NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- While the terrific, new, $500, top-of-the-line Moto X may be Motorola's best smartphone and arguably the best device ever to run Google's (GOOG) Android operating system it's the new, middle-of-the-line Moto G that is much more important to the company and to its new owner Lenovo.
The original Moto G was released one year ago and has been Motorola's top worldwide seller to date. While not the biggest or fastest model on the market, the handset attracted users with its better-than-midrange specifications and especially its affordable price -- less than $200 without a contract. The G was one of the first to offer buyers in the price range a brand-new, super-modern smartphone design.
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Motorola won't disclose exactly how many Moto Gs they've sold to date, but will admit the model played a big role in the nearly 9 million handsets it moved in the last quarter. The original Moto G has been a huge, if somewhat unexpected success for the company.
To build on that success, Moto thought it prudent to release a new G and a new X at the exact same time. The second-generation G still retails for the same no-contract price of $179 as the original G. It is available for sale now on Motorola's Web site.
This G is actually the third version of the device. Motorola also released a G with LTE connectivity for countries with those fast 4G networks. That $219 device is still listed as available. But, this new G, just like the original, is made for GSM/GPRS/EDGE/UMTS/HSPA+ frequencies only -- the predominant networks found all around the world. Moto makes separate U.S. and global versions of the phone which work on slightly different frequencies. The U.S. G will work on AT&T (T) and T-Mobile (TMUS) .
Although Motorola didn't increase the price, the second-generation handset is improved in almost every way. This G now has a 5-inch, 720p touchscreen, a 1.2 GHz, quad-core Qualcomm (QCOM) Snapdragon processor, 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage along with a microSD card slot a redesigned 8 megapixel auto-focus rear camera and 2 MP shooter up front, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and a big 2,070 mAh rechargeable battery pack to keep things running. That's a lot of phone for the money.
Like its bigger brother the G has what looks like two speaker grilles -- above and beneath the screen. Unlike its big brother, the G actually has stereo speakers -- one of the few things to complain about on the Moto X. Both phones, though, produce great, room-filling sound.
Motorola needs to be congratulated for not loading its current smartphones with bloatware -- those mostly annoying apps installed by some manufacturers and most service providers which tend to slow things down, take up precious storage space and can't be deleted. Motorola runs an almost stock version of the latest Android OS available in this case Android 4.4.4 KitKat (just like the Moto X). Luckily, there was no bloatware to be seen on the AT&T Moto G we've been testing. AT&T bloatware was very noticeable on the Moto X test unit.
Overall, this is one very good smartphone. While ultimately not as fast, lightweight or flashy as the X the second-generation Moto G delivers with every ounce of its being. Pound for pound it's simply a terrific device and perfectly designed with its target audience in mind. The screen is bright, colorful and responsive. The camera takes nice photos. Cellular connectivity is solid if somewhat slower than you might be used to, these days. But, speedier connections are possible when you're connected to nearby Wi-fi networks. Apps load quickly and run smoothly. Voice calls sound great and even with heavy use the battery lasted us more than a full day on a charge. What more can you ask from a modern-day phone especially one in this price range?