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Moto G6 Play review: The budget battery king strikes again

Our Verdict

Price: $199.99Bottom line: Clean software and outstanding battery life rarely come this cheap.

For

  • Modern design and 18:9 display
  • Huge, long-lasting battery
  • Relatively fast performance
  • Compatible with all U.S. carriers

Against

  • Slow and unimpressive cameras
  • Old Micro-USB port, rather than USB-C
  • No NFC means no Google Pay

There's no name more recognizable in the budget smartphone category than "Moto G." Since its launch, the Moto G series has consistently been Motorola's best-selling product line, taking people aback with great performance at a low price.

When Motorola launched the Moto G4 a couple of years ago, it segmented the series into three sub-brands; the standard Moto G4, the battery-focused Moto G4 Play, and the more powerful Moto G4 Plus. The names stuck, and a few generations later, we now have the Moto G6 Play — an inexpensive offering with a modernized design and an enormous battery.

Finely crafted

Moto G6 Play The hardware

SpecMoto G6 Play
Operating SystemAndroid 8.0 Oreo
Display5.7-inch, 1440x720
IPS LCD
282ppi
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 427
4x Cortex-A53 1.4GHz
Adreno 308 GPU
RAM2GB / 3GB
Storage16GB / 32GB
ExpandablemicroSD up to 128GB
Rear Camera13MP (1.12 micron) ƒ/2.0
phase detect autofocus
LED flash
Front Camera8MP
Selfie flash
1080p/30 video
Battery4000 mAh
Non-removable
Dimensions155.4 x 72.2 x 9.1 mm

Just because the Moto G6 Play is inexpensive, doesn't mean it has to feel cheap. On the contrary, this is a terrifically well-built phone, with a rounded plastic backing that you'd be forgiven for mistaking for glass. There's a fingerprint sensor integrated into the Motorola logo on the back, with a matte texture and a slight indentation that makes it easy to find with your finger.

Around the front, there's a first for the Moto G line — a 5.7-inch 18:9 display, with relatively small bezels above and below. The display isn't the sharpest at only 720p, nor will the saturation or brightness wow you by any stretch, but I'm just happy to see a budget Motorola phone without enormous bezels for once.

That 720p resolution also plays a role in the phenomenal battery life that gives the G6 Play its namesake. With so few pixels to power compared to the 1080p and Quad HD panels out there, Motorola could've squeezed good endurance out of even a 2000mAh battery — though of course, they didn't do that, instead packing a battery twice as large at 4000mAh. Combine that with the power-efficient Snapdragon 427 processor, and it's no wonder this phone is able to eke out as much as three days of casual use — even with more involved workloads, two days is achievable.

The Moto G6 Play isn't the thinnest phone in the world, but it isn't too thick either, at about 9mm. Still, you might find yourself a bit annoyed at the slightly thicker camera housing that prevents the phone from laying flat on a table — at least, without the included soft-shell case that makes it all a consistent thickness.

Looking around the edges of the phone, you'll notice that there's no speaker grill to be found — instead, Motorola relies entirely on the G6 Play's earpiece speaker. It's far from the cleanest-sounding speaker I've used, but it gets plenty loud for notifications and simple media playback. Continuing around the edges, there's a pleasingly tactile set of volume and power buttons along the righthand side, a headphone jack up top, and a Micro-USB port, because … cost savings.

Motorola may not offer any kind of IP certification on the Moto G6 Play (or any of its higher-end phones either, for that matter), but it protects the phone with a water-repellent nano-coating, both inside and out. You definitely shouldn't try your hand at underwater photography with the Moto G6 Play, but an accidental spill or a phone call in the rain shouldn't do it much harm.

Clean and simple

Moto G6 Play Software and features

One of the most compelling parts of any Motorola phone is its clean, Pixel-like software experience. It's still not technically stock Android, but it's about as close as it gets, with only a few tweaks made that actually improve the experience.

Flipping through the home screens and app drawer, you'll notice just how barebones Motorola's software enhancements are. The Google Now feed still sits to the left of the home screen, and the only non-stock apps you'll come across (aside from Amazon software — we'll get to that in a sec) are Moto and Device Help. The former holds a collection of useful gestures and customizations to Moto Display, which I've found to be the best implementation of the always-on display around.

The customizable Moto Actions are the same ones found on most other Motorola phones. You can double-twist the phone in your wrist to launch the camera, double-chop to toggle the flashlight, flip the phone face-down on a table to enable Do Not Disturb mode, or use on-screen gestures to take screenshots or enable one-handed mode. Unfortunately, you don't get the option for one-handed navigation, as found on the Moto Z3 Play, but I'm glad to still see such useful and simple gestures on a $200 phone.

Speaking of price, you can actually save $10 and get free shipping if you buy the Moto G6 Play through Amazon's Prime Exclusive program. This isn't the nightmarish experience it used to be, with lock screen ads galore — instead, the phone just comes with a handful of Amazon apps pre-installed, all of which you can either uninstall or disable. Not a bad deal to shave a bit more off the cost of this already-affordable phone.

