Moto G6 review

Motorola’s G series has gone from strength to strength, which is a real achievement considering the first phone in the line, from 2013, set a new standard for affordable phones, and racked up sales to match.

The company's aim with the Moto G line is to bring those features you’d normally expect on high-end phones to a cheaper handset. It’s never going to be the same experience as buying a genuinely high-end phone, but it does allow you to get a taste of those top-end features without spending a fortune.

To that end, Motorola has brought to the Moto G6 the 18:9 display ratio we’ve seen on several top-end phones in the past 18 months or so from the Samsung Galaxy S8 to the LG G6, Huawei P20 to the Asus Zenfone 5, to an affordable handset.

It’s not the first company to do this – Alcatel released a whole series of phones (headlined by the Alcatel 5) earlier this year that even included a phone under £100 with an 18:9 display – but it’s the first time this feature has come to the Moto G, and that’s a big deal.

And the display isn’t the only flagship-esque feature, with other firsts for the Moto G line including a dual-sensor camera on the rear, fast charging and more features you’d normally see on high-end phones.

So is this the perfect handset for those who want something good-looking and feature-packed in their pocket but don’t want to spend lots of money? Let's take a closer look at the Moto G6.

Below you can watch our video for the Moto G6, Moto G6 Plus and Moto G6 Play.

 Moto G6 release date and price 

  • You'll be able to buy around the world at some point during May
  • The most basic version costs £219 / $249 (about AU$320) 

You can already buy the Moto G6 in some markets – it was on sale in Brazil immediately after the press launch on April 19.

We know that in the UK you’ll have to wait until the first week of May, while Motorola has confirmed the G6 will be coming to the US retailers at some point in May. We don’t currently know when the phone will be launching in Australia.

As for the price, we know it’s set to cost £219 / $249 (about AU$320) for the standard version, which has 32GB of storage and 3GB of RAM.

There's also a high-end version that’s exclusive to Amazon, with 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM, which will cost £239, and you may well think it's worth that extra £20 to double your storage – we don't have US or Australia pricing for that phone yet, but we'd expect a similar premium if it’s available in those markets.

Moto G6 design and display 

  • Features a bright and clear Full HD+ 5.7-inch LCD display
  • More premium design than previous Moto G products
  • 3D glass back design with rounded edges

Both the design and display have been dramatically improved over the Moto G5S from 2017. The Moto G6 comes with an 18:9 aspect ratio display, and that’s an IPS LCD at 5.7 inches.

You get a Full HD+ resolution, so it’s slightly higher than Full HD phones because of the taller screen size. It doesn’t look as stunning as the displays on high-end handsets, but it looks great considering the price of the phone.

The new aspect ratio isn’t just good for the look of the handset, it means there’s more screen packed into a smaller body; it's the optimum size for the phone's overall size (we found the G6 easier to hold than the Moto G6 Plus), and the screen is bright, with strong viewing angles too.

We did find it a struggle to see the screen in bright sunlight, which can be a disadvantage of IPS LCD screens compared to AMOLED displays.

The stretched out aspect ratio of the display does make the G6 feel like a notable upgrade over the Moto G phones of the past, as it allows the phone to have a slightly larger display without taking the dimensions of the phone itself into phablet territory.

The G6 is made with 3D glass, so the back looks shiny and premium, although it does pick up fingerprints rather easily. That’s an issue with a lot of glass-backed phones though, and it only takes a moment to wipe down the back to get rid of marks.

We’ve been using the black version of the Moto G6 for this review, but there are also Deep Indigo, Silver and Blush (another blue shade) color options.

The rear edges of the G6 are curved, and that allows it to sit much more comfortably in the palm of your hand than previous models – if you've seen the Samsung Galaxy S7, it’s a similar curvature on the back. There’s an aluminum frame around the edges, which is perhaps the cheapest-feeling element of the phone.

Motorola says the G6 is splash-proof, but it hasn't yet revealed the phone's IP rating, so you'll want to take care around water as it won’t survive being fully submerged.

On the bottom of the phone you’ll find a USB-C slot in the middle and – thank you Motorola – a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can use your wired headphones with this phone. We weren’t sure if Moto would keep the headphone jack for this phone, as it’s dropped it from its flagship products, so fans of wired headsets will be happy to see the feature retained here.

