In past I took the phone from my fiancée about four times a week. The first few were when we visited The Met Cloisters in New York. I love taking pictures, so I borrowed her Pixel phone to capture some beautiful scenes. Next time we decided to order delicious chicken wings in the middle of walking the dog. I don’t carry my wallet when I walk my dog and I often pay with my phone, and I couldn’t do that with the $170 Moto G Play (that also meant she paid, heh).
The last time was yesterday when we both went to Joe Hisaishi by candlelight concert and heard a wonderful Highline string quartet recreate beautiful Studio Ghibli soundtracks (yes, even the classic Carousel of Life from Haul’s walking castle). I persuaded her to give me her phone so that I could record a short excerpt from the last track – the only one that everyone was allowed to record.
It’s clear that a sub-$200 smartphone will make compromises, especially around the camera. The Moto G Play is horrendously slow, but it’s not the worst option on the market and otherwise I was able to get by. But I feel compelled to say that after switching to another cheap phone from Samsung, it’s hard to recommend.
The Moto G Play is a plastic phone that looks dreary like most other budget phones. At least the plastic means the back won’t shatter if you drop it. This phone does not support 5G networks, so you are downgraded to 4G LTE, but it will work with all major US networks.
Motorola is running the Play with a MediaTek Helio G37 chipset with 3GB of RAM, which is the same processor used in last year’s Moto G Power 2022. I hated it when I tried it because it was noticeably slower than the previous model, so that’s no surprise that the new Play works just as disappointing.
It has times when it might work fine, but all too often you’ll be waiting a few seconds for the keyboard to appear when you want to type something into the search bar. (He also likes to skip the first word I type on the keyboard, prompting me to start over.) Switch apps and you wonder if the pause means the phone is frozen, so you swipe again, only for it to suddenly register two separate swipes and you are now in the app you didn’t want to open.
In my benchmark test, it posted one of the lowest scores I’ve seen in a while. Yes, I could read my emails, reply to messages, and browse Reddit in my spare time; just add a dose of delay between most of these tasks and it’s an experience.
If you can stand this slowness, then you may not find much fault in the rest of the equipment. The 6.5-inch, 720p screen doesn’t look overly pixelated and can be viewed for most tasks, although it can be hard to read in bright sunlight. The screen refresh rate is 90Hz, but I’m not even going to consider that a plus – the phone isn’t really powerful enough to consistently deliver the “smooth” experience you should get with a high refresh rate. index.
The 5,000mAh battery is a standout feature, as I was able to go on a single charge for about two days with average usage (probably a little more if you’re even more conservative). It’s nice that you don’t have to turn it on every night. There’s a solid fingerprint sensor on the back and even a headphone jack. It only comes with 32GB of internal storage, so you’ll want to take advantage of the microSD card slot – after just one week of use, I see “out of memory” warnings, and that’s with a little over 100 apps (including pre-installed ones).