Positives

Highly affordable
Construction has a little bit of water protection
Simplified Android experience

Negatives

Subpar performance with its camera
Choppy graphics performance
Display has weak viewing angles
Long recharge time with battery
Sharpness with speaker quality

Rating
Battery
8.0
Display
6.5
Camera
7.0
Performance
7.0
Software
8.5
Design
8.0
Bottom Line
7.5
7.5
Moto G4 Play Review

Undoubtedly, the $149.99 full price of the phone will be seen by many as a strong candidate for those looking for a basic phone. That said, the competition in this space is hotter than ever.

While the new Moto lineup is arguably more Lenovo than Motorola, the company has been working hard to bring out a number of new devices recently. On the higher-end tier we have the Moto Z family, consisting of the Moto Z, Moto Z Force, and most recently, the Moto Z Play. Then there’s the more affordable Moto G4 family.

While the new G4 family garnered some attention early on this summer for their low prices, the Moto G4 Play is ending the summer with an even more aggressive price that’s sure to raise a few eyes for those on a budget. With a price point of $149.99 outright, it surely means getting a smartphone on the cheap – so it certainly makes us wonder if there are any significant compromises.

Design

Moto G4 Play 6

On the design front, the Moto G4 Play follows closely after the G4 and G4 Plus. Sporting a mostly plastic build with a faux-metal trim bezel, there’s really nothing captivating about the design, but we will certainly agree that its smaller size makes it more comforting to operate using just one hand – it’s not as unwieldy like the other two. And that’s the stark difference here, we don’t feel it’s as cumbersome.

Moto G4 Play 9

Admittedly, the Moto G4 Play exudes a somewhat dull profile when we compare it to some other phones of the same caliber, but we can’t neglect to point out that it receives the same water repellent treatment that we pretty much find in the Moto family line and is likely equally durable. Minor splashes and light rain won’t damage it, which is basically the extent of its water resistance protection. However, don’t expect it to survive full submersion.

Moto G4 Play 8

Display

Moto G4 Play 7

Part of the reason why it’s more hand-friendly than the previous two devices in the line, the G4 and G4 Plus, is that the Moto G4 Play is accompanied with a smaller 5-inch 720p IPS-LCD display. Even though 720p resolution is all too predictable for a phone with its price point, we’ve seen other comparable phones donning 1080p resolution, like the LeEco Le 1s Eco and Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus. Quite frankly, it’s not a deal-breaker considering that it’s still detailed enough to make out from a normal viewing distance.

Moto G4 Play sRGB color chart

Looking beyond the specs and straight into some of its qualities, however, we’ll certainly say that there are more unfavorable qualities with it. Take its for example its cold color temperature of 8653K, the inaccuracies with its color reproduction, and visible distortion at wide angles – they all point to a subpar display. The only highlight is its peek luminance of 545 nits, which allows it to remain visible on most sunny days. One quick look at the display, it’s easy to realize that its low cost directly correlates to its subdued and lackluster qualities.

Will this be good enough for most basic users? Probably so, but just don’t expect anything that’s going to blow you away.

Performance

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Everyone knows that low cost phones means that they’re getting treated to lower-end chipsets. In this particular case, it’s a quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor coupled with 2GB of RAM and the Adreno 306 GPU. The specs alone indicate an entry-level phone we’re dealing with here, but when it comes to the basic stuff, it at least suffices with its performance – it just doesn’t cut it when it comes to gaming, or any other processor intensive stuff.

In fact, it’s a choppy mess with its graphics processing performance, evident in some of the benchmark tests we ran on it.

Bottom-line, if you have basic needs and stick to less intensive gaming, the Moto G4 Play should be able to get the job done easy enough, but it is a sub-$200 phone and the reality is there are going to be some performance compromises.

Hardware

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Phones of this caliber usually don’t have much in the way of storage. However, we’re glad to report that the Moto G4 Play comes with 16GB of internal capacity with expansion via microSD support.

g4-play-screenshots (8)As we’ve seen already, more and more budget phones are featuring fingerprint sensors. For the Moto G4 Play, though, that’s not something that’s included in its arsenal – nor were we expecting one either, especially when it’s priced less than the Moto G4. To be fair, the handset’s intention is to be just a basic phone; nothing more than that. So yeah, its feature set is as light as they can be in a smartphone, which makes perfect sense.

Video playback doesn’t take any hitches with its performance, as streaming YouTube videos is a cinch for this one. It’s usable for the most part, despite the poor qualities about the display that we mentioned earlier. Interestingly enough, the earpiece also doubles as the handset’s speaker – where its quality sounds a bit sharp. Volume isn’t an issue here, but you’ll want to drop the level a few notches down so that the sharpness isn’t too irritating to the ear.

