Moto G real-world review: The best budget phone money can buy

The Moto G provides an excellent overall experience at a low off-contract price -- but it's still a budget phone. So is it worth owning?

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One area where the Moto G shines is in its camera software: The phone uses the same custom Motorola Camera app seen on the Moto X, which makes snapping pics refreshingly easy. You simply drag your finger up or down on the viewfinder to zoom and touch anywhere on the screen to capture a shot. Holding your finger down for an extended period of time causes the phone to enter a burst mode and capture multiple rapid-fire images.

The only thing missing is the handy twist-to-launch gesture implemented on the Moto X, which lets you quickly open the Camera app anytime by twisting the phone twice in your hand. The Moto G does not have that functionality.

The Moto G can capture 720p-quality HD video through its rear camera as well as through the 1.3-megapixel shooter on its front.

The software

Motorola makes a point of sticking with near-stock Google Android software on its phones these days, and the Moto G is no exception: The device currently runs the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean operating system and Moto has guaranteed it'll be upgraded to the newer Android 4.4 KitKat OS by January.

The near-stock Android approach means the phone's user interface is clean, intuitive and pleasant to use, with none of the messy modifications or annoying bloatware so many manufacturers add onto their devices. It also paves the way for timely OS upgrades, as Motorola's current KitKat progress has demonstrated.

The few changes Moto has made to the software are feature-oriented and actually add value to the user experience. The company has added a Trusted Bluetooth option, for instance, that lets you tell your phone to skip any lock-screen security when a specific Bluetooth device is present and paired.

There's also a system-level app called Assist that gives you an easy way to make your phone modify its behavior based on certain conditions, like the time of day or the presence of an active calendar event. The app's most useful function, unfortunately, isn't available: On the Moto X, Assist can let the phone recognize when you're driving and then automatically switch into a voice-controlled hands-free mode. The Moto G doesn't have that option.

Similarly, advanced Moto X software features like Touchless Control -- which lets you control your phone by speaking, even when it's asleep -- and Active Display, which flashes relevant notifications on the screen when you need them, are absent on the Moto G. Motorola Connect, which allows you to receive notifications from your phone on any computer via the Chrome browser, is also M.I.A.

Bottom line

It's hard not to compare the Moto G to the higher-end Moto X, but in doing so, you have to remember something: These are two very different types of phones -- and they're aimed at two very different types of buyers.

If you're looking for a top-of-the-line experience with all the bells and whistles, the Moto G isn't going to be the right device for you. That's simply not what it's designed to provide.

What the Moto G does provide, however, is an exceptional experience within the budget-level parameter. It has commendable performance, a comfortable design, and a clean and intuitive user interface. Factor in its great battery life and excellent display, and you've got a device that redefines just how good a budget phone can be.

If you want an unlocked smartphone for less than $200, there's really no other device you should even consider.

This article, Moto G real-world review: The best budget phone money can buy, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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