New Motorola Moto G hands-on: Ain't nothing but a G thang, baby

The Motorola Moto G was a surprise hit. Affordable, but hitting some important spec points, it surprised many, including us a Pocket-lint. It quickly because the darling of affordable handsets, one of the most exciting devices of the year because it offered so much Android phone for so little money.

So any update to the Moto G is going to garner interest. Can Motorola repeat the trick, or having enjoyed the runaway success, will the Moto G falter? We were introduced to the new Moto G, updated for 2014, on the eve of its global launch.

It's the same phone, but it's not

The Moto G is the Motorola's most popular handset to date so it's perhaps strange that the company is updating it soon. The smartphone industry moves fast - just ask Sony - but in the new Moto G so much is changing. It gets a new display size, new design, new features, and looking at the two devices face on, you would struggle to see that they are the same family, let alone that the new Moto G is the follow-on from the old Moto G.

One thing is pretty much the same: the price. At just £9.99 more than the previous model, this will certainly be a cracker of a phone and provide bang for your buck when it goes on sale.

The price of the original Moto G when launched was £135.00 and the price of the new Moto G is £144.99.

Motorola says that this update was driven by customer feedback, a claim the company made when it launched the Moto G 4G and the Moto E.

Design

There's is a 5-inch HD display, top and tailed by dual speakers in what is otherwise a buttonless front. In standard KitKat style, the Moto G opts for on-screen controls.

Whether it's following HTC's BoomSound, or just the decision to create a better speaker experience, the decision to have two front speakers makes a huge difference, not only to the design but the sound that the phone now produces.

We were in a crowded hotel venue for our demo, but were more than happy with the performance of the speakers when sampling music and movies.

The rest of the phone's design is rather straight forward. The headphone jack is found on the top, the Micro-USB charging socket at the bottom and volume and power buttons are on the side.

The back plate is removable, allowing you to change colour of the device (the front is just white or black) and there are a plethora of colours to choose from including yellow, teal, purple, blue and the usual black and white. Colour customisation seems to be Motorola's signature and where some devices with removable covers feel cheap, Motorola avoids the worst of it. This doesn't feel like a bargain basement handset and that's part of the Moto G's appeal.

Remove the back plate and you get access to the microSD card slot and the new Dual SIM offering, but not the battery, which isn't removable.

Dual SIMs

The dual SIM option, again there by customer request, will allow you to run two SIMs at once, one for 3G the other 2G with the phone intelligently switching and learning which one you use, as you use it. If you want to use one of the SIMs to phone your mother in India, but not eat local data, then no problem.

You can use both at the same time, one for surfing, one for calling, for example, or both for calling but just specific numbers. You can't however join them together to create a 4G signal - wouldn't that be good?

One thing that is a little odd is that the Moto G now reverts to 3G only. Having seen the original Moto G get a 4G upgrade, the new Moto G isn't.

Enhanced display and power

The display is the first and most notably upgraded feature, jumping from 4.5-inches to 5-inches. It sticks to the same resolution, however, offering 1280 x 720 pixels. As we've experienced elsewhere, 720p on a 4.5-inch handset gives great results, but at 5-inches, you're losing sharpness.

The pixel density drops because of it and we're tempted to say it's a little too big, certainly compared to the original Moto G. We can't help feeling that a small increase to 4.7-inches would have fitted it better. However we aren't going to complain about the screen size too much, becuase it's nice and big, and at this price people, will certainly enjoy getting a 5-inch device.

That said, the display is nice and vibrant, offers good viewing angles and seems to offer plenty of punch to colours.

The processor stays the same: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 running at 1.2GHz with 1GB RAM, although you get a higher spec rear and front cameras - 8- and 2-megapixels compared to 5- and 1.3-megapixels.

You also now get a microSD card slot - one of the more commonly requested features - and that allows you to expand the 8 or 16GB storage space by a further 32GB. All very welcomed.

With the same processor, the same RAM, and the same version of Android (there is promise of Android L support) the experience is identical, bar the bigger screen, that G customers are used to. That's a good thing, because the Moto G offers a great experience. The unfettered version of Android is free from the duplications and intrusions that some of the rival manufacturers can't help but add. 

First impressions

The Moto G is a noticeable improvement over the original Moto G, but positioned in such a way that current Moto G customers probably won't need to upgrade unless they really want the bigger screen or the dual SIM support.

The Moto G will continue to dominate and most likely be as successful as the original. We just can't help feeling that screen is a little bigger than it needs to be. But at only £10 more than the original G, it shows that Motorola is keen to give you plenty for your money.

Manufacturers trying to make it in the mid-tier had better up their game, the competition just got tougher.