The famed Moto G has gone double-digits this year – Motorola is offering three numbered entrants in the lineup to go with the G Stylus, G Power and G Play from January, and we now have the Moto G10, G10 Power and Moto G30. Abandoning continuity in search for diversity, the trio occupies different levels of the midrange, with the Moto G30 being the highest-specced one. Let’s start with that one then.
The Moto G30‘s standout feature in this confusing crowd of phones is the high-refresh-rate display – moderately high at 90Hz, but certainly higher than the others. Otherwise, it’s not really a head-turner – an LCD with a 720p resolution on a 6.5-inch diagonal is about as pedestrian as they come.
You could say the same of the Snapdragon 662, though we prefer to frame it more positively – as a balanced mid-tier performer that’s both powerful and frugal, and a noticeable step up from the SD460s of the G10s.
The 64MP main camera, too, puts the Moto G30 above its immediate family, which top out at 48MP. The 8MP ultra-wide appears to be shared with the G10, G10 Power, and the G Stylus, going strictly by the numbers though there could be nuances to that. In any case, we have a G10 for side-by-side comparisons – all in due time.
Video capture:Rear camera: 1080p@30/60fps; Front camera: 1080p@30fps.
Battery: 5000mAh; Fast charging 20W.
Misc: Fingerprint reader (rear-mounted); NFC; FM radio; 3.5mm jack.
Other less standout but still feel-good bits on the Moto G30 include the 5,000mAh battery (which, it seems, has quietly become the standard capacity across many segments) and the 20W charging capability. A classic rear-mounted fingerprint sensor is a nice throwback to simpler times, as are the FM radio and headphone jack. Additionally, you’d be getting Android 11 out of the box, which remains something worth pointing out even some six months after the OS’ release. Speaking of that box.
Motorola Moto G30 unboxing
The Moto G30 ships in Motorola‘s default one-piece navy packaging. Inside lies the phone, already in the supplied transparent soft case – protected even before you take it outside of the box.
You get a 20-watt charger (compare that to the 10W one supplied with the G10) that’s rated at 5V/3A, 10V/2A, and 12V/1.67A. Also included is a USB-A-to-C cable. There is no headset in the bundle, as has been the norm with recent Motos.
The Moto G30 retails for about €180 in Europe (where you can find one) for a model with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, up to €220 for the top-spec 6GB/128GB version. Meanwhile, at the time of reviewing, the base 4GB/64GB version is priced at INR11000 in India, a discounted number from the INR15K MSRP.
The Realme 7 starts at around €180, but that sum will only get you 64GB of storage, albeit 6GB of RAM. The Realme wins for display resolution and fast charging, but it’s a tie for display quality and battery life. Perhaps most importantly, however, the Realme has a vastly more powerful chipset, and that should settle it if you’re into gaming, or 4K recording. The Moto does counter with a newer Android and a more stock look, if that’s your thing. The Realme 7 is comparatively more expensive in India, where it’s the 7i that sells for Moto G30 money, and that’s mostly a tie all around unless you count small victories like Android 11 in the G30’s favor vs. the 7i’s dedicated microSD slot.
The Poco X3 (NFC) is another compelling counter-offer if you’re looking at the Moto G30. It’s got a beefier chipset and a higher-res display, too, but spices things up further with an even higher refresh rate than the Moto’s, plus stereo speakers. The Moto has slightly better battery life and Android 11 already, while the Poco charges faster and has an IR blaster. Again, the Poco X3 NFC makes more sense in Europe for Moto G30 money, while the non-NFC version sold in India is pricier than the G30.
Another Xiaomi, the Redmi 9T, is an interesting alternative as well. It may not have a high refresh rate display, but it’s 1080p. The Redmi also scores points for its stereo speakers and dedicated microSD slot and, in typical Xiaomi fashion, the IR emitter. The Moto, while not flawless, would still be our choice if the camera quality is a priority.
If you’re looking to get a Samsung around the Moto G30’s price point, the Galaxy A21s is perhaps the closest. The Moto wins for performance, for a change, and has the better display (higher contrast, high refresh rate), while battery life and charging speeds are similar, as is camera performance. The Galaxy has the brand name going for it, and perhaps the dedicated microSD slot.
