Among Motorola’s midrange line of phones that all look and sound pretty similar, the Moto G6 Play stands out. It’s not the most powerful device in the family (that’s the Moto G6), nor is it the cheapest (that’s the E5 Play), but it strikes the best combination of price, performance, and features. Available for $ 199.99 for a 32GB model, the G6 Play’s broad carrier availability, super-long battery life, and reasonable price earn it our Editors’ Choice for low-cost smartphones.
Pricing and Availability
The 32GB Moto G6 Play is available unlocked from Amazon, Best Buy, B&H Photo, Fry’s, and Target for $ 199.99 (or $ 189.99 for Amazon Prime subscribers). It works with all major US carriers.
A more affordable $ 129.99, 16GB version is available on several low-cost carriers including Boost Mobile, Cricket Wireless (where it’s rebranded as the Moto G6 Forge), Republic, Ting, and Virgin Mobile. We tested the 32GB model.
Design, Display, and Features
The Moto G6 Play doesn’t depart from the design language Motorola has established for the rest of its lineup this year. Like the G6, it has a tall and narrow display to minimize bezel (though there’s still a significant top and bottom lip), a sleek glass back, and slightly curved sides for better grip. It only comes in a deep indigo, which looks more like black.
The phone measures in at 6.1 by 2.8 by 0.4 inches (HWD) and 6.2 ounces. It’s thicker and heavier than the G6 (6.1 by 2.9 by 0.3 inches, 5.9 ounces), but not quite as hefty as the E5 Plus (6.3 by 3.0 by 0.4 inches, 7.0 ounces). I could almost reach across it with my thumb, but it’s hard to reach the top without adjusting your grip.
There’s a volume rocker and a power button on the right, a SIM/microSD card slot that worked with a 256GB card on the left, and a 3.5mm headphone jack up top. The Motorola logo on the back doubles as a fingerprint scanner, which is a nice touch. Motorola sticks to micro USB for the power slot on the bottom here, which can be frustrating if you’ve already made the transition to USB-C.
The 5.7-inch display features an 18:9 aspect ratio and a 1,440-by-720 resolution with 282 pixels per inch (ppi). It’s not as sharp as the 1080p G6 (424ppi), but it’s much better than other options in this price range, like the Alcatel 1X (203ppi). Viewing angles are good, with some minor washing out from the sides that doesn’t impact visibility. Colors are crisp, and you won’t notice pixels except on close inspection.
The screen gets fairly bright and I was able to see it outdoors, though direct sunlight is a challenge. In the settings menu, you can adjust color temperature and vibrancy. The preloaded Moto app can be used to enable Night Display, which applies a blue light filter to reduce eye strain, provides you with the time, date, and notifications when the rest of the screen is off, and keeps the screen on when you’re looking at it.
Network Performance and Connectivity
The G6 Play is available both unlocked and through carriers. The unlocked version we tested supports LTE bands (1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/14/17/25/29/30/66), letting it work on all four major carriers in the US. We tested it on T-Mobile in midtown Manhattan, where we saw decent speeds for the area.
Other connectivity protocols are standard for low-cost devices. You have dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz and 5GHz) and Bluetooth 4.2 for wireless listening, but no NFC for US versions of the phone.
Call quality is mediocre, with voices coming across as harsh and robotic. Noise cancellation isn’t the best, with significant background noise making its way through. Like other Moto phones, the earpiece doubles as a speaker, which makes for a very loud earpiece, but a fairly mediocre speaker.
Processor, Battery, and Camera
The G6 Play is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 427 processor clocked at 1.4GHz with 3GB of RAM. It scored 3,368 on the PCMark benchmark, a test that measures the phone’s ability to perform a variety of tasks like web browsing and photo and video editing. That puts it above the MediaTek MT8735A-powered Alcatel 3V (3,151), though it falls short of the standard G6 (4,583).
While the G6 Plus handles multitasking about as well as the G6, it does feel a bit slower when trying to switch between multiple tasks. The bigger impact is with gaming performance. The G6 Play couldn’t run the Car Chase on-screen test on GFXBench, and stuttered heavily when trying to play PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on low graphics settings.
Battery life is where the G6 Play stands out. With its 4,000mAh battery, it was able to run our entire 12-hour battery test video (streamed over LTE at maximum brightness) with a little bit of juice left to spare. That’s over twice as long as the G6 (4 hours, 42 minutes), and within range of the 5,000mAh E5 Plus, which outran the test video with 30 percent of charge left. Despite having only a micro USB charging part, the G6 Play supports Motorola’s TurboPower fast charging with the included 10W adapter.
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The 13MP rear sensor has a f/2.0 aperture. It does well enough in good lighting, taking pictures with quality comparable with last year’s G5 Plus. Outdoors and in brightly lit settings, it finds focus quickly and generally captures images without too much noise. The finer details you can see on the G6 are lost, though, and things like the leaves of trees or the textures of buildings don’t come across as clearly. As for low-light shooting, most test pictures taken indoors were out of focus or grainy. The 5MP front sensor is fine for outdoor shots, but can look a bit soft in direct sunlight.
The camera is capable of recording 1080p at 30fps, but it isn’t as smooth or as stable as the G6. It also drops frames in low light and can look jittery if your hand isn’t stable.
The Moto G6 Play comes running Android 8.0 Oreo, and like all other Motorola phone we’ve tested, comes with a minimal UI that doesn’t make changes to stock Android. There’s nothing in the way of bloatware, leaving you with plenty of available storage. Out of 32GB of internal storage, you have 24GB free, and the option to use a microSD card if you need more.
The Moto G6 Play is the most widely available phone in Motorola’s lineup. At $ 200 (or less, depending on the model), it strikes a good balance between price and performance, with excellent battery life that can keep it going all day. If you’re looking for an inexpensive workhorse phone that can handle most common tasks with aplomb, the G6 Play is hard to beat to beat for the price, and earns our Editors’ Choice. If you’re looking for better camera quality and are willing to spend more, check out the standard Moto G6.