Moto G vs Nexus 4 comparison: battle of the low cost Android smartphones

Moto G vs Nexus 4 comparison: battle of the low cost Android smartphones

The Moto G has recently arrived in our office and many of our editors are impressed with it, especially considering it's almost ridiculous price tag: $179 for the 8 GB version and $199 for the 16 GB model. I'm a big fan of my Nexus 4, and even though the Play Store is no longer selling them, there's still plenty available in retail stores and online if you know where to look. The Nexus 5 has recently appeared and it of course blows both devices out of the water, but it's nowhere near as cheap as the Moto G. I wanted to know, is the Moto G the new best cheap smartphone? Here is out Moto G vs Nexus 4 comparison.

AndroidPIT MotoG Nexus4 4
Is the Moto G the spiritual successor to the Nexus 4 as low cost king? / © NextPit

First of all, it must be noted that the Nexus 4 is a year old phone that has recently been superseded by the Nexus 5, and the Moto G only just dropped last week. But the Nexus 5 costs $349 and $399 for the 16 GB and 32 GB models respectively, making the Moto G a solid fifty percent cheaper. The Nexus 5 is a crazy good phone, but there's still plenty of Nexus 4 owners around who are still not sure about making the upgrade to the new Google flagship given the varying opinions on the Nexus 5. Considering the Moto G's price, as a future phone contender, it will certainly appeal to many who turned to the Nexus 4 in the first place because of its price.

AndroidPIT MotoG Nexus4 1
The design of both devices are very recognizable. / © NextPit

If you want to know more about how each device handles in action, you can read our original review of the Nexus 4 and the recent test of the Moto G. But for now, let's take a look at the specs on both devices and see if the Moto G has managed to improve on the Nexus 4's hardware. Motorola have had a year to come up with a better phone, which would normally be dead easy (take the Nexus 5 as an example), but is a half price phone capable of being better even after a year? Let's see them side by side and find out.

AndroidPIT MotoG Nexus4 8
 © NextPit
Manufacturer Motorola LG
Operating System Android 4.3/4.4 (depending on region) Android 4.3 (updated to Android 4.4)
Display 4.5-inch, LCD (1,280 x 720 pixel), 329 ppi  4.7-inch, LCD (1,280 x 768 pixels), 318 ppi
Processor Quad-Core Snapdragon 400, 1.2 GHz Quad-Core Snapdragon S4 Pro, 1.5 GHz
Internal Memory 8/16 GB 8/16 GB
Camera 5 MP (rear), 1.3 MP (front) 8 MP (rear), 1.3 MP (front)
Battery 2,070 mAh 2,100 mAh
Connectivity GSM/GPRS/EDGE/UMTS/HSPA+, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 GSM,HSPA+, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth v4.0
NFC No Yes
Wireless Charging No Yes
Dimensions / Weight 129.9 x 65.9 x 6-11.6 mm / 143 grams 133.9 x 68.7 x 9.1 mm / 139 g
Price 179 USD (8 GB) / 199 USD (16 GB) 299 USD / 349 USD (no longer available)

Some similarities

As you can see, there's some interesting improvements and backslides here. There's quite a few similarities too. Both devices will run Android 4.4 KitKat (the Nexus 4 now and the Moto G in January), both come in 8 GB and 16 GB versions, they're basically the same size and weight and have very similar screens and display resolutions. Both devices run stock Android, although Motorola's take on stock Android is a little different to Google's version on the Nexus 4. Still, both handsets offer a very similar Android experience without all the usual carrier bloatware and UI tweaks. Motorola only adds a very slim folio of apps to the Moto G, most with obviously useful functions like Motorola Migrate and Assist, which lets you enter meeting or sleep mode.

AndroidPIT MotoG Nexus4 5
Motorola's stock Android on the left and the Nexus 4 with Solo Launcher mods. / © NextPit

Processor and Performance

But there's a lot of differences, some that make the Moto G look better, some the Nexus 4. The Moto G has a quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor clocked at 1.2 GHz, the Nexus 4 a quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro (based on a Snapdragon 600) clocked at 1.5 GHz. The Nexus 4 also has double the RAM as the Moto G, so it's obviously better at processor hungry things like gaming and just general navigation and app launching. The thing to note though is that if you're not generally one to notice things like processor lags and such, then you probably wouldn't necessarily notice any real difference in everyday usage. The Moto G also has all kinds of crazy optimizations the Nexus 4 is missing.

AndroidPIT MotoG Nexus4 2
Both cameras are bad, but the Nexus 4 is better. The Moto G has superior sound quality. / © NextPit

Sound, Camera and Battery

The sound on both devices is nothing spectacular, but the Moto G is a little louder and sounds a bit better with a nice range. Also, when you put the Moto G on a flat surface, the rear-mounted speaker actually gets a little louder thanks to the curved back panel, whereas the Nexus 4 goes almost silent. Both cameras are equally poor although the Nexus 4 is definitely better, and that's saying something as it's far from great. The Nexus 4 has a 8 MP stock Android camera, the Moto G a 5 MP Moto camera. The Moto G admittedly has a pretty good camera for a handset this cheap though and the camera app is probably better than the Nexus 4 (although the tap to shoot feature means manual spot focusing is not possible). Both devices have similar battery capacities, but the Moto G has much better battery management than the Nexus 4.

