The budget smartphone space is an interesting place right now, and Motorola just made a big splash with the launch of the Moto G. It's a different take on the concept of a cheaper Android phone, where low cost doesn't equate to a sub-par experience. It currently stands pretty much alone in the Android space at the around £135-160, but it doesn't mean it's the only option.
Nokia, once the juggernaut of the mobile phone world, now stands pretty tall in the budget category with some of their Windows Phone 8 devices. Hardware aside, the experience is largely the same on the cheaper phones as it is on the top-of-the-line offerings like the Lumia 1020. So, how does the Moto G stack up in a face off with one of these? We've got the Lumia 625, currently available in the UK for £150, and we're putting it up against Moto's baby.
Motorola was quite clear at the launch event for the Moto G about the way it wanted the Moto G to look and feel, and that personalization was a big thing. As such, while it does come in black, there's a whole bunch of brightly colored replacement shells and color matched accessories such as flip shell cases and headphones. Red, white, yellow, a kind of teal color, there's plenty to choose from. It's no Moto maker, but it's still impressive. And it does share a little of the look of the Moto X, which isn't a bad thing. The gentle curve on the back makes the Moto G a pleasure to hold, as does the soft touch finish on the rear shells.
The Lumia 625 is equally bright and colorful, also coming in a range of different colors with replaceable rear shells. It too has a gentle curve to the back and nice rounded edges that makes it feel good in the hand for quite a large phone. Unlike the Moto G you get to see a slight amount of the color of the back around the edges of the display which is a nice touch. The back is pretty awkward to remove mind, likewise with the Moto G. Both manufacturers want you to swap them out, but neither makes it that simple to pop them off.
Motorola was quite clear that the Moto G was designed to a budget, but also to provide the best possible smartphone experience at that budget. As such, trade-offs such as the active notifications and other features present on the Moto X couldn't be brought to the Moto G. But that aside, Motorola really has nailed it.
The display is a pretty fantastic looking 4.5-inch 1280x720 resolution panel, with an extremely impressive 329ppi. The Lumia 625 by contrast is a rather more lackluster 800x480 resolution at 4.7-inches. While it doesn't necessarily look bad – the overall design of Windows Phone 8 helps with that somewhat – it's nothing compared to the panel on the Moto G. Brighter, generally more vibrant and of course because of the resolution text is so much sharper on the Moto G. A definite win in that regard.
The other hardware specs don't disappoint so much on the Moto G either. Inside pushing everything along is a quad-core Snapdragon 400 and 1GB of RAM. Round the back is a 5MP camera, and inside is either 8 or 16GB of on-board storage. It does also have a front-facing camera, but it's not up to much.
Neither is the front-facer on the Lumia 625, but it is there. Inside, the Lumia houses a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4, 512MB of RAM and 8GB of on-board storage but it does have a microSD card slot. It too has a 5MP camera on the back, but one of the 625's party pieces is the super sensitive touch display, meaning you can actually use the phone with gloves on.
One thing that is noteworthy; the Lumia 625 has LTE, the Moto G does not. If LTE matters to you, then you have your winner. If it doesn't then read on. Likewise with expandable memory.
On the out and out specs front, the Moto G looks to be the winner. But, the more important thing to consider is that neither phone feels cheap despite what you pay for it. Solid hardware for the respective platforms with an excellent software experience to go with it.
Here of course lies one of the more obvious difference between these two phones. The Moto G runs Android 4.3 and the Lumia 625 runs Windows Phone 8. Both are about as up to date as their respective platforms allow at this time – indeed the Moto G will have KitKat before January is out – and both run a large amount of the apps in the respective app stores.
The overall user experience is of a sufficiently high standard on each of these two phones that it's sometimes hard to believe they both cost what they cost. Neither phone suffers from any discernable lag and navigating through the operating systems is a pleasurable experience on both. Motorola is already committed to updating the Moto G, and has kept the experience largely the same as Google intended it to be. Nokia on the other hand adds a lot to the stock Windows Phone experience with a ton of their own apps and services.
Whether you're a Google user or not may be a better question to ask to try and separate the two. If you use Google's services a lot you'll find yourself at a disadvantage on Windows Phone. Whereas if you're a Hotmail/Outlook, Bing, Skydrive, OneNote or even Xbox Music user you'll be well serviced on Android with official apps. And, while the Windows Phone Store is ever increasing in the number and quality of apps – Instagram is imminent for example – the Play Store still has more availability, and often will get big name apps or games before Windows Phone. That may change going forward, but it's where things stand at the moment.
Android also offers much more freedom with your smartphone than Windows Phone. Customization stretches beyond just a color for your tiles and accents with wallpapers, custom launchers, widgets and so on and so forth. If you like to tinker Android is still your best friend.
Where would any comparison be without talking about the camera. Both have 5MP shooters on the rear, though one difference is the hardware camera button on the Lumia 625. You miss it when you don't have it. And, while Nokia makes a big deal about the cameras on their high-end offerings, the Lumia 625 is much more befitting of a smartphone at this price point. It doesn't at this point run Nokia's excellent 'pro' Camera application, but the more standard affair is still a good experience. It focuses quickly, and snaps its images without any noticeable shutter lag.
The Moto G comes with Motorola's own camera application, not that which is found on Google's Nexus devices. It's extremely minimalist in layout, with the settings and gallery access not more than a swipe away and such features as HDR and slow-mo video present. The Moto G isn't the fastest phone in the world at focusing though, and definitely fares better outside than inside.
So what about the pictures? Here's a couple of samples, with the Moto G on the left and the Lumia 625 on the right.
Neither camera will be capturing any award winning photos, but then we're talking about phones that cost around £150, so we shouldn't expect them to. I'd take the Moto G as the winner in terms of image quality, but it's still too slow to focus and very temperamental when shooting indoors or with the flash. The Nokia is easier to use, but the Moto G will produce better looking photos from its 5MP camera.
The bottom line
If you're reading Android Central, then the chances are you'd pick the Moto G hands down. And you wouldn't be wrong for doing so. Until handling the Moto G I was convinced that Nokia owned the budget smartphone category with a series of excellent devices that proved cheap didn't mean a below par experience. But Motorola may have just taken things to a whole new level. The display alone would be enough to differentiate the two if they were say side-by-side in a store. You won't be disappointed if you buy a Lumia 625, it's a fine phone that I like a lot, but the Moto G has more to offer.
The Moto G is hands down the best Android phone you can buy in this price range; you won't do better for this amount of money. And it might just be the best phone period that you can buy around £150 for some time.