motorola has got a little confusing with this being the third generation but there being four different versions previously. This is mostly because of Motorola adding and taking away 4G LTE support. This means the phone goes by various names such as Moto G 2015, Moto G3 and Moto G 3rd gen.
Nevertheless, this is the Moto G for 2015 and Motorola is under more pressure for the best budget phone with fresh competition from the likes of the EE Harrier Mini and Vodafone Smart Ultra 6. Here are our first impressions of the new Moto G.
See also: Motorola Moto X Style review.
Moto G 2015 (3rd gen) review: Price
Update: The price has been dropped to £149 (on sale for £129 at the time of writing) on the Moto Maker meaning that it now fits within our best budget smartphone chart. Prices below were correct at initial launch.
Motorola has been king of budget phones for a long time and the Moto G has proven to be a difficult device to beat. The news of the third generation Moto G is exciting but the phone is now more expensive at £179 for the cheaper model and £209 for the higher capacity.
See also: Moto G 2015 vs Moto G 2014 comparison review.
Our best budget phones group test has an upper limit of £150 so really the Moto G is no longer a cheap phone. That doesn’t mean it isn’t good value, though.
However, that price is if you use the Moto Maker (see below) but if you go to retailers like Amazon, Clove and Mobile Fun you’ll only need to pay £159 (or less) which is more like it but still not quite budget.
Moto G 2015 (3rd gen) review: Design and build
Once again, the Moto G looks pretty similar even to the original but understandably closer to the style of the 2014 model. It’s a good looking phone, especially for the budget end of the market. It is a little thicker and heavier, though, at 11.6mm and 157g.
Motorola has made the Moto G look more stylish with the metal strip which houses the rear camera and the iconic dimpled logo. The front slots are flush but unfortunately Motorola has removed the stereo speakers. The recessed slots also provide a place for dirt to collect.
There’s a new texture to the rear cover and the shape looks similar the Moto X but the Moto G is, of course, made of plastic. Motorola Shell colours include Black, Navy, Cabernet, Golden Yellow, Lime, Cherry, Blue, Turqouise, Raspberry and Chalk. There are also Flip Shells, too.
As you can see from the photos, our review sample is the black model with red accent colour and the Cabernet rear cover. The rear cover isn’t the most comfortable around with its diagonal ridges but the curved shape helps.
IPX7 waterproofing which was rumoured turned out to be spot on so you won’t have to worry if you knock over your drink or drop the Moto G down the toilet. The rating means the phone will survive being submerged in up to one meter of water for up to 30 minutes.It’s a feature you won’t find on other budget phones.
In our dunk test we did find water gets underneath the cover but the rubber seals stop water getting where it should be – we recommend removing the cover and drying everything if you do submerge the phone.
A major new feature in this area is that the Moto G 2015 is available to order via the Moto Maker meaning you can customise the phone with different front colours, rear covers, accent colours, engraving and storage capacities.
The new Moto G feels nice in the hand and gives the impression of being more premium than previous generations. It certainly feels like a mid-range device rather than budget.
Moto G 2015 (3rd gen) review: Hardware and specs
The screen of the Moto G remains at 5in and although we had our fingers crossed, the resolution hasn’t been bumped to Full HD (1080×1920). Instead it remains at 720p so the Vodafone Ultra 6 outclasses it here with Full HD at a lower price. Although the display is still 720p, it’s still good quality and it has good brightness and colour reproduction.
As you might expect, the processor has also been upgraded. This time there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 chip (1.4GHz quad-core) which is the same as found in the new Moto E 4G.
That’s a little disappointing on the face of it but performance is nice and smooth regardless of this and the benchmark results which don’t make for impressive reading on the whole. It beats the previous model but gets outdone by the cheaper Moto E in three tests – as does the £125 Vodafone Smart Ultra 6.
