Is a $180 phone worth it?

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Every time I swipe my card for a new, $700 phone, my stomach sinks, my palms get sweaty, and my mind races with doubt.

Should I be buying this?

The answer is usually “No” in bold lettering. Quick obsolescence, my short attention span, and the very nature of my job are all the reasons I shouldn’t buy a new phone and why I should probably wait for the next big thing, which is only ever a few weeks away. (Am I right?)

This year, however, as a Google company, Motorola has been making all the right moves.

First was the Moto X, a seemingly modest, unexciting smartphone. Frankly, the camera is a seriously unfunny joke. Its specifications are admittedly disappointing. And, on the surface, it’s one of the most mundane flagships to have ever released, at least comparatively.

taylor-moto-xYet, it has received a great deal of praise from the entire tech industry. Few who have actually tried and used the Moto X for any amount of time have seen the device for what it truly is: a stellar piece of technology and a textbook example of why software optimization almost always wins over killer specifications.

The performance is buttery smooth; the battery life isn’t the greatest, but it’s above average; it’s not over-encumbered with dozens of useless software features; and, best of all, it feels like near perfection in the hand.

You can tell Motorola put all its efforts into making a great phone, not just a phone with great specifications.

And that’s why the Moto G announcement last month caused such a commotion.

The Moto G has bottom of the bucket offerings, almost entirely across the board: 1GB RAM, Snapdragon 400 chip, 5-megapixel camera, only 8 or 16GB of fixed storage, and a 4.5-inch 720p LCD panel. There is literally nothing to get excited over … except for the price. Motorola is selling this smartphone for a staggering $179 for the 8GB model and only charging $20 to double the storage space.

There has to be a catch, though. Right? A $200 or cheaper phone can’t honestly be a fantastic bargain, can it?

Other, preceding affordable mobile devices have proven otherwise. Google’s Nexus devices, Kindle Fires, and even the Nokia Lumia 520 are all great examples.

new-nexus-7-review-2The first two, however, did come with a stipulation. Kindle Fire models deliver ads to customers, unless they pay more for the device upfront. And the entire user experience is very closely tied to the Amazon experience, as to entice more content sales. Nexus models aren’t quite so dramatic about it, but the hardware is sold at or near cost, on the hopes some of that loss will be returned in the form of content sales.

The Lumia 520, on the other hand, is little more than an affordable smartphone to help Nokia regain its dwindling market share and break into emerging smartphone markets. And it turned out to be a fantastic smartphone for the price – a killer bargain.

The Moto G is shaping up to be just that for Motorola and Android. For $179, you really can’t ask for a whole lot in a smartphone. You expect things like a terrible display, lag, year-old software, and creaky hardware. But honestly, you get none of that with the Moto G.

moto-x-vs-moto-gIts hardware is nearly (and I stress nearly) equivalent to the much-praised Moto X’s. There’s a noticeable difference. But the Moto G doesn’t feel like it’s $300 cheaper than the X. I have been able to bog down the Moto G so far, but only on rare occasions. It’s also currently running Android 4.3, but Motorola plans to update it to KitKat very soon. And the display is absolutely incredible for a $179 phone. In fact, it’s as great of a display as you’d see on a full-priced flagship at 4.5-inches.

In other words, the Moto G doesn’t at all feel like a budget smartphone. I’ve been carrying it as my daily driver for two days now. And I’ve lost count of how many time’s I’ve forgotten I’m carrying a $200 smartphone.

Is it the best smartphone ever? Obviously, it isn’t. It is, however, a great smartphone, with a very short list of compromises, such as no LTE or NFC. But for $179, it’s an absolutely killer deal.

Clearly, the Moto G isn’t my choice smartphone. The camera is pretty bad, the display is a hair smaller than I’d like, and it’s missing all the features I’ve come to love in the Moto X – Touchless Control, Active Display, etc. But it’s a phone I wouldn’t mind using as my daily driver in a pinch.

In a nutshell, it would make the perfect backup phone … just in case.

So is the Moto G worth $179? Is it worth bothering with? Absolutely. In fact, if it were introduced at $300 or $350, my response would be the exact same. It’s worth every penny, and I’ve certainly spent a lot more on phones which were worth a lot less.

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About The Author
Taylor Martin
Based out of Charlotte, NC, Taylor Martin started writing about technology in 2009 while working in wireless retail. He has used BlackBerry off and on for over seven years, Android for nearly four years, iOS for three years, and has experimented with both webOS and Windows Phone. Taylor has reviewed countless smartphones and tablets, and doesn't go anywhere without a couple gadgets in his pockets or "nerd bag." In his free time, Taylor enjoys playing disc golf with friends, rock climbing, and playing video games. He also enjoys the occasional hockey game, and would do unspeakable things for some salmon nigiri. For more on Taylor Martin, checkout his Pocketnow Insider edition.| Google+