The Galaxy S3 was a major breakthrough for both Android and Samsung. It was the first phone that truly took the fight to the iPhone, toppling Apple from the position of undisputed champion of smartphones. But now that the Note 3 and the Galaxy S4 top out Samsung's range, you can buy the Galaxy S3 for just £250 - less than £100 more than the Moto G. And at that price the Galaxy S3 is a great choice. So we put together these two kings of the middle ground to find out how they compare. Here's our Moto G vs Galaxy S3 comparison review. (You may also be interested in: The 17 best smartphones of 2014 and Nexus 5 vs Moto G comparison review: Which value smartphone should you buy?)
Motorola Moto G vs Galaxy S3: Design and build
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.
By contrast the design of the Samsung Galaxy S3 is like a bigger S2. The Home button is a too thin and narrow and we'd much rather a full set of touch buttons but you can't have everything. The buttons and ports are spread out around the handset with Power on the right, Volume on left, microUSB on the bottom and the 3.5mm headphone jack on the top. The buttons are easy enough to reach and have a nice action, although we would prefer the Volume rocker to be a little larger.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 is very thin and light for such a large phone at just 8.6mm and 133g. It is comfortable to hold, partly because Samsung has reduced the bezel size keeping the dimensions down as much as possible.
It's a really big phone and though it's comfortable to hold it is sometimes difficult to use, having to stretch across the large screen with one hand simply due to its size. This is coming from a user with quite large hands so we fear that for a lot of users the device will be just too big for day-to-day usage. We can't help but feel the Galaxy S3 has too much of a plasticky feel, mainly brought about by its flimsy removable rear cover which effectively peels away from the back. This is a let-down.
Despite the overwhelming use of plastic, the Galaxy S3 feels well made. The thin metal rim running around the edge gives the phone good strength, offering only a small amount of flex when put under strain. The one-piece glass front feels especially nice so ignoring the rear cover it's a good effort.
Overall then, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. These are both well-made phones. We prefer the Moto G: you may differ. See also: The 6 best budget smartphones.
Motorola Moto G vs Galaxy S3: Hardware and 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. For instance: 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, would you believe it, is the same as the iPhone 5S. Unheard of value for a phone this cheap. Colours are punchy and the viewing angles great.
The Galaxy S3 screen is stunning and comparable in quality to the one found on the HTC One X. It has a high pixel density of 306ppi where individual pixels are not distinguishable offering astonishing levels of detail. Viewing angles are very good; we found reflections in the screen more of a problem.
Super AMOLED technology means colours a bright and punchy while blacks are very, well, black. It's partly what makes the screen have such an impact on the eyes but users wanting a more natural look will probably find the screen a bit garish.
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.
The Galaxy S3 by contrast is powered by Samsung's own Exynos 4 Quad processor: a 32nm chip based on the ARM Cortex A9 quad-core architecture and has a clock speed of 1.4GHz.
Strangely Samsung hasn't specified the amount of RAM but our benchmarking app tells us that it has 780MB which the specification sheet would probably tout as 1GB.
In the GeekBench 2 test the Galaxy S3 managed a score of 1659, which these days looks a little poor, but this is to forget the S3 remains a great performer. When it made the Galaxy S3 Samsung managed to achieve the kind of smooth performance previously only reached by Apple's iPhone. It's the kind of situation where we struggled to make the Galaxy S3, er, struggle.
For example, the phone can play video content in a pop-out window while you do other tasks. If you want proof of performance then there you have it. Other demanding tasks such as scrolling and zooming on a desktop version of website just happen with no lag; the processor puts up no fuss whatsoever.
The biggest lag we found was the short delay between pressing the power button to wake the handset up and the screen coming to life. But even then the delay was minor.
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.
Samsung has fitted the phone with a whopping 7.9Wh battery promising rival beating battery life. Similar high-end smartphones we've seen have typically lasted a day before needing to be charged, but the Galaxy S3 lasted an impressive two days.
Of course the battery life will vary from user to user, though. Anyone who watches a lot of video content or plays games on the phone will likely find it needing a charge each night while others may see it last a few days if it's only used for the odd text message and phone call.
Motorola Moto G vs Galaxy S3: Storage and connectivity
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.
In terms of internal storage, the Galaxy smashes the Moto G with 16GB, 32GB and 64GB capacity options. Much to our delight it also has a microSD card slot for expansion of up to a further 64GB. This choice is a big win in our opinion.
Beyond Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and the typical microUSB port, there's not much to mention in the way of connectivity on the Moto G. You won't find NFC, infrared or 4G LTE support here and the latter is something to bear in mind if you're wanting the fastest mobile data speeds.
Again the S3 wins here: wireless charging is a stand out feature which is not only super cool but very practical too.
Other connectivity in the Galaxy S3 includes the standard Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and microUSB as well as near-field communications (NFC) technology and support for the digital living network alliance (DLNA) standard.
In terms of storage and connectivity, then, you should choose the Galaxy S3.
Motorola Moto G vs Galaxy S3: 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.
Like most modern smartphones the Galaxy S3 comes with dual cameras. The rear facing one is rated at 8Mp and has an LED flash while the front camera is a 1.9Mp shooter which can record HD video at 30fps.
We found the results to be good but we haven't been blown away by the quality. Most pictures were sharp and colours were suitably saturated. One thing the camera coped well with was pictures in a dimly lit room.
The camera app launches quickly and is easy to use. It also has various handy features including HDR, a burst mode which can shoot up to 20 images and Best Shot which takes eight photos and chooses the best one.
We'd call this a score draw: both the Moto G and the Galaxy S3 have excellent smartphone cameras.
Motorola Moto G vs Galaxy S3: Software
Unfortunately, the Moto G doesn't come with Android 4.4 KitKat but it will be upgraded by January 2014, according to Motorola. That's not far away and 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.
The Galaxy S3 is running on Google's Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system. To be precise, version 4.0.4 coupled with Samsung's TouchWiz user interface overlay.
The new improved version of TouchWiz is much better than previous versions with a sleeker and more modern look. There is a maximum of seven home screens which you can cycle through continuously. As usual with Android smartphones you can customise the interface with different widgets, wallpapers and app shortcuts.
At the bottom of the screen is an app tray with four slots for your most used apps and a shortcut to the Apps Menu. We like the notification bar which gives easy access to various settings such as Wi-Fi, Volume, Power Saving mode, Music player controls and, obviously, notifications.
Both the S3 and the Moto G run recent (ie good) versions of Android. Samsung does add a lot more customisation to its own flavours of Android, but we leave it to you to decide whether this is a good- or a bad thing.
Motorola Moto G vs Galaxy S3: Verdict
Choose the Moto G if you want a more recent version of Android and a cheaper phone. The Galaxy S3 is a marginally better performer with a marginally better camera. But really these are two excellent smartphones that offer a glimpse of just how much phone you can get for relatively little cash these days. See also: The 17 best smartphones of 2014.
Buying Advice Choose the Moto G if you want a more recent version of Android and a cheaper phone. The Galaxy S3 is a marginally better performer with a marginally better camera. But really these are two excellent smartphones that offer a glimpse of just how much phone you can get for relatively little cash these days.