The Moto G30 is not the Moto G from late 2013, which you could recommend as the universal best option for a full-featured smartphone on a budget. The Moto G gradually evolved from that one phone to an entire lineup, and none of the lineup members today is the no-brainer purchase that the original was.
But as current Moto Gs go, the G30 is, in fact, a rather reasonable buy. It stands out from its stablemates thanks to its 90Hz display, which also happens to be one of the highest-contrast LCDs we’ve tested. Photo quality, while not great at night, is actually pretty pleasing in good light, and it’s not like competitors in the price range have spectacular low-light performance anyway. Add to that the current, near-stock Android 11, with just the right amount of features added on top, and the top-notch battery endurance, and the Moto G30 is looking like a very well-rounded package for the money. We wouldn’t straight-up recommend it, but we’d keep it on our shortlist.
High-contrast, high-refresh rate display.
Excellent battery life.
Solid camera performance in good light.
Clean Android 11 experience with a few nice proprietary features on top.
Wireless Android Auto support is something rarely seen built into cars, but the rise of third-party dongles has made it much easier to bring this functionality to cars that don’t already have it. Tomorrow, a new wireless Android Auto dongle under the Motorola brand will officially launch, and – based on our brief first impressions – the Motorola MA1 seems like a great option.
The Motorola* MA1 is a simple USB dongle with one key purpose — to add wireless Android Auto support to any car that already supports the wired form. It’s a goal that AAWireless and other projects have accomplished but with some rough edges during setup due to the nature of “hacking in” this functionality.
The MA1 is the first dongle that’s officially certified by Google to accomplish this goal, and even after just a few minutes of use, its advantages are clear. This dongle is quick to pair and simple to understand. In short, it lacks the extra steps other products currently require.
Setting up the MA1 is as simple as plugging it into your car’s USB port — your car must have a USB-A port, as the dongle’s cable is not removable. Once plugged in, the next step is to pair the dongle through your phone’s Bluetooth menu. It appears under the name AndroidAuto with some additional characters. Unfortunately, there’s no automatic prompt for this, such as Google’s Fast Pair would provide. The only change you may have to do on your phone is ensure the toggle for Wireless Android Auto is enabled, which should be the case by default on modern phones.
Not long after pairing to Bluetooth, the dongle will automatically trigger the Android Auto wireless setup process on your phone and your car, with prompts appearing on both screens to help you get started.
All in all, I was able to get the Motorola MA1 paired and running in a matter of two or so minutes. Reconnecting to the dongle after the car has been powered off takes around 30 seconds on my Subaru Crosstrek.
In terms of the hardware itself, the MA1 is simple, but it works. It feels well built and not cheap. The rough plastic back seems like it won’t pick up any damage easily, though the top glossy portion certainly looks as though it’s going to pick up scuffs very quickly and easily if it’s sitting in a center console, as mine will by necessity. At the very least, it’s a total dust magnet. There’s only one button, a pairing button on the side that triggers the ability to pair a new device.
I’ve only used the Motorola MA1 for a very brief time at this point, so it’s not fair to talk about it in the context of a full review. We’ll have more to share on that front, as well as a comparison to AAWireless, in the coming weeks.
Motorola MA1 for wireless Android Auto will be available starting tomorrow, January 28 on Amazon.
If you haven’t been able to get in on previous orders, though, it’s important to note that the device has already sold out twice on Amazon according to the company, so further shipments may end up delayed. As of the time of this article going up, pre-orders are once again open, but with no set shipping date.
*The Motorola MA1 isn’t made directly by Motorola. The device is rather only using the brand as a license, while the product is actually manufactured by a Chinese company known as SGW Global. This has been done before, such as with the latest Moto 360 smartwatch.
With the Motorola G 5G Plus, the company ushers its most popular series in the 5G era. The company aims to rekindle its old glory by delivering the best value for money mid-ranger much like the original Moto G did back in its day.
