Nexus 4, Moto G

How does last year’s Nexus shape up against this year’s entry-level champion?

Motorola’s latest entry-level handset, the Moto G, has been turning heads thanks to its relatively low price point and compelling specs and feature set. It’s a step below the Nexus 5 — the device it tied with in the “best value” category of our most recent Android phone roundup. But what of the Nexus 4, no longer available on Google Play, but relatively easy to track down from other online vendors.

If you’ve got a Nexus 4, is the Moto G a valid upgrade path? And if you’ve got around $200 to spend on a smartphone, which is worth your money? We’ll take a look at both devices in more detail after the break.

Nexus 4, Moto GNexus 4, Moto G

External hardware

They may look almost identical from the front, but that’s where the external similarities end

The Nexus 4 and Moto G may look almost identical from the front, but that’s where the external similarities end. The Moto G is very much a traditional plastic smartphone, whereas the Nexus 4 is all glass and rubber, making it the clear winner in this area. That’s not to say the Moto G feels bad, or is in any way poorly made — far from it. But plain old matte plastic — even if it’s customizable in various colors — can’t beat the look and feel of the Nexus’s glass back.

Both handsets are typically susceptible to cosmetic damage after a while — the Nexus 4’s glass back is notoriously prone to picking up scratches, while the silvery trim around the front will eventually lose some of its luster. (And of course if you drop it on its back, bad things will probably happen.) On the Moto G, it’s marks and smudges on the back cover you’ll be worrying about, particularly on the lighter-colored backs.

Winner: Nexus 4

Internal hardware

Nexus 4, Moto G

Despite its age, the Nexus 4’s quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro chip still packs a punch, and with 2GB of RAM and an Adreno 320 GPU it provides more than enough hardware muscle to run the latest Android apps and games. The extra memory in particular helps the Nexus’s multitasking capabilities.

The Moto G on the other hand has a CPU built for power efficiency. It’s a quad-core Snapdragon 400 chip at 1.2GHz with four energy-sipping ARM Cortex A7 cores. Moto’s handset also uses a lower-powered Adreno 305 GPU and just 1GB of RAM, the latter being a result of the device’s lower price point.

Internal storage is a wash, with both devices coming in 8 and 16GB variants. But connectivity is another important win for the Nexus 4 — it supports pentaband 42Mbps DC-HSDPA, meaning you’ll get the fastest 3G coverage possible around the world. The Moto G, by comparison, only supports 21Mbps speeds, and you’ll be stuck with between three and four bands depending on which model you go for.

In most apps, anecdotal performance is closer than you’d expect given the theoretical gulf between the two chipsets. But overall the Nexus 4 is the clear winner, its technological prowess shining through in more demanding tasks. It also boasts wireless charging, an added convenience that’s lacking from the Moto G.

Winner: Nexus 4

Display and sound

Nexus 4, Moto G

The Moto G’s screen is arguably its most impressive feature

The Moto G’s screen is arguably its most impressive feature, so it’s not unsurprising to see it besting the Nexus 4, which never really excelled in this area. Motorola’s 4.5-inch 720p display is as bright, sharp and vivid as anything you’ll find outside of a high-end smartphone. By contrast, the Nexus 4’s panel has always seemed unnaturally cool, dark and washed-out, whether due to poor tuning or the use of lackluster hardware.

Both phones’ internal speakers are unremarkable, but the Moto G is the winner in the arena of sound quality. While there’s not much difference in volume, the G produces noticeably fuller, bassier, and generally better-sounding music than the Nexus 4.

Winner: Moto G

Software

AppsMotorola isn’t trying to maintain its own Android UI layer these days. Instead, it’s building only features and apps on top of Google’s OS. In the case of the Moto G however, much of the fancier stuff from the Moto X hasn’t made the cut. Active notifications, “OK Google Now” and the quick-launch camera gesture are nowhere to be found on Moto’s cheaper handset, meaning you get stock Android 4.3 and a bit of extra stuff, including Motorola Assist and Trusted Bluetooth. An update to Android 4.4 is promised by the end of January.

The Nexus 4 is already right up to date with the latest version of Android

But the Nexus 4 is already right up to date with the latest version of Android, and given that the Moto G offers a barebones Android experience anyway, we have to hand this win to the Nexus. What’s more, its status as a Nexus device should also see it positioned close to the front of the queue for future updates.

