Moto G versus Moto X

A look at Motorola's low end, and how it matches up against the high end

It's time to compare apples to oranges. One of these things is not like the other. Insert your own dry, not very witty and overused nugget of colloquial wisdom here. But we're going to compare the Moto X against the new Moto G.

The Moto X — even without all the cores and other numbers that send the spec-conscious all in a tizzy — is Motorola's high-end device for the high-end market. It's well-built, fast, loved by just about everyone who has used it — and is our pick as the best smartphone you can buy at the moment. It's everything that the old Motorola wasn't, and a fresh, new offering from the company that invented the cell phone.

The Moto G is the other end of the Android spectrum. It's inexpensive, accessible all over the world and targeted at blossoming smartphone adopters in countries without the high market penetration rates we see in the west. The good news is, unlike the usual budget handsets with fairly shoddy craftsmanship and plain bad performance, the Moto G is a damn good phone. It's solid, dependable and speedy — all for under $200.

Follow along, and we'll see where these two are similar and where they aren't.

Externals

Other than a few differences, these two look and feel identical in your hands. Both are built from well-constructed, soft-touch materials, have superb fit and finish, and are ergonomically designed to fit naturally in your hand. The rear of the phone is slightly swelled, and the back has enough texture to not feel slippery even when your hands aren't fully dry. Cut-outs for the camera, the LED flash and speaker grill are precision cut, and each features a small dimple in the center where the Motorola logo is. We're not sure of any purpose this may have, but your index finger will find it and you will rub it while you're using either the X or the G.

Around front, there are a few small differences. For starters, the camera opening is on the right on the Moto X and on the left on the Moto G. The hardware itself is different as well, but we'll get into that in the next section. The biggest difference is where the sides meet the glass. On the Moto X the glass is flush and smooth where it meets the plastic side, while on the Moto G the plastic side wraps around the edge of the glass ever-so-slightly. We've a feeling that this design difference is a by-product of the easily removable back on the Moto G.

Moto G backs

The customization department is the biggest difference. As mentioned above, the back panel of the Moto G snaps on and off, allowing users to change the back cover on a whim. There are a handful of different styles and colors, and they are cheap enough and easy enough to change that you can grab several. 

The Moto X on the other hand, is customized during the buying process at Moto Maker. You can choose from different color shells and faces, as well as get a colored anodized coating on the buttons and camera ring. 

Neither phone gains any function from these, unless looking good while using it is a function. What's important to us is that the Moto G's back cover can be removed, but the phone feels every bit as solid as the Moto X. The secret? The Moto X also has a removable back cover. A bit of care and a guitar pick will pop it right off, and it snaps right back into place. 

In a nutshell, they are both very nicely build phones.

Internals

You can look at the full specs for the Moto X here; the Moto G here. If you're a spec guy, go on and do that then come back. We'll have a look at the major differences right here.

The Moto X has an 4.7-inch AMOLED screen at 720p (316 ppi). The Moto G has a 4.5-inch LCD at 720p (329 ppi). The screen on the Moto G is a little smaller, and it's a little better. "Better" may be a result of the LCD versus AMOLED situation, where everything that's not black looks brighter and clearer, or the screen may just be really good. The Moto G gets a tip of the hat for having such a good screen on a budget phone, but the Moto X has an AMOLED screen for a software feature which we'll look at in a bit.

The Moto G is a 3G-only phone. The Moto X has been engineered to work with the US carriers LTE networks, but the G is strictly penta-band HSPA+ 14.4 tri- or quad-band HSPA+ 21 (depending on model). Repeat: No LTE on the Moto G.

Internal storage mirrors the price point. The Moto G comes in an 8GB or a 16GB version, while the Moto X comes in 16GB or 32GB versions. It would have been nice to see 32GB or even 64GB of storage on the G, since it is geared towards emerging markets where there isn't a consistent network connection. We also know that would make for a phone more expensive that what we have. You can't have both.

Other than these obvious differences, we need to talk performance. The Moto G is no Nexus 5 (or Moto X for that matter) when it comes to being speedy, but it's perfectly fine and rivals the mid-year 2013 flagships like the HTC One or Galaxy S4 for responsiveness, fluidity and smile-factor when using it. If pressed, I would say the Moto G performs about as well as the Nexus 4, until you put a big load on the system, like downloading a list of apps from Google Play. The X8 computing system inside the Moto X is clearly superior, but most of the time you'll never notice it.

The cameras

Want to find a way to make the Moto X camera look good? Compare it to the Moto G. 

The software is the same since the update for the Moto X (and it's pretty good, but bare-bones), but the hardware differences are plain to see. The Moto G and its 5MP camera don't quite cut the mustard, while the Moto X and its 10MP camera just barely does.

