The Motorola G a longstanding history as the affordable phone to beat. Well, that used to be the case. However, with the advancement of Chinese competition, Motorola in 2018 is taking a different tack by delivering no less than three Moto G6 phones: the G6 Play, G6 and G6 Plus. But just how do they differ from one another and which affordable handset may suit you best?

  • G6 & G6 Plus: front-facing fingerprint scanner; G6 Play: rear fingerprint scanner 
  • All devices: Non-removable back, fixed in-body battery; 3.5mm headphone jack
  • All devices: Splash-resistant coating used in production (no official IP rating)
  • Colour options: Sterling Blue, Indigo Blue, Silver, Fine Gold

The G6 Play, being the so-called baby of the group, is designed to be the longer-lasting, most affordable model of the three. It's also the only one to feature the fingerprint scanner on the rear, embedded within the M emblem (or "batwing" logo, as it's known). The G6 and G6 Plus both feature elongated fingerprint scanners to their fronts, beneath the screen, akin to Apple's Home button. The G6 and G6 Plus also include Face Unlock, which does as it says: uses the front-camera to unlock each device using facial recognition.

At first glance you could more-or-less mistake any G6 model for a Moto X4 (from 2017). The design language of the new trio is certainly inspired by the higher-power product, each featuring shiny glass backs. All have a built-in battery, too, ending the removable back design of some earlier G-series models.

Although Motorola doesn't confirm to official IP water- and dust-resistant standards - it would add to the size and cost of production, the company says - it does coat every one of its phones (excluding the Play, we believe) with a water-repellent coating, inside and out, to avoid any issues with rain, splashes and such like.

There's a 3.5mm headphones jack in each of the three phones, too, so no scrabbling around trying to find wireless cans to listen to your favourite tunes.

  • G6: 5.7in 'Max Vision' FHD+ resolution (2160 x 1080)
  • G6 Plus: 5.9in 'Max Vision' FHD+ resolution (2160 x 1080)
  • G6 Play: 5.7in 'Vision' display, HD+ resolution (1440 x 720)
  • All devices: 18:9 aspect ratio screen

Stepping into the new smartphone format footprint, every G6 handset adopts an 18:9 aspect ratio screen, which makes for easy one-handed holding despite the apparent large screen sizes.

The G6 Play has a 5.7-inch screen size that's the lowest resolution of the bunch; the G6 takes the same screen size but ups the resolution; the G6 Plus expands slightly to a 5.9-inch panel with the same resolution as the G6.

Given the use of elongated panels, we're not sure why the G6 Plus is so modest in its size difference - it could be bigger still to really qualify its name, perhaps a 6.2-inch panel to make it a true plus-size phone.

However, despite solid specs in the screen department, we've found issues with auto brightness control for each Moto handset. Yes, the screens look pretty good, but the auto-brightness is overzealous. Should you choose to go for manual brightness control then we've found the battery life to suffer as a result.

  • G6: 1.8GHz octa-core processor (Qualcomm Snapdragon 450), 3GB RAM, 32GB storage [Amazon exclusive version: 4GB RAM, 64GB storage]
  • G6 Plus: 2.2GHz octa-core processor (Qualcomm Snapdragon 630), 4GB RAM, 64GB storage
  • G6 Play: 1.4GHz octa-core processor (Qualcomm Snapdragon 430), 3GB RAM, 32GB storage
  • Google Android Oreo 8.0 operating system; Moto Voice 2.0, Display & Actions

The G-series doesn't purport to be flagship, therefore you won't get the ultra-power processors in any of this trio. Each model, where relevant, does one-up its predecessor, though. Here it's the Moto G6 Plus that's the most powerful of the bunch, with a Snapdragon 630 platform.

However, as we've suggested having reviewed the device, the cheaper Nokia 6 offers the same chipset for less cash, while the Honor 9 delivers far more power in a smaller-scale package for between £10-20 more than the Plus model. As such, there's an argument that every Moto G model for 2018 is a whisker overpriced when considering the competition. 