For starters the Moto G5 5G Plus is supposed to be one of the most, if not the most, affordable 5G-compatible smartphone in the European market and at a price of around €350. Of course the 5G penetration greatly varies from market to market, so it can’t rely on that alone to propel it to fame. Here’s what else it has going for it:
Motorola G 5G Plus
Body: 168.0×74.0x9.0mm, 207g; Plastic frame and back; Splash resistant.
Video capture:Rear camera: 4K@30fps, 1080p@30/60fps; Front camera: 1080p@30fps.
Battery: 5000mAh; Fast charging 20W.
Misc: Fingerprint (side-mounted), NFC; FM radio.
The huge 6.7-inch LCD panel offers 90Hz refresh rate and HDR10 support, it has two cameras on the front and a generous 5,000 mAh battery with fast charging support and last. That’s an area where Motorola was behind for the past couple of years often using older, less competitive chipsets.
In fact, the Moto G 5G Plus costs as much as Xiaomi’s phones with the same chipset, which hasn’t been the case for a while. We now need to run our usual tests, because specs can often be deceiving.
Unboxing the Motorola G 5G Plus
The box contains all the usual user manuals along with the 20W-rated charging brick and a USB-A to USB-C cable for charging and data transfer. There’s also a transparent, silicone protective case in the box. Not a bad set of accessories, considering the price point.
As we said earlier, the Moto G 5G Plus is here to take the affordable lineup to 5G land, so support for the next gen networks is one of its biggest selling points. Its availability is limited to Europe for now but will likely reach other markets soon. This comes with a key advantage because there’s a shortage of affordable 5G phones in Europe, but on the other hand the 5G penetration isn’t nearly the same as in China or the US.
The most obvious alternative is the Xiaomi’s Mi 10 Lite 5G. It sports the same chipset, the same set of cameras, but has far inferior battery life. The Xiaomi phone trades the 90Hz smoothness for the superior contrast of an OLED display with HDR10+ support. Oh, and also costs €50, which is no small sum in these price tiers. At the end of the day picking between those two will probably largely depend on your preference of lighter stock Android and the feature-heavy but occasionally clumsy MIUI.
There’s also the freshly released OnePlus Nord. With essentially the same chipset and camera setup, the Nord offers a 90Hz OLED panel and faster charging, but smaller battery. Its UI looks similar to what Moto G 5G Plus has, even if underneath OxygenOS is customized beyond recognition. You’ll be losing the 3.5mm jack and splash resistance too, while you’ll also need to pay €50 more and, again, that can make a difference in this price range.
Xiaomi Mi 10 Lite 5G • OnePlus Nord
Of course, dropping 5G from your priority list would open up some more options like the Realme 6 Pro. It’s a great all-rounder, perfectly fitting in the €350 price category with a proper telephoto camera in addition to the 64MP regular and 8MP ultrawide cameras, faster charging, similar battery life and still has that 90Hz smoothness. Its Snapdragon 720 is inferior to the 765, even without accounting for the modem, though.
Then there’s the Snapdragon 730G-powered Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite, which offers an OLED screen and better camera than the Moto G 5G Plus and a similar battery life. It’s €50 cheaper too, but only has a 60Hz screen and the question of MIUI versus stock will inevitably come up again.
Realme 6 Pro • Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite
If you are in market for a 5G phone now, but have a limited budget the Moto G 5G Plus is certainly shaping as a very sensible all-rounder. You get a decent 90Hz IPS panel, great battery life, clean Android with a couple of cool customizations and features on top and a capable chipset. And if the cameras didn’t need some extra work and the screen was OLED, this phone would have been an outright steal at that price.
As things stand now it’s trading blows with competitors from Xiaomi and Realme, which in itself is a great achievement for Motorola. The stock Android, 90Hz panel and great battery life will be enough to entice a lot of potential buyers, while a small price reduction similar to what Xiaomi did after the launch of its phones has every chance of turning this into a proper box office hit.
Rather sturdy build.
Smooth 90Hz IPS panel without visible halos around the cutout or the bezels.
Great battery life, adequate fast charging.
The main camera snaps good daylight photos, records great videos.
Clean Android but with more Moto features and customizations than ever before.
