A few months back I posted on Google+ about how I’d gotten my Dad a Moto G as a Christmas/Birthday present to replace his old, decrepit HTC TyTN II:

I hadn’t anticipated it at the time, but gradually over the course of the last few months I’ve come to realise just how dramatically that modest, budget-friendly smartphone has changed the way in which we communicate.

Entirely for the better.

I moved to my own place quite a number of years ago. In that time I’ve spent a few years in different countries and even now live well over an hour from the parents. Communications have always been pretty straightforward but often times were prohibitively expensive or unnecessarily cumbersome, like setting dates and times for Skype conversations so as to guarantee we’re both online at the same time for example.

It’s been workable but not ideal. Skype wasn’t always as stable as it seems to be today, we would both have to be home to talk and the amount of issues with webcams, slow internet speeds degrading conversations and the general faffing that’d have to be undertaken (mostly on their end) in order to get a video conversation going was a pain. I’m also not typically someone who likes to put a conversation in the calendar, rather preferring to just pick up the phone when the mood strikes – It’s more relaxed, the conversation is a little more free-flowing and there’s no pressure to discuss everything to fill the time knowing this is your only opportunity to talk until the following week.

Skype ServerI tried a few things while I was abroad to make communications both cheaper and more dynamic. My Skype Server (right) was one of those attempts which allowed me to be both online 24/7 for when the parents wanted to call and have the ability to call out at reasonable rates whenever I felt like calling them. Obviously it wasn’t video-capable but I had a laptop for that.

As time has passed technology has improved no-end; mobile devices, cameras, web technologies, social networks, mobile data speeds, etc and while I’ve kept very much on top of the trend, Dad has not. I gave him his first personal (as in, not a work device) netbook at the beginning of 2013 which replaced the ageing, painfully slow desktop I built in 2005. This improved things to a degree, but despite being back in the UK and regularly talking over the phone (without calendar appointments!), except for the rare video call I was only seeing my parents when I undertook the drive to do so. That’s how it remained for several months.

Until November.

Over the course of 2013 I was also watching Google+ expand exponentially. One of the more interesting features of the network that I hadn’t tried at the time was Hangouts. It had so much potential but the thought of getting the parents onto Google+ just for hangouts seemed a little overkill. Dad was quite happy Skyping when we video-called so I figured “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke”.

motogWhen Motorola announced the Moto G it immediately caught my attention. I was presented with a modern, powerful phone full of quality, well spec’d components, running a recent version of Android and built by a household name with a price-tag that seemed almost inconceivable. Could I really pick up a quality device like this for just £129?

Yes.
And I did.

Having listened to the complaints about Dad’s TyTN II for a number of years (a phone I also had for a while), I knew the Moto G would be the absolute perfect introduction to Android. It is much larger, better built, the keyboard is of a size that allows it to be used with thumbs rather than a stylus, it’s running as near-stock Android as you’ll get on a non-Nexus and best of all – it’s affordable!

The weekend after the launch, I picked up the Moto G from Phones4u. Incredibly they had it available as a PAYG upgrade for only £99, saving £30 before I’d even pulled out my wallet! Their phones are almost always SIM-free, even those supplied as part of a network deal. It allows them to keep one stockpile of devices without worrying about how many they have for each individual network I suppose.

As I was setting up the device, Hangouts was on my mind once again – fully integrated into Android out of the box, nothing to set up or maintain and no learning curve to deal with. Well, almost – as an Android novice coming from Windows Mobile 6.1 there were a lot of basic functions to explain, particularly around swiping rather than tapping for things like answering calls, pulling down the notification area, etc. If you’re a seasoned smartphone user you wouldn’t even begin to think subtle differences like that would cause a problem, but I’ve seen it so many times now, you really can’t take anything for granted.

The excitement got to me and I ended up giving Dad his gift almost a month earlier than anticipated, but it’s possibly one of the best decisions I made in 2013. The extra 3 weeks of use gave us ample time to work through questions, concerns, how best to use the device and more, so when I went away for New Year we kept in touch through messages, emails and video calls as if we’d been doing it for years.

But it wasn’t just while I was away, the Moto G has given my parents and I a means for decent, enjoyable, frustration-free communication from anywhere. Whether I’m in the car in Finland or Dad’s working on a telecom mast at the top of a mountain in mid-Wales, we can talk and see each-other as if we’re in the same room, we IM and text now where he’d avoid doing so on his old device (requiring a stylus for the tiny keyboard was very frustrating) and bringing in other people – Nan, my brother – is as simple as pointing the phone at them.

No scheduled calls.
No need to boot up the laptop.
No fuss.

And maybe the best bit?

It took nothing more than one modest, affordable device to completely change how my family and I communicate with one another.

The Moto G is the best purchase I’ve ever made.



Jason Bayton

I’m an accredited mobile technology & EMM (MDM) specialist with an interest in Linux, Virtualisation, Hosting, Disaster Recovery, Internet of Things, Web Development and Open Source. I play the Sousaphone, too!

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