Moto G vs iPhone 5C smartphone comparison review

Why compare the Moto G and the iPhone 5C?

In another life I work for other publications such as PC Advisor, Android Advisor and Tech Advisor. As a consequence I take a broader view of the smartphone world than do some of my more Apple-focused Macworld colleagues. This means that I can appreciate how far Android has come. The more recent flagship Androids offer a truly premium experience, although arguably not quite to the curated level of iPhone or - dare I say it - even Nokia's Windows Phone devices.

More pertinantly I can confidently predict that 2014 is the year of the budget smartphone. And here Android is likely to come into the limelight. As the top of the market has become saturated with iPhones, Windows Phones and premium Androids from Samsung, Sony and their ilk, opportunities for growth have appeared at the bottom of the market. Most people who wanted a smartphone have one. But there are plenty of feature-phone users who want email, web-browsing and Facebook on their handsets, and would be prepared to pay £150 or less to get it.

Moto GApple is unlikely ever to dip its toes into these murky waters. In its post-Steve Jobs II era Apple is a resolutely premium product maker. It makes great devices for those that can afford them, believing that true value can be found in longevity and quality. But last year Apple did make one concession to the budget phone market. It offered consumers a cheaper alternative to the flagship iPhone 5S. (Two, if you count the still-available iPhone 4S: iPhone 4S review: Should you buy an iPhone 4S?)

The iPhone 5C is, in essence, a rebadged version of the iPhone 5. It's not a budget phone, but it is the cheapest 'new' iPhone you can buy. So in the interests of understanding better how the iPhone 5C fits into the market in 2014, we compared it to our favourite true budget handset. Cheaper doesn't always mean better - in fact rarely does it. But what does the extra £300 get you when you choose the iPhone 5C over the Moto G?

As you'll find by reading on it gets you a thinner and lighter phone with a better camera and better battery life. Arguably it also gets you access to a better App store and platform in general. But my personal view is that iPhone 5C is neither premium enough  to be worth the extra cash, or cheap enough to be considered a good deal. If it was my money I'd either get the iPhone 5S or save my money and go truly budget. (For a more in-depth view of the Moto G, read PC Advisor's Motorola Moto G review: The best budget smartphone ever.)

Moto G vs iPhone 5C: Price

The Moto G is a staggeringly good deal if you are in the market for an Android phone. As you are reading Macworld we rather suspect that you aren't, but it is worth checking out the opposition from time to time. A mid-range Android phone at a budget phone price. You can pick up a Moto G with 8GB storage for just £135 inc VAT. Step up to the 16GB model and you'll need to find just £159 inc VAT.

The iPhone 5C is the cheaper of Apple's current smartphones, but it's not cheap. A 16GB model will set you back £469 inc VAT, and you have to shell out a further £100 for the 32GB model. So you'd have to be convinced that the iPhone was the better bet than the Android phone to opt for that handset. As you'll see from the following analysis, that is by no means an obvious decision to make.

iPhone 5C

Moto G vs iPhone 5C: Build and design

With the iPhone 5C Apple took its successful iPhone 5 handset and gave it a colourful new coat of paint and a plastic casing. There are five colour options: white, blue, pink, yellow and green. It's purely a question of taste as to whether you prefer this to the Moto G's more sombre stylings.

The iPhone 5C has a polycarbonate plastic casing. As a 9mm phone the iPhone is quite big for today's superthin standard but the 5C doesn't feel thick or chunky in the hand. In that respect it's a winner: this is the most ergonomic iPhone since the 3GS.

Pebble-like is how we would describe the Moto G's design and build. It's neither particularly thin nor super light – 11.6mm and 143g – but it feels nice in the hand with its rounded soft touch rear cover. The phone is well made, robust and feels like it should cost a lot more than it does.

There's little going on with the design. Silver power and volume buttons sit on the side and the two ports, headphone and USB, sit at either end of the handset.

Interchangeable coloured 'Moto Shells' mean you can customise the phone easily. We quite like our PCA red cover but there are a number of other colours. There's also a 'Flip Shell' cover which instead of going over the existing rear cover and making the phone fatter, replaces it.

The covers are quite tricky to remove but this is because they clip in so well. Once you've got one in place, it's not going very far which is good news.

Clearly this is a personal thing - the point is that both phones are well designed and built to withstand the rigours of regular use. The iPhone 5C is smaller, thinner and lighter. (See iPhone 5S vs iPhone 5C comparison review for more on the differences between Apple's two phones.)

Moto G

Moto G vs iPhone 5C: Screen

Screen size is a great way to choose between two smartphones – you'll want to pick a size that's comfortable for you personally. For under £200 the Moto G comes with a nicely sized 4.5in display which has a 720p resolution. That means a pixel density of 326ppi which is the same as the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5C. Unheard of value for a phone this cheap. Colours are punchy and the viewing angles great.

The iPhone 5C's screen is still the 4in Retina display which was introduced with the iPhone 5. It looks crisp and colourful. Its 1136x640-pixel resolution reflects the fact that it is a smaller display than the Moto G sports, and at 326 ppi it is exactly as sharp. The iPhone 5C also has a multi-touch display with scratch-resistant glass.

The key difference here is that the smaller and lighter iPhone 5C has a thinner display. Which you prefer will be down to whether you value a smaller handset over more screen real-estate.

iPhone 5C

Moto G vs iPhone 5C: Processor, performance

The Moto G doesn't have flagship hardware but it does have a much higher specification than you'd expect from a phone which costs this little. A quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor coupled with 1GB of RAM produces fairly nippy performance in the Moto G. We've not noticed any major lag and overall performance is great for a budget phone. This is another area where the Moto G punches above its weight.