The Edge series is Motorola‘s return ticket to the major league. The company gave up making flagships some three years ago. The Moto series remained focused solely on budget and mid-range devices. Until the Motorola Edge duo came to be.
The vanilla edition of the Motorola Edge seems nicely balanced and it may as well earn a place among the renowned flagship killer niche, while its Edge+ sibling is a full-fledged flagship, complete with the premium price tag.
So, the Motorola Edge, one very curved smartphone by the name and the looks of it, features a large OLED with steep slopes, topped with 90Hz refresh rate. The selfie cutout is quite small, and we are already intrigued by the panel for sure.
Motorola Edge next to the Motorola Edge Plus
The vanilla Edge is still cutting edge when it comes to the choice of chipset. The Snapdragon 765G is one of the most recent mid-range Qualcomm chipsets and it’s got promising performance, as well as 5G connectivity.
The chipset is one of the major differences between Edge and Edge+ – the more expensive Plus model comes with the flagship Snapdragon 865 chip instead. The storage is also of a different kind – UFS 2.1 on the Edge vs. UFS 3.0 for Edge+ – but a sort of a silver lining is that only the regular Edge offers a microSD slot.
Finally, the quad-camera on the back is worthy of a flagship even if there is no OIS on either of snappers. There is a 64MP primary, a 16MP ultrawide, an 8MP tele for 2x zoom, and a 3D ToF camera.
Typically for Moto, the Edge comes with a handsomely sized battery and stereo speakers. It also offers a 3.5mm jack – a rarity nowadays, and it runs on vanilla-looking Android 10 with promised major updates for the next 2 years.
The only thing we are missing on this spec sheet is the rated water and dust resistance. The Motorola edge has P2i water-repelling coating on its internals, but so do much cheaper Moto phones so perhaps IP67 would sit better with the target audience. Well, the Moto Edge is priced reasonably, so it deserves a pass for that.
Unboxing the Motorola Edge
The Motorola Edge comes in a stylish black box that contains the 18W charger and the USB-C cable. Inside you will also find in-ear pair of Moto headphones.
If you look inside the top paper compartment, you will find a thin silicone case to go with your new Motorola Edge. Because of its curved screen, there will be few, if any, third-party case makers, so we appreciate the bundled accessory.
The Motorola Edge is a long overdue step forward and breaks ground for future premium mid-rangers and flagships. Sure, the Edge doesn’t have anything we haven’t seen before – the screen included – but it is a breath of fresh air after a long streak of not very inspiring budget phones.
The Motorola Edge has the right screen and hardware for gaming and the battery to keep doing that for a long time. Its camera kit is quite good, too, and shows real potential in daytime. We were also happy to find a few hard-to-find features – the audio jack, the memory expansion, and the FM radio.
The design of the Motorola Edge is, well, edgy, and we think it will spark some controversy. But we are convinced this particular design feature will be one of the phone’s biggest draws. Along with the attractive pricing, of course.
Granted, the Motorola Edge is not without its faults – most of them fixable. The zoom camera should save photos in its native resolution, and then Moto has to come up with better low-light processing. The popular streaming services should start streaming hi-def content as they do for the Moto Edge+. Overall, there’s nothing a software update can’t easily resolve.
The first alternative that comes in mind is the brand-new Samsung Galaxy A71 5G. It costs the same as the Motorola Edge, has a similarly large Super AMOLED, and matches the Edge’s performance. The A71 lacks a zoom camera but on a positive note – it charges faster.
The OnePlus 8 is probably the biggest threat to the Motorola Edge. The new OnePlus 8 has a similar 90Hz OLED screen, runs on the flagship Snapdragon 865 chip, and recharges much faster. The camera on the back is less impressive and can’t do 2x optical zoom but has OIS and performs much better at night. The OnePlus 8 is €100/$100 more expensive, so it is not an easy pick for sure.
The Mi 10 5G also impresses with the fastest chip on the market plus it does an excellent job at night with its main camera. Then again, the Mi 10 5G has no zoom camera, and it costs €200 over the Edge. Not the best deal for sure.
