Back when it was owned by Google, one of the big advantages of a Motorola phone was that it came with a basic but up-to-date version of its parent company’s Android software, unsullied by extraneous user interfaces and bloatware other manufacturers used to try and hide the fact that internally, they were all the same.
Fortunately, since it was sold on to Lenovo at the tag end of 2014, not a lot has changed in the design ethos at the firm. The latest revision to its wildly successful Moto G – the Moto G (3rd Gen) – is every bit as solid and unadulterated as the last. And even though it’s not available in South Africa other than as a grey import (this handset was supplied to us by Orange), it’s still very affordable for what it is.
Motorola Moto G (3rd Gen) review: Design and Display
The third Moto G sports a curved rear end with a removable back cover. Unfortunately this doesn’t mean that the battery can be swapped out because the handset is a unibody design. The Moto G feels nice in your hand, its weight means that it won’t simply slither out of your hand and one to that one stone that’s been tasked by the universe to crack your screen.
Removing the rear cover exposes the microSIM slot, and a slot for microSD expansion.
Other than that there’s a 3.5mm input/output at the top of the phone and the micro USB port is at the bottom.
The 5inch IPS LCD display runs at an HD resolution of 720×1 280p. While it isn’t terrible the colours do feel somewhat muted compared to displays in smartphones like the HTC Desire 626 or even the Xiaomi Redmi Note 2.
The operating system is clean, there is zero bloatware to be found, even some apps you would think were on the handset are missing, like a voice recorder. While weird, and inconvenient, its a small 4MB download to get one from the Google Play store.
Motorola Moto G (3rd Gen) review: Performance
Handling processor duties is a quad-core ARMv7 processor operating at 1.3GHz. It’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410, one of the firm’s mid-range chips which has proven itself many times in the past – although it is a couple of years old now. Graphics are handled by an Adreno 306. While the CPU is enough to handle tasks such as web browsing, viewing documents and even chatting with your mates but the GPU falls short of keeping that smoothness up.
When rendering 3D graphics there is noticeable lag and during the Antutu 3D benchmark we recorded frame rates as low as 16fps. This means that while casual gaming is fine you’re going to struggle to play action games such as Shadow Fight.
Our full benchmark comparison and detailed scores follow below.
The PC Mark Work Benchmark, which we use to benchmark performance while browsing, watching video and just generally using the things people generally use their phones these days had great results. So if you’re prone to using your phone to watch a movie, listen to music, browse the web and social media, the Moto G (3rd Gen) is great.
However, out of the box the Moto G (3rd Gen) has a terribly small 8GB of storage. Once we had loaded our benchmarking tools, our favourite apps and taken a few pictures we had 2GB of space to use. That is a terrible thing to have to report especially if you want to listen to music on a flight or even watch a movie.
Thankfully however if you prefer streaming your music to listening to MP3s, the Moto G has support for LTE networks, and the WiFi has support for the 802.11 b/g/n standard.
Motorola Moto G (3rd Gen) review: Battery Life
Powering everything from underneath the covers is a 2 460mAh battery. Our standard battery test gave us around six hours of battery life, which is OK but not outstanding. While using it during the day you can expect to have to plug it into the wall every night.
Charging takes around four hours, give or take 30 minutes, to reach full capacity. We really would have liked to see a removable battery in the Moto G 3 but there’s that whole adage about cake and eating it.
Motorola Moto G (3rd Gen) review: Camera
We have to of course mention the obligatory cameras. The Moto G 3 comes fitted with a 13MP snapper with an F2.0 aperture at the back and a 5MP camera looking at your face.
We do find the camera interface itself a bit confusing. Finding the options for example, requires swiping left from the left edge of the screen. There is absolutely no way of knowing this unless you read the manual, or, Google it.
What are the snaps like? Check out our gallery of images taken with the Moto G 3 below.
Motorola Moto G (3rd Gen) review: Conclusion
For just over R3 000, the latest Moto G is a pleasure to use. The problem, really, is that there’s a lot of handsets which can make the same claim these days, many more than when Motorola began pushing its prices down and making excellent handsets affordable. Alcatel, LG, ZTE and – most notably – Xiaomi all have eyes on the R3K customer.
For just a few hundred rand more you can get Xiaomi’s significantly faster Redmi 4, or the same firm’s Redmi phablet for less. What they don’t offer is the latest version of Android, but they do have local warranties and availability of accessories and so on.
Whether this phone is for you or not depends on what you want from a phone, if you want simple vanilla Android in a handset that is well made and performs well then help yourself, the Moto G 3 is a great option. The one reservation we do have is that 8GB storage – if you can afford it, go for the 16GB model that costs R344 more. You’ll also get an extra 1GB of RAM which should result in better performance too.