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Friday, October 14, 2016

Long Term Review: Moto G 3rd Gen 16GB Edition

In the time since my initial impressions of the Moto G (3rd Generation) last year, I've had a good long time with my Moto G3 in and out of California: Japan, Iceland, and the European Alps. I also bought my wife a Moto X Pure. In the mean time, Motorola has released the 4th generation Moto G, the Moto G Plus, and of course there are other countless smartphones you can buy.

First, the strengths: the Moto G3 has proven to be a tough, durable phone that's truly waterproof. I used it to shoot photos in Hot Springs, rode with it in the Tour of the Alps in my pocket with no hint of any problems, despite rain, hail, and snow. By contrast, Arturo's Moto X Pure started giving problems early on in the trip, and while he had a workaround for the problem it irritated him to no end. This alone means that the Moto G3 is better than the 4th generation Moto Gs (which aren't waterproof), the Moto X Pure (also not waterproof), and pretty much every other phone except the Samsung S5, S7 series (note: the S6 is not waterproof!), the iPhone 7 (hey, if even Apple can do it, anyone should be able to do it), and the Xperia waterproof series (M, Z, etc).

By and large, the phone has been performant. While it could be faster for running Nexus Media Importer or Photo Mate R3, I never felt like more speed would have given me a better experience --- just a shorter wait time for my exports. I never felt like it was slow for uploading to Facebook, etc., which was the case for the (much cheaper) Nokia 521.

Battery performance was good. Except for the one day when I had a mega train trip after a plane ride with no place to recharge except a small portable battery, I never had any battery problems with the phone. It always ended the day with plenty of charge left to do photo processing, Skype calls, Google hangout calls, and plenty of text messaging and Facebook posting.

Support for SDcard storage was also huge. I had a 64GB SD card installed on my Moto G. I filled it with videos, audio books, music, and never ran out on the plane or on tour. I used the Moto G to process photos from my Sony RX100 (yes, at 25MB per picture!) from RAW to JPG using apps on the phone. Even with the 64GB SDCard (on top of the built-in 16GB primary storage), I was still occasionally having to manage storage on the phone and delete videos after watching, etc. I have no idea how people with iPhones or Nexus phones manage. There's no such thing as too much local storage capacity if you're a traveler!

Now, where are the compromises? The first big compromise is the number of bands the Moto G3 supports. The USA Moto G3 only supports 4 LTE bands: 2, 4, 5, 7, and 17. There's no version of the Moto G that supports all the bands that say, the Moto X Pure does. What this means is that occasionally in Iceland and in Europe, while my wife's or Arturo's Moto X Pure was getting a signal, I was getting nothing. It's irritating but not the end of the world, though it does mean that the "true" flagship phones like the Sony Xperia series or the Samsung S series do give you something for the insane prices that the manufacturers demand.

The camera is a joke. Now obviously no phone camera can come close to what the Sony RX100 that was in my pocket provide (though nowadays, I'd recommend the Canon G7X II). But on one day when it was rainy I would hide away the RX100 and use the Moto G instead as my main camera. What a mistake. Better to risk damaging the nice camera than to have the crap pictures the Moto G provides.

Finally, I think nowadays 16GB of primary storage is no longer sufficient for a heavy phone user. At least 32GB is required. Since adoptable storage doesn't mean what you think it does, primary storage is required for apps and OS updates, so I think sadly, that means if my Moto G breaks, I'd have to buy a waterproof phone that has more primary storage rather than buying a (now much cheaper) Moto G3.

Suffice to say that I still highly recommend the Moto G3. It's flaws are completely understandable, for the price, and the reality is that the phones that have similar features cost way more than what the Moto G3 would cost you. It easily outperforms phones 2-3X the price. It is truly a pity that Motorola gave up on waterproofing the new generation Moto Gs. If given a choice between the 3rd and 4th generation models, buy the 3rd gen!

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