Finally, the Realme X50 Pro, where available, costs €600 – the same as the Edge. It tops the Edge with a faster Snapdragon 865 chip. It’s got a similar camera on the back but with superior low-light performance. The X50 Pro also brags with a dual-selfie cam, but quite a few screen pixels had to go because of it. Still, the X50 Pro makes a good case, but its limited market availability along with the fact that it comes from a relatively unknown challenger brands puts it at disadvantage.
Even with its omissions, the Motorola Edge is shaping as one of the hottest deals of the season. It has the performance, the battery, and the camera to go with its great looks. It also runs Android 10 buttery-smooth on the 90Hz OLED, so there is a lot to like.
The vanilla Edge is great on that price, and we do recommend it. Motorola‘s recent sabbatical from the upper mid-range tier could be the only thing standing in the way of the new Edge series. The company has to convince consumers it’s got what it takes to make a great high-end phone. The Motorola Edge is certainly a nice step in this direction.
Beautiful design, splash-proof
Large and curvy OLED HDR10 screen with 90Hz refresh rate and small cutout
Excellent battery life
Stereo speakers with excellent audio quality
The fastest midrange chipset
Versatile cameras that excel during the day
We loved the selfies
MicroSD slot, 3.5mm jack, FM radio
No 1080p streaming support for now
Not the fastest charging
The telephoto camera saves upscaled images
Neither of cameras is particularly good at nighttime, though Night Vision helps
Bottom line: Samsung’s Galaxy S21 is a great overall package, delivering 5G, the latest hardware, and all the extras you could ask for in a 2021 flagship.
6.2-inch AMOLED, 2400×1080, 120Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
128 or 256GB
12MP primary, 12MP ultra-wide, 64MP telephoto
25W wired, 15W wireless
151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9mm
Compact and lightweight design
Snapdragon 888 is a performance beast
120Hz AMOLED display
Very capable cameras
All-day battery life
Doesn’t have expandable storage
No MST for Samsung Pay
In 2021, Samsung has released a smaller and more affordable smartphone in the regular Galaxy S21. For shoppers that want a fully-fledged smartphone experience without completely breaking the bank, it’s well worth your consideration.
One of the best things the Galaxy S21 has going for it is the display. It’s a Full HD+ AMOLED panel, and when paired with a smooth 120Hz refresh rate, it is nothing short of excellent. It’s not quite as sharp as the Quad HD+ resolution found on the S21 Ultra, but the picture still looks really crisp thanks to a smaller 6.2-inch display size. Combine that smaller display with plastic construction, and the S21 ends up being a really comfortable phone to use thanks to its small size and lightweight design.
Another highlight is performance; the Galaxy S21 features the Snapdragon 888 and 8GB of RAM. No matter what tasks you throw at the phone, it’ll handle them with ease. There’s also a 4,000 mAh battery for all-day endurance, an IP68 dust/water resistance rating, and your choice of 128GB or 256GB of storage. The camera experience isn’t as jaw-dropping as what you’ll find with the S21 Ultra, though it is a bit better than the S20 FE. Once again, it’s a nice middle-ground between the two.
You get three guaranteed Android updates and four years of security patches on the software front, making the Galaxy S21 one of the best phones for long-term use. That said, the Galaxy S21 shares the same cons as the S21 Ultra, meaning there’s no expandable storage or MST for Samsung Pay. Those are two features you do get with the S20 FE, but the S21 still manages to stand out thanks to its improved cameras, faster performance, nicer design, and more pocketable form factor.
Bottom line: The S21 Ultra stands out as the phone to get if you don’t want to spare any expense. Everything from the display, performance, cameras, and more are among the very best you can get — just be prepared for it to cost you a pretty penny.
What Samsung achieved with the Galaxy S20 FE is nothing short of amazing, and for the vast majority of you reading this, it’s the phone you should probably buy. But if you’re itching for a device that has even more to offer and you’re OK spending more to get that kind of experience, you’ll want to turn your attention towards the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
This is Samsung’s top-of-the-line flagship for 2021, and in virtually every regard, the premium nature of the S21 Ultra is easy to see. Starting first with the display, you’re treated to a massive 6.8-inch panel that’s capable of running a Quad HD+ resolution with a 120Hz refresh rate at the same time — something very few smartphones are capable of doing. This means you get razor-sharp text, buttery smooth animations, and the stunning colors of Samsung’s Dynamic AMOLED screen technology.
