Motorola's budget model is back with a mixed package
Buying an Android smartphone these days shouldn’t be such a hard thing to do given how many brands and models are out there, though when you’re on a tight budget, options are significantly reduced.
Truth be told, there are lots of Android phones in the budget category on the market, many of them coming from Chinese brands, but at closer inspection, it’s actually pretty difficult to find one that offers good value for the money.
Motorola itself has a place of its own in the budget market, and the G6 Play is the newest model coming to appeal to buyers who don’t necessarily want to spend a fortune for things they do not need.
G6 Play is a more affordable alternative to the G6 and G6 Plus siblings, but it still inherits some goodies from these more expensive models. Obviously, it lost several features during Motorola’s cost-cutting effort, but the company promises this $199 smartphone is still worth a chance.
When looking at the G6 Play for the first time, it’s pretty hard to be impressed, but it’s difficult to be disappointed either. I’d say this phone looks more like a mid-ranger rather than a budget device, and the feeling you get when holding it in hand does nothing more than to confirm this.
Technically, Motorola didn’t want to abandon the look of the G6 entirely when looking into ways to cut costs, so the back does boast a shiny design, only that it uses plastic instead of glass. This is something to be expected though, and which I think many budget phone buyers are going to love. Nobody wants to buy a phone that can shatter easily, and at $199, it’s impossible to build a phone made of durable glass with the latest and toughest protections.
“No glass, just plastic.”
The plastic does look a little bit cheap though, but Motorola tried to offer a unibody feel by painting the side frame in the same color as the phone, despite them being made from aluminum. This helps the phone be more rugged, so it should be able to survive the typical drops with no major issue.
On the front, the Moto Z6 Play is just the typical Android phone. There’s a 5.7-inch display with top and bottom bezels and somewhat surprising, without a home button. Motorola uses virtual navigation buttons, and the fingerprint sensor has been moved to the back for a more comfortable approach. At least, that’s what Motorola says, though we live in a world where manufacturers give up on the fingerprint sensors entirely because, they say, this is the most convenient approach.
The fingerprint sensor, however, is extremely easy to reach on the back, but given the shiny and somewhat slippery case, I found it more difficult to hold it with a sweaty hand and to try to search for the sensor without looking. There were times when I accidentally touched the huge camera bump as well, but this is just me not being able to get past the bad ergonomics on the Galaxy S9.
Despite having a 5.7-inch display, the phone isn’t huge, and I honestly thought that Motorola decided to shrink the screen to 5.0 inches. But for some reason, it feels smaller than it actually is. That can only be a good thing given that most of us spend so much time holding our phones in hand these days. And at 175 grams, this isn’t really a rock, especially when considering that it comes with a 4,000 mAh battery.
“Mixing good with the bad.”
When it comes to hardware, there’s a mix of good and bad, which more or less makes sense given the budget category that this phone is part of.
First and foremost, let’s talk a bit about the screen. I’ve heard many people praising the LCD panel on the G6 Play, but I honestly believe that while it’s a decent choice for such a phone, Motorola could have really done better here.
The 720 x 1440 pixel resolution is lower than expected, and this is clearly the biggest setback here. You can nearly see pixels on the screen, which for a phone launched in 2018, is really terrible. On the other hand, Motorola has decided to go for a 16:9 aspect ratio, which not only that is surprising on a low-end phone, but is also pretty useful because it substantially increases the screen estate within apps.
Unfortunately, the display leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to performance as well. Motorola has increased saturation and contrast up to a level that makes it obvious the company wanted to compensate for the low quality of the screen. And yet, there are moments when colors appear washed out, and this lack of consistency proves me that Motorola should have embraced a more balanced configuration.
The chip inside the Moto G6 Play is the Snapdragon 430 paired with a maximum of 3GB RAM. For a low-end phone, this is just the right configuration, and I haven’t noticed any significant slowdown during my time with the phone.
But what’s important to always have in mind is that this phone isn’t supposed to be a flagship capable of running heavy tasks. So as long as you use it according to its purpose, you shouldn’t experience any problem with it. This means the Moto G6 is the right choice for browsing the web, chatting with friends, getting in touch with contacts on Facebook and things like that. The moment you launch a more demanding game, it instantly shows its limits, with loading times increasing substantially and major battery drops experienced due to its struggle to render the content.
“Decent specs... for a budget phone.”
