Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Consumer comparison: Motorola Moto G vs Motorola Moto X

At the request of one of my readers.

Motorola Moto G

The Moto G has been leaking on and off for a few weeks, but now it’s official. Some of what I have learned is a surprise, and some of it I expected. This device brings mid-range specs and solid software features to the masses with a somewhat unbelievable price of just $179 off-contract for the 8GB storage option. This means you can walk in to a store, buy the Moto G (check compatibility with your carrier), and walk out without signing a contract of any kind.  The Moto G is essentially a less premium Moto X, Motorola's Flagship phone of 2013.

Not only does it have a shot at the international market, the Moto G could have serious clout in the prepaid device market in the US. Are the savings worth what you’re losing in features, though? Let’s see how the Moto G stacks up to the Moto X.

Moto G vs. Moto X: Numbers on paper

The Moto X doesn’t have amazing specs when compared to premium smartphones, but it’s more than competent with a dual-core Snapdragon S4 Pro, 2GB of RAM, and contextual co-processors for its always-on features, listening to wait for you to wake it up with your voice and notifying you of notifications by flashing it across your screen. The processing platform it uses is known collectively as the Motorola X8. The 4.7-inch AMOLED screen is only 720p, but it makes use of a full RGB matrix for crisper images than many AMOLEDs at that resolution in the past, including the Samsung Galaxy S3, S4, Note 2, and more.

Motorola Moto X using active notifications

The Moto G has a slightly smaller screen at 4.5 inches, but it’s the same 720p resolution. Motorola didn’t clarify in the event, but this is probably an LCD rather than an AMOLED since the Moto X needs a AMOLED screen to help save on battery when flashing the screen with your notifications. There will probably be little practical difference in the look of the screens — the real differences come with the internals.

The Moto G has a 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 (early 2013 processor) in place of the dual-core S4 Pro (mid to late 2012) from the Moto X. Don’t let the number of cores fool you — this newer quad-core chip is very much an entry-level part. The version of the Snapdragon 400 used here is packing four ARM Cortex-A7 cores — not even Qualcomm’s custom Krait 300 from more expensive versions of this chip. The Cortex-A7 is a fine CPU, but it’s designed to be efficient more than powerful. In fact, four Cortex-A7 cores make up the “little” half of the ARM big.LITTLE architecture used in chips like the Exynos 5 Octa.
Moto G

The Moto G also cuts the RAM down to 1GB and the storage to 8GB in the base model. For $20 more, the storage is boosted to 16GB, though which is a lot more reasonable than Apple's model of making you pay an extra $100 to go from 8GB to 16GB. The back panel is removable for customization, but the 2070mAh battery is built-in. It’s the same way with the Moto X, but the back panel isn’t swappable. Motorola says the smaller Li-ion cell will still last 33% longer than the larger 2200mAh battery in the Moto X.

Motorola has also backed off the camera with the G, which has a 5MP shooter. The Moto X has a 10MP “clear pixel” camera that has gotten a lot better with software upgrades. At the price, Motorola probably didn’t go with a high-quality sensor, but it is passable for the price you are paying off contract for the Moto G.

Also missing is LTE support in this budget-friendly device. The Moto G will come with GSM/GRPS/EDGE/UMTS/HSPA+ (21Mbps) for GSM carriers like T-Mobile and AT&T or CDMA/EVDO Rev.A (Sprint and Verizon). The US variant isn’t coming out until December. So while you won't get the blazing fast 4G LTE speeds that are marketed day and night by major US carriers with the Moto G, you will get to use 3G speeds which depending on the carrier you use are very respectable for the price you will pay.
The Moto G’s missing software magic

The Moto X doesn’t try to make a splash with amazing specs, but with genuinely useful software features enabled by the X8 processor platform (Motorola's take on balancing processing power with performance and battery life savings). Motorola was keen to point out at the event that the Moto G wasn’t going to have the touchless control and active notifications from the X.

The Moto X has an AMOLED screen (and no notification LED) because when you get an email, text, or any other notification, the screen lights up just a few pixels to show you an icon and a snippet of text. Because AMOLEDs don’t have a backlight, this uses very little power. You can act on notifications from this screen, or dismiss them. The phone will also wake itself up automatically when you pick it up, which is a remarkably handy feature.

The touchless control feature is an always-on listening mode for voice control. Even when the device is asleep, you can start issuing commands by saying “Ok Google Now.” The Moto G will have voice control like all other Android devices, but only from the search app.

The Moto X runs Android 4.4 right now, which is the newest version of Google's Android operating system The Moto G launches with 4.3 and in January gets an update to 4.4. It’s possible the US variant will come with 4.4 pre-installed. Even though it’s cheaper, the Moto G is at least doing well on the software front from an update perspective.

Both the Moto X and the Moto G are mostly stock Android experiences with no modifications and changes done by companies like Samsung, LG, HTC, and in the past, Mototola. It’s the most Google experience you can have this side of a Nexus smartphone. The fast update to 4.4 is an especially good thing for the Moto G — part of KitKat’s feature set is improved support for devices with less RAM for multi-tasking. 1GB used to be a lot, but now it’s a bit of an impediment to multitasking.
The price divide

If you want an off-contract Moto X, get ready to feel it in the wallet. The company charges $500 for the Moto X, and some carriers are still asking even more. It might not have the same specs as other flagship phones, but the Moto X offers a very premium experience. The Moto G obviously couldn’t get away with that price tag, but it’s shocking in a different way.

The $179 starting price is a little jaw-dropping. Even for a phone that has a budget processor, no LTE, and a limited RAM, that’s a crazy deal. For less than you pay for many phones on-contract, you can have an unlocked Moto G to take with you to other carriers as you please.
Moto G
The Moto X is clearly a superior phone — Motorola make certain of that — but $179 beats even other budget and prepaid devices. The Moto G isn’t a phone that will appeal to everyone, but it’s definitely going to find its market just based on the price alone.  And for the hardware it packs with that price point, it is clearly the best smartphone ever produced and sold. If there is someone who is hesitant about a smartphone because of contracts, service plan prices, and smartphone costs, the Moto G paired with Straight Talk, a Pre-paid smartphone plan with T-mobile, or other national pre-paid carriers makes this a hard offer to turn down.

Hope this works Rob!

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