What is the Moto G 2 (2014)?

How do you follow the best-selling smartphone in your history? That's the question Motorola faced with the Moto G 2. The Moto G remains the only _phone_ we've given 10/10 and is still one of the best cheap phones you can buy. The Moto G 2 aims to improve on that success.

It sticks to the same basic formula, but the changes are obvious. It has a larger, 5-inch screen, improved cameras and front-facing stereo speakers, but crucially it still costs less than £150 SIM-free. It's enough for it to remain the best budget _phone_ on the market, but is it enough to upgrade from the 4.5-inch Moto G? That's less clear cut.

Watch our Moto G 2 video review

Moto G 2 (2014): Design & Features

The Moto G 2 doesn't look dramatically different from the original. There’s no One M8-style aluminium body or glass back like the Xperia Z3, but then we never expected that. It’s all plastic with a glossy finish on the front and soft-touch matte on the back.

It's a pretty standard approach to design for cheap Android phones, but like the Nexus 5 it manages to avoid making the plastic design look or feel cheap. There’s no troubling signs of poor build quality and it feels like it can withstand a few bumps scrapes.



The back still has the same soft touch finish and slightly curvy body, which makes it nice to hold. It's not as comfortable as the original, though, mainly due to it being wider. At 11mm thick and 149g it's slightly thicker and heavier, though it's no chunkier than most 5-inch phones.

Motorola offers the new Moto G in black and white, but it supports a number of colourful replaceable back shells. It's a nice option if you find the standard ones a bit drab. The only problem is the rear-cover isn't the easiest to remove, so you need be careful when removing the cover. It's something we'd like to see Motorola fix in future versions.

SEE ALSO: Best Cheap Mobile Phones Round-up


Behind the cover you'll find the same 2,070mAh non-removable battery and the micro SD card slot, which was missing from the 3G-only model of the original Moto G but added for the 4G versions.

You'll also find the surprising new inclusion of Dual SIM card slots. There's room to keep two micro SIM cards, which can be useful if you are one holiday and want to use a local SIM to make cheaper calls or if you have a business and personal number. Motorola also sets aside settings dedicated to the Dual SIM where you can manually switch between the two. Additionally, you can use intelligent calling where the phone learns which SIM to use depending on the call.

The most surprising element of SIM card support, though, is the lack of 4G LTE support. No 4G made sense last year when networks were new and limited, but Motorola corrected that with the Moto G 4G edition. Why it's gone backwards now is puzzling in the extreme.

SEE ALSO: Best Android Phones Round-up
Moto G photo samples


One final change is the addition of front-facing speakers, which sit above and below the display. It’s a welcome move away from the rear speaker on the original, ensuring sound is projected towards you instead of being buried behind in the back. One issue, however, is that the gap around the speaker is just wide enough to trap fluff and muck phones generally have a habit of attracting.

Moto G 2 (2014): Screen

Motorola says it listened to feedback on the first Moto G and one of the things users wanted was a bigger screen. So that’s what we’ve got. Moving to a 5-inch screen will be disappointing for some as there’s no doubt still an appetite for smaller phones, but as Apple has shown, even the iPhone is getting bigger.

The new Moto G 2 doesn’t budge from a 720p HD resolution screen, however, which means it has slightly fewer pixels per inch, 295ppi vs the 326ppi of the original. It still uses Corning Gorilla Glass 3 to protect against scratches, which is always a bonus to have on any phone.

This is still a great quality phone for a sub-£150 phone. It’s not as impressively sharp as the original, but there’s not a great deal to complain about here. Compare it to similarly priced mid-range phones like the Sony Xperia M2, which only offers a 480 x 800 resolution screen, and you can get an idea of how much Motorola is giving us here.

SEE ALSO: Best Smartphones Round-up

Moto G photo samples 11

Moto G (top), Samsung Galaxy Alpha (bottom left) and Acer Liquid E3 (bottom right) displays compared

Moto G photo samples 1

Samsung Galaxy Alpha (left) offers a brighter, more vibrant screen than the Moto G (right)

The only area where it disappoints slightly is brightness, it's just not as bright as similar price phones. While it's more accurate than the 720p screens on the slightly more expensive Acer Liquid E3 and £500 Samsung Galaxy Alpha, it's not as bright as either. It still easier to view outdoors than most cheap phones, but it's a small sour note in otherwise excellent performance.

