- Great price
- Smart looks
- Excellent value
- Strong battery life
- Camera could be faster
*** Note : £1 = $1.35 (correct at time of post)
- Review Price: £169
- 5.7-inch 18:9 FHD+ screen
- Snapdragon 430 CPU
- 3GB of RAM
- 13MP rear-facing camera
- 4000mAh battery
What is the Moto G6 Play?
The Moto G6 Play is the most affordable phone in the 2018 Moto G family. It looks a lot like the Moto G6 but strips away a few features in order to sell at £169 – and is just about the best phone you’ll find for the money.
It offers an 18:9 screen, a smart look and more storage than most £170 phones. However, if you can afford the extra £50 for a Moto G6, you get a better camera, an expensive-feeling glass rear, a more powerful CPU and a higher-resolution screen.
If you want a high-end flavour, buy a Moto G6. However, since this cheaper phone has a larger battery, it has an appeal of its own too.
All three of the 2018 Moto G phones look pretty similar. The G6 Play, the G6 and G6 Plus have long 18:9-style frames and curved glassy-finish rears. They may not flatten the all-aluminium Moto G5S and Moto G5S Plus for build quality, but seem far closer to current top-end phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Huawei P20 Pro. Glass is “in”. However, the Motorola Moto G6 Play doesn’t use the real thing. What you see here is plastic.
While it’s far less likely to crack than glass, it’s more scratch-prone than the Gorilla Glass 3 used in the other Moto G6 models. It still feels fairly good, though. The plastic doesn’t flex under your fingers.
You also get a light-reactive finish under the top surface. Most of the time, the Moto G6 Play looks like a normal-but-shiny dark blue phone. However, when it catches the light you’ll see S-shaped bright blue lines carved across its back.
It adds a hint of pizzazz without getting close to garish. The phone’s sides are coated aluminium and the front is Gorilla Glass.
The other major external difference between the Moto G6 Play and the G6 is the fingerprint scanner. It sits on the back, instead of the front.
I’m a fan of rear fingerprint scanners. It’s indented and easy to reach, too. However, it isn’t quite as fast as the best, plus I’ve found it more picky about finger position than some – particularly after washing your hands.
The Moto G6 Play’s scanner may be the first used by some buyers, if they’ve been buying budget phones for years. And in this instance it’s still fairly reliable and faster than using a passcode.
Other basics that can be ticked off include a headphone jack, often omitted these days, and 32GB of storage. This is plenty for a phone costing £170, but if your storage requirements exceed this then there’s a microSD slot in the SIM card tray as well.
Water-resistance is lacking. The standard G6 and G6 Plus have a water-repelling nano-coating, which at least makes them splash-proof. While the G6 Play is likely to survive being caught in a rain shower, the same can’t be said of a dunk in the bath.
The Moto G6 Play also has a micro-USB charge port rather than the now more popular USB-C type. Plus, this device also offers fast-charging, a fantastic extra at the price.
The Motorola Moto G6 Play has a 5.7-inch 18:9 IPS LCD screen, but its resolution is only 1440 x 720 pixels.
This is the 18:9 equivalent of 720p, and Moto G phones have used 1080p panels since the Moto G4 in 2016. The important question: will you notice?
On first turning on the Motorola Moto G6 Play, the difference in pixel density is clear. Look a little closer than normal and pixellation is evident. However, within a few hours of use, I stopped noticing.
Nevertheless, there’s no denying the Moto G6’s display is closer in quality to that of a high-end phone.
The Motorola Moto G6 Play’s colour and contrast are both strong for a budget device, and you can switch between vivid and natural saturation modes, plus a few colour temperature presets. Comparing directly to the Moto G6, the more expensive phone seems to have a slight edge for bringing out the deepest reds in Vivid mode, but there isn’t much in it.
The Moto G6 Play’s screen visibility outdoors on a bright day is perfectly solid too.
If you’ve ever owned a Moto G-series phone, then you’ll be aware of the software setup. These devices use a version of Android designed to appear just like the original, and here we get Android 8.0 at launch.
The Motorola Moto G6 Play doesn’t offer exactly the same interface as a Google Pixel 2, though. There are some visual changes. Most notably, the apps menu has a background with a dimmed and blurred version of your wallpaper, rather than a sheet of white.
Otherwise, Android here feels just like it would in a vanilla Android phone. You flick up on a homescreen to bring up the apps menu, and there are no odd extra modules to the main part of the system.
Everything feels clean and simple, although there are a few more extras than in the past. The Motorola Moto G6 Play comes with LinkedIn, Outlook and a Dolby Audio app preinstalled. The first two are arguably bloat and can’t be removed, but I find them so familiar it’s almost like having a couple of extra Google Suite apps that I don’t use.
Motorola does add a few peripheral interface extras, but these add to Android fairly subtly instead of changing it fundamentally or getting in the way. You’ll find these in the Moto app: Moto Key, Actions and Display.