AndroidPIT MotoG Nexus4 6
The Moto G is noticeably brighter with heavier color saturation. / © NextPit

Display, Design and System

The display on the Moto G is quite pink, while the Nexus 4 in comparison looks a little green. The colors on the Moto G are much more saturated though, which is most noticeable in oranges and blues. The Nexus has a better white reproduction but looks a little dull beside the Moto G. When playing videos though both look pretty great. The Android platform on both is very similar and clean and both look and feel well built, despite the very different look of the two devices.

AndroidPIT MotoG Nexus4 7
So who now holds the title of the low cost king? / © NextPit


It goes without saying that no one will buy a Nexus 4 now considering the Nexus 5 is out and the 16 GB version costs the same price, but for anyone with a Nexus 4 (or other low-cost handset) that is looking for a replacement, the Moto G could very well be the next best cheap smartphone on the market. The Nexus 4 is, in my opinion, better than the Moto G, on paper as well as in use, despite being a year old, but the Moto G is incredibly cheap and for a device that costs under $200 I can't see anything else competing. It's close enough to the Nexus 4, and even better in some areas, but for that price it is unbeatable – just think how good it could be if it cost the same as the Nexus.

So while Nexus lovers and hardware fans will naturally opt for the Nexus 5, those simply in the market for a solid, cheap Android would do well to take a close look at the Moto G, because it has definitely taken the ''king of the low-cost handsets'' crown from the old Nexus 4, simply by virtue of the fact there's nothing else this good available at this price. Just as the Nexus 4 now has the Nexus 5, the Moto G has the Moto X. But as far as the little brothers go, the Moto G is a champion.

Would you consider a Moto G? What is the most important consideration for you when looking at a low-cost handset?

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  • Ok so... I had a Lumia 920 and hated it. I mean I loved the hardware but couldn't stand WP8.

    Then I bought a white Nexus 4 from someone on Swappa (the device was litteraly in the same condition as if you'd bought it from Google on launch day other than a tiny ding on the side plastic that I wouldn't have even noticed if he hadn't told me) for $200. The phone also came with the original box/manuals/charger too. Then I sold my Lumia for $150. So moral of the story, even though the moto g is dirt cheap, you can probably get a nexus 4 that will perform almost the same if not better for less if you just look around online for a bit.

    • Good call @Dave, but the Nexus 4 is nearing its update extinction period, if indeed Google do decide to leave the Nexus 4 off the list for Android updates after that. Whereas the Moto G should be good for at least another year, maybe two. Of course, if you're happy putting your own ROMs on a Nexus 4 it'll be good for ages yet!

  • i don't agree

  • My1 Nov 25, 2013 Link to comment

    but too bad that the $ prices arent calculated before putting them to € coz thex Nx4@16GB would only cost 258,93€ at 350US$...

    • Very true - that's actually what I paid for it including shipping in the Play Store sale. I'm going to miss it... but the Nexus 5 should fill the hole it leaves pretty nicely.

      • My1 Nov 25, 2013 Link to comment

        and going a step further the 249$ during the sale are equal to 184,26€
        that WOULD outright beat the Moto G...

      • Hahaha, love it! Then the Nexus 4 would be the outright winner in this article! I wonder if through various proxies and conversion services you could somehow wrangle a 185 Euro Nexus 4... ;)

      • My1 Nov 25, 2013 Link to comment

        but having the fun go EVEN harder:
        Moto G 190$=140,61€ (16GB) okaaaay...

  • My1 Nov 25, 2013 Link to comment

    well the Nexus 4 16GB costs 309€ on amazon that is (lolwtf!) 418 US Dollars!?!?!?!

    • Haha, maybe now it's a ''collector's item''? Maybe I should hold onto mine instead of selling it to get an N5? Hahaha

  • My1 Nov 24, 2013 Link to comment

    wait a sec the price of Nexus 4 was really originally 299/345 (insert currency here) but it was flattened by 100 in the play store resulting in 199/249...

    • True @Philipp, but that was only for a short period of time before it sold out. You can still pick them up on Amazon etc for $350 but like I said, the Nexus 5 costs the same, so there's no reason to buy a Nexus 4 anymore. If you were going to spend the money for the Nexus 4 you may as well just get the Nexus 5.

  • I agree. Phones these days are just way too over priced.

  • I'm definitely buying one. Why spend 700 dollars (or even 350) for a device when this one gets the job done for what matters to me. (phone, SMS, im, music, gps, etc). It has a great form Factor, pixel density, and looks like it runs smoothly.

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