Motorola's high-end phones have disappointed in the last few years, but its budget devices have offered the best value of any low-cost phones. We don't know how Moto's 2018 flagship story will shake out, but the new Moto G6 has arrived to (mostly) carry on the tradition of giving you a lot of phone for just a little money.
This phone makes several changes that I love, as well as a few that I don't. The Moto G6 has a slower processor than its predecessor, but the performance is still solid, and Moto's software impresses. You also get a Type-C port (finally) and a taller 18:9 screen, both features that were rare on budget phones not long ago. There aren't a lot of surprises here, but that's probably a good thing.
|Display||5.7-inch 2160 x 1080 LCD|
|Camera||12MP + 5MP rear, 8MP front|
|Software||Android 8.0 Oreo|
|Measurements||153.8 x 72.3 x 8.3 mm, 167g|
|Price||$249 from Motorola, $199 on Project Fi, and $235 from Amazon (Prime edition)|
|Display||The 5.7-inch 1080p display is crisp, and the 18:9 aspect ratio makes the phone more comfortable to hold. It's narrower than last year's Moto G even though the screen is bigger.|
|Type-C||A lot of cheap phones still default to microUSB, but it's time for that to stop. The Moto G6 has a Type-C port, and it supports 15W USB-PD fast charging.|
|Headphone jack||It still has one. Yay.|
|Battery life||The Moto G6 will have no problem making it through a day with juice to spare.|
|Software||Motorola's version of Android 8.0 is clean and fast. Moto Display and Moto Actions are still fabulous.|
|Design||The back is slippery glass that could break if dropped. Dust also accumulates in the crack between the glass and plastic frame. The camera module is ugly—no other way to put it.|
|Not water-resistant||Motorola continues to call its phones "splash resistant," whatever that means. Basically, you should be able to use the Moto G6 in the rain, but no promises. Submerging it would be a bad idea.|
|Camera||Low-light performance is poor with low brightness and extreme shutter lag.|
|Update prospects||Motorola is no longer the bastion of quick updates it once was. You'll be lucky to get one major OS update on the G6, and it'll probably be very late.|
|Performance||Look, the performance isn't bad, but it's not a fast phone. You get what you pay for here.|
Design, hardware, what's in the box, and more
The Moto G line has gone through several different material phases from textured plastic to metal. Now, it's on to glass. The Moto G6 has a rear glass panel very much like the Moto X4. It curves on the left and right edges to meet the plastic frame. The camera module sticks up above the chassis—it's the same large, round module with "tick mark" embellishments we saw on the Moto X4.
The standard volume and power buttons are on the left edge of the device—no weird extra assistant keys or fake buttons on this one. On the bottom edge is the headphone jack (yay) and a USB Type-C port (past G-series phones have been microUSB). Another first: the Moto G6 adopts the taller 18:9 screen ratio that we've seen on most recent flagship phones. That means you get a full 5.7-inches of screen (at 1080p) without making the phone awkwardly wide.
While the display does a good job of filling the front of the phone, there's a bit more bezel at the bottom along with a fingerprint reader. I prefer seeing these on the back, but Motorola's scanner is also useful for gesture navigation on the front. The sensor compares favorably to more expensive phones, too.
The Moto G6 (left) next to the G5 Plus (right).
The Moto G6 is modestly specced with a Snapdragon 450 and 3GB of RAM. That's 1GB more RAM than last year's base model Moto G5 Plus but a step down in the SoC department. On the software side, you get Android 8.0 with Motorola's light-touch modifications like Moto Display and Moto Actions.
The 3,000mAh battery combined with the efficient hardware leads to above average longevity. In my testing with 3 Google accounts syncing, ample messaging, plenty of web browsing, and a few phone calls, the Moto G6 runs for about a day and a half with over six hours of screen time.
There are two versions of the Moto G6 available in the US. First, there's Motorola's standard retail unit, which is the one I've been using. This device runs $249.99, and you can get instant financing from Affirm when you buy. Alternatively, there's the Amazon Prime edition phone, which is $235.99 and includes about a dozen pre-loaded Amazon apps and Alexa built-in. The phone is unlocked with support for all major carriers (including CDMA networks).