Don't buy either of these for the camera. Just don't. Here's a one shot (when I test, there is only one chance!) test of each while clamped in a tripod mount. Focal and exposure for each was set right on the shutter button of the camera. Besides the obvious grain, color balance and focus issues, notice the much wider field of view on the Moto X.

Moto X camera sample

Moto G camera sample

While neither is great, the Moto X gives a better result out of the camera with no editing — though it's a hair too over-exposed in the background.

The Software

Motorola's new software mantra is to follow parent company Google's lead, make "useful" additions that don't compete with already-supplied core services, and deliver phones with software that doesn't make the phone run poorly. Woodside and Soni said as much in Brazil when the announced the Moto G. They've succeeded.

Think "stock" Android, with no bells and whistles, then add in a few well-made bells and whistles, and that's what Motorola now delivers. Both the Moto G and the Moto X have Moto Assist, Trusted Bluetooth devices, Motorola Migration utility, and a custom camera app. They work as designed, and the experience is the same across both devices.

There are a few differences, though.

For starters, the Moto X was the first phone to KitKat, so it's running Android 4.4. The Moto G is expected to be updated in January, and we have no reason to doubt that Motorola can do just that — they did tame the beast that is Verizon, remember? But to be honest, on the user-facing side you'll see little difference. Blasphemy, but true.

The tangible difference is the addition of two features on the X that the G lacks — Touchless Control and Active Display. With the Droid Mini as the outlier, both these features are hardware dependent. Touchless Control requires a specific microprocessor dedicated to its operation (this is why S Voice kills your battery and Touchless Control doesn't), and Active Display works best with an AMOLED display so that only a portion of the screen is active. It's also very likely that Motorola wants to keep a few features for its high-end device. We can't say we blame them.

The bottom line

We're not going to pretend that these phones should be compared against each other on any real level. We had to look because we want to see the direction the new Motorola is going at both ends of their product line, and because on some level the Moto X and the Moto G very much resemble each other.

While the Moto G won't ever win this sort of head-to-head comparison, it does come out pretty favorably. In fact, we would be comfortable recommending it to any smartphone user providing the limitations of no LTE network and no 32GB (or higher) option don't clash with their needs. It really is that good.

And with an off-contract price of $199 (just go ahead and spend the extra $20 for double the storage), it's bound to find its way into more than a few gift boxes this year. 

That's the polite, certified AC take on things. Here's the Jerry take:

I don't play games on a phone, I have a Nexus 7 for that. If the Moto G had Active Notifications and Touchless Control, it would be all the phone I ever needed. If you're buying this for a new smartphone user, as a backup device, or a replacement for another cheap, pre-pad phone, you've made a damn good choice.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

