Motorola’s G-series has been a poster child for budget done right over the years, and 2019 is no exception.
The Moto G7 Play, announced alongside the G7 Power, G7 and G7 Plus, is the most affordable of the four.
Its main competition comes from the Nokia 3.1 Plus, a very comparably specced phone, and the slightly cheaper Nokia 3.1 and Honor 8A.
Where the G7 Play stands out is power – it’s the only phone in its price-range to feature the new Qualcomm 632 processor, as found in the rest of the G7 line. It also sports 32GB storage and microSD card support up to 512GB.
So, while it’s definitely a budget smartphone, given the heritage of the Moto G line and the specs on offer, we’ve got high hopes for this Moto.
The Moto G7 Play is the cheapest device in a range that’s not exactly expensive already – it’ll only set you back $200 (£149, AU$270).
That means it’s actually launching at a cheaper price point than the G6 Play did, which started at $199.99 (£179.99, AU$329).
You can pick it up from 1st March 2019 from a range of carriers and stores, with the phone being made available on-contract, SIM Free or with a Pay As You Go SIM card.
With its 5.7-inch screen, the Moto G7 Play is the smallest of the G7 family, but still manages to deliver enough size to provide a comfortable viewing, typing, and swiping experience.
When looking at the specs of the G7 Play, its 2GB RAM does set off alarm bells, which could be reflected in mediocre or even poor gaming and multi-tasking performance. Most of the competition runs with 3GB RAM, but in the same breath, most of the competition also packs less fresh internals.
The brand new Snapdragon 632 chipset should be able to deliver respectable performance, and it supports expandable storage by up to 512GB, supplementing the 32GB onboard storage space.
Running Android 9, the user interface is as up to date as we could hope for too, and the combination of a stock Android UI, matched with a few, fun Moto actions – karate chop to launch the torch, for example – is welcome.
The G7 Play is slender at 8.1mm thin, fits great in the hand and the HD+ screen has an aspect ratio of 19:9, so it’s longer than your average phone. As for its battery, with 3,000mAh inside, it’s all looking promising.
Fire up its 13MP camera and before you can even critique the photo quality, you have to tip your hat to Motorola for getting so many shooting modes on a budget phone. Ranging from full manual mode to spot color picker, the G7 Play is set up for victory.
The Moto G7 Play looks and feels good, is well weighted and slim – but its design definitely won’t delight or inspire you.
Unlike the rest of the G7 range, there’s no soft plastic protective case in the box, and we’re okay with this. The textured plastic back sports a concentric circle pattern and is resilient to scratches – much more so than the high-gloss finish of the likes of the G7 Power and Huawei P Smart 2019 for example.
At 8.1mm thick and 168g, the G7 Play is relatively light, slender and comfortable to hold – but its clumsy bezels and utilitarian feel prevent it from ever feeling sleek per se.
The phone’s solid plastic frame is still comfortably curved, as too is the back plastic panel. Easy to grip, difficult to slip, it’s definitely a practically constructed smartphone. We mentioned the textured finish on the back – that’s only interrupted by the easy to reach fingerprint scanner and a large, round camera surround that protrudes slightly.
As for the front, the Moto G7 Play’s 5.7-inch screen has a hefty border and an even chunkier chin that’s loaded up with a Motorola logo. Up top, you can find what could be the most substantial notch we’ve seen to date, which houses the loudspeaker, front LED light, and the selfie camera.
This is the first ‘Play’ series Moto G to pack a USB-C port, which can be found on the phone’s bottom side – an excellent step in the right direction when it comes to future-proofing.
The dual-SIM tray slot is on the left, and the phone can take two nano SIM cards and a microSD card simultaneously. Meanwhile, the volume and power buttons are to the right. As for the headphone jack, it’s up on the topside.
The Moto G7 Play is available in three color options: Black, Blue and Gold, all with the same textured plastic finish. Ultimately, while the design doesn’t inspire or delight, it does the job and does it well.
The G7 Play’s HD display measures 5.7 inches and shines brightly. It’s a long screen thanks to the fact it sports a 19:9 aspect ratio, and it sports an iPhone-esque notch but unlike other widescreen smartphones like the light on bezels Honor 10 Lite, the Play isn’t as edge-to-edge, an experience.
With a resolution of 720 x 1512 pixels, its screen is exactly what we’d expect at the price, going toe to toe with the likes of the Nokia 3.1 Plus and the Honor 8A, and looking as sharp as you’ll likely need it to be.