Winner: Nexus 4 (Feel free to change this if you absolutely must have Motorola Assist or Trusted Bluetooth)

Camera

Nexus 4, Moto G

If you’re buying either of these phones, it’s probably not for the camera. By modern standards, neither device excels at shooting photos or video, but the Nexus 4 pulls ahead in a few key areas. Aside from its higher megapixel count — 8MP versus 5MP — it’s faster to capture images, produces better-looking daylight shots and supports 1080p video. Both devices’ performance degrades rapidly in low light, however, with noise quickly creeping into most shots that aren’t perfectly lit.

On the other hand we’d be remiss in not mentioning the Moto G’s camera app, which is easier to use and offers better focus and exposure controls than stock Android’s offering.

Winner: Nexus 4

Battery life

Despite the similar battery capacities — 2070mAh for the Moto G, 2100mAh for the Nexus 4 — there’s a night-and-day difference in longevity between the two devices. We never had any trouble getting a full day — and then some, more often than not — out of the Moto G, but the Nexus 4 has never wowed us with its battery life.

Much of the difference in longevity is likely down to the CPUs being used in the phones. The Nexus 4’s Snapdragon S4 Pro is powerful, but power-hungry, while the Moto G’s Cortex A7 cores don’t perform as well in demanding apps, but are supremely efficient.

Winner: Moto G

Nexus 4, Moto G

The bottom line

A year on from release, the Nexus 4 remains a fine phone, though one clearly overshadowed by the current high-end contenders. Similarly, for a brand new entry-level to mid-range phone, the Moto G represents almost unbeatable value.

If you already have a Nexus 4, the Moto G is in no way an upgrade from your current device

In terms of OS updates, both devices should be pretty well-supported for the foreseeable future. As a Nexus device, the N4 should have at least another 12 months of life left in it (though the fate of the Galaxy Nexus may cast some doubt on that.) Meanwhile the new Motorola’s commitment to software updates is plain to see, and the company’s quick rollout of KitKat on the Moto X inspires confidence.

But the Nexus 4 is clearly the better phone overall, and if you already have one, the Moto G is in no way an upgrade from your current device. Save your $170, or put it towards something that’d be a genuine step up from the N4, like a Nexus 5.

The question of which one to buy right now is a bit trickier. You could probably find a second-hand Nexus 4 online for around than the cost of a Moto G, but then that’s a second-hand phone. A new Nexus 4 will likely set you back a good deal more, but that’s because you’re paying for more phone at an unsubsidized price.

Ultimately, it comes down to what you already own and how much you’re willing to spend. But it’s also important not to confuse the true cost of the Nexus 4 with the price Google was charging for it for most of its life — and particularly the fire-sale price of $199 we saw before its discontinuation. The Moto G is what a good sub-$200 phone looks like in late 2013. And without the artificially low Google Play Store price, the Nexus 4 now sits above that price point. Pay your money, take your choice.

Overall winner: Nexus 4

Read more: Nexus 4 review, Moto G review

 

Reader comments

Moto G versus Nexus 4

69 Comments

Not sure this is a completely fair comparison, but I certainly understand why it's being made. I love my N4, and wouldn't buy the G as a direct replacement for a daily driver. I would however love to have the G as a backup to my n4 or for non power users in the family. Thanks for the comparison though.

Posted via Android Central App on my white Nexus 4 with StraightTalk

I think it's a fair comparison. If someone has $200 and is looking to buy an Android phone, the Moto G and Nexus 4 are the only real options. I'd go with the Nexus 4 too, but am strangely fascinated by the Moto G. I'll probably end up buying one as a backup device.

I agree particularly since I just weighed these 2 as possible choices. I'm giving the $30 T mobile prepaid plan a go (coming from sprint) and wanted to spend about 200. I was debating going either moto x or nexus 5 but with new models less than 6 months away it didn't make sense to spend that much right now; especially if I end up not switching. In the end I went for a N4 off ebay for 208 shipped with the inductive charger.

I think that's what a lot of N4 owners that want a backup phone will end up doing. I was thinking it'd be nice to have a back up, especially on days when I know I will need my phone over a long period and the Moto G would be the phone that day.

