Motorola Moto G4 Play review:
If the Moto G4 didn’t exist, the stepped-down (and even cheaper) Motorola Moto G4 Play would be the deal of the century. For just $150 (or $100 for Amazon Prime members who submit to Amazon Prime ads, like this), £130 and AU$279, you get a budget phone that’s surprisingly pleasant to use, for a rock-bottom price.
But there is a Moto G4, and it comes with a larger screen, a better camera and a much faster processor. Best yet, it only costs a little more — $50 or £39 — than the G4 Play (it doesn’t sell in Australia, but the G4 Plus does). So for my money, I’d invest a little more and get the G4 over the G4 Play.
That said, the G4 Play is actually a great budget find on its own merit. I never encountered a moment where I thought, “I can’t use this.” The G4 Play is the Toyota Corolla of phones; it has that wonderful balance of price and value to do real-world things like text and email, upload photos and snap pictures of cute little Fifi.
The Moto G4 Play is pretty much identical to the Moto G4, just a tad smaller (see how specs compare over the page). Despite having a relatively low 1,280×720-pixel resolution for its 5-inch screen, images and websites looked fairly crisp and sharp. But even with adaptive brightness enabled, you might have trouble reading in the noontime sun.
Then there’s the 8-megapixel rear facing camera. Honestly, I was surprised by its better-than-average performance. Is it the best phone camera out there? No way. But in good light, it takes good photos. In mixed light, it takes OK photos. And in low light, it struggles and images tend to have some noise. Skin tones looked fairly natural in selfies, and for those who like such things, there is an optional beauty mode. The Moto G4 Play shot serviceable 1,920×1,080-pixel resolution video at 30 frames per second (fps). Take a look at some of the snaps I took with the Moto G4 Play in the gallery below.
During my time with the G4 Play, I found it responsive in general use. I didn’t experience any lags when opening or switching apps. However, playing games like Pokemon Go and Monument Valley really slowed things down, and so did taking panoramic photos. On the plus side, this little guy gets great battery life. In our looping video drain test, the Moto G4 Play lasted 13 hours, 36 minutes.
Storage is on the slim side — 16GB — which you expect for a low-cost phone. Luckily, a microSD slot supports an additional 128GB. Another perk: The Moto G4 Play comes with two years of free storage on Google Photos. Between photos and videos, it’s easy to use that 16GB up pretty fast. I would definitely recommend getting a microSD card.
So what’s it missing? A fingerprint sensor and color customization through the Moto Maker website. While the US and Australian models are missing NFC, the UK model is NFC-enabled. The G4 Play does have a headphone jack, unlike the higher-end Moto Z and Moto Z Force (US-only).
Take a look below to see how the G4 Play compares to the similarly specced (and priced) Moto G4, Samsung Galaxy J3, Sony Xperia XA and Huawei Honor 5X.
This review originally published September 15 at 6 a.m. PT and updated at 12:12 p.m. PT with results from our second battery test. It was updated September 20 at 10:30 a.m. PT with more information about carrier connectivity as well as NFC.