The Moto G23 gives you high quality on the essentials, with a few exceptions. An overambitious camera and vibration motor that is so annoying I switched it off are two examples. But the important stuff, such as functional performance, battery life, charging, connectivity, screen and sound, you get here at a good price.
Affordable smartphones have been Motorola’s hallmark for many years. Both their high-end, mid-range and budget models have often provided more value for money than many of their competitors.
Now I have tested a mobile phone at the cheaper end of the price scale, the Moto G23 which costs £199.99, and it is again a lot of mobile for its money.
For that, you get a relatively lively little phone that looks and feels like it should cost more. It has an appealing design, with matt surfaces in a cool steel blue metallic finish. Everything is plastic, and the frame doesn’t feel too difficult to grip, but the device sits comfortably in your hand as long as your hands aren’t too small.
On one long side are a couple of small volume buttons and an on button that is also a narrow fingerprint scanner. It can be tricky to register a whole finger, but after a couple of attempts, I’ve managed a quick and secure biometric unlock. On the opposite side is just a SIM card slot, which holds two SIM cards and a separate micro SD card, in case the storage is not enough.
More storage and graphics than expected
However, you get a full 128GB of it, generous in this price range where the norm is 64GB, and some offer as little as 32GB. You get 4GB RAM, which is quite normal in budget phones. With the Helio G85 system circuit from Mediatek, you get decent but not high CPU performance.
It manages to avoid being annoyingly slow in all everyday tasks, such as viewing web pages, running email, messaging and occasional social apps, as well as using Google Maps and streaming films. But loading a single app or waking the phone from standby mode can sometimes cause some latency.
You also get significantly more graphics power than expected. Not only does this give you a slightly better ability to play games, but it also helps the performance of some apps and the 2D screen update in the interface. It’s definitely not a gaming phone, you won’t want to fire up Fortnite and run a match. But a game of Candy Crush goes well without too much choppiness.
There’s no 5G at this price, but you should be OK with 4G.
Better sound than picture
The Moto G23 has a 6.5in 720p screen of unspecified LCD type, but I think it’s a PLS panel. It looks and behaves like one, with good colour balance and contrast, but not great colour gamut and narrow viewing angles. It has a 90Hz frame rate which it automatically switches down to 60Hz when high frequency is not needed. 720p is sharp enough that I don’t mind pixelation, except for fine text on some web pages.
The brightness ends up at just over 400 cd/m2 in my measurements. Since the screen is stated to be 400 nits, this is pretty good. It can be used outside on a cloudy day, but strong sunlight can be a problem, especially since the screen has no effective treatment against reflections.
The colour gamut isn’t great, so watching movies and TV shows on the phone is never exactly vibrant. But Motorola compensates for this with sound. Here you get stereo sound with rich midrange and bass, and distinct if not so detailed treble. There’s also Dolby Atmos support, both for the speakers and with headphones that can be connected both wirelessly and via a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The Moto G23 has three cameras on the back. The main 50MP camera takes photos with nice dynamics and colour balance, but it loses some of its sharpness when I try to scale up images. The last few percent of autofocus precision doesn’t seem to be there. Trying to digitally zoom in the app doesn’t turn out very well either. In semi-dark environments, it’s good at lightening the light, but in more noticeable darkness, the camera has focus problems and delivers flaky results.
A wide-angle camera with a 5Mp sensor and fixed focus is actually slightly sharper, but it doesn’t have the same good colour and light reproduction as the main camera. And it’s downright miserable to take good pictures with if the sun has gone down. Finally, there’s a small two-megapixel macro camera. Separate ones are never particularly great, but it does its job without much trouble.
The best camera on the phone is actually the selfie camera on the front, which like the macro camera doesn’t try to be anything special, and takes its 16-megapixel images with good sharpness, good light and colour balance, and even manages dark photos better than the other cameras.
Fast battery charging
The Moto G23, like most phones in its class, has a hefty 5,000mAh battery, and gets a decent but average battery life out of it. Streaming video at full brightness lasts eight to 11 hours depending on how much I push the volume, and mixed browsing and emailing with dim indoor lighting lasts a few more hours.
Motorola gets plus points for fast battery charging. There’s no 100W super fast charging here like in some top mobiles, but its 30W USB-C charger is clearly faster than most other budget mobiles have to offer. It takes about 20 minutes to charge the battery to half, and then another 50 minutes to fill it up to 100%.
The Moto G23 runs Android 13 with a nicely plain user interface that’s not far off Google Pixel phones, but with some of its own tricks such as motion controls and gestures to activate the camera, switch between apps, and more. It’s also an interface that wants to overwhelm you with pre-installed apps, but it’s entirely up to you to opt out on first boot. I didn’t, and suddenly had dozens of unnecessary apps and games on my phone.
I haven’t received an answer to my question about how long the Moto G23 will receive Android updates, but second-hand information on the web suggests one or two years. Android 14 is likely, but after that you shouldn’t expect anything more. In other words, it’s typical budget level at that point.
Product name: Motorola Moto G23 Tested: August 2023 Circuitry: Mediatek Helio G85 Processor: 2pcs Cortex-A75 2 GHz + 6pcs Cortex-A55 1.8 GHz Graphics: ARM Mali-G52 MC2 Memory: 4GB Storage: 128 GB, micro sd slot Display: 6.5in LCD, 720×1600 pixels, 90 Hz Cameras: 50 megapixel + 5 megapixel wide angle + 2 megapixel macro with led rear, 16 megapixel front Connections: Usb 2 type c, 3.5mm headset Communications: 2g, 3g, 4g, wifi 5, bluetooth 5.1, gps, galileo, nfc, fm radio Operating system: Android 13 Other: Dual sim, water resistant Battery: 5,000 mAh, 11 hrs 20 min online video (wifi, high brightness), approx. 16 hrs mixed use (4g, low brightness), approx. 33 hrs calls Battery charging: 30 W usb c Size: 16.27 x 7.47 x 0.82 cm Weight: 184g