Sounds good, but some may not have the money...
Full disclosure: I dropped and broke my 2 month old N4 and just bought an N5 to replace it. I'm looking into Moto G for someone else.

I love my Nexus 4, but my battery life is awful. I never make it a whole day without having to charge it. That alone is reason enough for me to switch

Same here. I thought they said in one sentence the moto g is in 'no way' an upgrade, but then said the battery lasts longer. Sounds like it may be an upgrade for my purposes.

The Nexus 4 is, for the most part, the superior phone.

So why a Moto G?

Its simple. If this is someones first foray into Android and they don't want to invest in either a 2 year contract or a $600 flagship, this is the perfect starting point. No crappy ZTE's, no bootleg Huawei's. If you want to give someone "the red pill" and show them what Android is, $179 for a Moto G is a great investment.

Plus you can honestly say that it's the greatest backup phone you can buy and its Made in America.

Also, the Moto G will be available on Verizon (Sprint?), whereas the Nexus 4 was a GSM-only affair.

I use T-Mobile with my Nexus 5, so I'll likely get the Verizon Moto G to have both networks at my disposal, when I'm traveling.

Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5

Nexus 4 if you want better gaming and an ever so slightly, better phone but Moto G if you want amazing battery life at the cost of slight performance decrease.

Honestly, it would be difficult to recommend the Nexus 4 to anyone, simply because it's not officially available anymore.

Also, ever since it sold out at the fire-sale prices, people have gone back to selling it used for 300 dollars.

The Moto G will be available for the foreseeable future and for under 200 dollars new.

Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5

Plus, if you buy an N4 from a reseller, the warranty can be very, very spotty. Buy the G directly from Moto and you have some extra peace of mind.

Sent from my iPhone

No peace-of-mind here. My external speaker went bad within two weeks. Motorola refuses to replace the phone. They will only repair it, which means I will be without a phone until they get it back to me. Very poor customer service.

I don't get why anyone would pick the Moto G over the N4. The N4 defeats it in every category except battery life. Battery life is very important but I'd take all the features and upgrades I can get with the N4 and its, not amazing, but VERY manageable battery life which is pretty fine with ART enabled now. I just don't get the big deal beside the price. You get what you paid for. It's very mediocre except in battery life.

Posted via Android Central App

I understand why you'd feel that way. But, the only chance one has to obtain a Nexus 4 is through Craigslist, eBay, or any other third-party reseller site. And, more often than not, it's been marked up due to it not being officially available anymore.

In Milwaukee, WI, most of the people selling Nexus 4's want upwards of 250. Whereas, if they went for the Moto G, they'd get a new handset for under 200.

Also, the Moto G will be available for Verizon, whereas the Nexus 4 simply wasn't. So, for people that need Verizon's service, the Moto G is the only option.

I do agree, though: if you already have the Nexus 4, then you have little to no incentive or reason to spring for the Moto G (unless you want a second phone through Verizon, which is what I plan to do).

Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5

Fact its available on Verizon and Sprint is a plus, yes. But, if I'm on Tmo or ATT and a new N4 is 250 vs 200 Moto G..I'm shelling out the extra 50 for the better all around package.

Posted via Android Central App

I sort of agree with you but the Moto G isn't really for a person who would also consider buying a used smartphone. Plus the ability to get 6 hours of screen on time and 18 hours of overall use is insane.

It'd be cool so see this done, but with a video side-by-side comparison. Figures and stats basically mean nothing anymore, it's real world usage people care about.

But what about a side-by-side video shows real world usage any better? Besides just looking at anecdotal differences in speed of scrolling or opening apps, you really don't gain much there for this kind of comparison.

"Real world" for 99% of users will be using just 1 phone at a time, not 2 side-by-side.

That too is not real world. The real world is when you load it with all your stuff, it sucks and you take it back for the other one and hope it doesn't suck

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So where is the competition for the Note 3? Oh right there isn't any...

Jesus why do you have to have that kind of attitude about a damn cell phone? It's a cell phone for Christ's sake. Just grow up and enjoy what you chose, and let others do the same.

I disagree on the point of the screen, it's completely poor tuning on Google's part, there's absolutely nothing wrong on the screen. Both the Moto G and a properly tuned Nexus 4 screen look stunning in their own right and both are pretty much tied.

