Motorola Moto G6, Moto G6 Play, Moto E5 Play, and Moto E5 Plus First Impressions

Motorola Moto G6, Moto G6 Play, Moto E5 Play, and Moto E5 Plus First Impressions

Motorola, the Chicago-based subsidiary of Lenovo, stumbled upon a winning strategy with the Moto E and Moto G series. The mid-to-low-tier smartphones remain incredibly popular in developing markets such as India, where the company has shipped more than six million units to date. But they’re also a top seller in the U.S., where they’re subsidized by prepaid carriers and retailers such as Amazon (for example, as part of Prime Exclusive Smartphones). In a sense, Motorola’s merely keeping the wheels in motion with the Moto G6, Moto G6 Play, Moto G6 Plus, Moto E5 Plus, and Moto E5 Play, its 2018 lineup of wallet-friendly devices.

But it’s not just more of the same. This time around, the company made a genuine attempt to both (1) address the shortcomings of last year’s devices, and (2) bring the Moto G and Moto E series in line with industry trends. We had a chance to try the Moto G6, Moto G6 Play, Moto E5 Plus, and Moto E5 Play at a press briefing ahead of today’s announcement, and came away impressed.


Motorola Moto G6 and Moto G6 Play

Motorola Moto G6, Motorola Moto G6 Play, Motorola Moto E5 Plus, Motorola Moto E5 Play

Moto G6.

Moto G6

Moto G6 Specifications
Dimensions and weight 153.8 x 72.3 x 8.3 mm, 167g
Software Android 8.0 Oreo
CPU Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 (4x ARM Cortex-A53 clocked at 1.8GHz + 4x Cortex-A53 clocked at 1.8GHz)
GPU Adreno 506 clocked at 600MHz
RAM and storage 3GB of RAM with 32GB of storage / 4GB of RAM with 64GB of storage, expandable microSD card support up to 128GB
Battery 3000mAh, 15W TurboPower Charging
Display 5.7-inch Full HD+ (2160×1080) MaxVision IPS LCD with an 18:9 aspect ratio
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n 2.4 GHz + 5 GHz
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.2 EDR & BLE
Connectivity USB Type-C port, Nano SIM
Rear camera 12MP & 5MP dual rear cameras
f/1.8 aperture
Landmark recognition, object recognition, text scanner, portrait mode, spot color, face filters, panorama, manual mode
Up to 1080p (60 fps)
Timelapse video, slow motion video
Front-facing camera 8MP
Group selfie mode, manual mode, face filters
Up to 1080p (30 fps), Timelapse video, slow motion video
Water-repellent Water-repellent coating (p2i)
Speaker Front port loud speaker
Network bands LTE: B1, 2 (1900), 3 (1800), 4 (1700/2100), 5 (850), 7 (2600), 8, 12 (lower 700 abc), 13 (upper 700), 17 (lower 700 bc), 20 (roaming), 25 (1900+), 26 (850+), 28 (700 APT), 29, 30, 38, 41(Full), 66 (AWS 3+4)UMTS: B1, 2, 4, 5, 8CDMA: BC0,1,10GSM: B2, 3, 5, 8
Sensors Fingerprint reader, accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light, proximity, magnetometer (e-Compass), ultrasonic

This year, unlike in years past, Motorola is releasing two G series smartphones in the U.S.: The Moto G6 and Moto G6 Play. (The Moto G6 Plus, a beefed isn’t launching in the U.S.). The Moto G6 has an eight-core Qualcomm system-on-chip (SoC) while the Moto G6 Play has a quad-core SoC; a 3,000mAh battery versus the G6 Play’s 4,000mA battery; an HD+ (720p) screen instead of a Full HD+ (1080p) screen; and a USB-C port rather than micro-USB port. More on all that later.

Design and Display

The Moto G6 is the first in the G series to adopt a display with an 18:9 aspect ratio, and it’s gorgeous. The 5.7-inch Full HD+ “Max Vision” LCD has multiple layers of lamination quite close to the glass; whereas the Moto G5 has a gap between the glass shielding and screen, the Moto G6’s touchscreen and digitizer lie almost directly beneath the surface. Colors shine through brightly, and the viewing angle is noticeably improved. I didn’t observe any distortion in my testing, even well past the 120-degree mark.

The other Moto G5 pain point addressed in the Moto G6 is the backplate: it’s glass instead of plastic. Motorola opted for Gorilla Glass 3 shielding that’s thick and noticeably heavier than the Moto G5’s plastic polymer, which lends a premium feel to the handset without adding too much weight.

Motorola Moto G6, Motorola Moto G6 Play, Motorola Moto E5 Plus, Motorola Moto E5 Play

Moto G6.

