Motorola used to be massive: the major player in mobile phones alongside Nokia and then… well, they just got overtaken and the likes of Apple, Samsung and HTC put them into the second division. This must have been the point when Google snapped them up as a bargain. Google license the Android OS and specifically brand some third-party phones as specific-Google phones with the Nexus brand: there are Nexus Tablets (I use a Nexus 7 from Asus) and there is a Samsung Nexus and the Nexus 5 is from LG. By buying Motorola they have a foothold in the hardware as well now, and although they aren’t using the Nexus brand yet, I am sure that this is where the close integration between Google and Motorola will take us.
A year back I thought I would downsize my phone to a basic Android smartphone and use it primarily for calls and as a wifi hotspot. For this reason, size and power would be (I thought) irrelevant, so I changed to a Sony Xperia U. This is a mistake: the phone was too small for my mansize fingers and far too underpowered to actually answer calls. People would phone me, I would answer and it would just sit there, looking at me while I plaintively would shout “Hello? Hello? Father Simon here!” at a frozen screen. It’s not professional and was seriously getting in my way.
So now I have been changed to a Motorola Moto G smartphone which has an impressive set of specifications which you can peruse here (have you noticed that most phone review websites just copy the same spiel from one review to another, nobody really answers the key question: what is this phone actually like? which is something I want to address in this very post). It is a quad-core processor and comes with 8 or 16Gb of RAM. The most important thing to note is that it is really good value: you can get one of these for around £99 on PAYG and that’s a lot of bang for your buck.
The phone is a reasonable size and is encased in Gorilla glass which they claim is scratchproof (we’ll see eh?). The screen is of a good size (4.5 inch screen 720 x 1280 pixels) and the speakers are okay – a little distortion on occasion, but more than acceptable. I haven’t found a way to make it Vibrate and Ring at the same time, but that is a very very minor inconvenience: normally my phone is on vibrate whenever I am leading worship or visiting someone.
Performance is excellent: with Jellybean OS and now Kitkat (Android 4.4), the phone can easily swap between apps and multitask with no noticable lag. Hey – it answers the actual phone! I can once again function as a normal human being and communicate with people! It can even run Carmageddon quite successfully, so no more dull gaps! It can handle the notoriously resource-hungry Google Maps very well, although I do miss the little blue arrow short cut which dumped Maps straight into GPS mode… I guess that’s progress…
I only have the 8Gb model and there is no memory expansion so you are limited with music and video on the machine itself, but as I am on a Three all-you-can-eat data contract, I use Spotify, the BBC Radio iPlayer and Google Drive and stream everything I need, meaning I can keep the phone light from these kinds of files. Seriously, if you must have music on your phone, just choose an album at a time or make your own mixtape: it’s what we used to do when we had Sony Walkman Cassette tapes…
I have been in the habit of putting my phone in a car cradle when driving so that I can listen to Internet Radio (get my fix of Jack FM via TuneUp Radio or my favourite comedies from the BBC iPlayer) and perhaps answer a few hands-free phone calls, but the Micro-USB (no charger supplied with the phone BTW) is on the very bottom and the headphone jack is on the very top. It doesn’t fit in the cradle very well, and I might have to cut a slot in the cradle or get a new cradle.
I record my homilies on my phone using a microphone extender (without the headphones plugged in) so it works just like a tie-clip microphone. You can also use this to plug in your high-performance headphones and still use the phone. The quality of the recording was good and I then immediately upload them to my dropbox so that by the time I have got back to the Vicarage, the audio files are ready and waiting to be edited into completed files. See here for the archive of my homilies.
With the Xperia U, I had a stock of charged batteries so by about 4pm I was able to swop in another battery and continue out on the road until the evening. The battery is fixed (as seems to be the way these days) so I have to get back into the habit of a top-up charge and a portable recharger.
Others have commented on the quality of the camera, but let’s face it: if I want an art picture, I’ll use my Nikon dSLR, if I want a drunken picture of me and my mates down the pub, then all is need is adequate and to me, this is fine. To carp on about camera quality is to forget that actually having a camera in your pocket at all times is the most awesome thing, even if it has created the monster which is the Selfie.
So, do I like the phone: Very much yes
Does it perform well? Oh yes…
What isn’t great on it? The positioning of the connections, the non-removable battery, the lack of a microSD slot
What is good? Performance, Screen, Price
Should I get one? Yes. No question – if you are looking for a cheap but powerful phone. Clearly it isn’t going to be as flash as the Samsung Galaxy S4, the iPhone 5S (yech!) or the Sony Xperia Z but it’s a quarter of the price for the same level of performance without the bells and whistles. Go for it, I say.