My Nexus 4 is properly tuned (hurray for custom kernels) and I compared it with a Moto G and they look pretty close in terms of colour reproduction, clarity and brightness.

Eh, it's not an important distinction to make in this case. Considering that a [stock] software fix is unlikely at this point, whether any perceived problems are the fault of hardware or software is pretty much a tomayto/tomahto issue for the average, budget-oriented consumer.

Sent from my iPhone

This

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So where is the competition for the Note 3? Oh right there isn't any...

I've been wanting to try tuning my N4 screen via a custom kernel since I got it. But my rooted N4 was bricked by the Android 4.3 OTA update, and I'm wary of rerooting since I sideloaded 4.3 to get the phone working again - which lost me root access.

I've sideloded 4.4 and again, not rooted. Am I silly to be concerned? Have you gone to 4.4 yet - or is your custom kernel not yet out for 4.4? I guess the question is, just how complicated do Android upgrades become once you've gone the custom kernel route? I bought the Nexus as a way to always have the latest Android version. Seems a shame to lose that...

I did go Cyanogen on my Nexus 1 once Google abandoned it at Gingerbread. But I hope to have the N4 keep receiving upgrades for years (is anyone else pissed off that the Galaxy Nexus has been left out). My partner has a Galaxy Nexus with lousy battery life (won't charge fully any more), and I'm thinking of recommending a Moto G to him based on this article. I assume the G beats the GN handily?

Rooting shouldn't have bricked your device. How did you root your device? All you need to do to root the device is to unlock your bootloader and flash the root zip package. For instance, I use SuperSU for my rooting needs and I just simply flashed the zip after I update.

I'm currently on Android 4.4, using the SlimKat 1.6 Alpha ROM and AK Kernel r218.

Rooting didn't, the Ota did. Maybe he took the Ota rooted which has caused that kinda thing

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So where is the competition for the Note 3? Oh right there isn't any...

Yep. I did take the OTA rooted - with the stock kernel, though. I thought I had read things like 'an OTA may or may not remove root access - there's an su keeper app to get it back' to mean that it was safe to install an OTA when rooted. The worst that could happen was that you'd have to re-root. Well, that's not how it turned out.

Appreciate the comparison and as a nexus 4 owner like the article as has helped me decide the moto g will be a great phone for the younger members of the family. Thank you.

Posted via Android Central App

I've probably missed the point of the whole article, but What Is The Point? Why compare a year old phone which at release was designed to be top tier and priced that way to a mid range new phone (and was purposely designed, manufactured and priced to be mid-range). Plus, finding a new Nexus 4 is probably like finding an ice cube in "you know where". From a technical stand point the Moto G could not win from the start. But, since you can't find a Nexus 4 (new), I think Moto G wins...there's only one horse in the race...the other can't be found.

It was the only other thing G that came close to the price range. And they are both pretty entry level from a lot of aspects

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So where is the competition for the Note 3? Oh right there isn't any...

I had a problem with your comparison (one of the few times ever at ac) but when comparing the displays you said "The Moto G’s screen is arguably its most impressive feature, so it’s not unsurprising to see it besting the Nexus 4, which never really excelled in this area", however I remembered one of the big reasons I bought N4 was because of the review here at ac that stated the display was gorgeous. In fact here is the quote direct from review "The Nexus 4 builds on the design of the Galaxy Nexus - and makes it even better. LG's build quality is supurb. The display is excellent, with a fast processor and GPU to push things."
So... does this mean the nexus had a excellent screen then but now it doesnt? Because I for one was a fan of the N4's display too...
http://www.androidcentral.com/lg-nexus-4-review
Edit:also you forgot, N4 has nfc wich moto g does not

As a nexus 4 user the only thing that's stopping me from ordering a Moto G for my self rather than the wife is the lack of LTE on the Moto G. If that was added I'd order it but then it would most likely be the same price as the N5..

Adding LTE wouldn't make the Moto G $350 like the Nexus 5, but it would certainly push it up to the $200 level, which apparently for Motorola is just too high when they're trying to make it super budget-friendly.