The larger display necessitated a squatter, wider fingerprint sensor on the G6. It’s in the same place it was on the Moto G5, G5 Plus, and G5S Plus, which is to say adjacent to the bottom bezel and beneath an embossed Motorola logo. And it’s quick, accurate, and fairly forgiving in my testing — even a partial fingerprint scan is enough to unlock the phone and summon the home screen. Like Moto G series phones before it, the G6 supports gestures via Moto Actions. The “One button nav” mode, for example, does away with Android’s software navigation keys, replacing the back button with a left swipe, the multitasking menu with a swipe right, and the home button with a tap.

The fingerprint sensor isn’t obligatory, of course. The G6 and G6 Play’s front-facing 8MP camera (with LED flash) supports rudimentary facial recognition of the kind Huawei, Xiaomi, LG, OnePlus, and other original equipment manufacturers (OEM) have gotten behind recently. It’s convenient in a pinch — it takes a fraction of a second to authenticate a face — but obviously less secure than a fingerprint scan.

Under the hood, the Moto G6 features a 14nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 (and 3GB/4GB of RAM) chip paired with a 600MHz Adreno 506 graphics processor (GPU) and 32GB/64GB of internal storage (expandable up to 128GB via microSD card). The SoC, which Qualcomm announced in June 2017, comprises two sets of four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.8GHz, and boasts a quoted 25 percent overall performance gain over its predecessor, the Snapdragon 435.

Motorola Moto G6, Motorola Moto G6 Play, Motorola Moto E5 Plus, Motorola Moto E5 Play

Moto G6 Play.

Moto G6 Play

Moto G6 Play Specifications
Dimensions and weight 154.4 x 72.2 x 9 mm, 175g
Software Android 8.0 Oreo
CPU Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 427 (4x ARM Cortex-A53 clocked at 1.4GHz)
GPU Adreno 308
RAM and storage 2GB of RAM with 16GB of storage / 3GB of RAM with 32GB of storage, expandable microSD card support up to 128GB
Battery 4000mAh, 10W Charging
Display 5.7-inch HD+ (1440×720) MaxVision IPS LCD with an 18:9 aspect ratio
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n 2.4 GHz + 5 GHz
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.2 EDR & BLE
Connectivity microUSB port, Nano SIM
Rear camera 13 MP with phase detection autofocus (PDAF)
f/2.0 aperture
Panorama mode, manual mode
Up to 1080p (30 fps)
Slow motion video
Front-facing camera 8 MP
Manual mode
Up to 1080p (30 fps)
Slow motion
video
Front facing flash
Water-repellent Water-repellent coating (p2i)
Speaker Front port loud speaker
Network bands GSM/GPRS/EDGE: (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)UMTS/HSPA+: (B1, 2, 4, 5, 8)TDD LTE: B38/41 (Full with HPUE) FDD LTE: B1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/14/17/25/26/29/30/66CDMA: BC0/BC1/BC10†
Sensors Fingerprint reader, accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light, proximity, magnetometer (e-Compass)

The Moto G6 Play, on the other hand, features a 1.4Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 427 SoC (paired with 2GB/3GB of RAM) with an Adreno 308 and 16GB/32GB of internal storage (expandable up to 128GB via microSD card). It’s the same chip that’s inside the U.S. variant of last year’s Moto E4 Plus, but the Motorola representative we spoke to downplayed the performance and battery efficiency deltas. The Moto G6 and Moto G6 Play’s CPU governor is optimized for power efficiency, we were told — it ramps the processor cores whenever possible. In fact, outside particularly demanding apps and video games, one of the few times Moto G6 and Moto G6 Play’s cores run at full blast is at boot.

We’ll have to run the Moto G6 and Moto G6 Play through their paces before passing judgment, but both of the phones certainly seem swift and speedy. We didn’t notice any hitching or sluggishness while switching between apps or launching the phone’s camera, and the advantages of the Snapdragon 450 over the Snapdragon 427 weren’t immediately apparent. One tangible difference, though, is the G6 Play chipset’s lack of support for 15W TurboPower. Its fast charging taps out at 10W.

Camera

The Moto G6’s rear-facing camera is a two-sensor module: one 12-megapixel sensor and one 5-megapixel sensor (f/1.8 aperture and 1.25 μm pixel size). It shoots videos in resolutions up to 1080p at 60 frames per second and short Motion Stills-like clips when it detects motion, but the real highlight are the new real-time photo effects. Motorola’s redesigned camera app, which recently came to the Moto G5 series in an over-the-air update, offers a Portrait Mode-like selective focus that blurs the background of a photo while keeping the foreground in focus, and a monochrome mode that colorizes one object in a photo while rendering the rest black and white.

Motorola Moto G6, Motorola Moto G6 Play, Motorola Moto E5 Plus, Motorola Moto E5 Play

Moto G6 Play.