By contrast the iPhone 5C has an A6 dual-core processor with a 1.3 GHz clock speed, coupled with 1GB of RAM.

iOS 7 running on the iPhone 5C feels smooth and responsive. Apps and web pages load swiftly, and panning around Apple Maps isn't jerky at all. It feels like you're using an up-to-date smartphone despite the year-old components.

We're not going to get into the benchmark game here because it isn't helpful: both the iPhone 5C and the Moto G are fast and responsive phones.

Moto G vs iPhone 5C: Storage

With no expandable storage available on the Moto G or the iPhone 5C, storage is an area to consider closely. Storage is a bit of a downside to this Moto G Like other budget handsets, it only comes with 8GB of internal storage, of which 5GB is available. With the 16GB model priced at £159, we'd suggest opting for this model since there is no microSD card slot.

Helping in the storage department is a whopping 50GB of free Google Drive cloud storage. That's on top of the usual 15GB so with the Moto G you'll have a total of 65GB.

The iPhone 5C is also available in two storage options – 16- and 32GB. Our 16GB version had 12.6GB available out-of-the-box. In addition, of course, you get a free iCloud account.

So in terms of storage these are two evenly matched handsets.

iPhone 5C

Moto G vs iPhone 5C: Cameras

At 5Mp for the rear and 1.3Mp at the front, the Moto G cameras are mid-ranged at a budget price. Both cameras perform pretty decently, especially when you consider what you're paying for the phone. You can even shoot in burst, panorama and HDR modes. Video can be shot in 720p HD quality and there's an unexpected slow motion recording mode.

Motorola has tweaked the camera app so you can touch anywhere on the screen to take a snap. Luckily you can still control focus by switching it on in the slide out menu.

The iPhone 5C also has two cameras. A front-facing FaceTime camera that takes 1.2Mp photos and allows for 720p HD video recording. Around the back is the main 8Mp camera with LED flash. It can capture 1080p HD video and comes with great features such as a hybrid IR filter, autofocus, face detection and a panorama mode.

Indeed, the 5C has the same 8Mp iSight rear camera as the previous model and so you can rest assured that pictures and video will be high quality. Since iOS 7 comes pre-loaded on the 5C, you get the new camera app which has a square photo mode, filters. We kept accidentally taking multiple pictures by pressing the shutter button for too long.

Both handsets have good but not great smartphone cameras. And the iPhone 5C has the clear edge here, in our view. (Also see: LG G2 vs iPhone 5s comparison review.)

Moto G vs iPhone 5C: Software

As you might know, the iPhone 5C comes pre-loaded with Apple's latest mobile operating system, iOS 7. It's clean and light and much more colourful than previous versions of Apple's mobile operating system. New features include the much-needed Control Centre, apeing the similar feature Android has had for a long time. A swipe up from the bottom of the screen opens a menu from which you can control settings such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, screen brightness, media playback, AirDrop and some quick apps.

Multi-tasking has also has a significant update and no longer just shows a row of open apps at the bottom of the screen. Now you see a preview screen of the running apps and can flick one upwards off the screen to close it. It's something like a cross between Android, WebOS, PlayBook OS and Windows Phone.

Apple has tweaked the Notification Centre so it's split into three sections: Today, All and Missed. It's also accessible from any screen, including the lock screen. Other improvements have been made to Safari, the App Store, Siri and more.

Unfortunately, the Moto G doesn't come with Android 4.4 KitKat but it will be upgraded this year, according to Motorola. Until then it's running on version 4.3 Jelly Bean which is ahead of most existing Android smartphones.

The interface is largely vanilla, which is good, but there are a handful of Motorola flavoured additions. Motorola Migrate helps you bring all your content such as photos, videos and text message history – as long your old phone was Android. Motorola Assist helps to avoid disruptions when you're in a meeting or asleep which we've found extremely handy.

Other than this, there are the all the Google services which you'd expect to find on an Android phone and you can do what you like in terms of customisation.

You won't regret choosing either Android or iOS, but unless you have strong feelings either way it is unlikely to be the factor on which you make your purchasing decision. We still think that iOS offers the best mix of apps, stability and security, but Android has come a long way. As a Macworld reader we suspect you favour iOS, and that would tend to be our position. (You can find more on this in my companion piece: iPhone 5s vs Nexus 5 smartphone comparison review.)

Moto G vs iPhone 5C: Battery life

It's worth noting that neither the Moto G nor iPhone 5C has a removable battery. Each phone offers decent smartphone battery performance of one to two days with an average usage, although the iPhone 5C is the best here.

We've been impressed with the iPhone 5C's battery life. Unless you hammer the device with contant gaming or video playback, it will last a couple of days with regular and varied use. The phone holds its charge incredibly well when not in use - our sample sat on just one percent for a number of hours.

Motorola touts 'all day' battery life for the Moto G and this is certainly the case in our testing. The Moto G will last a day and if you are a light user then you'll probably even get a couple of days from the handset.

Despite having a removable rear cover and being able to see the 7.7Wh battery pack, you can't actually remove it. (Also see: iPhone 5s v Galaxy S5 smartphone comparison review.)

OUR VERDICT

These two handsets are both great, evenly matched for storage and performance. We expect that no-one would be disappointed with the purchase of either. The Moto G is bigger and bulkier but has a bigger screen. You will, however, notice the extra money you have in your pocket after choosing the Moto G rather than the iPhone 5C. However, the iPhone 5C has a better camera and greater storage options. And we also prefer iOS to Android - although that is a subjective thing. Finally the iPhone's battery life is better. If you want a budget phone, the Moto G wins. But for all other users the iPhone 5C may well be the better bet. Here comes the controversy: I don't know why you would get the iPhone 5C. If cost is your concern, buy a true budget phone. If you want the best, get an iPhone 5S. Opting for the iPhone 5C is a penny pinching compromise of the worst kind.