Motorola's new Moto G6 has a superb design at a sub $300 price point. But a premium feel for an affordable price is only half the battle with a smartphone.
With its G and E models, Motorola has proven over the past few years that an affordable smartphone doesn't have to be a slow, bloatware-filled device, but they've never been lookers.
The Moto G6 certainly appears full steam ahead in the opposite direction, but looks can be deceiving. Motorola has opted for a sleek build, with a very glossy design on both sides, which gives the illusion of glass. It even has the subtle curvature to the back, a feature that reminds me of the original Moto X.
The downside of a glossy back is that it tends to catch fingerprints. And the Moto G6 is pretty good at attracting them, although the black variant I have been testing does an adequate job of hiding them unless you're looking right at the phone.
Fingerprints aside, Motorola is great at crafting devices that feel great in the hand. While the Moto G6 has a smooth back, i found the device doesn't get too slippery and still has a grip to it.
Since it's an unlocked device, you get minimal branding on the back with a classic "M" for Motorola logo in the middle underneath the main dual camera. They did manage to sneak a dark gray Motorola logo under the display since this device has bezels.
A majority of flagship devices have been shifting to an 18:9 screen ratio, which gives you a bit more space and an elongated front. The Moto G6 opts for this ratio with a 5.7-inch 2,160 x 1,080 display. After several days of use, I like the display, but it's not perfect.
It has mostly accurate color representation, although some vibrant colors can look over exaggerated. Glare can be an issue with direct sunlight — using it outdoors will usually mean the display won't look nearly bright enough.
A smart person must have once said that clean Android is the right Android, and it's a software choice I support. Gone are the days of Motorola's clunky user interface as the Moto G6 is running a version of Android 8.0 Oreo that's as close to being stock as you can get without being stock.
You get some simple design changes, like a circular clock and weather widget on start, along with a Moto app for some neat tricks. Of course, you also have the Google suite of apps pre-loaded, but many of these can be removed if need be.
And given the chipset inside — a Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 processor with 3GB of RAM — the Moto G6 is a pretty speedy device. Messaging, sending emails, and VoIP calls were a breeze.
I challenged the G6's chip with the racing game Asphalt 8. It ran well for the most part, though the first run of the app took some time to open. It also froze a couple of times. But given the CPU and GPU intense processes, the Moto G6 was up to the challenge of handling it.
Still, my go-to productivity and social apps (Gmail, Twitter, Google Drive, Snapchat) ran just fine, and I didn't notice any issues with normal Android system stuff (apps running in the background, notifications, etc.).
The Moto G6 camera struggles. I was at first excited to see a dual-lens setup on the back, with a 12- and 5-megapixel cameras, both with an f/1.8 aperture.
My high hopes quickly vanished, however. For starters, the Moto G6 is slow to shoot or start recording, taking more time than you'd expect for to launch the camera app, and then it had difficulty focusing. There's also no burst mode so catching something quick is really not possible on the G6. The best bet for photos is to stand still and have a few seconds worth of time to stay still, as the phone processes it.
Videos were grainy and don't do a good job of replicating detail; colors were a bit off, too. This was the same with photos: While they looked fine on the G6 screen, when I zoomed in even a bit, the detail got grainy — blecch.
The place where the Moto G6 shines is with battery life. A 3,000mAh lithium-ion battery is inside and powers the device for well over a day in some cases. For the average day spent playing music, Snapchatting, texting, and emailing, it should get you through the full day.
Inside the Moto app and in Settings you'll find the battery-saver mode, and this is a great way to extend the daily life of your phone. With any battery saver you do lose some features (like background refreshes), and the overall experience might slow down.
The wall plug in the box is a TurboPower one which means you get fast charging. A half hour of charging gave me around 3 hours of use — this small feature still impresses me quite a bit. For a midrange handset, fast charging is a nice premium feature to have.
The Moto G6 exceeds in the design category and most of the hardware, but falls short with the camera and screen.
With a $250 smartphone, you can only expect so much, and overall I was satisfied with the device. The biggest letdown was but the camera. A mediocre smartphone camera is a major no-no in 2018, since the phone now serves as the primary way of capturing images of the things we see every day. Perhaps the Moto G6 Plus, with a better processor and camera, levels up the experience, but that model isn't available in North America.
When it comes down to it, for $250, you are getting an affordable Android with some shortcomings. If you don't mind them, it's a good fit. However, you'll likely want to look elsewhere and maybe even want to consider the iPhone SE if your budget is a bit higher.