The new Moto G is undeniably the best budget work phone on the market. It takes everything that made last year's model our favorite low-cost smartphone and improves upon it with lightning-fast LTE Internet speeds and a more durable, waterproof design. And this phone costs just $179, without a pricey two-year contract attached, making it an excellent choice for budget-conscious business users.
A good-looking smartphone won't necessarily help you do your job, but it certainly doesn't hurt. And the new Moto G is easily the best-looking phone in the line yet. It's still made entirely from plastic, but Motorola added a metallic paint job to the frame, as well as a metallic accent on the phone's back, which give this low-cost handset a more premium look than you'd expect for the price.
The 2015 Moto G is also the first one to be available through Motorola's Moto Maker service, which lets you customize your phone by choosing colors for the front and back, as well as the metallic accents. That includes bold colors like "lime" and "golden yellow," but business users will probably prefer the more subdued options like black, white, chrome and champagne.
The plastic back of the phone has a ridged texture, which makes the phone easier to hang on to. The back plate does snap off to reveal the SIM card and microSD card ports, but the battery is not removable.
Unlike previous entries in the Moto G line, the new model is IPX7 rated for water resistance, which means that this phone can survive being submerged in up to a meter of water for a half hour. That's a big perk for business users, because they won't have to worry about losing their work phones if they get dropped in the sink. And unlike some other waterproof phones, the Moto G retains water resistance without an annoying flap over the charging port.
The Moto G is a bit hefty compared to its closest competitors. Coming in at 5.45 ounces, it feels noticeably heavier than other plastic budget phones like the Blu Life One (4.3 ounces) and the Nuu X1 (5.1 ounces). That's not really a bad thing; in some ways, the extra heft actually makes the Moto G feel sturdier and more substantial than those devices.
Motorola hasn't changed a thing about the 2014 Moto G's display, and that's fine. The 5-inch, 1280 x 720-pixel panel is still bright, crisp and roomy enough for screen-intensive productivity tasks like viewing documents or editing spreadsheets. This is especially noteworthy because most budget phones come with smaller screens.
The display is also a bit brighter than average, topping out at 463 nits of brightness. That beats the smartphone category average of 388 nits. A bright display is easier to view outdoors or in direct sunlight.
Viewing angles are a bit limited; when you turn the phone in your hand, colors start to wash out a bit. That's typical for budget-priced phones, though.
Motorola's budget phone also outpaced the competition on performance tests. Running on a 1.4-GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 CPU with 2GB of RAM, our review unit racked up a pretty good score of 1,591 on the Geekbench 3 test, which evaluates overall performance. That beats the Blu Life One (1,449) and Nuu X1 (2,511).
My experience with the Moto G bears those numbers out. The device isn't quite as zippy as the latest flagship phones, but it did launch apps quickly and provide smooth multitasking throughout my testing period.
Processing power isn't the only factor that determines everyday performance. Support for 4G LTE networks also affects how fast your phone can access the Web and load content. That's why it was so disappointing when the 2014 model launched without this feature.
Thankfully, the new Moto G comes with full support for 4G LTE built in, which translates to faster performance in everyday use. We didn't formally test Internet speeds on the two devices, but I definitely noticed a difference.
The Moto G is one of the longest-lasting budget phones we've ever tested. The device ran for a relatively impressive 9 hours in our battery-life test, which simulates continuous Web browsing. With average use, that will easily get you through the end of the workday and then some.
The Moto G lasted a half hour longer than the smartphone category average of 8.5 hours, a mark that not many budget phones can hit. The Blu Life One ran for 7 hours and 49 minutes on the same test, while the Nuu X1 petered out after a mere 5 hours and 12 minutes.
Even better, Motorola added quick-charging capabilities to the new Moto G. Motorola says quick charging should give you about 10 hours of average use with just 15 minutes of charging. That could be a lifesaver if you only have a few minutes to top off your battery life during a short business flight layover.
While other manufactures, like Samsung and HTC, are busy pushing convoluted software skins onto their Android phones, it's refreshing to see Motorola sticking to a mostly stock version of Android 5.0 Lollipop. Simply put, stock Android looks better and is easier to use than any third-party overlay I've seen. I especially like that there are no useless, pre-installed apps cluttering up the Moto G's app drawer.
And if you're coming from an older version of Android, you might appreciate some of the productivity-focused features that were added in Lollipop, such as native wireless printing and Priority Mode, which lets you adjust the number of distracting alerts you receive. Just tap the volume rocker up or down, then choose an option to receive all notifications, none of them or only priority alerts from specified contacts. You can even automate the process, and set your phone to enter Priority Mode during your morning meeting block, for example. That could help you avoid distractions at key times during your workday.
Motorola packed in a few key software features that help separate the Moto G from competing phones. I love Moto Display, a feature that flashes new alerts right on the lock screen, even when the phone is off. Pressing and holding the alert gives you a small preview of its contents. I like the feature because it lets me see if an alert demands my immediate attention, without forcing me to fiddle with my smartphone. And since the alert lights up only a small section of the screen, it doesn't drain your battery like similar features on other phones. You can even dismiss alerts without ever actually turning the entire display on by swiping to the side.
Moto Assist is another nice feature that provides context-sensitive automation for your smartphone. For example, you can set up your phone to read your text messages to you while you're driving, ensuring that you can safely access important messages as they arrive. Another nice featuer is the ability to set up automatic replies for text messages during times that you have a meeting scheduled on your calendar.
Motorola sells the new Moto G in two different varieties. My review unit — the pricier of the two, at $219 — came equipped with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard storage. A more affordable configuration is available for only $179, with just 1GB of RAM and a measly 8GB of storage.
I'd strongly recommend that all business users pay the extra $40 for the higher-end model. I didn't have a chance to test the low-end version for myself, but I know from experience that an extra 1GB of RAM goes a long way toward providing smooth multitasking. The extra storage is also essential if you plan to install a decent number of applications – even casual users will fill up 8GB very quickly.
Both models come with a microSD card slot, which helps mitigate the storage issue somewhat. The slot lets you expand the phone's internal storage by up to 32GB, which will let you install more apps and store more files locally.
The Moto G's $219 price tag might not sound all that affordable for a "budget" smartphone, particularly if you're used to buying subsidized smartphones through carriers like Verizon or AT&T. But remember that carriers are only able to offer those low prices by locking you into an expensive data plan for two years to recoup the cost.
Buying a phone like the Moto G outright, with no contract attached, lets you opt for a more affordable monthly plan, which saves you — or your business — a lot of money in the long run. That's why flagship phones like the Samsung Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6 both cost as much as $649 when purchased off-contract.
If you're looking for a good business phone that won't break the bank, the Moto G can't be beat. With decent performance, large display, long battery life and a durable, waterproof design, it's easily the best work phone in its price range. It's not as fast or feature-packed as flagship phones like the Samsung Galaxy S6, but it's more than good enough to keep you productive while on the go, and help you save some money while you're at it.