There’s also a new “single hue” mode that isolates a slice of the color spectrum from the rest of the image. For example, during my hands-on time with the Moto G6, I snapped a photo of the New York City skyline and picked out the bright blue sky, which highlighted all the other blue buildings, billboards, and objects in the frame and drained the rest of their color. The real-time, augmented reality preview of the effect in the viewfinder is pretty nifty.

You won’t find any selective focus or “single hue” mode on the Moto G6 Play, unfortunately, which packs a single 13MP camera with f/2.0 aperture. But both phones ship with Motorola’s Snapchat Snap Lens-esque augmented reality stickers, which include rabbit ears and whiskers and other playful digital masks, that work with Facebook Messenger, Hangouts, and any other messaging app on Android. I applaud Motorola’s restraint, here — you won’t find Animoji lookalikes on the G6 and G6 Play. Take note, Samsung.

The Moto G6 also features Motorola’s AI-assisted object and landmark recognition tech, which debuted on the Moto X4 in August 2017. Using a combination of GPS positioning and machine learning, the camera app does its best to suss out what you’re looking at, whether it’s the Empire State Building, barcodes, or a charcuterie plate. (Thanks to optical character recognition (OCR), it can also recognize business cards and scan them into your contacts.) I watched a Motorola representative snap a picture of a wine glass filled with pens, and the Moto G6 was spot on, returning search results for “stemless wine glass”.

Motorola Moto G6, Motorola Moto G6 Play, Motorola Moto E5 Plus, Motorola Moto E5 Play

Moto G6 Play.

One might argue that Google Lens obviates some of these features, but Motorola insists they’re meant to complement Lens rather than replace it. Case in point: The company abandoned an in-house database of landmarks it’d begun building and started offloading those searches to the Google Assistant and Lens, a Motorola representative told XDA Developers.

But the company’s loath to give up Moto Voice, its homegrown voice assistant. On the G6 and G6 Play, it’s summoned with the phrase, “show me”, and it works alongside the Google Assistant. You can ask it to show your calendar, your next meeting, your schedule, and the weather, or have it bypass the lock screen for you.

Rounding out the Moto G6 Plus and Moto G6’s hardware is a single front-firing speaker, Bluetooth 4.2, dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz + 5 GHz), and support for all major LTE bands in the U.S. Pricing starts at $199 for the Moto G6 Plus, and $249 for the Moto G6.


Motorola Moto E5 Plus and E5 Play

Motorola Moto G6, Motorola Moto G6 Play, Motorola Moto E5 Plus, Motorola Moto E5 Play

Moto E5 Plus.

Moto E5 Plus

Moto E5 Plus Specifications
Dimensions and weight 161.9 x 75.3 x 9.35 mm (camera bump 0.4mm), 200g
Software Android 8.0 Oreo
CPU Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 (4x ARM Cortex-A53 clocked at 1.4GHz + 4x ARM Cortex-A53 clocked at 1.4GHz)
GPU Adreno 505
RAM and storage 3GB of RAM with 32GB of storage, expandable microSD card support up to 128GB
Battery 5000mAh, 15W TurboPower Charging
Display 6-inch HD+ (1440×720) MaxVision IPS LCD with an 18:9 aspect ratio
Wi-Fi Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.2 EDR & BLE
Connectivity microUSB USB 2.0 port, Single Nano SIM, 3.5mm headphone jack
NFC No
Rear camera 12MP, f2.0, 1.25um big pixels, LED flash, PDAF (Phase Detection Autofocus), Laser Autofocus, HDR, Panorama, Manual Mode, Burst Shot, Best Shot, QR code/Barcode Scanner, Slo-motion mode, Video Stabilization, 1080p video at 30fps
Front-facing camera 8MP, f2.2 aperture, 1.12um pixel size, Selfie Flash/Light
Water-repellent Water-repellent coating (p2i)
Speaker Front-ported speaker, 2-Mics
Network bands 4G LTE (Cat6), CDMA / EVDO Rev A, UMTS / HSPA+, GSM / EDGE4G: TDD LTE band 41(Full) FDD LTE band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/14/17/25/26/29/30/38/66 3G: WCDMA band 1/2/4/5/8 2G: GSM band 2/3/5/8 CDMA BC0/BC1/BC10
Sensors Fingerprint reader, proximity, accelerometer, ambient light, sensor hub, gyroscope, magnetometer(e-Compass)

The two new phones in the Moto E series, not to be outdone by the Moto G6 and G6 Plus, pack powerful hardware of their own, including rear-mounted fingerprint sensors and water-repellent p2i coating. Take the Moto E5 Plus: It sports a whopping 6-inch screen HD+ (1,440 x 720 pixels) IPS screen, a 1.4 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 processor (paired with 3GB), and a 5,000mAh battery that lasts up to a “day and a half” on a charge.