Motorola has also kept the fingerprint sensor on the front of the phone, just below the display, but it doesn’t take up much space, so the bottom bezel is quite thin and looks good. The sensor is easy it hit, and we found that it worked efficiently.

Battery life

  • Features a 3000mAh cell inside with fast charging
  • No wireless charging despite glass back on phone

Battery life on the Moto G series has always been acceptable, but not stunning and it’s a very similar case here with the Moto G6. Both the newly launched Moto G6 Play and Moto E5 Plus have a much bigger focus on long life battery with 4000mAh and 5200mAh cells in respectively, but the Moto G6 only has a 3000mAh battery.

That said, it’s still offers a full day from a single charge with mixed usage. One of the days we were testing it we really put it through its paces and it needed a recharge at around 6PM, but if with average usage you should find it’ll last you through bed.

Unlike those other Motorola products though, this is never going to last you for more than a single day – you will need to recharge this overnight.

If you expect to use your phone relatively little, you’ll find the Moto G6 battery to be between good and great while if you use it a little more often than that you’ll find it to just be good. 

We ran our video battery test on the phone where we play a video at top brightness for 90 minutes and it came out the other side with 79% of its battery leftover. That's not as good as the Moto G5S that lost 16% of its battery, but it is better than the Moto G5 that lost 22%.

Charging is simple through the USB-C cable at the bottom of the phone and there’s also Motorola’s turbopower Charging feature too. That means if you use the official charging brick you’ll get usage out of the phone for hours from only half an hour’s charge or so.

We found the fast charging feature to work particularly well, but there’s no wireless charging here and if you’re invested in the tech you’ll be disappointed the glass-backed phone isn’t capable of that.

Camera 

  • Dual sensor camera with 12MP and 5MP on the rear
  • 5MP shooter is used for depth sensing for Portait mode
  • Front facing 8MP shooter

The rear camera on the Moto G6 isn’t going to take the most gorgeous shots you’ve ever seen from a phone. It can hold its own against other phones around this price, though, and some more expensive mid-rangers too.

It’s a dual-sensor setup, with a 12MP sensor working in tandem with a 5MP one to the side of it. It's not as powerful a combination as you'll see on flagships like the Huawei P20, and that means you don’t get the same benefits, but we’ve been impressed by what we can do with this rear shooter.

Photos taken using the auto mode look high-quality, and you’ll be happy to share them on social media. We found the camera can be a little slow to take a photo, which can be irritating, but as long as you’re taking a photo of something static it won’t be a problem.

The 12MP sensor has an aperture of f/1.8, while the 5MP secondary sensor is f/2.2. The second sensor only becomes useful when you’re using the phone’s Portrait mode, which is a feature we’ve particularly enjoyed using on the phone.

Again, don’t expect this to be as powerful as the portrait modes on the iPhone X or other flagships, but as an extra camera feature to play with it’s a great addition.

The portrait mode enables you to focus on a foreground subject and apply three different basic effects to your photos. You can blur the background, make part of the image black and white for a ‘color pop’ effect, or do a simple cutout of the foreground.

You need to take the photo first, then edit it later with a tool called depth editor. Here are a couple of examples of what it can do:

One issue we sometimes had with the portrait mode was trying to get the phone to focus on the specific subject we wanted to shoot. It’s not a simple tap-to-focus operation, and instead the phone intelligently works out what it thinks you’re trying to shoot; sometimes it’s not intelligent enough though, and it may take you a few attempts to get it right.

The portrait options aren’t going to create masterpieces by any means, but you can play around with them to get some interesting shots that you normally wouldn’t be able to take on a budget handset. You wouldn’t want to buy this phone just for this feature, but as an extra addition it’s quite fun.

The phone also comes with image recognition software that enables you to take photos of objects you come across, or landmarks in a city you’re visiting, and get information about them, for example a Wikipedia page, or details of where you can buy an item.

We tried it with this Pikachu balloon you can see below and it got it spot on knowing it was a Pokemon character called Pikachu and also a balloon version of the character.

