Moto G6 Hands-On: Pretty Amazing for $250

Motorola has long been the go-to brand for quality smartphones at affordable prices. The company is doubling down on its bread-and-butter products with major updates to its Moto E and Moto G lines announced today (April 19).

The Moto G6 Play has an 18:9 display like the standard G6, but it is 720p rather than 1080p.

The Moto G6 Play has an 18:9 display like the standard G6, but it is 720p rather than 1080p.

The $249 Moto G6, $199 G6 Play and E5 Plus and E5 Play (price TBD) begin rolling out in June through a combination of wireless carriers and general retailers for unlocked models. In typical Motorola fashion, all four devices share consistent design themes. They’re so consistent, in fact, that it’s very difficult to tell each one apart unless you know where to look.

Moto G6 and G6 Play

First up is the Moto G6 — the most premium of Motorola’s low-end offerings, but below the company’s midrange Moto X and flagship Moto Z.

Adapting some of the more notable features of those higher-end products for a less expensive handset was a primary consideration for the Moto G6, and it shows. The G6 sports dual cameras, a massive 5.7-inch Full HD+ LCD display and a glass-and-metal construction that evokes many pricier Android devices, from the company’s own to competitors from the likes of Samsung and LG.

The Moto G6's dual cameras can recognize object and landmarks instantly within the stock camera app.

The Moto G6's dual cameras can recognize object and landmarks instantly within the stock camera app.

Motorola has especially lavished a lot of attention on those cameras. The Moto G6 combines a 12-megapixel (f/1.8) primary sensor with a 5-MP secondary one. The focal lengths are the same, so there’s no telephoto or wide-angle alternate lens here, but the G6 can still pull off special features like Portrait Mode, as well as selective black-and-white. Simply tap the color on the viewfinder you want to preserve, and the G6 will artfully hone in on it. The effect was both precise and quick when I focused on a pink flower, taking no time at all to work its magic.

That’s not all the Moto G6’s camera can do. Motorola has added Smart Camera functionality to its shooters, which operates similarly to the Google Lens image recognition feature. In the case of Smart Camera, though, everything occurs seamlessly in the camera UI. There’s no need to hold down the home button or tap anything — simply point the phone at a landmark or object, and the G6 will identify it or link to a Google search where applicable.

The Moto G6 features a front-facing fingerprint sensor and dual rear cameras.

The Moto G6 features a front-facing fingerprint sensor and dual rear cameras.

Under the hood, the Moto G6 is powered by Qualcomm’s brand-new Snapdragon 450 system-on-chip and either 3GB or 4GB of RAM depending on how much you spend. The processor choice is a curious one, as it’s something of a step down from the Snapdragon 625 chipset inside the Moto G5 Plus. Given the 450 shares many similarities with the 625, at best the G6 could be roughly even with its predecessor in terms of performance. However, we won’t know for sure until we’re able to conduct some testing in our lab.

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The G6 will cost $249 at launch, and will be accompanied by a cheaper model known as the G6 Play. Like other Play variants, this model of the G6 peels back some of the hardware muscle to hit a lower price. The $199 G6 Play will feature a standard HD display, a single 13-MP rear camera and Snapdragon 430 silicon.

Moto E5 Plus and E5 Play

The Moto E family still represents Motorola’s cheapest devices, though there’s another important distinction for 2018. While last year’s Moto E4 Plus was available unlocked, you will only be able to pick up an E5 Play or E5 Plus through a carrier.

That’s disappointing, considering the E4 Plus was one of the longest-lasting smartphones we tested last year, yet still cost just $179. Motorola couldn’t elaborate on pricing for either the E5 Play or E5 Plus yet, as those will vary depending on the carrier.

The Moto E5 Play (right) lacks the slim bezels of the Moto E5 Plus (left).

The Moto E5 Play (right) lacks the slim bezels of the Moto E5 Plus (left).

The E5 Plus inherits the G6 Play’s 18:9 aspect ratio, but has even larger 720p screen, measuring 6 inches. The exterior employs a glass sandwich design just like the G6 duo, with the iconic batwing logo on the back cleverly doubling as a fingerprint sensor. However, you won’t find Smart Camera here, as that feature is exclusive to the Moto G6.

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What excites us most, however, is the battery. At 5,000 mAh, we’re relieved to know Motorola hasn’t downsized it for the new phone. Coupled with a bump from the previous Snapdragon 427 chipset to the newer 435 platform, we expect the E5 Plus to be a better choice for even more customers who prioritize battery life, but still need a device that delivers when the going gets tough.

The E5 Play differs from the E5 Plus in a number of critical ways. First off, you won’t be getting it confused with any other product in Motorola’s U.S. lineup, as it still has a 16:9 screen and chunky bezels. Second, the back is made of finely-textured plastic, rather than glass. Plastic shouldn’t be the buzzword for disappointment that it has become, but this particular application in the E5 Play isn’t satisfying in a soft-touch kind of way, nor does it feel particularly sturdy. What you see is what you get.

The Moto E5 Play features a plastic back instead of the glass found on the company's pricier models.

The Moto E5 Play features a plastic back instead of the glass found on the company's pricier models.

All four of Moto’s new phones sport some form of quick charging, though Motorola’s fastest 15W TurboPower system has been reserved for the E5 Plus and G6. Additionally, the G6 is the only product of the four to employ a USB Type-C slot. Motorola says many of its customers are still clinging to those Micro USB accessories, and you’ll see the company make the transition slowly across its lineup as time goes on.

Finally, each handset will launch with Android 8.0 Oreo and they’ll get security patches every 60 to 90 days for two years following release. The Moto G6 and G6 Play will see software updates to Android P after that version arrives later this year, while the E5 Plus and E5 Play will remain on Oreo for the entirety of their life cycles.

Outlook

We’re excited to explore the new Moto E and Moto G series in further detail in the coming weeks. Motorola has a lot riding on these devices; After years of simply going by “Moto,” the company has moved to using its full name in the interest of expanding the brand worldwide. Be on the lookout for full reviews soon.

Photo Credit: Adam Ismail/Tom's Guide