The amount of memory has been doubled to 2GB of RAM but you’ll only get that if you buy the 16GB model- the 8GB model has 1GB of RAM. There’s still a Micro-SD card slot and it can take cards up to 32GB in size.
Note: The benchmark results are from the model with 2GB of RAM so we can’t comment on the performance of the lesser model. In the past we’ve heard of users having issues with Moto G’s with 1GB of RAM so it’s probably worth spending the extra on the better model.
Upgrades continue with a new 13Mp camera, up from 8Mp which is impressive for a budget smartphone. In fact, it’s the same camera from the Nexus 6 (which Motorola made) with improvements such as a new lens and an IR filter. There’s a dual-LED flash, too and video can be shot at up to 1080p or 720p for slow motion.
The front camera has also been increased in terms of resolution, from 2- to 5Mp with a wide angle lens making it able to offer much higher quality selfies.
As usual, the default for the main camera is 16:9 meaning you’ll get 9.7Mp so switching to 4:3 will make use of the full complement of pixels. Another default is no touch to focus which is a little annoying but you can switch it on even though it’s a little tricky to use. We found the camera snaps quickly and quality of still photos is generally excellent. Video is also good, helped by the OIS, but it nothing overly special. Check out our samples below.
Camera test with HDR on
Camera test macro
There are no major frills when it comes to connectivity – there’s still no NFC which is a shame but the Moto G 2015 does have that all-important 4G LTE support.
The battery comes in at 2470mAh but Motorola didn’t mention the TurboCharge feature found on the new Moto X which is supposedly even faster than the Galaxy S6. The firm claims 24 hours of mixed use from the Moto G.
Even without a large battery (which is non-removable despite the rear cover coming off), we found battery life to be excellent. In our benchmark test the Moto G managed six hours and 29 minutes with a score of 2596. That’s not far off the Galaxy S6 which lasted for six hours and 53 minutes.
Moto G 2015 (3rd gen) review: Software
There’s not a great deal to say about software as Motorola is sticking to offering a very stock Android and the Moto G comes pre-loaded with version 5.1.1 Lollipop.
We’re seeing more and more Android manufacturers going with a vanilla user experience and we like it. It’s not a completely Nexus-like software setup though as Motorola does add some of its own apps – that’s not a bad thing though.
The firm adds things like Moto Assist, Moto Display and Moto Actions which are now bundles into one app simple named Moto. You can easily make sure the phone stays quiet when you’re in bed or automatically change settings based on your location.
Actions mean you can ‘double karate chop’ to launch the torch and twist to launch the camera app. Display will show you notifications when the phone detects movement and you can select which apps are allowed and how much of the notification is shown.
Apart from Migrate which helps you move content from a previous phone, the Moto G is essentially stock Android meaning you have a nice blank canvas with which to customise.
Motorola Moto G (3rd gen): Specs
- Android Lollipop 5.1.1
- Qualcomm SnapdragonTM 410 (MSM8916) processor with 1.4 GHz quad-core CPU
- Adreno 306 with 400 MHz GPU
- 1GB, 2GB (Available on 16GB model only)
- 8GB or 16GB, removable storage supports up to 32 GB microSD card (sold separately)
- Height: 142.1mm (5.59 inches) Width: 72.4mm (2.85 inches) Curve: 6.1-11.6mm (0.24-0.48 inches)
- 155g (5.47 ounces)
- 5in, 720p HD (1280 x 720), 294ppi, Corning Gorilla Glass 3
- 2470mAh, mixed usage up to 24 hours
- GSM/GPRS/EDGE, UMTS/HSPA+, 4G LTE
- 13Mp rear camera,f/2.0, dual-LED flash, Auto focus, Slow motion video
- 5Mp front camera, f/2.2, Slow motion video
- Micro USB, 3.5mm headset jack
- Bluetooth version 4.0 LE
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n (2.4 GHz)
- GPS, AGPS, GLONASS, BeiDou
- Accelerometer (2), Ambient Light Sensor, Proximity, Sensor Hub