The new Moto G: Motorola's cheap smartphone gets even bigger and better

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"We are literally in their homes." Lauren Gellman, Marketing Director at Motorola, is talking about how before Motorola launched the Moto G, the company spent countless hours talking to customers around the world about what they want.

And it worked: the low-cost Android device quickly became the best-selling smartphone in Motorola's history. It helped Motorola quickly gain huge market share in India, Brazil, and other countries around the world. Now, Motorola is announcing its upgrade: a bigger, better, faster Moto G that may once again redefine what you can expect for a $179.99 smartphone.

The most important changes, Motorola says, were to the screen and speakers. People wanted a bigger screen, so the new Moto G has a 5-inch, 720p AMOLED display. They wanted better speakers, so the G (like the new Moto X) has two grilles on its front face, blasting sound toward you instead of away from you. One particularly consistent request was for an SD card slot, which is apparently a popular way to share files and information between phones, particularly in developing markets. So the new Moto G has an SD card slot. It has two SIM card slots, This is a phone made for everyone, for every need, and it reflects exactly what people want.

As ever, the G is aesthetically just a lower-rent version of the Moto X, minus some of the nicest aesthetic touches and LTE connectivity. (The last-generation G with LTE is staying in Motorola's lineup, and reps avoided the question of whether there's a new model with LTE coming.) It's plastic, a little bit lighter and cheaper than the metallic X, but it still feels surprisingly good. It's a little heavier and a little wider than the last model, which is to be expected thanks to the larger screen. Motorola also upgraded to an 8-megapixel camera, plus a 2-megapixel sensor on the front.It looks good, too, especially thanks to the 15 colorful, interchangeable backs that Motorola will also be selling. This, too, is something consumers are apparently asking for — reps said that there are people who buy every one of the shells and pick a different one to use each day. (The front is still only either black or white.)

Motorola asked customers what they want, and then made exactly that smartphone

The differences carry over into the software, too. Motorola brags in both cases about using stock Android, but on the Moto X it's customized and added a number of things, like the Moto Voice and Moto Display features. The Moto G has Moto Assist and Moto Alert, but in general it's quite pared down. It has no frills, no extras, almost no customization; this is truly a stock Android experience. To buy the G is to miss out on some of Motorola's most impressive engineering achievements — most of which were probably impossible to implement without the custom processor in the X — but stock Android is still better than most phones offer.

But its purpose hasn't changed: to bring as much smartphone tech as possible to as large an audience as possible. The original G has incredible momentum, and the new model should only speed it up.

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