We tried it with other objects, for example clothing, and it struggled but if you hold up a can of soft drink it’ll find it and serves you links to buy it from a retailer. Motorola also showed an example that shows you using it for landmarks around a city when you’re visiting.

This feature isn’t as in-depth as Bixby vision on the Samsung Galaxy S9, but you may find the odd use for it.

On the front of the Moto G6 is a 5MP selfie camera, which we’ve found to be fine for taking shots of our face, but again there’s nothing here that's going to blow you away. There is a filters mode, which overlays Snapchat-like frippery such as cat features or bunny ears on your mug, but this is a temperamental feature at the moment, and it takes a long time to process images.

There isn’t a wide-angle lens on the front of the Moto G6, but if you want to fit a group of friends into a selfie there is a way here. It’s called Group Selfie, and works in a similar way to the panorama mode on most phones.

You take the first photo, and you’re then prompted to move the camera left and right to take additional shots, then all the images are stitched together to create a panoramic image with everyone in it. It’s a basic tool, but we found that it worked most of the time, and it’s a handy alternative to carrying around a selfie stick.

As you can see in the example above it can sometimes blur your face, but if you try a few times without moving you'll be able to get it right.

You can record up to 1080p video on the rear camera, and the footage looks okay, although it’s nothing to write home about, especially when the Moto G6 Plus is capable of recording in a higher resolution.

One feature we did enjoy is the ability to capture slow-motion footage. It’s a basic version of the slow-mo feature we’ve seen on other phones, such as the Xperia XZ2, which can record at 120fps, but while the frame rate is only 60fps here the footage looks good.

We found it difficult to shoot with as the camera is zoomed in more than when filming normal video, but for playing around with a quick shot in slow motion this is a nice little touch.

Camera samples

Interface and reliability

  • Android 8 Oreo software that looks similar to Google's intended look
  • Moto Actions gives you some easy shortcuts to features like the torch

The Moto G6 is running Android 8 Oreo, and it offers an easy-to-navigate interface as well as an attractive look. Motorola has made a few tweaks to the stock interface, but for the most part it looks remarkably similar to what Google intended.

The extras include Motorola’s own Moto app, which brings with it a few features you won’t get from other manufacturers.

This app will let you know if you start to run low on storage or find your battery dying too early in the day, and suggest ways to optimize your phone’s performance. We’ve yet to make use of this feature, but we’ll be sure to update this review when we’ve seen more of it.

The app also enables you to set up Moto Actions, which are motions that act as shortcuts to various functions.

For example, if you make a karate chop motion twice with the phone in your hand the torch will turn on. This could prove useful if you’re in the dark and need the torch quickly, but only if you’ve remembered to set it up in the first place.

You can also enable a variety of other functions, including picking up the phone to stop it ringing, or turning your phone over to put it into ‘do not disturb’ mode.

All of these are useful, but again you do need to remember that they’re there, and set them up, to be able to make use of them.

Another Moto features is something called Night Display. When this is enabled the screen will use more red light and look more yellow than blue throughout the night to reduce strain on your eyes.

Within the Moto app you can also turn on a feature called ‘One-button nav’, which will give you a bit of extra screen space as it eliminates the need for the navigation buttons that appear along the bottom of the display.

Instead you can use the fingerprint sensor for navigation actions such as step back, open your active apps or to return to the  home screen. It takes some getting used to the actions you need to use here, but once we’d got the hang of it we found it worked well, and we’d recommend setting it up.

Another nice Motorola touch is that you can simply press and hold on the scanner to lock the phone. It’s not massively useful when you can just press the lock button on the right side of the phone, but again if you remember it’s there it can save you a second or two.

Movies, music and gaming

  • Good audio performance considering the price of the phone
  • Can use Bluetooth headsets or there's a 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Acceptable gaming performance, but not stunning

The Moto G isn’t built to offer top-end audio or video quality, but we don’t think you’ll be particularly disappointed with how it performs in either of these areas.

We’ve listened to music through the speakers, wired headphones – the 3.5mm headphone jack is present and correct here – and a Bluetooth headset, and found the volume and quality to be okay.

