Hands on: Moto G7 Play review

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What is a hands on review?
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Early Verdict

The Moto G7 Play won't outrace pricier phones, but it's got decent specs and battery for a budget price.

For

  • Good battery estimations
  • Photo software has some surprises

Against

  • Middling specs

There’s something charming about being the scrappiest contender in the arena, and the Moto G7 Play is certainly easy to underestimate compared to its higher-specced siblings, the Moto G7 Power and the sleeker, standard Moto G7.

For $199 (£149, AU$280) the G7 Play packs in the essential advantages of the pricier G7 phones: a Snapdragon 632 processor, a single 13MP rear and an 8MP front camera, and Android 9 Pie right out of the box.

Moto G7 Play price and release date

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, which started at $199.99 (£179.99, AU$329).

The entire G7 range comes out on March 1 in the UK, with a launch in the USA and other countries planned for a later date.

Unlike the Moto G7, the G7 Play is available to be bought from a range of retailers.

Moto G7 Play design and display

The Play may be the cheapest G7, but it doesn’t feel that cheap. The back is a solid plastic cover with a bit of texture, though its matte black finish lacks the classy sheen of the G7 Power, let alone the flat glass back of the standard G7.  

Of course, that flat back makes the G7’s rear camera bump stick out. Not so on the G7 Play: its back cover rises to nearly eclipse the camera bump, which houses a 13MP f/2.0 lens.  

The 5.7-inch HD+ (1,512 x 720) screen is perfectly suitable but nothing to brag about, especially with thicker (at least by today’s flagship standards) bezels that bring its screen-to-body ratio down to 75.14%. 

The Play’s display is split at the top by a notch, and it’s the widest in the G7 family. A 8MP f/2.2 front-facing camera sits on one side of a thick speaker with a flash on the other.

Moto G7 Play

Image credit: TechRadar

Moto G7 Play camera and battery

The Moto G7 Play's battery is a respectable 3,000mAh, with up to 10W of faster charging. No matter where else the phone trims performance, you’ll still be able to get around 40 hours of battery life, Motorola claims.

The front camera is 8MP and comes with a selfie flash, which other G7 devices such as the Power lack. The rear camera is a 12MP PDAF lens, with an f/ 2.0 aperture.

It won’t take award-winning photos, but it gets the job done. Even better, the phone enjoys some new photography options present in the whole G7 family. 

Cinemagraph and spot color (everything but one “spot” is in black-and-white) are here, but fun new modes include hyperlapse (a mobile time-lapse that lets you move and keep recording) and an auto-capture mode that takes a photo when up to five people in the frame are smiling.

Moto G7 Play specs and performance

 The G7 Play suffers the same curse as most Android phones: take away the logo and you probably wouldn’t be able to pick it out of a lineup. 

That’s to the Play’s advantage, since its specs aren’t anything to write home about. It comes with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage (expandable via Micro SD port). That’s enough to perform basic functions and watch media, but don’t expect to dominate while playing Fortnite.

Its remaining specs aren’t bad, but they won’t impress anyone either. And that’s fine: this is Motorola’s option for a bare-bones package that still delivers a decent phone experience at a fraction of the price of proper mid-range phones, let alone flagships.

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Moto G7 Play early verdict

The G7 Play is a value buy with enough specs and space to get anyone off the ground with basic smartphone functionality and it's one of the cheapest devices running Android 9 Pie.

Sure, the standard Moto G7’s classier ‘midrange’ look, slightly better specs and extra rear camera only cost $100 more, but that’s a lot to ask at the budget level. In some ways, the Play is the purest version of the G7 line, stripped of extraneous bells and whistles to get at the smartphone essentials. 

Whether it’s functional enough for anyone willing to pay mid-range prices is another question, and one we won’t be able to answer until we’ve had time for a proper review.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.