Beyond the nuts and bolts running things behind the scenes, the software is also in sync with the latest Google Android Oreo operating system. That means a clean, easy-to-use platform for anyone: whether newcomer or seasoned Android user. But, Moto being Moto, there are some extras within the baked-in Moto app: Moto Voice 2.0 (see below), Moto Display (sneak peek of notifications on home screen, and more) and Moto Actions (physical actions perform outcomes, such as flip to mute and more), are the core trilogy of special features.

The big update of all that is the push forward to Moto Voice. In its fully fledged second-gen format it's a little more intelligent than even Google Assistant, able to answer contextual questions. It also has third-party app support baked in, whether from Spotify or  WhatsApp and beyond (35 popular apps are expected from launch, with more to follow), so could be the stepping-stones to a future voice-controlled interactive interface. Well, that's Moto's marketing plan, anyway.

  • G6: 3000mAh; G6 Plus: 3200mAh; G6 Play: 4000mAh
  • G6 & G6 Plus: USB Type-C; G6 Play: Micro-USB
  • TurboPower fast-charging

Despite being the most basic of the bunch, the G6 Play is the one with the largest battery capacity. And with the lowest powered processor under the hood, it's certainly be the longest-lasting of the three new G6 models. That's certainly a great thing, but we find the Play namesake confusing: surely that suggests play, i.e. gaming, for which one would want a more powerful processor?

But no, the most powerful processor goes to the G6 Plus. Which has the second most capacious battery of the trio, at 3,200mAh. Despite only being marginally larger than the standard G6, we've found the Plus to withstand far more use - it's hitting the boundaries of a day-and-a-half phone, whereas the G6 is barely a single work-day phone.

All three devices off Moto TurboPower fast-charging, although the G6 sticks with a Micro-USB connection, whereas the G6 and G6 Plus bring things up to date with the USB Type-C.

None of the three offer wireless charging.

  • G6: 12MP + 5MP dual rear cameras with f/1.8 aperture; 8MP front-facing camera (16MP capable for low-light)
  • G6 Plus: 12MP + 5MP dual rear cameras with f/1.7 aperture and dual autofocus pixels; 8MP front-facing camera (16MP capable for low-light)
  • G6 Play: 13MP rear camera with f/2.0 aperture; 8MP front-facing camera

On the cameras front, the G6 Play sticks with a single snapper on the rear, while the G6 and G6 Plus go for dual rear cameras, the latter offering a slightly wider maximum aperture and better autofocus. 

The reason for dual cameras is simple: the two lenses can be used to capture depth to derive a blurrier background, in what's known as Portrait Mode (just see Apple and any other maker). Moto does this just as well/badly as any competitor, although as these aren't flagship handsets the experience isn't quite as smooth as some top-end devices.

Between the G6 and G6 Plus, the latter has the better camera arrangement. Having tested both of them, it's not even down to the minute aperture differences, more the Plus's greater power, which translates to snappier speed in use, coupled with improved autofocus.

The new G6 trio really push design forward for the series, which makes each a compelling proposition for a buy-outright phone. That said, however, the price has also lunged forward, putting the series into a more defensive position than ever before - especially with the Nokia 6 and Honor 9 knocking on the door front and back.

Overall, compared to the stubby, basic designs of aged G-series smartphones, the 2018 range is Moto showing that it understands the current market. These phones deliver all the features that most will need for a cut of the flagship price, wrapped in a good-looking design.

That said, the prices have crept up as a result of the design advancement. The G6 Play is priced at £169 (€199), the G6 is priced £219 (€249), the G6 Plus is priced £269 (€299).

And with Moto having so, so many phones in its range now - there's the E-series below and the X-series above, all of which have some degree of overlap with the new G-series - we find the trio of new G6 phones a little confusing.

Yes, each phone is great in its own way. But the increasing price line and new style repositions each from where it once was, which on the one hand makes for a far more appealing looking phone, but on the other introduces issues with the near-standing competition.

Do we really need three Moto G and three Moto E handsets? Not really. But against much of the competition the 2018 G-series has little to put it on the back foot. It's affordable reinvented - whatever the competition has to say about it.