And then the phone market changed. Newer devices like Asus ZenFone appeared. Xiaomi entered India in July with the Mi 3, which had a price similar to that of the Moto G. Result was that the Moto G lost some of its appeal.
Motorola is now back with the new version of the Moto G. It is also called Moto G though the product box does specify that it is a 2nd gen device. To keep it simple, we will call it the Moto G (2nd gen).
The idea behind the Moto G (2nd gen) is to fix some of the shortcomings that the original one had. It is supposed to be faster, bigger and better Moto G. But is it enough to help Motorola win back some of the mojo it has lost to Xiaomi and Asus in the Indian market? We find it out.
Look and feel
If you have seen the original Moto G, you will instantly recognise the new one as a classic Moto phone. The Moto G (2nd gen) shares the design and style with the original one. The big difference, literally, is the size. The Moto G (2nd gen) has a 5-inch screen compared to 4.5-inch in the original phone. But Motorola has been careful while putting the big screen in the device. The newer one is slimmer - to be precise by 0.6mm - and has much thinner bezels. The weight has gone up but by just 6 grams.
The original Moto G had a very compact form factor. And even though the new one is bigger, we get the same feel with it when we hold it. The design, as we said, is the same, which is a good thing because ergonomically the rounded edges and gently curved back work really well. The Moto G (2nd gen) fits well in the hand. Even the single hand use is possible unless you have very small hands.
The build quality, we feel, has gone up compared to the original Moto G. The Moto G (2nd gen) has better finishing. The screen fits the plastic shell seamlessly, the metal buttons feel snug and the back cover, which can be popped out to access slots for SIM cards and SD cards (but not battery), fits the device impeccably. Overall, the device has been put together well. On the back cover, Motorola has used a rubber coating that makes it smooth to touch and impervious to oily fingerprints.
As we noted earlier, the Moto G (2nd gen) has a bigger screen. Although the 720P resolution remains the same in both the device, yet the pixel density has gone down in the newer version. But in day-to-day use, this is something that doesn't make much difference. The text looks adequately sharp on the Moto G (2nd gen) screen.
In terms of showing colours, the Moto G (2nd gen) screen is the best you can get in a phone that costs less than Rs 15,000. The colours look punchy and vibrant on it. There is no colour banding. The viewing angles too are good and if you move the phone or tilt your head while watching a movie on it, the colours don't change all that much.
Unfortunately, there is one thing that holds back the screen -- level of brightness. For indoor use the brightness is adequate, especially if you turn off the auto brightness settings. But during outdoor use the lack of brightness makes the screen reflective. This makes it difficult to read something like a news article on the Moto G (2nd gen) when you are outside in sunlight.
Overall, despite the brightness issues, we like the screen on the Moto G (2nd gen). It shows much better colours than what other phones in this price range can manage and that makes a big difference to the user experience.
Like other Moto phones, the Moto G (2nd gen) runs the stock version of Android. To be precise, it runs the Android 4.4.4, which is the latest and greatest version of Android.
The user interface is completely stock, which is good because that is how we like our Moto phones. The stock Android looks good and has user interface elements that keep everything simple. There are no flashy animations here similar to what you get with user interface like MiUI found in Xiaomi phones. And there are no unwanted features, similar to what found in TouchWiz user interface that is a part of Samsung Galaxy phones.
In terms of software customisation, it has added a few apps created by Motorola. For example, Assist helps you while you go through your day by automatically muting your phone when you are in (or supposed to be in) a meeting. Alert can contact your family or friends in case you need assistance. Migrate can help you move data from your old phone to the Moto G (2nd gen).
Other than the screen, camera is another component in the Moto G (2nd gen) that has been given a significant update compared to the original Moto G phone. At least on paper. The rear camera now shoots images in 8-megapixel, though the video recording is still limited to 720P.
Seeing in the context of current standards, the camera performance is average. The Moto G (2nd gen) shoots images that have good and punchy colours but the details are missing. Even bigger problem is the presence of noise. Even images shot in good light show some noise. Images taken in low lights, not surprisingly, has a lot of noise or grain.