There’s an app on the phone called Dolby Audio, which enables you to set up and tinker with sound profiles for different media on your phone. You can create film, music, game and audio profiles, as well as two custom ones.

We played around with the music mode the most, which offers the intelligent equalizer options of Open, Rich, Focused or Off. When listening to music we much preferred the Rich option, although it’s unlikely you’ll want to adjust these settings unless you’re an audiophile and have particularly good headphones connected.

The speakers on the phone are quite powerful, but don’t expect top-end audio like you’d get from HTC or Sony phones with cracking speaker tech built in.

We found the quality of the screen on the Moto G6 to be satisfactory for watching video. The brightness isn’t fantastic, but it’s not something that’s going to affect your enjoyment of the movie, TV show or clip you’re watching unless you’re in direct sunlight.

We’ve played a variety of games on the G6, and while none of them looked as great as they would on top-end devices, all the titles we played ran well, without any graphics or processing issues.

The new Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery loaded quickly and played well. While it’s a graphically intensive game the action isn’t particularly fast, so we also played Real Racing 3, which also ran well. It’s worth noting how a couple of years ago phones in this price bracket would normally fall down when playing fairly demanding games like Real Racing 3, but on the Moto G6 it’s a perfectly acceptable experience.

Performance and benchmarks

  • Features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 chipset with 3GB of RAM too
  • 32GB of storage in main option, but there's also a 64GB one

Over a week of testing the Moto G6 we found it to be snappy and perform well considering its price. We tested the version with 3GB of RAM, although as we've mentioned there’s also a 4GB model that’s an Amazon exclusive (and it's only available in some countries).

The phone is running a Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 chipset, which we saw perform strongly in the Sony Xperia XA2 last year, and it punches above its weight in a similar way here. On Geekbench 4 the Moto G6 returned a multi-core score of 3,807. That's much better than the Moto G5S, which scored 2,294 in the same test last year, although it falls short of the Moto G5S Plus, which scored 4,312.

In day to day use, we found the G6 be speedier than some other phones at this price point. You may be a little disappointed by its performance if you’re coming from a higher-end handset, as some popular apps took a little longer to load than we’d like, but we never found ourselves getting frustrated by the phone’s speed.

The standard version of the phone comes with 32GB of storage, which isn’t the most generous offering in 2018 (the Amazon variant doubles that to 64GB ), but there is microSD support up to 256GB.

We found that after installing our usual collection of apps of the G6 we were left with 22GB of space, but that’s likely to get filled with photos, video pretty quickly, so we’d recommend either seeking out the 64GB variant of the phone or buying a big microSD card.

Verdict

We’ve seen some big strides being made at the top end of the phone market this year, and while we’d expect to see some innovation in handsets costing more than $1,000 / £1,000 it’s encouraging to see progress at the affordable end of the market too.

Ever since the first iteration of the Moto G we’ve seen lots of innovation in this line, although the Moto G5 in 2017 wasn’t the biggest leap forward (the company followed it up with the Moto G5S just a few months later), so the Moto G6 is a return to form for Motorola.

You’re not getting much here that you’d find on a top-end device from the major manufacturers, or even on a top Motorola handset, but it’s difficult to think of a phone in this price bracket with features normally reserved for more expensive devices, and which delivers such a complete experience.

Who’s this for?

There’s no doubt that the Moto G6 is designed for those who want a budget handset but still want a taste of the best technology on the market.

The Moto G6 gives you that, and if you’re looking for a premium-feeling phone on a budget you’ll be well satisfied.

If you’re after a great rear camera you won’t find it here, and the performance is okay rather than stellar, but everything else feels good and works well. The screen in particular looks great, and the 18:9 aspect ratio makes it feel even more premium than it is.

Should you buy it? 

Buy this phone if you’re after a good-looking device on a budget that has competent spec built-in too.

We’ve yet to review the Moto G6 Plus, but a lot of our criticisms of this phone seem to addressed on that phone, which has a higher-end chipset, a slightly better camera and a larger battery.

You may want to wait until we’ve reviewed the G6 Plus before pulling the trigger on a purchase, but the Moto G6 is still a great phone in its own right, and its combination of features and low price make it one of the best budget phones you can buy right now.

First reviewed: April 2018