Moto G 2 (2014): Software

The new Moto G runs on pure Android 4.4.4 KitKat, the latest version of Google's mobile operating system and with no custom interface to bog things down. It runs slick and smooth. Motorola has already confirmed that the new G will also be updated Android 5.0 L. It's the kind of commitment to keep things up-to-date you rarely see from phones in this price range and another reason why the Moto G is a desirable option.

There's a clear Nexus-style approach to apps, too. All of the key Google apps, such as the Chrome web browser, Google Drive, the now integrated Quickoffice and Google Play suite of apps, come pre-installed. Standard apps like Calendar, Calculator and Clock are there as well and it even includes an FM Radio app.

Motorola includes four of its own apps. These are apps you can live without, but if you do take advantage of them, they're simple to use and don't impact on the performance of the phone. They are all easily distinguishable from other apps thanks to their colourful, more triangular icons.

SEE ALSO: Android 4.4 tips and tricks


First up is Moto Alert, an app where you can send out emergency alerts to designated contact numbers from your list of contacts. There's even a big red button you can press and to alert contacts to your specific location. There's similar apps available on other Android phones, but it's very well explained and easy to set up here.

Motorola Assist has already appeared on previous Moto phones and essentially sets your phone up to work differently in different situations. So when you are driving in a car, it will read out texts. You can think of it a bit like an extension of Google Now. It uses GPS, Google location services, calendars and sensor data like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Motorola Connect is all about managing other Motorola devices like the Moto 360 and the new Power Pack Micro. Lastly, there's Motorola Migrate for copying content from an old phone, whether that's Android, iPhone or an old phone type. It's the kind of thing that often gets overlooked and is nice to have it there.

Moto G photo samples 5

Moto G 2 (2014):: Performance

The new Moto G doesn't budge from the components used to deliver such an impressive performance in the original. There's still a 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 quad-core CPU, the same processor found in more expensive phones like the HT C One Mini 2 and the Galaxy S5 Mini. It still has 1GB of RAM with the same Adreno 305 GPU to help out with gaming.

For more expensive phones, the lack of any sort of upgrade would be held up as disappointing, however with the Moto G you have to view things differently.

These specs still drive an impressive performance and the new Moto G performs well above the majority of phones at this price. Moving to a Snapdragon 801 processor or adding more RAM are features reserved for more expensive phones for a reason, and that’s to drive more demanding features. For what the Moto G offers, this is still more than enough.

Moving around homescreens has plenty of zip and launching apps is not a painfully slow process. Running multiple apps in the background doesn’t bring the Moto G down to its knees either. Gaming is an enjoyable experience as well. Running graphically demanding games like Real Racing 3 is no problem for the Moto G and there’s no sign of lag or a dramatic drop off in frame rates.

The benchmarks back this up as well. The 1,140 multi-core score in Geekbench 3 is on par with the original Moto G (1155) and not far off the likes of the Galaxy S5 Mini (1,134) and the One Mini 2 (1,120), two phones that cost more than £300. The chip architecture might not have evolved, but combined with pure Android the Moto G 2 is still a slick performer.

Moto G 2 (2014): Camera

One of the most mid-range qualities of the first Moto G was the 5-megapixel main camera. It was mediocre at best. Thankfully, things do get noticeably better with the new Moto G. There's now an 8-megapixel sensor with LED flash and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, which surprisingly is one of the better selfie-shooters we've used on a smartphone at any price. It doesn’t take very long to realize there’s a big improvement in overall image quality. You obviously won’t get Galaxy S5 or One M8-quality images here and it struggles in low-light, but in the right conditions it delivers some pleasing results.

That's helped by a pretty simple camera app. This is not the stock one you find on most Android phones, though. Menus are hidden away to give you a full, uninterrupted view of the scenery. All you have is the video camera button and switch camera modes.

To take a picture, you can press down on the screen or use the volume rocker and the shutter response is fast. Swiping up and down on the screen will adjust the 4x digital zoom and if you hold down on the screen, you can snap multiple images.