The videos are shot at 720P. They have good enough resolution and clarity to be used on social media sites but the issues that affect images - lack of details, noise - affect the videos too.
That said, see it in the context. The Moto G (2nd gen) has a rear camera that matches the camera performance of 2013 phones like the Galaxy Grand 2 that would cost over Rs 20,000. So it can definitely capture images that you will love to share on websites like Facebook. But we are no longer in 2013. We are in the middle of 2014 and Xolo 8X-1000, which costs around Rs 1,000 more than the Moto G (2nd gen), has much better camera performance.
The 2-megapixel front camera is good for video chats and occasional selfies.
Talking of camera performance, it is time we say some words about the camera app in the Moto G (2nd gen). Unlike most other camera apps, in this app you click photos not by tapping an onscreen shutter button but by tapping anywhere on the camera screen. Now if that is how you click photos, how do you change the focus point? That is done by gently holding the square around the focus point and dragging it to the new focus point. But it is a hit and miss. Half of the time when we tried moving the square, we ended up clicking the out-of-focus picture.
The only good bit about this whole 'square method' is that once you change the focus point, the camera app also changes the metering depending on the light at the new focus point. This gives you more usable images, that is if you can successfully change the focus point in the first place.
Hardware and performance
The Moto G (2nd gen) has exactly the same core hardware that was inside the original Moto G phone. This means it uses a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor running at 1.2GHz and 1GB RAM. The graphics chip is Adreno 305.
In India, only the 16GB version of the Moto G is available. Unlike the previous version, this time Motorola has given users freedom to expand their memory by adding an external microSD card slot to add up to 32GB memory.
The similar hardware means it clocks similar scores in benchmarks. In GFXBench, a benchmark by Kishonti that measures graphics performance, the Moto G (2nd gen) scores 319 points in T-Rex (offscreen) compared to 323 points that the original one gets. In Basemark OS, the score is 503 points compared to 508 scored by the original Moto G.
The performance too is almost the same, though due to some more software optimisation, the Moto G (2nd gen) feels just a little bit faster than the Moto G.
In day-to-day use, the Moto G (2nd gen) feels like a capable phone, which won't slow you down. It is snappy and as you use it, there is no lag. Apps open in seconds, web browsing is smooth and GPS locks fast and maintains the lock while a user navigates to his or her destination. The phone can play 1080P movies in most of the common formats, including MP4.
When it comes to gaming, the Moto G (2nd gen) handles casual games like Candy Crush and Angry Birds with ease. The more demanding games like Dead Trigger, however, have to be run at reduced graphics settings.
The Moto G (2nd gen) also sports stereo speakers compared to the single speaker on the original Moto G. These speakers sound full although they are not very loud. But if you are not in a noisy room, they would do the job if you want to watch a Youtube video. When used with a headphone, the Moto G (2nd gen) delivers impressively rich and clean audio output considering its low price.
The quality of sound during calls is very good. The voice sounds full and distortion free. The signal performance too is impressive and we did not see dropped calls while using the device.
Battery life is above average but not as good as the battery life of the original Moto G. When used with 3G, the Moto G (2nd gen) lasts around 14 hours with medium to heavy use. If you don't have too many emails and social media accounts connected to the phone, you will get even better battery life.
Should you buy it?
Yes, absolutely. That is if you are looking to buy a smartphone with a budget of less than Rs 15,000. We know the Xiaomi Mi 3 is a better phone than the new Moto G. But that is no longer available.
Among the phones that are available in the Indian market, the Moto G (2nd gen) is a safe and reliable bet if you are looking to spend less than Rs 15,000 on your new phone. It doesn't have a flashy design or a gazillion features. It uses hardware that is rather old now. But overall it still offers an Android experience that is smooth and polished. And experience is what matters.
Look and Feel - 7.5/10
Screen - 7.5/10
Camera - 7/10
Hardware - 7/10
Battery - 7/10
Call quality - 8/10
Value - 8/10
AwaitNews.com rating - 8/10