Moto Display is the most obvious Motorola customisation. It phases notifications alerts on and off the display when the G6 Play isn’t used. It’s a little like a lockscreen that appears purely in standby, and if you’ve owned a Motorola device from the past few years it will be familiar.
Moto Actions is another long-standing feature. It comprises a bunch of shortcut gestures: a double karate chop toggles the flashlight; turning the phone onto its screen can silence call ringtones; and a double-flick of the phone launches the camera. Each of these can be switched on and off.
Moto Key is a newer addition. It lets you use the phone’s fingerprint scanner as a replacement for typing-in passwords in apps, much like Google’s own Auto-fill feature.
General performance is good, with the usual caveat that some apps will take a little longer to load than they would in a phone costing four times the price. And in my experience, scrolling became erratic at one point too. I had to reset the phone to solve this issue, and I haven’t encountered the problem again since.
However, it’s worth noting that the processor in the Moto G6 is significantly more powerful. This phone has a Snapdragon 430; the Moto G6 a Snapdragon 450. According to Geekbench 4, the difference in power is much greater than those similar-sounding model numbers suggest.
The Moto G6 Play scores 2340 points in Geekbench 4; the Moto G6 3549. That’s a 60% increase.
This isn’t too apparent when playing most games, however. Asphalt 8 runs just about as well on the Moto G6 Play as it does on the Moto G6, although Real Racing 3’s frame rate is just decent, not ultra-smooth.
Add a louder, richer-sounding speaker and it’s clear the Moto G6 is a better gaming phone than the G6 Play. Nevertheless, both are solid.
The Moto G6 Play camera performs similarly to other devices in the series since the Moto G3. In daylight you can achieve great shots with much better dynamic range than you might expect from a budget phone.
However, it’s at night that performance is well under par. I often found I needed to max out the exposure control to get even a remotely clear shot. And then the results were noisy and low on detail.
As was the case with last year’s Moto Gs, the Moto G6 Play is a little too slow to shoot. Slight delays before it actually shoots, and after the shot is captured, take the experience down a grade. Some Huawei and Honor phones around this price feel faster (but not the Honor 7A).
Spend a while learning the ins and outs of the Moto G6 Play camera and you’ll find some neat workarounds for its issues, however. For quick-reflex shooting, turn off the Auto HDR mode, as it takes its toll on speed.
Want to get better low-light results? Switch to the manual mode and use the 1/1.5 second exposure. Unusually, this is optimised for handheld use rather than being a straight 1/1.5 second exposure, which would normally result in very blurry handheld shots. It significantly improves low-light performance.
The Moto G6 Play has a 13-megapixel rear camera with f/2 lens, and no secondary camera to allow the background blur effects available in the Moto G6.
It isn’t an amazing camera, but it’s sound for the price. Here are some samples:
Purple outlines around tree branches: the lens is to blame
Around the front, the Moto G6 Play has an 8-megapixel selfie camera with an LED flash. The Moto G6 doesn’t have the front flash, which another win for this cheaper model.
The LED isn’t supernova-powered, but does make it much easier to get clear selfies in the dark. Some selfie LEDs on budget phones barely work. This one does.
Long battery life is one of the Motorola Moto G6 Play’s key appeals, alongside its low price. The phone has a 4000mAh battery, which is far larger than the current 3000mAh norm.
I use the Moto G6 Play quite intensively. A podcast obsession and being pointed towards a few too many interesting YouTube channels recently have killed any chance of me getting the phone to last a full two days between charges.
Nevertheless, its stamina is excellent. The Moto G6 Play is a phone you can rely on to last all day, even if you stream video – say, Netflix or YouTube – for an hour.
I was left with 30% at midnight after hammering it quite comprehensively through the day.
An hour of Real Racing 3 consumes 16% of the battery, suggesting it will see you through more than six hours of gaming. This is great.
The Motorola Moto G6 Play is also one of the cheapest phones you’ll find with real fast charging. It uses Motorola’s Turbopower standard, which charges the first 50% of the battery rapidly, and significantly decreases full charge time to under two hours.
The phone uses a micro-USB socket rather than the more popular USB-C, but in real-world use the most obvious difference is that you have to plug micro-USB in the right way.
Why buy the Motorola Moto G6 Play?
The Moto G6-series phones are great – and the company continues this trend with the Moto G6 Play. This phones offers excellent value and is mostly a joy to use.
You just need to decide whether it’s worth upgrading to the Moto G6. For an additional £50 you’ll get a better camera, a sharper screen, more power, and build quality that’s much closer to that of a high-end phone. It’s better in every respect aside from battery life, which the Moto G6 Play aces.
Are the upgrades worth £50? Yes, easily. However, that the range caters for those who want to spend under £200 is important. And if battery life is your primary concern, the Play is actually a better choice than its higher-end brothers.
An excellent workhorse device – perfect for those wanting to spend less than £200.