128 Comments
  • First!? Posted via Android Central App
  • Comments like this should just get deleted..... Posted via Android Central App
  • Amen! Posted via Android Central App
  • Ha Posted via Android Central App
  • Not before the person posting it gets nad racked. Posted via Android Central App using an LG G2.
  • "Nad racked" quite simply awesome! Haha Posted via Android Central App
  • I agree,especially when they beat me to it. :-) Sent from my Note 3 rockin Jelly Bean 4.3
  • +1 for that.
  • Second Seriously hats off to Motorola for bringing to market two new smartphones that are geared to both ends of the market. Keep up the good work Moto! Sent via the DeathStar with my CM 10.2 S3
  • Y'know, the G looks really nice. I'm considering replacing a failing Galaxy Nexus (won't charge completely) with it. I imagine it would be at least comparable. One funny point, though. With the X and G looking so much alike, there's no status bump granted to people who carry the X. Sounds silly and trivial, but I'm sure there are people who wouldn't like their bargain Moto X to look just like a super-cheap Moto G. Just sayin...
  • Excellent. Thank you Jerry.
  • This! Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5
  • Note: Moto G also lacks the driving mode in Motorola Assist. Sleep and Meetings are still there however.
  • I thought the Moto G is HSPA+ 21?
  • Good call, a quick google search mostly shows 21. Is an and tech a trustworthy source? Posted via Android Central App
  • Yes, they're reliable. Posted via Android Central App
  • Anand tech? One of the smartest and techiest sites on the Web. Posted via Android Central App
  • Yup you're right! Our mistake, the Moto G is HSPA+ 21.
  • Thanks for the confirmation! That should make for a more enjoyable experience as far as download speeds go.
  • Jerry have you tried the Moto G with the dynamic notifications app?, I have the Dev Moto X coming but the more I hear about the G the more I'm thinking I should just go with that... Damn lol Posted via Android Central App
  • Wonderful comparison! Posted via Android Central App
  • Could you make a video taking the back cover of the moto X off? sounds...interesting...
  • There are teardown websites for that. AC quotes one of them fairly often but I cannot remember the name of it... ----------------------------------------------------
    So where is the competition for the Note 3? Oh right there isn't any...
  • Ifixit Posted Via VZW Moto X on the Android Central App
  • That's the one ----------------------------------------------------
    So where is the competition for the Note 3? Oh right there isn't any...
  • Im sure youl find it on good ol youtube :-) Posted via Android Central App
  • Great review thanks.
  • A great and honest review, the Moto G sure is getting the Love to the point of mating hmm im sure the 3.5mm jack will be apt for some lol Jokes aside im sure its a great device :-) Posted via Android Central App
  • Apples and oranges are both very similar.. Apples and geraniums would be a better way of describing dissimilar items. Posted via Android Central App
  • No. Posted via Android Central App
  • Title should be "Second-tier phones face off." Posted from my HTC One GPe via Android Central App
  • That would be like owning a GPe HTC one and it not being as snappy as its sense counterpart....... Oh wait! Posted via Android Central App
  • You have got to be mad! The HTC Google Play Edition would run circles around the Moto x. The build quality on the Moto X is horrendous compared to the HTC also. Posted via Android Central App
  • I never said the HTC One was bad, I've owned 3 of em, but the smart ass remark about the phone being 2nd tier deserved a smart ass reply in which the GPe HTC one isn't as snappy as its sense version.... That's just the way it is Posted via Android Central App
  • Haha, somebody's English is angry, lol. Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5
  • Someones full of regret.
  • You got that right! I bought the Moto x Monday and I'm now sending it back. That thing is way, way over hyped. The battery is not that good, the screen is not that good and it lags like a mother compared to any other high end phone. I would recommend the Moto G over the Moto X. Posted via Android Central App
  • Get a G2 brother... No regrets or buyers remorse. I've been using the hell out of it for 19hrs, and still have 49% battery as of now.... Posted via Android Central App
  • I have the Nexus 5, thank the Lord I didn't sell my Nexus 5 in order to buy the Moto X. The Moto X is the worst Phone I've had all year. God dang, that lock screen is laggy as hell on the Moto X. But I do agree with you that the LG G2 is a hell of a phone. Posted via Android Central App
  • You HAVE to be trolling right now. Maybe you got a defective phone. My Moto X never lags and i've had it for a few months.
  • Which is it? Is he trolling or did he get a defective unit? I really want to know! And, you seem to have the answer! Cough it up! Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5
  • You MUST be trolling. Hard. Say what you want about the battery or screen, but to say this phone lags is just plain false. Played with one and have seen countless videos, read reviews, all of em praise the performance. Pure BS. Posted via Android Central App
  • I'm not trolling. I wanted to like the phone and I love the feel of it but now that I'm used to high end phones I just can't go back. The Moto X should be priced under the Nexus 5. I am disappointed in the Moto X's performance After reading all the great reviews on AC, I had to try it for myself and its defiantly not as good as I expected it to be. Its very misleading to say that the Moto X is the best phone today. I'll quit ranting now, I just had to get my bad experience with the Moto X off my chest. Everyone has different opinions about phones anyway. That's why Android is so great, we have choices.
    Posted via Android Central App
  • That's down to opinion though, I had the white Nexus 5 and thought that felt cheap in the hand, very plastic, while on paper the X may not have the specs to wow the optimization done by Motorola on the X is fantastic, to say its not a high end phone is nonsense, it does everything the Nexus 5 can do and more, no chance is the battery worse than the Nexus 5, not a chance Quick edit about your edit lol yeah your 100% right Posted via Android Central App
  • Maybe my opinions don't count on here because I flash ROMs and kernels, so my battery life on the Nexus 5 kills the moto x. And maybe I had a buggy device. Oh well, the phone is being sent back. Posted via Android Central App
  • To each his own, and I am not knocking you. The battery life on the n5 I had for a week was terrible. It was stock (no roms allowed) and it 2012 battery bad. I was really stunned by it considering the n4 wasn't terrible, an d we are in 2013.. ----------------------------------------------------
