$179 wonder: my day on the town with Google’s Moto G

In case you missed it amid all the midweek hubbub, our own Taylor Martin posted an excellent review of Motorola’s new Moto G yesterday, in which he calls it a bargain – a steal, even. He goes on to say this:

The real question is: who is the Moto G for? Just about anyone … with the exception of tech fiends, that is. It will make a fantastic first smartphone, either for a high school or college student. It can serve as a great backup phone, for those times your phone gets lost, dies, or needs to be sent off for repairs. It will also serve well as a downgrade for a smartphone veteran who realizes how few their actual needs are.

As listeners of the Pocketnow Weekly podcast may be aware, I’m a bit of a contrarian – especially when it comes to my friendship with Taylor Martin. So, when a Moto G review unit of my very own landed on my doorstep today, courtesy of the fine folks at Motorola, I decided to test Mr. Martin’s assertion that this phone is not a good fit for “tech fiends” such as myself.

I know what you’re thinking. All it takes is one look at the spec sheet to see that the Moto G is no flagship phone. And you’re right: a Snapdragon 400, 5MP camera, and a dated Android version are nobody’s idea of bleeding-edge. But rather than dwell on what the phone couldn’t do, I decided to focus on what it was capable of. Could a $179 smartphone keep up with my daily usage habits? And what were my usage habits even like these days, anyway? I decided to do a little self-exploration to find out.

moto g 0

The first hurdle to clear was the initial setup, which took a grand total of maybe an hour – and it would have been faster if I’d been using a more-speedy internet connection. Android faithfully imported all of my contacts, preferences, and logins to the phone, AT&T’s 3G network serving up reasonable -if not spectacular- data rates. Through it all, the Moto G remained surprisingly responsive, defying my expectations. (This will become something of a theme.)

Then I took the G out for a stroll. Since my “average day” consists of tapping away on a keyboard in a small foam-padded room -interspersed with field trips to frozen industrial parks to “artistically” film gadgets lying on concrete- I tried to replicate what I took to be a typical person‘s average day in the suburbs instead. A typical person with my smartphone usage patterns.

moto G 1

So I used my favorite public-transit prediction app (Boston BusMap) to plot my course downtown. On the bus, I checked for nearby geocaches using c:geo, but opted not to explore them once Google Now told me the temperature outside was 26°F. A few blocks from my local strip mall (which is nicer than it sounds) I checked Facebook to see what video my colleague Anton D. Nagy was sharing – though because it included Elvis Presely I opted not to click though.


During all this, I was juggling a few message threads in Google Voice and Google Hangouts. The Moto G’s keyboard responsiveness was outstanding, its voice transcription prowess less so.

Average enough for you? Don’t go away; there’s more.

My whole purpose in going out was to buy new fuses for my home, whose electrical system dates back to 1881 [citation needed]. So the Moto G and I stopped in to Radio Shack to see if they had anything like that in stock. To no one’s surprise, they didn’t – and the sales reps were too busy talking amongst themselves to greet me anyway, so I noted that in my Yelp review (because I’m a crusty old bastard, I guess) as I headed next door for lunch.

While eating, I caught up on the latest mobile news courtesy of the Moto G’s YouTube app and Jaime Rivera’s Pocketnow Daily. Then I hopped on Twitter to encourage you folks to vote for the Pocketnow Weekly podcast to win a Stitcher award, before tiring of self-promotion and turning to Spotify for some tunes, which streamed well over 3G.

Moto G 3

I found the fuses at the hardware store I should have gone to in the first place, and I took a picture of them to share with my friends on Snapchat (because apparently the part of me that’s not a cranky old man is an expository 13-year-old). On the way home, my thoughts turned to the world at large and I fired up Chrome to find a new Star Trek-themed iOS game on CNET and some of Stephen Schenck’s fine reporting here at Pocketnow. Predicting that I’d later find myself writing an editorial with far too many instances of the word “I,” I stopped for a moment to cement my self-indulgence with a selfie …

Fa la la.

… before continuing my walk while streaming the latest episode of The Voicemail, a podcast from Pocketnow Weekly friend-of-the-show Stefan Constantinescu. During this whole time I was recording impressions of the Moto G, along with reminders and editorial ideas, via Evernote, while fielding emails via the Gmail app.

All this activity was starting to make me feel pretty bogged down, so I opened a Skype video channel to Taylor Martin and asked him to make some stupid faces at the camera. Suitably re-energized, I downloaded some high-end games to the phone’s internal storage and then I fired up the Mobile Hotspot app just because I could.

Moto G 5

The majority of my “average afternoon” completed, my next step was to hop into the aforementioned padded cell to record this week’s episode of the Pocketnow Weekly. The Moto G came in with me, its screen periodically waking to tell me that Brandon Miniman and Anton D. Nagy were communicating and ultimately authorizing my request to buy a Lumia 520 for a quick video comparison.

When the Weekly wrapped, I needed to shower (the booth gets hot) but I also wanted to call the Boston Microsoft Store to confirm it’d have some 520s in stock. The Moto G’s water-repellent nanocoating meant I could do both at the same time, so that’s what I did – and when the email came in from Nokia offering us a Lumia 520 loaner unit instead, I realized I could take a more relaxing shower – so I did that, too. And then I played some Sparkle 2 and Asphalt 8. The latter was light on lens flares, but gameplay was smooth as silk, and I played until Moto Assist suggested it silence the Moto G’s ringer so I could “get a good night’s rest.”

Sure thing, Mom.

Sure thing, Mom.

I could go on – but a thousand words later, you probably get the point. The Moto G may not be a benchmark beast or a handheld IMAX theater, and it’s certainly not the most stylish phone on the shelves. But it managed to keep pace with one of the heaviest mobile users out there – and at the tail end of nearly ten hours of use (2 hours screen-on time), it still had almost 50% of its battery power left.

Lest I paint too rosy a picture, let me be clear that the more-expensive Moto X remains my preferred Android device due to its smarter feature set and superior hardware. And yes, the new Nexus 5 offers a far better processor, display, and camera -along with LTE- for just $349. But the Moto G’s price maxes out at $150 below that, and starts at just $179 for the model I tested. And remember: this is all without the barest hint of a contract.

So I feel pretty confident saying that, from a value perspective, the Moto G is the absolute best Android smartphone (and possibly the best smartphone period) that you can find. But you knew I was going to say that, and so did I. I knew the Moto G would at least go through the motions of performing a smartphone’s day-to-day duties. What I didn‘t expect was for it to perform as excellently as it did, seemingly without breaking a sweat. The Moto G isn’t notable because it’s inexpensive, but because it can do something a $200 smartphone shouldn’t be able to do: it can keep up with someone like me.

Want more on the Moto G? Check out Taylor Martin’s full review of the plucky little Android handset, then hear our informal thoughts on it in the most recent Pocketnow Weekly podcast. Then dive in to an analysis of just how much Google is making per Moto G, before learning how different it really is from its more-advanced Moto X sibling.

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About The Author
Michael Fisher
Michael Fisher has followed the world of mobile technology for over ten years as hobbyist, retailer, and reviewer. A lengthy stint as a Sprint Nextel employee and a long-time devotion to webOS have cemented his love for the underdog platforms of the world. In addition to serving as Pocketnow's Reviews Editor, Michael is a stage, screen, and voice actor, as well as co-founder of a profitable YouTube-based business. He lives in Boston, MA. Read more about Michael Fisher!