The phone uses an Adreno 505 chip, which is quite a capable option, but which is obviously limited due to the rest of the hardware configuration. You can get up to 32GB storage, but a 16GB version is also available for those who don’t want to store any multimedia content. On the other hand, Moto G6 Play also comes with a micro SD card slot, and you can increase storage capacity by up to 256GB if needed.
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t expect DSLR quality when it comes to the cameras available on the G6 Play. The device features a 13-megapixel camera with f/2.0 and 1.12 um pixel size, with LED flash, HDR, and panorama support. A 5.0-megapixel unit is offered for selfies in the United States, while those in other regions get an 8.0-megapixel selfie camera.
The performance of the camera isn’t something to brag about, but the 13 MP unit serves its purpose in a decent manner. As you can see in the samples below, it sometimes captures above-the-average shots when the perfect lighting is available, but other than that, it’s extremely easy to mess up a photo.
There’s some sort of over-saturation happening here too, and in low-light condition, everything looks pretty terrible, but this is by no means a surprise given the budget category.
There are other things that deserve to be praised on the Moto G6 Play though, and one of them is the battery. The device features a 4,000 mAh unit, which is just huge for the specs mentioned above. This means that you can easily get two days per charge, and if you’re a light user, autonomy can get even past this. Also, the phone features fast battery charging, which is unexpected, to say the least, for a device that’s so affordable.
Due to the micro USB port, however, fast charging capabilities are somehow limited, so you still need close to two hours to fully recharge an empty battery. With a USB-C port, charging performance would have been dramatically improved, but I think this was a cost decision.
The fingerprint sensor itself is placed on the back in a pretty convenient position, but there’s something else that needs to be mentioned here. You always have to touch the reader right in the middle because otherwise, it may all end up with a failed unlock attempt. For some reason, it can’t recognize part of your finger and the phone isn’t unlocked unless the finger is perfectly positioned on the sensor. This is probably something that can be improved software-wise, so Motorola should have this in mind when delivering software updates.
And speaking of software, here’s the good part. Moto G6 Play comes with Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box, and there’s a chance it would get the next major release of Android as well.
The phone doesn’t include any bloatware, though you might want to give up on the Microsoft Outlook app if you use a different email client.
But there are other goodies that you’ll enjoy and they are all there thanks to Motorola. Gesture support is a feature that is typically found on more expensive devices, but Motorola brought them to the G6 Play as well. For instance, you can just switch the phone to silent mode by putting it to on a desk upside down, a feature that’s also available on some more expensive Android phones too.
While Moto G6 Play ships with Android 8.0 out-of-the-box, I’d say it’s more important for Motorola to continue rolling out updates and security patches for this device. As a budget model, it may not seem too important for the company to maintain a frequent update pace, but as it’s the case for every Android smartphone, being up-to-date is a critical thing.
In terms of software, it’s pretty hard to find anything to complain about, but at the same time, you can’t be wowed either. Nearly-stock Android is something that I really enjoy having on my phones, and Motorola is clearly doing the right thing here.
Motorola isn't trying by any means to trick you into buying this phone, but instead it's advertising its real capabilities without turning to the typical marketing tactics to impress you.
It doesn't have the best camera, but you'll know that from the moment you read the official information.
On the other hand, you're going to love the way it feels in hand and how easy it is to carry around.
Despite a massive 5.7-inch display, the plastic body and the solid construction makes it quite a compact phone that gets closer to the mid-range category. With more investments in design, like an edge-to-edge screen, the Moto G6 Play could become quite an exquisite appearance.
The display, for instance, has a low resolution that many people can't imagine living with, and for a trained eye, it's pretty clear that Motorola tried to compensate for its limited hardware capabilities with software optimizations like increased color saturation.
Also, while it features fast charging, it comes with a micro USB port. We live in a world that's migrating to USB-C, and considering the benefits, it's no wonder why. For a phone launched in 2018, that's pretty unexpected, and Motorola should take care of this on the next-generation model.
Other than that, it's just a budget phone that shows its limits every time you want to run more demanding tasks. Playing games is a thing that's only possible in the case of puzzles or arcade titles with simple graphics, while taking good-looking photos with the camera is only possible with the perfect lighting conditions.
The G6 Play itself is impressive as a full package, and not when looking at its capabilities separately. It's a solid phone that comes with a compelling package at a really low price.
Judging from what you can find right now on the market in the same budget category, it's pretty hard to get something better, though I'd say that spending a little bit more on a Nokia 6 may be a better deal.