Since this is a budget phone, the packaging and accessories are barebones. You get the phone, a SIM ejector, the usual manual/warranty bundle, and a Type-C charger. This phone supports fast charging up to 15W, and it works with standard USB-PD chargers in addition to the stock one. There are some third-party cases out there, but the G6 won't be popular enough for many of the big names to pay attention.
The Moto G6 comes with a dual camera setup consisting of a 12MP main sensor and 5MP sensor as a depth sensor for portrait mode. This phone's camera performance won't surprise you. It's better than most sub-$300 phones, but it's not punching above its weight. Here's a gallery of camera samples.
Our verdict: Should you buy it?
Maybe! The Moto G6 does some things very well. The taller display helps cram more usable space into a phone that's slightly narrower (and thus more comfortable to hold) than last year's Moto G. The quality of that LCD is fine—the brightness is good enough for outdoor use, and colors look accurate.
The Moto G6 isn't the slam dunk some of its predecessors were, but it's still a good value.
Motorola's version of Android is still excellent. Moto Display lets you see notifications on the display without waking the phone up, and it's a bit more capable this year—you can unbundle notifications without leaving Moto Display. I also love that Motorola went out of its way to support the wave to wake gesture for Moto Display on this budget phone. Moto Actions encompasses features like chop-chop to toggle the flashlight and twist for the camera. I use these gestures constantly. A few other gestures like swipe for screenshots and one-button nav are nice to have for some people, but I don't use them much.
I'm not the biggest fan of glass phones, but that battle has been lost. There are ways to do glass phones well, but Moto didn't do anything special here. The Moto G6's glass back feels a bit plastic-y and hollow. The way the glass meets up with the plastic frame also concerns me. I can fit my fingernail in the gap, which is handy because that makes it easy to clear out the dust that gets stuck in there.
The camera hump is not an attractive part of any phone, and drawing more attention to it with the tick marks here is just bizarre. The camera module also looks like a surprised robot. I guess that's a plus? The main issue with this camera is the shutter lag. With perfect light, the camera captures quickly enough. However, there's still detectable lag with each shot. The shutter and ISO both stay low, and there's solid dynamic range. Motorola's auto HDR mode does a little good here, but it won't work miracles like Google's HDR+.
In dimmer light, the shutter lag almost guarantees you won't be able to get good shots of anything moving. The Moto G6 ramps up the ISO and shutter very quickly as light fades. The noise isn't too bad, but overall image brightness is very low. Some night time photos I expected to be at least usable ended up almost completely black.
I'm a bit disappointed the Moto G6 ships with Android 8.0 instead of 8.1. That's not because of any huge features that are missing in 8.0. It just reinforces my concerns about Motorola's commitment to keeping its phones updated. The Moto G5 Plus launched last year on Nougat, and most devices are still running Nougat. Motorola only recently started a very slow rollout of Oreo for it. You used to be able to rely on Moto for a speedy update, but no more.
Speaking of speed, this is not what I'd call a fast phone. The Snapdragon 450 is sufficient to keep things moving along—I don't often feel like I'm waiting for the G6, but certain tasks like launching apps and loading heavy web pages are noticeably slower than other devices. The similarly priced Nokia 6.1 is faster.
The G6 and G5 Plus again.
The Moto G6 isn't the slam dunk some of its predecessors were, but it's still a good value. Whether or not it's the right phone for you will depend on several factors.
You're someone who wants a cheap and reliable phone that works on all major carriers. A middling camera doesn't bother you, and the glass body is fine because you're just going to slap a case on it.
Don't buy it:
You want a phone that's objectively fast and has a great camera, and you don't mind paying a lot to get it. That's not the $250 Moto G. Alternatively, maybe you want a cheap phone, but you're going to use it on a GSM network. In that case, the Nokia 6.1 is probably better.