Moto G Google Play edition hands-on and first-impressions

January 15, 2014
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Similar to what Google did with the Sony Z Ultra back in December, they quietly added a Google Play edition (GPe) Moto G yesterday. A review unit has already been delivered to us and what follows will be some hands-on and first-impressions. We've liked the Moto G in the past, but also have to admit we aren't entirely sure of the need for a GPe edition of this phone.

Reasons here begin with the pricing. The Moto G and GPe Moto G are the same at $179/$199 without contract. Then there is the software. Motorola has added a few key features with software, and as this is a GPe handset -- those are all missing from the device. We tend to accept the differences in software because the GPe editions generally get quicker updates, but Motorola has already proven to be quick in terms of getting Kit Kat on the Moto G (as well as the Moto X). But before we get any further here, how about we shift first to talk of the hardware.

Hardware

The Moto G GPe is black in color, but otherwise, the hardware is identical to the regular model. There is nothing in terms of special branding, and in fact, with the display off, you could easily confuse the regular and GPe models of the Moto G. On the plus side, this means you are still getting a solid mid-range device. This means a 4.5-inch 720p (329ppi) display and Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with options for 8GB or 16GB of internal storage.

As a side note, the shells and flip shells will work just fine with the GPe Moto G. These are available direct from Motorola. The shells are $14.99 and the flip shells are $29.99. Both are available in a variety of colors. Other key specs for the Moto G include a 5 megapixel rear-facing camera, 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth and a weight of 143 grams.

The handset also has a 2070 mAh battery. We haven't spent enough time to offer a full comment on the battery, however the regular non-GPe Moto G has proven solid in terms of battery life. We are hoping to see the same here. Otherwise, network connectivity comes in the form of GSM/EDGE/GPRS (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz) and UMTS/HSPA+ up to 21 Mbps (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz). This means users should be looking towards AT&T or T-Mobile, with emphasis on AT&T as support for the T-Mobile 1700MHz band is missing.

Software

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The software. This is where the differences between the regular and GPe Moto G handsets surface. Both models are packed with Google software, including access to the Google Play Store. And furthermore, both are running the latest version of Android at the moment. To clarify, that would be 4.4.2. But in the case of the GPe Moto G -- there are quite a few Motorola branded apps missing. The fact they aren't installed comes with little in terms of surprise, however we do feel that takes away a bit of the overall experience.

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Some of the missing Motorola apps include Assist, Migrate, Help and Care. Also not included is the FM Radio and the Trusted Bluetooth option. The former can likely be skipped by many, however the latter means users will not be able to set a Bluetooth device as trusted to skip the lockscreen unlock process. The inconvenient part here, while these apps are all available by way of the Play Store, we are seeing some inconsistency when we trying to install them. For example, Assist give an "incompatible" message while Mirgrate (and even DROID Zap) can be installed.

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Otherwise, the GPe Moto G makes use of the stock Android launcher. And while this is a much smaller item, GPe Moto G users will not be greeted with any special boot animations as this model doesn't make use of the Motorola Boot Services app. We first saw this when Moto updated the app with a snow animation for the holiday season.

Camera

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The camera is another item that is different between the two Moto G models. On the regular model you will find the Motorola camera app (also available by way of the Play Store). The GPe Moto G makes use of the stock Android camera app.

Before anyone gets excited thinking that means Photosphere images can be captured, think again, it is not available. So in theory, we are seeing a slightly modified version of the stock Android camera app on the GPe Moto G. But even without Photosphere, we suspect some will prefer the stock camera app over the Motorola app.

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Anyway, sitting below are some sample images, and a sample video from the GPe Moto G. Camera and video samples from the regular Moto G can be found in our earlier published review.

Wrap-Up

Bottom line here, the hardware is the same and the price is the same. Users have a good shot at getting quick updates using the GPe Moto G, however Motorola has proven quick with updates as well. We cannot say whether Motorola will continue to be as quick with updates in the future, however it seems they set a precedence here and will need to keep the speed in order to not disappoint.

The real question seems to be whether you want the stock Android experience or the slightly modified Android experience that is provided by Motorola. Basically, a personal decision. To that point, the one solid answer we can give in terms of which version to buy would be for Verizon users, as the GPe Moto G doesn't offer support for CDMA.


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  • Gregory Suvalian

    Is bootloader locked on both models or unlocked?

  • Kenny Strawn

    Out of curiosity: Does Google’s stock camera app have the same video resolution restrictions as Motorola’s camera app does? Given that the Galaxy Nexus also had a 5MP camera with a smaller, washed out sensor than the Moto G’s (whose pixels are identical in size — 1.4 microns — to the pixels on the iPhone 5′s and 5C’s sensors), yet still took 1080p video, it would make sense for it to be merely a software restriction on Motorola’s part

    Despite 720p, however, using an iPhone 4S I’ve found 1080p video recording to be a sort of two-edged sword… Put it this way: it takes up 6x the disk space of SD video, and, if I can recall correctly, 1.5x the space of 720p video. To the point where I can only take maybe 30 minutes of video without filling up my phone… So, frankly, that’s probably not a bad move after all.