The Moto E5 Plus’s screen doesn’t get quite as bright as the Moto G6 or G6 Play’s, and the phone’s casing, which is constructed from polymer plastic, feels flimsy in comparison to the G6’s Gorilla Glass 3. And while the phone had no trouble switching between Chrome tabs and quickly launching apps in our testing, we expect the aging Snapdragon 435, which came to market in 2016, to perform poorly against the G6 and G6 Play’s SoCs. But it’s tough to find fault with the massive battery, which Motorola somehow managed to squeeze inside a 9.35mm-thick frame with a grippy, textured plastic back.

Same goes for the Moto E5 Plus’s camera. It lacks the secondary sensor found on the Moto G6, but the 12MP shooter (f/2.0 aperture, 1.25um pixel size,) has a laser autofocus and phase detection autofocus in its place, plus support for the aforementioned barcode scanning feature, high dynamic range, and electronically stabilized 1080p video up to 30 frames per second. The front-facing 8MP camera (f/2.2 aperture, 1.2um pixel size), meanwhile, has an LED flash.

Other Moto E5 Plus hardware highlights include Bluetooth 4.2, 3.5mm headphone jacks, and dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz and 5GHz).

Motorola Moto G6, Motorola Moto G6 Play, Motorola Moto E5 Plus, Motorola Moto E5 Play

Moto E5 Play.

Moto E5 Play

Moto E5 Play Specifications
Dimensions and weight 151 x 74 x 8.85 mm, 150g
Software Android 8.0 Oreo
CPU Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 or 427 (4x ARM Cortex-A53 clocked at 1.4GHz)
GPU Adreno 308
RAM and storage 2GB of RAM with 16GB of storage, expandable microSD card support up to 128GB
Battery 2800mAh interchangeable battery, 5W or 10W Charging
Display 5.2-inch HD IPS LCD
Wi-Fi Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, 2.4GHz + 5GHz
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.2 LE
Connectivity microUSB USB 2.0 port, Single Nano SIM, 3.5mm headphone jack
NFC No
Rear camera 8MP,f2.0 aperture, 1.12um pixels, LED flash, Slow motion mode, Burst Shot, Manual Mode, HDR, Panorama, Auto Night Mode
Front-facing camera 5MP, Selfie Flash/Light
Water-repellent Water-repellent coating (p2i)
Speaker 2-in-1 front-ported speaker, 2 Mics
Network bands 4G LTE (Cat 4/Cat 5/Cat6/Cat13), CDMA / EVDO Rev A, UMTS / HSPA+, GSM / EDGE2G: GSM band 2/3/5/8 CDMA BC 0/1/10, 3G: WCDMA band 1/2/4/5/8, 4G: FDD LTE band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/25/26/66/71 TDD LTE band 38/41
Sensors Fingerprint reader, proximity, accelerometer, ambient light, magnetometer (e-Compass), sensor hub

The Moto E5 Play, the Plus’s low-end counterpart, trades the Snapdragon 435 for the Snapdragon 425 or 427 (depending on the model) and Adreno 308 paired with 2GB of RAM. The HD display’s a tad smaller at 5.2 inches, and the 8MP rear camera (8MP, f/2.0 aperture, and 1.12um pixel size) omits the E5 Plus’s laser autofocus and phase detection autofocus. It also doesn’t support Motorola’s 15W TurboPower charging; you’re stuck with 5W or 10W fast charging.

But to be fair, Motorola isn’t positioning the Moto E5 Play or the Moto E5 Plus as top-tier devices. In fact, it’s holding off on announcing unlocked pricing — instead, it’s shipping both phones to carriers first, where they’ll be available in a variety of configurations, bundles, and plans. A Motorola rep told XDA Developers that they’ll be sold unlocked in the U.S. eventually, but that a majority of sales are expected to come from prepaid purchases.


Conclusion

Alongside the G6 and E5 series launches, Motorola announced changes to its software update policy. Going forward, the company is committing to delivering security updates within 60 – 90 days as opposed to 90 days, as was the case before. It’s also promising to upgrade the Moto G6 and Moto G6 Play to Android P when it’s finalized later this year (unfortunately, the Moto E5 Plus and E5 Play will be stuck with Oreo). Finally, it confirmed that all four phones support Project Treble, Google’s modular upgrade framework that allows devices to boot generic Android Open Source Project images.

Moto E5 Android P ineligibility aside, Motorola’s making the right moves. If our first impressions of the 2018 G series and E series are anything to go by, it’s sitting on strong contenders for the best budget phones this year. The competition’s fierce, what with the Xiaomi Note 5 Pro and Honor 7X making waves in the affordable smartphone market. But Motorola looks to have a pair of winners on its hands.

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