Moto G Pure review: Purely the basics and not much

Moto G Pure Review OutsideSource: Derrek Lee / Android Central

While Motorola is known for making some of the most affordable smartphones around, the Moto G Pure seemed like a bit of a departure when it launched. Sure the affordability is there. In fact, it’s one of the cheapest Motorola smartphones you can buy in the U.S., but it seemed to be lacking a lot of the value that Moto devices are known for. On the other hand, phones like the Moto G Power (2020) managed to balance affordability with respectable performance, a formula that Motorola seemed to get (mostly) right with much of its devices.

That said, Motorola had to cut several corners to reach a price point that could entice first-time smartphone owners or even those who need something cheap to get by with just the basics. The Moto G Pure slides into that space without much fanfare and whether it fits the bill at under $200 is ultimately for you to judge, but hopefully, my experience can help you decide.

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Moto G Pure review:

Moto G Pure RenderMoto G Pure Render

Moto G Pure

Bottom line: The Moto G Pure is a device that just about anyone can afford, but Motorola doesn’t make a good enough case for you to want it.

The Good

  • Extremely affordable
  • Pure Android experience
  • Fast fingerprint sensor
  • Good battery life

The Bad

  • Only one optical camera
  • Display not very bright
  • Performance is lacking
  • Only one major OS update

Moto G Pure: Price and availability

Moto G Pure Review Front

Moto G Pure Review FrontSource: Derrek Lee / Android Central

As of October 14, the Moto G Pure is available for preorder Motorola.com as well as retailers like Best Buy and Amazon. The device can be purchased unlocked for just $160, and it will work on all the major U.S. carriers.

The Moto G Pure is also available at Verizon, where you can get a free device if you add a new smartphone line. Other carriers such as T-Mobile, AT&T, and others will also offer the device in the coming months. It will also arrive in Canada in the following months as well.

Moto G Pure: What works well

Moto G Pure Review Back

Moto G Pure Review BackSource: Derrek Lee / Android Central

It was admittedly somewhat challenging to find things that I liked about this phone. Even after reviewing the unfortunate TCL 20S and 20 SE, Motorola didn’t make much of a case for this phone outside of its price, which makes it one of the cheapest Motorola smartphone you can buy right now. And it shows.

Specs Moto G Pure
Dimensions 6.59 x 2.97 x 0.34 in
Weight 6.63 oz
Battery 4000 mAh
10W charging
Display 6.5-inches IPS LCD
1600 x 720
Processor MediaTek Helio G25
Memory 3GB RAM
Storage 32GB
microSD expansion slot
Operating System Android 11
Water and Dust resistance IP52
Camera 13MP main
2MP depth
5MP front-facing
Connectivity 5G
LTE
Bluetooth 5
NFC
Security Rear fingerprint sensor
Colors Deep Indigo

That said, aside from its accessible price tag, the Moto G Pure manages to have a few things going for it. The near-stock Android experience is always appreciated, especially since it doesn’t bog down the phone with extra flair. It feels a little outdated, but that should change once Android 12 hits the phone, whenever that will be (more on this later).

Motorola’s My UX software includes some of the company’s helpful gestures, like the chopping movement to activate the flashlight. I have always appreciated this from the company, ever since the Moto X Pure Edition of yore. In addition, the rear fingerprint sensor on the back is fast, and a swipe down on the divet will bring down the quick settings menu. Elsewhere, the software is zippy enough, considering, and gets basic tasks out of the way with relative ease. I also like how it handles notifications, allowing you to drag your finger to peek at them and perform different actions.

Moto G Pure Battery Life

Moto G Pure Battery LifeSource: Derrek Lee / Android Central

The Moto G Pure can also last through the day pretty easily. Motorola claims two days of battery life depending on use. For someone such as myself who uses a Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra as his main driver, that two-day claim is a bit hard to come by. That said, the phone managed to get me through a full day of taking pictures, playing some games, and chatting it up on social media, with about 6 hours of screen-on time. No doubt, lighter users that this phone is intended for will be able to manage two days of use between charges.

Moto G Pure: What needs work

Moto G Pure Review Cameras

Moto G Pure Review CamerasSource: Moto G Pure

And you’ll definitely rely on that battery power because the Moto G Pure caps out at 10W charging, so it’s not the quickest by any means.