Powering the S21 Ultra is the Snapdragon 888 chipset, paired with either 12 or 16GB of RAM. In real-world use, that means the Galaxy S21 Ultra is one of the fastest phones money can buy. Keeping with the theme of high-end specs, other niceties include a 5,000 mAh battery, up to 512GB of storage, an IP68 water/dust resistance rating, and a larger in-screen fingerprint sensor that’s much faster and easier to use than the one found on the S20 FE.
As if that wasn’t enough, the tour de force of the Galaxy S21 Ultra is its camera system. The primary camera is a 108MP sensor that captures extremely detailed and colorful shots. The 8MP ultra-wide lens is a strong performer. The two telephoto cameras — featuring 3x and 10x zoom distances — allow for some of the very best zoom pictures we’ve ever seen.
There’s no denying the impressiveness of the S21 Ultra, but that’s not to say it’s without its faults. Samsung got rid of expandable storage and MST for Samsung Pay, two hallmark features of Galaxy phones before it. If you’re alright with losing out on those features, the Galaxy S21 Ultra experience is well well worth the price of admission.
Bottom line: The OnePlus 9 Pro delivers a gorgeous new design combined with top-notch internal hardware, cameras tuned by Hasselblad, and clean software. OnePlus finally has a phone that measures up to Android’s best, and the OnePlus 9 Pro is an affordable alternative to the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
The OnePlus 9 Pro is gunning straight for the Galaxy S21 Ultra. The phone features the latest hardware you’ll find today, including the Snapdragon 888 chipset, along with LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 storage modules, and a marquee addition this year is the cameras.
OnePlus always nailed the hardware, but it just couldn’t deliver cameras that held up to Samsung, Google, and Xiaomi. That has changed with the OnePlus 9 Pro. The device comes with an upgraded 48MP camera at the back that takes fantastic photos. OnePlus also partnered with German camera giant Hasselblad to deliver outstanding photos to capture every moment. The result: the OnePlus 9 Pro takes amazing shots in just about any lighting condition. There’s also a 50MP wide-angle lens that may just be the best on any phone today, and you get an 8MP module that offers 3x digital zoom.
The OnePlus 9 Pro is one of the fastest phones you can buy today, and a new 120Hz AMOLED display joins the top-notch hardware. The phone uses an LTPO display to dynamically change the refresh all the way from 1Hz to 120Hz, allowing it to conserve battery life while delivering a smooth and fluid user experience in daily use.
You’ll also find clean software without any bloatware at all in the Android 11-based OxygenOS 11. The interface has plenty of customizability, and unlike Samsung’s One UI, you will not find any errant ads anywhere. The clean UI combined with a focus on performance and customization make OxygenOS the default choice for enthusiasts.
The phone doesn’t miss out in other areas either — you get IP68 dust and water resistance, 5G connectivity over both Sub-6 and mmWave, and dual-band GPS along with NFC. But a key highlight is around battery tech — the OnePlus 9 Pro offers 65W wired charging along with 50W wireless charging, with the phone taking just 29 minutes to fully charge using the bundled charger. OnePlus also recently announced that its flagship phones would begin receiving three major Android updates — up from the two promised previously.
While it’s exciting to see the gains in this area, the one downside is that battery life itself isn’t on par with other Android flagships. For example, the OnePlus 9 Pro barely manages to last a day with heavy use, so you may want to take the charger along if you’re heading out.
That said, the OnePlus 9 Pro is a great overall package that nails the fundamentals. So if you’re not sure about the Galaxy S21 Ultra and are looking for an alternative, you will love what the OnePlus 9 Pro has to offer.
Bottom line: There are many good smartphone deals out there, but none of them are as amazing as the Pixel 4a. From its flagship-grade cameras, reliable performance, all-day battery life, and long-term software support, no other phone gives you this much for so little.
