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Android this week: Moto G hands on; Google Now talks back; HTC M8 specs leak

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Google’s Moto X(s goog) was just the first of a new line of phones and this week saw the Moto G introduced. At a press event in Brazil, the new Moto G was announced as a low-cost phone for 30 countries. It shares many design cues from the Moto G, offers a high resolution screen and costs just $179 for an 8 GB model; without a contract.

Another $20 brings the internal memory to 16 GB, which is a small price to pay for double the storage. So is the handset just another cheap Android phone? It doesn’t appear to be.

Moto G home screen

Motorola kept the 720p display from the Moto X, for example. And at a slightly smaller 4.5-inch size, that means it actually packs more pixels per inch for better clarity. Our early hands-on take suggests the phone isn’t sluggish either; it uses a 1.2 GHz Qualcomm(s qcom) Snapdragon 400, but Android 4.3 seems to be well optimized for it. The handset is guaranteed to get Android 4.4 as well.

If Motorola markets the phone well for its intended audience, I think it will be a relative success. The device launches here in the U.S. in January. While some will be put off by the lack of LTE support, the Moto G may be a nice, low-cost first phone for many.

While the Moto G doesn’t have touchless controls like the Moto X, it does have Google Now with voice control. And that app got a solid upgrade this week: Google Now will ask for more information and have a conversation to gather it. The update is rolling out over the coming days, so stay tuned if you don’t have it yet on your Android phone or tablet.

google now conversation

Also coming is the HTC M8, a follow-up to the company’s HTC One. This week a set of specifications leaked and while they sound impressive, they shouldn’t be a surprise. Expect a 5-inch handset with a 1080p display, a Snapdragon 800 processor and Android 4.4, says noted tipster @evleaks.

From the sounds of it, the M8 — surely just a code name — will be an incremental step up from the HTC One. Other handsets on the market already use the Snapdragon 800, so this may be a phone that keeps up with the pack instead of leading it. And part of the issue is one of timing: There are no newer, faster chips yet to power Android phones. Still, HTC is good for adding new features to its Sense software and camera sensors, so there could be a few surprises left.

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