Unfortunately, that trend carries over to performance, with the “gaming-focused” MediaTek Helio G25 struggling to do anything beyond basic tasks. Games were a particular challenge for this phone, which took ages to load new screens or menus in games like Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery or GYEE. Surprisingly, Pokémon Go seemed fair a bit better, but the gaming experience was overall inconsistent and slow. Fortunately, I’m not much of a gamer, so that didn’t bother me too much. Just don’t expect to throw on Genshin Impact and get away with it.

The Moto G Pure feels sluggish when performing anything but the most basic tasks.

What did bother me was that even scrolling through social media seemed to give the phone trouble. The experience was jittery, and the phone often lagged to respond to my input. It certainly doesn’t help that the HD+ display is only a 60Hz panel, but at this price point, it’s hard to expect much more, unfortunately. Still, the app experience was far from ideal given the lagging processor, dim display, and middling 32GB internal storage (which you could, fortunately, expand with a memory card, but with the extra cost, you might as well spring for a better phone). YouTube Music would crash a few times while listening in the background, which got really annoying.

The camera situation was not great either. With only one 13MP shooter, the Moto G Pure feels incredibly limited. Sure there’s a 2MP depth sensor, but the phone lacks the versatility of at least an ultrawide sensor that can be found on even some of the best Android phones under 200.

Photos were passable for this price point, but they were often a bit too cool for my liking, particularly against the cold, rigidness of the Seattle atmosphere. There’s also not much detail in the images, and they can often be overexposed.

There are some fun features like Spot Color, which highlights only one color when capturing an image. There’s also a Pro mode for more fine-tuning and RAW capture, but don’t expect too much from this camera system, especially given the single focal length of this camera system.

Extra cameras aren’t all you’re missing out on. There’s also no NFC, which is oddly expected for Motorola in 2021. You also only get an IP52 rating, which is suitable for some splashes and a bit of rain. And while the phone is promised an update to Android 12, that’s the only OS upgrade you can expect, aside from two years of security updates.

Moto G Pure: Competition

T Mobile Revvl V Plus 5g Video Still

T Mobile Revvl V Plus 5g Video StillSource: T-Mobile

There aren’t many standouts among sub-$200 phones, but the Galaxy A12 manages to make a name for itself. The MediaTek Helio P35 isn’t anything to run home about, but the Galaxy A12 features a quad-camera setup with a 48MP main camera, 5MP ultrawide, a macro sensor, and a depth sensor. It’s also got at least four years of security updates since its launch, which is much better than the two that Motorola promised. It’s also got a larger 5,000mAh battery and faster 15W charging.

The T-Mobile Revvl V+ 5G (pictured above) is a good contender, as it’s currently the cheapest 5G phone in the U.S. Of course, you have to be on T-Mobile’s network to use it, but it comes with a large 6.82-inch HD+ display, 16MP triple camera setup, a 5,000mAh battery, and 18W charging. Plus, it comes with double the storage, a bit more RAM, and NFC. Of course, it costs a bit more at $200, but for what you’re getting, it’s definitely worth the splurge.

Moto G Pure: Should you buy it?

Moto G Pure Review Outside

Moto G Pure Review OutsideSource: Derrek Lee / Android Central

You should buy this if …

  • You’re looking for an affordable smartphone with great battery life
  • You’re not a mobile gamer or need exceptional camera quality
  • You just need to do the basics

You shouldn’t buy this if…

  • You want a great gaming experience
  • You care about camera quality
  • You rely on mobile payment with Google Pay

If you’re looking for a basic smartphone either for yourself, a loved one, or a child, this is probably a good place to start. It’s affordable, offers a clean software experience, and will get you by on a single charge. However, camera quality is lacking; the Moto G Pure is not ideal for capturing memories or really much outside of basic tasks, making it not ideal for avid smartphone users.

2 out of 5

The Moto G Pure drops the ball for an Android smartphone OEM known for making devices with great value. Sure, it’s ultra-affordable, but other devices around this price point offer better designs, more versatile cameras, and snappier chipsets. In a time when $200 phones can carry 5G, the Moto G Pure had a chance to undercut the competition, but instead, it simply underperforms.

It goes without saying that I wouldn’t recommend this for power users, although frankly, I would hardly recommend this for anyone.

Moto G Pure RenderMoto G Pure Render

Moto G Pure

Bottom line: The Moto G Pure arrives with excellent battery life and a very affordable price point, but there are other, better options that offer additional value for just a bit more.

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