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Interface and reliability
Moto has won over many a hardcore fan of stock Android thanks to its, well, near-stock Android Marshmallow experience. Like the higher-end Moto Z, the G4 Play is equally devoid of bloatware and custom touches that can sometimes be irksome.
What Moto has pre-installed on the G4 Play is contained within an unobtrusive app, and depending on your needs, can be rather helpful. One of the features, called Moto Display, is a handy way of checking out notifications or, say, pausing the music on the screen - all without switching on the phone's screen. Just wave a hand above it. The other option offered up is an gesture that allows you to shrink the screen size for easier one-handed use.
Soon, Motorola will be issuing an update to Android Nougat. This is great news for any phone, let along a budget device, and will bring about better battery life by way of an improved Doze mode that works during both day and night. In addition, you'll be able to multitask in a new way - by putting two apps side-by-side on the screen at the same time.
Music, movies and games
- Lack of gyroscope and high definition screen make it a poor choice for heavy gaming
- On the flipside, it does a fine job at music and movie playback (if you have headphones)
While the Moto G4 Play lacks in standout hardware specifications (3.5mm port aside) to give it the edge over pricier competitors, it can still play all of the music and movies, and most of the games that you can throw at it.
Listening to music is a standard affair, as the G4 Play offers support for both wired, and wireless playback via Bluetooth 4.1. The earpiece doubles as the phone's only speaker, and lacks the full-bodied sound provided by other listening methods, as you'd expect.
The 5-inch display runs at 720p resolution, with a pixel density of 294ppi (pixels per inch). While that's by no means impressive compared to many QHD (2,560 x 1,440) Android smartphones, it totally does the job for this smaller, much more affordable device. For some perspective, the $499 4.6-inch Sony Xperia X Compact also has a 720p display.
At that, movies and games look good enough, but lack the clarity that only a more crisp screen can provide. For the price, the color reproduction and contrast is better than you might expect, but generally muted compared to pricier options - one of the few ways that the Moto G4 Play lets its budget-minded focus show.
It should be mentioned that the G4 Play isn't a gaming powerhouse. One of our favorites games as of late, Giant Boulder of Death, runs smoothly enough to have a pleasant time, but the game's standard control scheme relies on a gyroscope, a sensor that this phone doesn't have. Many popular smartphone games rely on tilt functionality, but you won't be able to enjoy them on this phone unless they support alternate control schemes. Dead Trigger 2, as another example, defaults the visual settings at low and runs smoothly enough to enjoy, but not at 60 frames per second.
Specs and performance benchmark explained
- A chipset powerful enough to run Marshmallow, but go easy on the multitasking
- The microSD slot can turn this budget phone into a robust multimedia library
By the look of the Moto G4 Play, it strives to provide the essentials and not much more. And its specs tell a similar story.
Using the Moto G4 Play feels relatively snappy for a device at this price point, which is partially a testament to Moto's only-slight modification to the stock Android Marshmallow experience. But if you're coming from a flagship smartphone, the difference in overall speed from task-to-task is starkly against Moto's favor here, with tasks like opening apps and downloading files (this phone is restricted to the often-crowded 2.4GHz Wi-Fi frequency) taking much longer than you might be used to.
It's likely that the low-end Snapdragon 410 quad-core processor and the Adreno 306 are to blame for that. All said, it's hard to wag a finger at Moto when the price is so low, but be mindful that this phone is just powerful enough to provide a passable Marshmallow experience and not a whole lot else.
To back it all up, the Moto G4 Play comes with 2GB RAM and 16GB of onboard storage, with the option to easily expand upon that thanks to the microSD slot.
Like we do with all phones in for review, the Moto G4 Play has been stressed with the GeekBench 4 test. This phone in particular received a multi-core score average of 1,300 - a score that puts it nearest to, but still behind, the Nexus 5 from 2013.
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Cameron is a writer at The Verge, focused on reviews, deals coverage, and news. He wrote for magazines and websites such as The Verge, TechRadar, Practical Photoshop, Polygon, Eater and Al Bawaba.