Under the hood, the Moto G4 Play is tucking away a removable 2800 mAh battery, which might not seem all that massive in comparison to some other things, but given its overall size, we’d say it’s a pretty good capacity. And rightfully so, when you combine its smaller screen size, 720p resolution, and battery optimized chipset, it delivers good results with its battery life. It’s more than adequate to get through a solid day of normal usage, in most cases that is – albeit, it’s something we’d suggest charging nightly.

Even though we’re content with its battery performance, for its capacity and all, it takes the handset a long time to recharge. Using the included charger, it takes 269 minutes to fully charge, which is regarded as being exceptionally long nowadays.

Camera

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Much as it’s the case with most entry-level things, there’s really not a huge focus with the camera here. That shouldn’t come as a surprise when you think about the circumstances surrounding the phone. What we get here with the Moto G4 Play is a meager spec’d 8-megapixel rear camera with an f/2.2 aperture lens and LED flash – while a 5-megapixel snapper rounds out the front-facing camera.

Similar to the other phones in the current Moto line, the G4 Play features nearly the same exact camera interface – save for only the most basic of basic shooting modes. That consists of your standard still and video modes, with the addition of panoramic, HDR, and a beautification mode for the front camera. You can’t twist the phone a couple times to launch the camera, but pressing on the power button twice in succession does the same thing.

You’re probably itching to know what its quality is like, right? Well, it’s predictable in the way that we can’t expect outstanding results with low-priced phones. When the conditions are ideal, its performance is actually pretty good, but it’s not something we’d frame or recommend printing out. Above all, you’ll need to keep a steady hand because its snapshot time isn’t as quick as we’d like – resulting in photos coming out blurred. Fine details, too, are lacking any significant substance, often making them appear speckled. And forget about low-light situations, seeing that it exhibits too much noise.

Likewise, we can say the same thing about its video recording performance. Most of the time, however, it struggles to focus properly, which gets annoying after a while. And to top it off, there’s also some artifacting present when shooting under sunny conditions. Still, it does manage to record audio clearly.

Call Quality

Moto G4 Play 1

Voices through the earpiece exhibit enough volume under noisy conditions, but the quality is accompanied with some sharpness that makes voices sound a little distorted. On the other end of the line, though, our callers don’t have any major objections about the performance – with the exception of some light white noise in the background. All in all, the Moto G4 Play won’t disappoint with its call quality.

Software

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The beauty about the current generation of Moto devices is that they all follow the same consistency with their Android experiences. On the surface, the Moto G4 Play doesn’t stray too far with its Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow experience, but it certainly doesn’t have all the same features we get in some of the other devices in the line. For example, we find Moto Display for quick glances at some relevant things on the screen without turning it on completely, but there are no Moto Assist features whatsoever here.

Then again, the whole premise of this low cost phone is to be a simple, straightforward. To that degree, it more than suffices, especially when it’s a mostly stock experience here. For those that don’t want all the bells and whistles, the software experience here is pretty much as close to “perfect stock” as you’ll find outside of camp Nexus (or Pixel, soon enough).

Specifications

  
Display5-inch IPS LCD display
720 x 1280 resolution, 294 ppi
Processor1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410
Adreno 306 GPU
RAM2 GB
Storage16 GB
microSD card expansionYes
Up to 256 GB
Fingerprint sensorNo
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.1
GPS + GLONASS
FM Radio
NFC
microUSB 2.0
Camera8 MP rear camera, f/2.2 aperture, LED flash
5 MP front-facing camera
Battery2,800 mAh
SoftwareAndroid 6.0.1 Marshmallow
Dimensions144.4 x 72 x 9.9 mm
137 grams

Gallery

Final thoughts

Lenovo clearly has some distinction with its current line of Moto-branded smartphones. The Moto G4 Play, in fact, is undeniably on one end of the spectrum, offering consumers a phone that won’t break the bank. Undoubtedly, the $149.99 full price of the phone will be seen by many as a strong candidate for those looking for a basic phone. That said, the competition in this space is hotter than ever.

No doubt, the Moto G4 Play does nicely for those who aren’t looking for anything more than the most barebone smartphone experience. But when you have other phones that have a smidgen better specs, and even fingerprint sensors, it makes the Moto G4 Play seem a bit overpriced for what you are getting. We’re not saying it’s a bad phone, but rather, the competition has raised the bar from what’s expected in phones of this caliber.

John Velasco
Storyteller, ongoing health nut, persistent complainer of running, & religious flosser.