The Moto G has been our Value Smartphone of the Year for three years running. The third version still aims to give you great value for money and an untarnished Android experience, but Motorola has given it a few new tricks. It's water resistant now, and you can customise it using Motorola's Moto Maker service, just like the Moto X range.
Those extras come at a price, though, as the Moto G has crept above £150 SIM-free. You can buy an 8GB model of the new Moto G for as little as as £139 locked to Three, but it's £159 SIM-free from most UK networks that are stocking it. If you buy it directly from the Motorola website, that goes up to £179. A 16GB model, which also adds an extra 1GB of RAM, goes for £209.
This made us wonder if the new Moto G wasn't the budget champion previous versions were, but we needn't have worried. It isn't as astounding a deal as the first one was – look to the Moto E (2015) for that honour now – but it's still one of the best value phones you can buy.
The 2015 Moto G looks similar to last year's model from the front. It still has a 5-inch screen; it still has nicely curved corners; and the plastic trim, buttons and ports are all in the same place. It's a simple, unfussy design that won't turn heads, but that's no bad thing.
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The one obvious change are the earpiece and speaker, which are narrower than before. Moreover, they don't hide stereo speakers this time – it's just one earpiece and one speaker. There's another, potentially irritating, design change here, too.
Where the speaker slots on the 2014 version has small plastic inserts that stick out, the 2015 Moto G has hollow grooves. We've already noticed a fair amount of muck and detritus getting lodged in them, which will look ugly over time if you're not careful.
You'll notice bigger differences when you turn the Moto G over. The rear still has gentle curve, but it also adopts the Moto X's curvier top edge. Out goes the soft touch black plastic; now there's a textured, grippy plastic back that still has that a reassuring feel.
Things get more colourful as well now that Motorola is offering the Moto Maker program on the Moto G for the first time. Moto Maker lets decide on the colour of the back shell and the metal accent running around the camera and flash. The more colourful options won't be for everyone, but it's refreshing too find a way to customise a phone without putting a case on it.
The back is still removable, too, despite the fact the Moto G is now water resistant. Beneath the cover you'll find the Micro SIM card and microSD card slots tucked up in the corner. That expandable storage is going to be valuable to both 8GB and 16GB models as that 8GB actually works out to about 5GB and 10GB respectively.
Clipping the case back correctly is imperative to reap the benefits of the Moto G's new-found water-resistant design. While the majority of smartphone manufacturers have moved away from water proofing, Motorola clearly feels it's something people want. And, crucially, it doesn't impact on the design. The 2015 is no thicker or heavier and there aren't any annoying flaps.
Motorola has slapped the new Moto G with a IPX7 water resistant certification. That means it can be submerged in fresh water up to 1-metre deep for a maximum of 30 minutes. We gave it the sink test for 20 minutes and it was all in working order. We also played around with it in the shower, and while it's tricky getting anything useful done on the touchscreen, it does survive.
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Overall, we like most of the changes that Motorola has made. We weren't expecting a radical overhaul and while the extra customisation will please some, it's optional extra and one that costs more.
It's won't wow anyone like the Samsung Galaxy S6 or iPhone 6 do, but it's better-looking than before and feels sturdier and better-made than most phones at this price.
Before the first Moto G turned up, it was rare to find a phone for under £150 with a 720p HD screen. Now you can buy the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 with a Full HD 1080p for £125 – it's amazing how things have moved on. Sadly, Motorola hasn't responded – the Moto G has a 5-inch, 720p screen just like last year. That said, it's still a decent screen that'll satisfy all but the fussiest pixel peepers.
At 294 ppi (pixels per inch), it's sharp enough to enjoy reading, videos and photos. It also has Gorilla Glass 3 to protect it from drops and scratches. Moreover, the 2015 Moto G is brighter than last year's model – up to 449 nits from 390 nits last year. This addresses one of our few criticisms of last year's model, and makes the 3rd-gen easier to use in bright, outdoor light.
App icons still some of the high definition gloss you get on sharper screens, but colours are accurate enough for our liking and contrast is good for a screen at this price. It's only when you really get up close to the screen that you can recognise some of the imperfections.
Maybe we'll get a Full HD 1080p screen next year, but there's no cause to complain too much. The EE Harrier (£199) and a host of similarly priced Huawei phones prove that it is now possible to offer a higher resolution screen at this price, but perhaps the Moto G offers something they don't? We'll see.