Probably, I wish they had made the radio UMTS/HSPA+ up to 42 Mbps rather than UMTS/HSPA+ up to 21 Mbps. It would probably have added an extra $20-$25 bucks but it would have been worth it if you are on T-mobile.

They may have excluded the HSPS+ 42 mbps because of battery life along with price.

The 3G speeds will still be plenty fast for most users.

Timely article. I was comparing them this week thinking about a Moto G or used Nexus 4. If $200 is your budget they are best choices I found.

@Mac58 (ac app won't let me directly reply to you) I thought I was the only one who noticed this. And it is not only AC that is doing this but other sites as well. For example Droid Life said the Nexus 4 had "the best display in the business" in their review and this year in their Nexus 5 review they made similar comments saying the N4's display was always washed out, not that good etc. And that's just one example.

Posted via Android Central App using my Nexus 4

All I know is I'd take the motoG at $200 over anything else in its price class. I mean Walmart still sells the Samsung galaxy S2 for the same price, and it comes with frikken gingerbread!!

I guess what makes the G special is that for other unlocked devices at its price, you mostly get garbage, which honestly just hurts the android brand due to poor user experience. Google should ban them! The G should offer a solid almost Nexus experience, at garage sale pricing. And further, the G is what apple was trying to do with the 5c, but failed. Kudos to Googorola for bringing tech to the masses without the insane egos, and price tags to match!!

Honestly whether it competes with the nexus 4 is irrelevant. When comparing how it competes with other $200 brand new devices, the G is a flat out home run. And that's the real point, IMO.

Posted via Android Central App on my white Nexus 4 with StraightTalk

What's the warranty on the Nexus 4 you buy on ebay? If it stops working in 90 day, will you find out it's actually a refurb with no warranty?

I'll take the 12 month warranty on the Moto G, thanks.

The Moto G is def a great entry level phone but the only spec advantage it has over the Nexus 4 is battery life. That's it and it's at the cost of a weaker chip set not to mention half the RAM. Another thing to take into consideration is having half the data speed to the Nexus 4 and the fact that the Nexus 4 has LTE in some areas if you enable it (Root feature). Alex's review is spot on. If you don't own a Nexus and you need a cheap phone then the Moto G is an excellent choice but if you already have a Nexus 4 then give the Moto G a pass as it's a downgrade from the N4 even if it's a slight one.

Posted via Android Central App

I wouldn't buy a Moto G to replace a Nexus 4.

But I would buy a new Moto G over a used Nexus 4.

Posted via Android Central App

Good comparison. My Nexus 4 still makes me happy so for me personally, there was no immediate reason to upgrade to the Nexus 5. The S4 Pro Quad Core and the Adreno 320 still perform very well.

Got a brand new never used white nexus 4 (the guy said he only handled it to take pictures and when I got the device it did indeed look brand new) on swappa for 200. Then I sold my Lumia 920 for 150.

So basically I got a new nexus 4 for $50 and I couldn't be happier that I'm using "last years flagship".

Also I usually get a day out of the N4's battery so I don't mind if the moto g's is better and to this day I think the N4 has some of the most beautiful hardware of any phone ever.

Tl;Dr it's not hard to find a nexus 4 for the sane price as moto g and unless you must have a brand new phone I'd get the nexus 4 any day of the week.

Having had both in the past 12 months I'm unbelievably impressed with the Moto G. The battery life and trusted Bluetooth are it's stand out features for me (that and the screen is definitely better.) Ridiculous value for money and I'm not missing my Nexus 4 at all. I'm one who didn't really care for the flat glass back on the N4.

"On the Moto G, it’s marks and smudges on the back cover you’ll be worrying about, particularly on the lighter-colored backs." stupid argument as the Moto G has switchable backs..

Really have never for a moment thought the colors on my Nexus 4 are 'washed out'.

Be nice if battery lasted longer. And if the wireless charging worked the way it should.

This is exactly the type of article I am looking for to see if I should replace a Galaxy Nexus with a MotoG. Any chance you would do another comparison for the GN? I think it has some relevance since this would be the appropriate time for GN users to be looking at new devices and also since Google has abandoned them for upgrades.

Moto G vs the Gnex would have been a more useful comparison for me. With the Gnex not getting KitKat and being stuck on a 3 year contract with it, the Moto G could be the way forward if the nexus 5 is out of my price range!