The phone’s screen is bright for a budget phone too, off-angle viewing is good, and it’s easy to see the screen in all but the sunniest conditions.
Onto the notch, and, well, we don’t really get it. That isn’t to say we don’t get notches in general – but we specifically don’t get this one.
It’s super-wide, likely because it houses a flash, front-speaker and camera, so either side, there’s only room for a couple of bits of information. As you can see from the image below – any notifications other than Gmail alerts appear as an all encompassing dot.
There’s a fix – jump into the settings, activate Developer Mode, then select ‘Hide’ from the sub menu titled ‘Cutout’. This completely hides the notch and creates an artificial border, but is a total hack. Part of us wishes Moto just went G6 Play and Pixel 3 style and kept the Play notch free.
Get past the that though, and it’s all good for the price. The LCD tech reproduces colors nicely, there are a bunch of calibration settings so you can change saturation levels and color profiles, and you can activate a blue light filter to keep your sleep patterns protected from all that screen staring.
The fact that the Moto G7 Play runs Android 9 is a very good thing. It’s the latest version of Google’s smartphone OS, so brings with it the benefits of a customized ‘digital wellbeing’ center, a greyscale UI at the tap of a button, as well as battery, and app-management tools and the latest security updates from Google.
Motorola leaves the bulk of the UI alone, delivering a beautifully stock experience. With home screens and a pull-down notification bar, key elements will be familiar to Android and iOS users alike.
At the heart of the UI are home screens that can be populated by app shortcuts and widgets. To the left of the main home screen is your personalised Google feed, and if you pull down from the top of the screen, in addition to your notifications, you also get access to quick toggles – the equivalent of pulling up from the bottom of an iPhone’s screen.
The Moto G7 Play uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 chipset, combined with 2GB of RAM and 32GB storage – a respectable mix of specs given how much it costs.
The phone performs well when powering through daily tasks, and we only occasionally noticed a slowdown when we jumped between power-hungry apps and games.
Basic games are handled without any issues. Even large 2D titles like Valkyrie Profile Lenneth for example don’t drop many frames.
When you start loading up intensive 3D games, it all comes down to optimization – Injustice 2 and PUBG were totally playable, but at low graphical settings which were automatically applied. Meanwhile, other games like Fortnite just won’t run.
As for storage, 32GB coupled with microSD card support of up to 512GB is excellent for a phone of the Moto G7 Play’s price. Provided you don’t have a 13GB+ WhatsApp backup like us, there should be enough room for your apps.
Meanwhile, photos and videos can be offloaded onto a relatively inexpensive microSD card you can buy should things space get a bit cramped.
Connectivity is good, not great on the G7 Play, with 4G, WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2 all on board, though the lack of NFC means there’s no mobile payment or one touch pairing support. On the plus, the inclusion of a USB-C port by comparison to a micro USB port, as found on many pricier phones, is a bonus.
The Moto G7’s battery capacity is ample given the 5.7-inch screen size combined with mid-range internals.
The phone easily made it through a day and a half or so or moderate use. Meanwhile, 90 minutes of full-brightness Full HD video playback drained it by 14%.
That’s impressive, and means the Moto G7 Play can comfortably double up as a portable media player for flights and weekends away.
Motorola also gives you a huge amount of control over how your battery gets used, with Power Saving modes available, as well as easy-to-access toggles for connectivity.
Motorola’s G7 Play camera features a 13-megapixel sensor paired with a f/2 lens. While there aren’t any fancy hardware features like OIS or dual-cameras, the software goes some way to make up for it.
Dip into the settings to reveal a manual mode – and we mean full manual mode, not the semi-automatic modes on entry level Nokia phones.
There are also a range of fun shooting modes like Spot Color, which grabbed our attention, as too did the inclusion of 4K video – a really interesting choice that’s been omitted from the G7 Play, though we’re not sure why.
As for image quality, it’s the age-old story of entry-level phones with big pixel counts when it comes to pictures taken on this phone – good in great light, bad in bad light. Having said that, the Play is more nuanced than most.
The selfie camera is a little on the soft side, but is helped along by a front flash, beauty mode, and it also supports a few manual controls and Spot Color as well.
When shooting video, there’s electric image stabilization to compensate for the lack of OIS, and it does a good job, despite applying a heavy crop factor. What’s excellent about the G7 range is the fact Motorola lets you turn stabilization off when shooting Full HD, getting rid of the crop – perfect for tripod shooting when you want the full view in frame.
It also shoots 4K, which is frankly unheard of for a phone of this price, and results are fair, especially in good lighting and when the phone’s in a steady hand.