Moto G 2015

It's easy to think of the Moto X — or as it is now, the Moto X series — as the Motorola "flagship." In a lot of ways, though, the mid-priced Moto G is far more important to the company since its rebirth under Google's guidance in 2013. The Moto G continues to be Moto's biggest-selling model, thanks to aggressive pricing, high-quality user experience and the resulting massive success in emerging markets.

Simply put, the Moto G was one of the first cheap Android phones that was also a good Android phone. And successive models built on that, with 4G LTE connectivity and bigger screens.

A new year brings a new Moto G, and this time Motorola's bringing even more premium features to its most popular handset. Join us as we dig deeper into what could be the best Android phone you can buy for less than $200 — and a pretty capable handset by any standard.

The basic physicality of the Moto G matches what we've come to expect form Motorola — simply, clean and curvy. The 5-inch screen is framed by plastic with a metallic effect — and this, like other areas of the Moto G's hardware, is customizable through the Moto Maker program. The curved back is a comfortable fit in the hand, while the textured finish — a feature found across Motorola's 2015 portfolio — makes for easy gripability. There are also plenty of visual references to Motorola's design heritage, such as the curve of the top edge and top-mounted headphone jack. It's all very subtle, but this definitely looks and feels like a high-quality Motorola phone. It's plastic done right.

Moto's laser focus on display, software experience and performance has endured.

The most important part of the G is the display, and as always Motorola hasn't skimped here. It's a 720p LCD, which isn't the most spectacular resolution in the grand scheme of things, but it's perfectly acceptable for a phone of this kind. What's more, it's bright enough use in daylight, with colors that are vivid but not overblown. And it's enhanced by Corning's Gorilla Glass 3, which should help keep it looking great over time.

On the inside, the G's components have received a few expected upgrades. The CPU is bumped up to a 64-bit Snapdragon 410 processor, with four Cortex A53 cores running the show at 1.4GHz. And should you opt for the version with 16GB of storage you'll also get 2GB of RAM; there's also a cheaper 8GB model with just 1GB of RAM. Our version was the 16GB model, and had around 10GB and change left after the first round of app updates. Either way, you'll be able to offload some stuff to microSD via the built-in slot.

MORE: Moto G 2015 specs

As we've come to expect from Motorola phones, the G absolutely flies. There's plenty of power to go around, and Moto's streamlined software surely helps to keep things running smoothly. As before, that software experience is extremely close to stock Android, with a very Google-centric experience. Moto execs reaffirmed the company's commitment to pure Android with no bloatware at today's international launch events — as did its parent company Lenovo at its recent TechWorld show in Beijing — and the results are plain to see. It's as pure an Android experience as you're going to get outside Google's own Nexus line.

But Moto's software is about more than just stock Android. You also get the suite of "Moto" capabilities, consolidated into an app of the same name. Moto Display has made it across to the Moto G for the first time, bringing one of the Moto X's most useful features to an ever wider audience. For the uninitiated, Moto Display pulses notifications on your lock screen, allowing you to quickly swipe up to see what's going on, and release to launch straight into the related app. Moto Actions lets you launch into the camera app with a wrist flick, or fire up an LED flashlight with a karate chop. And Moto Assist can adjust certain settings automatically depending on where you are.

Premium features are now more affordable than ever before.

It's all part of a running theme with this latest Moto G — a slow trickle of more premium features in a handset that's more affordable than ever. That's now been extended to the buying process too, with customization through Moto Maker letting customers build their own personalized phone with a variety of back, accent and front colors.

That's also true of the Moto G's camera, a 13-megapixel unit that uses the same sensor as the Nexus 6 — a Sony IMX214 — though without optical image stabilization. Our early tests have produced promising results, and although quality is likely to suffer in low light, the fact that this year's Moto G can produce photos comparable with last year's Moto X is seriously impressive. Again, everything about this phone has to be considered in the context of its price, and for the money we doubt you'll find a phone with a better camera. (And for the selfie-conscious, a revamped 5-megapixel front facer should produce crisper duckfaces than last year's 2.1-megapixel offering.)

Pair all that with an ample 2,470mAh battery, 4G LTE connectivity as standard and IPX7 water resistance and you've got a very compelling package indeed. Although the base 1GB/8GB model, which sells for $179 unlocked, will limit your storage and app usage potential, it's still almost unbelievable how much phone you're getting for well under 200 bucks.

We'll have much more to say on the 2015 Moto G in the coming days, so stay tuned to Android Central for continuing coverage.