Moto G6 Play review: Hands on with the cheapest new Moto

While inflation at the very top end of the smartphone tree is pretty obvious (the Samsung Galaxy S7 cost £569 in 2016, while the S9 costs £739 just two years later), it’s still a factor at the budget end. The original, brilliant Moto G handset turned heads in 2013 when it launched for £135, but the Moto G6, five years later, will set you back £219.

If that makes you look despondently at your wallet, then there is an alternative: the Moto G6 Play. Coming in at £50 less than the Moto G6 and £100 less than the Moto G6 Plus, it (just about) keeps the spirit of the original Moto G alive. There are, of course, concessions to get it in well under £200, though…

Motorola Moto G6 Play review: Specifications, price and release date

  • Screen: 5.7in IPS, 720 x 1,440
  • CPU: 1.4GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 (Adreno 505 graphics)
  • RAM: 3GB
  • Storage: 32GB
  • Rear camera: dual 13MP, f/2, dual pixel phase detect autofocus, dual-LED flash
  • Front camera: 8MP, front flash
  • Price: £169
  • Release date: First week of May 2018

Motorola Moto G6 Play review: First impressions and key features

First the good news: not much of the Moto G6’s charm has been lost in the move to a cheaper model. Yes, it’s made of plastic, unlike its pricier siblings, but it looks pretty good for it – especially the chrome finish version we got our mitts on at the launch event. It has curves along the long edges and a large, circular camera housing that juts out just a millimetre or so. And yes, like the other members of the Moto family, it has a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Another positive: the Moto G6 Play runs a pretty clean version of Android Oreo. Yes, more phones are starting to see the appeal of doing this, but crucially few at this price point. Honor may be doing excellent things at the lower end of the smartphone market, but its Emotion UI still puts a cramp on its style.

To be clear, this isn’t an entirely clean version of Android, but the changes made seem to be broadly positive. The changes made are subtle, yet practical – our favourite being gesture control, which is a convenient way of activating functions. A quick double twist launches the phone, while a double chop activates the torch.

So far, so good, but where it loses ground is in its raw specifications. You may remember our big complaint about the Moto G5 last year was that it had pretty much identical performance the Moto G4. Well, prepare for disappointment, because unlike the more expensive G6 models, the G6 Play gets another helping of Snapdragon 430. True, last year’s model came with a 2GB as well as a 3GB version, while the G6 Play is 3GB only, but you wouldn’t expect this to be a particularly snappy performer.

The camera, too, looks like another weak spot – and again, it may well be entirely the same unit that we saw a year ago in the Moto G5. It’s a single snapper, rather than a dual setup, and it captures still at 13-megapixels with an f/2 aperture, phase detect autofocus. The front camera has had an update though – it’s an 8-megapixel snapper with an accompanying front flash.

So does the Motorola G6 Play have anything over it’s more expensive siblings? Actually, yes: it’s powered by an enormous 4,000mAh battery: that’s 43% larger than the Moto G5’s and 33% bigger than the G6’s. That should lead to more stamina, but how much more is an open question – the G5 was a poor performer, lasting under 12 hours in our video test, but the larger screen in the G6 Play could still trip that up.

Motorola Moto G6 Play review: Early verdict

There’s no denying that the Motorola Moto G6 Play is a good-looking phone, and a 4,000mAh battery is certainly a promising selling point.

Is it enough, though? If the G6 Play is stuck at the performance levels of the G5, then it’s also only going to perform as well as the G4. Now the G4 was a great phone in its day – but that day was two years ago. And time is especially cruel to budget phones.

With the Honor 7A coming in at £140, and the Honor 7C landing at £170, Motorola will likely be relying on brand recognition to make the Moto G6 Play fly off shelves.

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