Moto 360 (2014)

If it ain't broke, don't fix it

Motorola released the original Moto G back in November 2013 as a mid-range counterpart to the Moto X in an effort to round out its device portfolio. It was clear that the Moto G provided an excellent value at just $179 unlocked — a real go-to phone for any value-minded smartphone buyer around the world, particularly internationally.

Just over three months later, Motorola announced that the Moto G was the best selling smartphone in its history, and not by a small margin. Motorola has consistently expressed that the Moto G is an important part of its refreshed product strategy, and even doubled-down on the value segment with the Moto E.

Coming around on 11 months since its release, it's tough to see why Motorola would want to mess with such a great device. And with this, the new Moto G, Motorola has stuck with its proven recipe and improved it in just a few key areas. Read along and see our first impressions of the latest generation of Moto G.

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  • More: Moto G (2014) specs

Moto G hands-on video

We haven't spent nearly enough quality time with the Moto G, but we have managed to put together a hands-on video that encompasses a lot of our initial feelings. Be sure to give it a watch, then read along for our full feelings on the device.

Moto G hardware

Moto G (2014)

The biggest features people are looking for are in the hardware.

Motorola talked to thousands of current and potential Moto G owners around the world, asking them what they care about most in their phone at this price point. Unsurprisingly, the mainstays of screen size, camera performance and speaker quality came up at the top of the list. Those are primarily hardware changes that needed to be made, not software, and Motorola importantly chose to put its time and energy behind fixing those so-called "pain points."

This is the result: a Moto G with the same internals — a Snapdragon 400 processor, 1GB of RAM and just HSPA+ connectivity — and nearly identical design, but a few key changes that will make it just as desirable for the next year as the original was for the last.

Moto G (2014)Moto G (2014)

The most noticeable difference is the display and sheer size of the new Moto G. Stepping up from a 4.5-inch display, it now has a 5-inch display at the same 720p resolution. That's good for 294 ppi, and the IPS panel looks quite nice even though we can't say there are any notable differences in quality over the original (which wasn't too shabby in the first place).

That new display makes the new Moto G substantially larger than the first generation. When you take into account the front-facing speakers and large bezels, the Moto G is actually just slightly larger overall than the new Moto X with its 5.2-inch display.

But the design itself hasn't hardly changed. The back plate is slightly more textured, the "dimple" for the Motorola logo is a bit less recessed, the speaker grille from the back is now gone, and buttons and ports are all in the same places. This really is just a Moto G, but larger.

Going to its next big improvement, Motorola has added front-facing stereo speakers to the Moto G. They live on the top and bottom bezels flanking the display, and actually sound quite good. This isn't BoomSound, but you're going to get a drastically better experience watching videos on this phone than the original.

Bigger screen, better speakers and improved camera quality to boot.

When it comes to camera performance, the Moto G now has an 8MP f/2.0 shooter around back, and a 2MP out front, replacing 5MP (f/2.4) and 1.3MP cameras previously. The camera software is basically unchanged, and as you'd expect the image quality hasn't improved much either. Having additional megapixels to work with helps, but the processing power of the phone and the camera app haven't. We've taken a few quick snapshots and weren't blown away by high-end phone standards. But the Moto G isn't a high-end phone, and the folks who buy this device will surely be happy with the pictures it takes.

Photos you take can be offloaded to a now-standard SDcard slot, something that wasn't available on the original Moto G and only made it to the line with the higher-end (and more expensive) LTE model released earlier this year.

Moto G (2014) Flip Shells

The crazy-popular Moto G Shells are back too, with a wide variety of different colors to choose from in an either standard or Flip Shell design that is basically unchanged from last year save for a second slot at the bottom for the new speakers. Motorola has discontinued the Grip Shells, however, indicating that a vast majority of shell purchases were of standard and flip varieties.

As an added bonus, Motorola has also made the new Moto G water resistant, with a so-called "coating" around the phone that keeps it safe from accidental spills. They won't put a certain IP rating on it, but any increased resistance to water over "none" is a welcomed addition.

Moto G software

Moto G (2014) software

Motorola didn't see much need to mess with the software on the Moto G when it was refreshed, and we can agree with that approach considering how light and functional it is already. And because the new Moto G doesn't make any bump in internal specs, the capabilities of this device haven't increased much to add any more software features. You're getting Android 4.4.4 just like the previous generation, with a subset of Motorola's tweaks and improvements on board.

Still a better software experience than you'll ever find elsewhere at this price.

Unlike the new Moto X, the refreshed Moto G doesn't ship with the Google Now Launcher pre-installed. It is available from the Play Store, however, if you choose to go that route. In either case you're getting practically the same experience, as Motorola has closely followed Google's stock launcher with its own.

Motorola has chosen to expand its Motorola Migrate app, which helps you move contacts and data from your old phone to your new one, with Moto G users in mind. Migrate will now pull in your contacts from even featurephones and load them on your Moto G — clearly speaking to the fact that Motorola knows how many people are moving to a smartphone for the first time with their Moto G purchase.

Most importantly, Motorola has guaranteed that the new Moto G will receive an update to Android L when it's released — something that isn't always bestowed on a device in the sub-$200 unlocked range.

Ready to hold its place atop the mid-range phone world

Moto G (2014)

Motorola's refresh of the Moto G in 2014 could easily be looked at as an extremely iterative update that lacks enough changes to warrant a whole new product release. Though in many ways, it's hard to find fault in Motorola's strategy.

It took an absolutely winning formula that gave it its best-selling smartphone ever — one that propelled it to the number four manufacturer of phones in India and number two in Brazil — and simply added a few features that those consumers were clamoring for.

It did so while retaining the same $179 starting price, something that's often considered the most important specification of all on a phone. Only time will tell, but Motorola seems to have another sure-fire hit on its hands with the new Moto G.