Why I traded in my Galaxy Note II for a Moto G

BY Stefan Constantinescu

Published 29 Nov 2013

For a little over a week now, I’ve been testing two flagship phablets: Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 and Sony’s Xperia Z Ultra. I’m not going spoil my review of either of those two devices, you’ll have to wait until next week for that. Why do I bother bringing them up? Long time readers will know that last month I took a trip to the United States. While there, I had every intention of buying a brand new smartphone, but I didn’t. Why’s that?

Let’s start with the obvious first few questions: What phone do I have? How long have I had it? And why do I want to get rid of it? In January of this year, I sold my iPhone 4 and bought a Galaxy Note II. The Note II wasn’t my first choice, I actually wanted an iPhone 5, but I simply couldn’t find one because I was in Malaysia during the Chinese New Year. Stupid me, I should have checked to see if any of the local Apple stores had iPhones in stock before selling my one and only mobile phone.

If you do the math, I’ve had 10 solid months of Note II experience. During those 10 months, I’ve fallen in love with large screen devices, but even I have to admit that the experience isn’t perfect. For the life of me, I can’t get the Note II to take decent photos. And while the screen is two inches larger on the diagonal compared to my old iPhone 4, the increase in information density wasn’t all that dramatic.

For those of you who aren’t keeping track of Windows Phone, Nokia recently released a device called the 1520 that has a 6.0 inch screen. One would think that with a screen that gigantic, you could see a ton of information at a glance, but that’s not the case; every review of the Lumia 1520 I’ve read has said as much.

Here’s a quote from The Verge:

“Everything with the 1520 is big, and it doesn’t feel like the giant display is really being used to its fullest. Fonts have grown to enormous proportions, there’s empty space all over the place, and the interface elements and icons feel as if they were designed for someone with very poor eyesight.”

While I was in America, I played with a Moto X at a local Best Buy for a good 20 minutes and fell in love with it. The amount of content I could see on that 4.7 inch screen was pretty much the same as I could see on my Galaxy Note II, and that bothered me. Besides the video use case, what good is having a 5.5 inch display if you’re not actually going to show me more data, but instead you’re going to display the same stuff, only slightly larger? Why would I carry a 5.5 inch piece of glass when the 4.7 inch piece of glass is just as efficient?

But Stefan, the Note II has a stylus! And you’re right, the stylus is awesome. Every time I show people what it’s like to input text using SwiftKey Flow and that tiny piece of plastic, their jaws drop, but can I live without an S-Pen? Probably. About the only other thing I do with the stylus is use it to take screenshots, which is something Samsung can easily implement with software.

Which brings me to last week. I formatted my Note II, let a friend who was phablet-curious try it for a few days, and then decided to sell it to him. I sold it for half of what I paid for it, something that’s typical in this industry. With that nice sum of money in my pocket, I strongly considered throwing in an extra few hundred Euros to buy myself a Note 3 or LG G2, but then Motorola went ahead and announced the Moto G.

Now why would I care about a budget smartphone?

Because truthfully, the smartphone I want doesn’t exist. The smartphone I want is a jumbo iPhone, and I know I’m going to get scolded for saying that, but it’s how I feel. Between my girlfriend’s iPhone 5 and her iPad mini, her father’s third generation iPad, and my two years of iPhone 4 ownership, I know what Apple’s mobile platform is all about. It’s not better than Android, it’s just different, but in a good way.

So again, why the Moto G?

Because it’s stupid cheap, everyone who has reviewed it has said it’s a lovely little device, it’s won more editor’s choice awards than I can count on one hand, and the flagship phones that are sitting on store shelves right now don’t really come off as interesting to me. The iPhone 5S is too small. The Galaxy Note 3, while it’s a significant hardware upgrade from the Note 2, is not worth the outrageous price tag in my eyes. The LG G2 will likely never receive a software update. And as much as I enjoy using the Xperia Z Ultra, it’s a tad too big.

I want to emphasize how significant this decision has been for me. I’m one of those people, the type that buys a flagship phone every 12 to 18 months. That’s been my modus operandi for well over a decade. But this Christmas, I’ve decided to get what’s arguably the best budget smartphone on the market and spend 2014 saving up for “the next big thing”. I don’t know what that says about the state of Android or the state of iOS, I can only offer my perspective of today’s mobile landscape.

What do you think, am I insane?

Note: I don’t actually have a Moto G yet, I just ordered one.

Update: Oh and how can I forget, make sure to read Steve’s review of the G!