Reviews

Moto G9 Play Review: Affordable but surprising

The Motorola Moto G series has been a best seller for Motorola since the line of phones was introduced back in 2013. Seven years later we’re seeing Gen 9 of the Motorola G series launching, with the Moto G9 Play now available in Australia.

The phone will be available from the 7th of October for $299 in either Sapphire Blue or Spring Pink from retailers, including the Motorola online store.

The phone is aimed at the mid-range market, and at $299 it’s priced right. Motorola is pushing the phone as great for reliability, which includes a long battery life, a great camera and it also comes with NFC for contactless mobile payments.

The Moto G9 Play comes with a decent spec list, and a pair of TWS earbuds at a pretty nice price. I’ve been using the phone for a full week now, and it’s time to share my thoughts. 

Hardware and Design

The first thing you note about the Moto G9 Play is that it’s thicc. But it’s deceiving as it’s about the same thickness as other phones in the sub-$300 category, but with the added bonus of a 5,000mAh battery inside.

The phone is still decently light and comfortable to hold, largely thanks to the plastic rear which also makes it more durable. The plastic though is a fingerprint magnet. Luckily Motorola are including a TPU case in the box, which adds more protection and also keeps the back scratch and fingerprint free.

The Sapphire Blue model Motorola sent over for review is one of the more richer colours I’ve held, though the ‘Spring Pink’ model looks quite nice as well.

The blue rear is pretty to look at with a sort of depth to it, and there’s not much else on the rear except the centre mounted fingerprint scanner with the Motorola Batwing logo on it and the camera island housing the triple rear camera array. 

The Motorola G9 Play includes a power button, volume rocker and Google Assistant shortcut key on the right hand side of the phone, while the dual SIM card/MicroSD card slot is on the left. Motorola are still including a 3.5mm headphone jack on the G9 Play, and there’s a USB-C port on the bottom next to a single mono speaker.

The speaker is very much what you’d expect, and the Google Assistant key is nice, but considering the vast number of ways you already have to call the Google Assistant, it seems a little superfluous. 

The front of the phone features a big 6.5” Max Vision IPS TFT LCD display which has a tiny teardrop notch in the centre which houses an 8MP front-facing camera. There’s  a fair chin on the bottom of the phone, but pretty minimal on the sides. 

The screen is quite nice for what it is, but it is only 720p+ (1600×720) resolution and colour reproduction could be better, but it’s still big, bright, responsive and the IPS LCD has good viewing angles and performs well in direct sunlight.

Under the hood, there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of on-board storage.

The phone is fine for day to day tasks, but struggles when multitasking or launching particularly intensive apps like games. I can’t help think that a little more RAM would help out, but Motorola built the G9 Play to a price-point and for the most part it’s a pretty decent performer. 

There’s plenty of ways to use the phone wirelessly with dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 5 and all the GPS systems you could want. There’s also NFC for contactless payments which can be somewhat of a rarity at this end of the market.

While the phone is a little underpowered on the processing front, it isn’t short of power with a 5,000mAh battery inside. It’s a massive battery and with a CPU that sips power, the phone lasted just over 1 day of use between charges with no issue. 

There’s a 20W charger included in the box, though the phone only supports 15W charging….¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Still the phone charges quickly even at 15W  and most people will charge the phone while they sleep, so no stress there.

TWS Buds

The Moto G9 Play comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack, which you mostly expect in most low-mid tier phones on the market. As we all know wired headphones are super convenient (no charging), but if you’re going for a run or need to move around wired headphones can be annoying and so you get a pair of Motorola true wireless Bluetooth earbuds in the box.

The buds are comfortable, and there’s large, medium and small eartips included to make sure you get a good fit. The buds are fairly low profile sitting pretty much flush with the ears.

Sound quality is pretty good, though it’s not quite as good as I’ve experienced with TWS earbuds. The sound is a bit ‘tinny’, with less low end than you’d hope for.

You get a few hours of use – I averaged about 4 hours use – from the buds themselves, with the battery case adding more charge as you need it. There’s a USB-C port for topping up the case, or you can use the attached USB-C cable to plug into your phone to get some additional charge.

The takeaway from this is that the buds are pretty decent and add an additional element into the Moto G9 Play that shouldn’t be discounted.

Camera

The Motorola G9 Play includes four cameras, one on the front, and three on the rear. The 8MP front facing camera is decent with a beauty mode, as well as a decent portrait mode which can use AI to blur the background, while keeping you sharply in focus.

The rear camera array includes a 48MP Main sensor, with a 2MP depth sensor and 2MP Macro sensor. The main rear sensor uses pixel binning to stack images down from 48MP to a final result at 12MP. Like most mid-range phones, the camera works quite well in good light, but as soon as light becomes scarce you find the shots get less crisp, with colours slightly muted. 

There is a low-light mode on the G9 Play labelled ‘Night Vision’ and it actually works decently well, enhancing any available light. It’s not on the same level as some night modes we’re seeing in flagship smartphones, but it’s a good addition.

I did note that if you select Night Vision during the day you tend to get a brighter and more vibrant shot. 

I’d prefer to see an ultra-wide or telephoto lens on a slightly higher megapixel sensor than the Macro sensor included on the G9 Play. Macro is really a specific use case that I’ve yet to come across in day to day life, but it works.

The Motorola camera app includes some fun inclusions as well as the usual modes. The Cinemagraph lets you have a minor amount of movement in a photo, while Spot Colour lets you get a little ‘arty’. A group selfie mode is helpful when using the front facing camera, letting you do a panorama to fit your group into the shot – and the live filters lets you add some artistic flair to your front or rear facing shots. 

Software

Motorola delivers the phone with Android 10 running the July 1st, 2020 security patch. This means you get all the Android 10 features like System Wide Dark Mode, Gesture Navigation and more. On the update front, Motorola isn’t quite as fast as they once were with updates, instead relying on a quarterly update schedule.

Motorola has one of the cleanest Android skins around, it’s mostly stock Android with a few features built on top. The features include Moto Actions – the famous chop to launch the camera, or double twist to turn on the flashlight, but there’s not a lot built-in to the OS, so it feels pretty fluid for the most part. 

There are some customisation options that Motorola has built-in including options for theming with different styles, wallpapers and layouts available to personalise. There’s also a game mode which lets you block incoming calls or messages while you

The upside to the Motorola clean Android install is a lack of cruft and bloatware apps pre-installed. In fact apart from the Moto app and FM Radio, it’s a pretty clean install. 

Should you buy it?

At $299 the Moto G9 Play is a great choice in this price range. The phone includes a great battery, decent (and large) screen and the bonus of TWS earbuds is hard to pass up.

The performance of the phone and camera is about where you’d expect for the hardware, with a clean Motorola Android software experience generally making for a good experience.

There’s a big choice to make once you decide to grab a Moto G9 Play, and that’s whether you prefer Pink or Blue. You can check both out in retailers now.

Moto G9 Play Review: Affordable but surprising
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