First of all a bit of context – I’m an iPhone 5 user, running iOS 7 and am very pleased with it. I’ve been wanting to find out more about Android and when the Moto G came along with more or less a vanilla version of the system for £160, I thought it was worth the money to try it out. I put in a 3 sim, topped up with £10 credit and off I went…
This is a bit of a flow of consciousness, with the points in no particular order. It is also a comment on Android itself as this is my first real experience of it.
The phone in general is well built. The screen looks good. In use, things are fast and responsive.
Although the Moto G is not too big, it does make the iPhone feel small.
Why do I have to take the whole back of the phone off just to put in the SIM? The backs or the body of the phone must be getting damaged by people because the process for removing the back is mentioned twice in the few papers in the box and there is also a video to show you how.
When you start up the phone for the first time, it looks for a wifi network straight away. This can be awkward as I need the phone’s wifi address to be able to add it to my router before it can get on the internet, and I can’t get this without the phone letting me further than the first couple of steps in the setup process. Finally I found the details written – in very small type – on the box.
The micro USB power cable supplied looks like it is going in at an angle when you plug it in to charge the phone. It is very tight (although this may improve with time) and the connection looks very fragile. I’d never had to think about this with the Apple Lightning connector, maybe a little with the original 30-pin adapter. I didn’t move it when the back cover came off and the cover went back on cleanly again. A more svelte Amazon micro USB charging cable that came with a Kindle works well – a lot more re-assuring.
On a 16gb phone, there is just under 12gb available when you start up the phone. Reasonable enough. Glad I didn’t go for the 8gb model.
I do like the integration with your Google account – how you can be in the Play store, hit Install for an app and then shortly after it appears on your phone. Also I like the Android Device Manager that can locate your device on a map. It can ring the phone and lock / erase the handset.
I’m impressed by the speed of Google Maps and the accuracy of the voice search – it feels very smooth and fast. I like dictating on my iPhone, so it is natural for me although I am self-conscious when I do it. This is a good glimpse into the near future, I’m sure. I’d say that Google voice search is better than Siri on iPhone. I can dictate to Google in Spanish as well as in English, whereas Siri is English only. On iPhone I have to use Dragon Dictate to do Spanish.
A niggle that won’t go away – there are some fancy background wallpapers included in the phone but I find that they are too “busy” when you have app icons on top. The icons become obscured. Why not have plain coloured wallpaper too? In the end I got a solid black background by doing a Google image search. Android looks amateurish compared to iOS7 (although iOS6 looks old hat against it too) but you get used to it, so it’s not a big deal in every day use. It gives you a whole lot of information about applications that is just not necessary for the average user.
Something that is not an Android fault, but rather a Google-imposed limitation and is an issue for me: you can’t have Google Authenticator (for 2-factor authentication into Gmail) set up on two handsets at the same time. This is a problem if I want to take the Moto G around with me as my only phone, which is a shame. This might sound like an edge-case usage, but in fact this is now what is demanded by my employer to be able to access email via a desktop browser so I need that functionality. Currently it is set up on the iPhone.
One area where I’ve been really impressed is with typing. I’ve never been very good at typing on a phone. Being slightly bigger than the iPhone helps the Moto G in this regard, but the main difference is in the intelligence of the keyboard.
That’s what I thought at first. I saw that the Google Keyboard from Android 4.4 (the very latest version of Android as I write – the Moto G is on v 4.3) had been released into the Play store so that it can be installed on earlier versions of the operating system, so I did. I really liked the way that it would suggest words to you – it could be pretty good at predicting what you might want to say next. There was one drawback though – it would not do it for you in the Chrome / Google Now search bars. I would have thought that it would be particularly useful there. Then I discovered Swiftkey, a paid-for keyboard you can install. Coming from the world of iOS it seems really strange (and a little dangerous?) to be able to do this. Still, Swiftkey has the same word prediction feature as the Google keyboard, but it is even better and it is available everywhere. It is also very easy to use keyboards in more than one language (in my case English and Spanish): you can simply slide between them using the Space bar. Having set up more than one language, if you choose the dictation button it is simple to flip between languages to dictate in. Typing in iOS seems archaic and slow now I’ve experienced this. I can’t see Apple changing something as fundamental as the keyboard. I know that my use of dictation will only increase, but this may hasten it still further.
It is not enough to make me change platforms, but it was certainly unexpected. For the first time I can see a new way of doing things and to not have that on my current platform of choice is going to be frustrating at times. Changing your keyboard is a niche thing to do – it would not even occur to most people and to pay for a keyboard is even more rare, I’m sure – but here it has made a huge difference.
In conclusion, this is a very good phone for the money. I’m still learning, and I’m sure that there will more surprises and frustrations along the way, but I could live with this as my regular phone. I wasn’t expecting to say that.