When you swipe from the left of the screen you’ll find the settings and modes dial you can swipe up and down through. There's an HDR mode to capture brighter images in high contrast shots and there's even an automatic HDR more, something you see on more expensive phones. Additionally, you can adjust flash, use bracket to control focus and exposure, add location information, shoot in panorama mode and turn off the shutter sound.

The camera is set up to take photos in 6-megapixel mode 16:9 aspect, so you need to go into the settings to adjust and shoot in maximum 4:3 aspect 8-megapixel quality. The detail and colours are a big step up from the first Moto G. You can capture some rewarding close-up images and noise isn't a problem in good lighting.
 
Moto G photo samples 4

The 8-megapixel main camera performs well for close-up shots

Moto G photo samples 2

Another sample of the 8-megapixel camera getting up close

There's a HDR mode like the original, to enhance landscape images where there's more shadowy detail. It does a very good job of battling darker elements in the scenery. The buildings in the background are much brighter, there's a greater level of detail and colours are more vibrant. We've seen far more expensive phones that have worse HDR modes and the addition of an auto HDR mode is really helpful.

Moto G photo samples 6

HDR mode turned off

Moto G photo samples 7

HDR turned on

When you need to shoot in low-light, things are not so impressive. Images are noticeably more noisy and the autofocus struggles here. Photos taken outdoors at night appear very grainy and can look very washed out. Moving indoors, things improve slightly, but this where some form of image stabilization would really help matters.

Moto G photo samples 9

The camera struggles to capture good quality images in low-light conditions


Moto G photo samples 10

In pitch black, the single flash and lack of any image stabilization really shows

There's very little in the way of manual controls, so there's not much meddling you can do with the settings to improve image quality. For an 8-megapixel camera, though, this is one of the better ones we've used and is a step in the right direction for Motorola.

For video shooting, you can still record at a maximum of 720p HD, which is beginning to become the norm for a phone at this price. Again, features are kept to a minimum here. You can take stills at the same time and there's now a new slow motion mode when you want to have some more fun. Footage on the phone looks pretty good until you watch it back on a computer, where you'll notice things are not as smooth or sharp as it initially appears.

Moto G 2 (2014):: Battery Life

The concern when moving to a bigger screen is the impact it's going to have on the battery life, especially when the Moto G 2 sticks with the same 2,070mAh capacity. But the fears are misplaced.

Motorola includes the same battery saver mode you can turn on in the Batttery settings, restricting data in the background when the battery is low. In general use, playing games, checking on Twitter, browsing the web and watching some YouTube videos, the Moto G can last two days.
Moto G photo samples 3


In more extreme testing, running a 720p HD video with 50% brightness it manages. We managed to get on average a decent 8 to 9 hours before needing to recharge and that’s without using the power saving mode.

When you forget to charge it the night before, a 30-minute charge using the supplied power adaptor adds just under 30%, so it's reasonably quick charger as well.

Moto G 2 (2014): Call and Sound Quality

Call quality is nothing out of the ordinary for the Moto G. There’s a secondary mic to provide active noise cancellation and that's really about it in terms of added features. It lacks the clarity of top end smartphones, but it’s loud enough and callers on the other end of the line didn't complain about drop outs or muffling.

Despite moving the speakers to the front, they are no match for HTC’s Boomsound speakers. There's good volume but they sound very harsh at top volume. It’s better than most mid-range phones where things generally sound hollow and very tinny.


Should I buy the Moto G 2 (2014)?

Yes, is the simple answer. The new Moto G still offers excellent value for money and while Motorola hasn't upgraded in every department, the changes it has made still make this phone head and shoulders above other sub-£150 smartphones.

Take that money elsewhere and you will likely have to make compromises on elements like screen quality, performance and battery life. You don't do that with the Moto G. It might be a different story in 12 months time, but at the moment there are few phones that tick so many of the boxes.

The one big disappointment is the lack of 4G, which is a major surprise after Motorola introduced it with the Moto G 4G. If you want a bigger screen and a better camera then make the upgrade. If not, stick with your Moto G, which still remains a great phone to own, and hope Motorola releases a 4G version in the future.

Verdict

The new Moto G punches above its weight once again and puts more expensive phones to shame. 4G would be great, but it's not a deal breaker when you consider the price.

Next, read our best cheap phones round-up to see how the Moto G 2 compares