    So where is the competition for the Note 3? Oh right there isn't any...
  • Yeah I don't think anybody will ever agree on which phone is the best. Posted via Android Central App
  • Let's agree, now! The Nexus 5 is the best! I AM trolling. Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5
  • It probably is for now if you do alot of rooting and hacking.
  • Yeah, but the playing field will be more level, once the other flagships start to attract more users and developers. Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5
  • Yeah right. The Note 3 is the best. lacking in ROMs but some big players are getting ready for release. And I have a pen. Is you jealous yet?
  • @nonexus, The battery on the n5 is a significant improvement over the n4. You must have had a defective n5. Posted via Android Central App
  • Not my unit but I am not the only one that has that complaint so they all cannot be defective...
  • Not to mention comparing apples to apples, the HTC One has the same battery, and a skin, but gets better life that a Stock N5. that shouldnt be the case
  • I wish you had better luck with the Moto X. I purchased the HTC One when it was released, and then picked up the Moto X, and now I got the nexus 5. I have got to say if I could only keep one it would be the moto z hands down. I can get 6 hours of screen time on the moto x. My HTC one gets 4 MAX. Same with My nexus 5. The moto x also runs chrome smoother than the HTC one. The level of software optimization is second to none IMO. The X is very smooth. I have never had a hiccup or delay. Not to mention active display / notifications. Once you get used to it you never go back! Posted via Android Central App
  • I must have had a defective device then. I listened to podcasts for 4 hours and my battery dropped 40%. My nexus 5 only drops 20%. Posted via Android Central App
  • Yeah, 40% is a damn big drop, especially from only listening to audio. I wouldn't sweat it. You gave it an honest go. Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5
  • If you want a crazy battery life then the Moto X isn't the best idea. The Droid Maxx, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and LG Optimus G2 are all great choices for a long battery life. Obviously the best battery life by far would be the Droid Maxx, but the Note 3 and G2 have high end specs with a great battery life. The LG G Flex and Sony Z1s also have a pretty good battery life. If you want a good screen and a good battery life then the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, LG Optimus G2, or Sony Z1s would be the best considering they have 1080p full HD screens. Posted from my Sprint LG G2
  • Ignorant comment is ignorant.
  • I think for many people especially those that just want occasional access to the Internet or are in an area where LTE is not available then this is perfect for them m. In fact I am seriously considering it as a gift for my mum since she really doesn't use a smartphone but has taken to stalking all us kids on Facebook I am sure this would make it easier for her to do it on the go! Even with its not so good camera it would be fine for the occasional pictures that she would be interested in taking. She often days that she wished that she had a camera with her to emphasize what she had been trying to describe. Posted via Android Central App
  • "rivals the mid-year 2013 flagships like the HTC One or Galaxy S4 for responsiveness, fluidity". If this is a true should I get rid of galaxy s4 for the moto g?:-) Posted via Android Central App
  • "Rivals" indicates that the move from a One or S4 to a Moto G would be a downgrade, or at best a side-grade.
  • Not in a million years. Half the ram, half the storage, Moto G display doesn't TOUCH either the One or S4. In no way could the G be considered a "side-grade" from the One or S4. You guys have Moto on the brain. Oh yeah... No LTE. Lol. Get real. Posted via Android Central App
  • Though true, I think Andrew meant to defend Jerry better by saying: "Rivals" is exclusive to the lagging of the phone; keep your S4 or HTC One.
    Also next time read the article thoroughly or be smarter about understanding it better.
  • The best thing to do is, get the Moto G and see if you like it before you sell the GS4. I'm sure glad I didn't sell my Nexus 5. Posted via Android Central App
  • I'm glad you didn't sell it, either. Isn't it still back-ordered? Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5
  • I called at&t and got the black one. I figured since there is no development going on for the Moto x, having a locked boot loader wouldn't hurt. Edit...or which phone are you talking about being backordered? If the nexus then yeah I think its backordered. Posted via Android Central App
  • Sorry, yeah, I was talking about the Nexus. There's a lot of people selling them, in my area, basically for more than the Play Store, but less than the retailers (Best Buy, etc). Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5
  • Yeah, I'm just caught up in the moto hype.. And I couldn't give up my stellar camera on the s4 anyways. Posted via Android Central App
  • Like Jerry said, you ain't switching to the Moto X or G for the camera, lol. Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5
  • I just ordered a N5. Said to ship by 12/11, and I would be charged when ready to ship. They charged me about 5 minutes after I placed the order Posted via Android Central App
  • Awesome!! Hope you get it soon!! Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5
  • Funny how the dimple is comfortable and yet the buttons on the G2 aren't. I think Motorola and LG both have good ideas about ergonomics. Posted via Android Central App using an LG G2.
  • Who says the dimple is comfortable? I said you'll end up rubbing at it with your finger. Nobody said it was a good idea.
  • Thats exactly what I did. Posted via Android Central App
  • Can you also pinch it and twist it? Posted via Android Central App
  • Well, this is true...
  • I enjoy the dimple Posted via Android Central App
  • I think that dimple may help to tell how your pulling your phone from your pocket.
  • Great article I just wanted to chime in regarding the dimple. I know its an old article. But I owned the moto x when it came out and the dimple is to help it sit flat on a table. Because of its curved back if there wasn't a dimple the phone would keep wobbling left and right on a surface. I would say its a very clever addition when they decided to make a curved back phone and I hardly notice it when used daily.
  • The back buttons on the G2 are comfortable xD. I mean it's convenient because that's where your fingers actually tend to go. Motorola's got it on the spot when it comes to ergonomics and LG is doing pretty well themselves.
  • Arguing over phones? Ctfu Posted via Android Central App
  • Welcome to the internet and fanboys war, be glad this Android Central where there is still a leve