As far as performance goes, the G6 Play won't turn any heads, but it shouldn't disappoint you, either. It's not as fast as the similarly priced Honor 7X, but the Snapdragon 427 handles most tasks pretty well, launching apps quickly and rarely showing signs of stutter when scrolling. You can even get away with running a windowed YouTube video while doing something else, but that does yield noticeably slower performance.

Don't expect much

Moto G6 Play Cameras

On the topic of slow performance, the camera is easily the slowest part of using the Moto G6 Play. Launching Motorola's camera app (which I actually quite enjoy, largely thanks to excellent control scheme in pro mode that's reminiscent of Nokia's camera app on Windows Phone), you're immediately greeted with a laggy viewfinder.

Once you begin taking photos, you'll notice a few more things; while tapping to adjust focus and exposure is nice, the camera is very slow to do so, often pulsing as it hunts for focus. It's also just not a great camera — it's low on detail, even before zooming into your shot to pixel-peep, and dynamic range is pretty terrible, with outdoor shots either completely blowing out the sky or wildly underexposing the subject.

In fairness, this is all fairly standard fare on a $200 phone, and the Moto G6 Play is far from the worst camera I've used in this price range. It still produces decent colors, and you can get an impressive amount of background blur — just don't expect too much from it, especially in low light situations.

The bottom line

Moto G6 Play Should you buy it?

If you can swing the extra $50, you should definitely get the proper Moto G6 instead of the G6 Play; you'll get a faster processor, a much better camera, a better screen, and USB-C. That all adds up to a significantly better overall package, but make no mistake: the Moto G6 Play is still a great value, even without the extras.

The Moto G isn't the only good budget choice anymore, though. For the same $200, you can pick up the Honor 7X, which features better build quality, faster performance, and an impressive pair of rear cameras. Honor's EMUI software is a point of contention for some, but in most other ways the 7X is the more compelling option.

3.5 out of 5

Still, the Moto G6 Play stands uncontested in battery life, and the ultra-clean Android software is a nice bonus. If you're working with $200, go ahead and pull the trigger on the G6 Play — you won't be disappointed.

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Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.

8 Comments
  • If you are on ATT it gets even cheaper - $180. And going unlocked with be a mistake, because bandits wouldn't let you use VoLTE nor WiFi calling.
    Amazing phone. Just got one for my dad. Feels great in hand and it's actually easier to use than G5s plus.
  • Does the 2GB version that AT&T offers present any issues? I would prefer 3GB but if you want to buy through AT&T (Next every year program) then they only offer the 2GB.
  • Battery wise, this is the phone that every Moto Z Play after the Gen 1 *should* have been. But this device looks like a great budget phone...
  • It is a REALLY great option if you have Cricket. $100 flat at Best Buy as the Moto G6 Forge. At that price, as a recent shopper waffling with other options in that range (G6 "normal," Honor 7x, Nokia 6.1,) I was like "that's it right there." If you're going to spend close to $300 I say get something with more "bling" like the LG Stylo 4. but for a decent model in the $100 range that you previously found ZTE models occupying (and hopefully will again), this is it. It even comes with a "skin" case right in the box so you're not carrying it around "naked" feeling vulnerable. I especially like its rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. That location to me makes the most sense & it's plenty large. The one on the Nokia 6.1 seems really small, and I know the G6 "normal" model lets you do One-Navi with the front-mounted design, but coming from 3 ZTE models that had it on the back that's where I wanted it on my next phone. I don't like the microUSB, but I made it work by putting yellow felt-tip markings on the "up" side of the plug--look for yellow, then insert.
  • PS (sorry) one thing that gets left-out but is a "gotcha" if you don't like it--ascending ring-tones. It does this with no native option to disable it, and I don't like that at all. Fortunately there is a fix, install "Disable Increasing Ring" (Shumoapp) and check "new normalization," problem solved.
  • "Battery King" "outstanding battery life" "long-lasting battery" "as much as three days of casual use" Is there a trend here? Lol. We get it, but is there a reason why the battery life is being highlighted so much with this particular device? I mean, it's not all that amazing to get long life out of a big battery running a budget SOC with a low resolution screen. A greater challenge would be taking an average size battery, a top SOC, a QHD screen, and getting two or three days of battery. You shouldn't try your hand at underwater photography with any phone. Several manufacturers specifically state not to use the buttons underwater because they are an ingress point. Except on an HTC.
  • Fun fact: This phone (and it looks like all of Motorola's new generation of unlocked phones) use the full google phone app.
  • The Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Global edition (Pro) is a much better option in terms of hardware and costs 140 bucks on Gearbest. 5.99 inch MIUI 9 Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 Octa Core 1.8GHz 4GB RAM 64GB ROM Dual Rear Cameras Bluetooth 5.0 Fingerprint Recognition 4000mAh Battery
    The UI is not stock android, though.