5.81-inch OLED, 2340×1080, 60Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G
144 x 69.4 x 8.2mm
Flagship camera on a budget phone
Easy to use in one hand
AMOLED display looks great
Three years of software support
The Pixel 4a is the best phone value available today, period. Google’s packed most of what makes the Pixel 4/5 series good into a smartphone that costs over 50% less. You also get a compact device that, despite its size, excels in the battery life department. Seriously, this phone lasts all day and then some.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the 4a is its camera, which is nearly on par with the Pixel 4 that preceded it. The main camera shoots exceptional photos in all lighting conditions, with Night Sight really showing its strength in poor lighting. Google even added Astrophotography mode this time around and improved the already impressive Portrait Mode. The front-facing camera is also tack-sharp and focuses more quickly than on the Pixel 3a from 2019. Both front and back, you’re getting flagship-level camera quality out of a phone that’s a fraction of the price. Google’s also improved the video quality on the 4a, thanks to an improved Snapdragon 730 chipset and 6GB of RAM standard.
So what do you lose by spending a third of the price of a more traditional flagship? Well, the Pixel 4a is made of plastic and lacks both water resistance and wireless charging, features you can take for granted at a higher price point. It also only comes in one size, a 5.8-inch variant, and one color, black. There are no storage size options, either: you get 128GB of internal memory, which should be plenty for most people, but a lack of microSD expansion may be a problem for the content collectors out there. Also, there’s no 5G support here.
All of these limitations shouldn’t impede your desire to buy the Pixel 4a, which proved to be one of the best smartphone surprises of 2020 — even if it did launch a few months late. Google’s latest budget phone is a winner, from the size to the performance to the battery life and camera quality.
Bottom line: They say that the best camera you have is the one you have with you, so make sure it’s the best it can be. Google’s Pixel 5 takes incredible photos in virtually any setting, and thanks to the company’s top-notch image processing, you don’t even have to be a pro photographer to get impressive shots.
6.0-inch OLED, 2340×1080, 90Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
12.2MP primary, 16MP ultra-wide
18W wired, 15W wireless, 5W reverse wireless
144.7 x 70.4 x 8.0mm
Among the best cameras on the market
Compact and comfortable to hold
90Hz AMOLED display
Great battery life
Three years of software updates
Might be too small for some users
The Pixel 5 is Google’s latest flagship smartphone that you can buy. Compared to past releases, it’s a huge departure. Rather than trying to have the absolute best specs possible, the Pixel 5 focuses on offering a great all-around user experience at a competitive price. And, in just about every regard, it succeeds.
First thing’s first, we have to talk about the Pixel 5’s camera performance. Simply put, if camera quality is a key priority for you, the Pixel 5 should be at the very top of your shopping list. The 12.2MP primary and 16MP ultra-wide cameras may not look all that impressive on paper, but combined with Google’s unmatched image processing, they kick out truly incredible results. The detail is sharp, colors are true-to-life, and the Pixel 5 handles low-light environments without a hitch. The best part? The Pixel 5 does all of this more reliably than any other smartphone.
Outside of killer cameras, the Pixel 5 has a bunch more to offer. We’re in love with its design, which is refreshingly compact and is made entirely out of aluminum. The paint job gives it an exceptional in-hand feel, and if you ask us. The Sorta Sage color is one of the best we’ve ever seen on a phone. Period.
Rounding out the Pixel 5 experience is a 90Hz AMOLED display, fast performance thanks to the Snapdragon 765G processor, and long-lasting battery life. For considerably less money than a lot of other flagships, the Pixel 5 is well worth your consideration.
Bottom line: Samsung’s Galaxy S20 FE is a solid, affordable 5G phone that offers most of what makes Samsung flagships so good in a cheaper, colorful package.
6.5-inch OLED, 2400×1080, 120Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
12MP primary, 8MP telephoto, 12MP ultrawide
15W wired, Qi wireless charging
161.6 x 71.1 x 9.3mm
Flat 120Hz display is terrific
All-day battery life
Promised three years of software updates
Impressive cameras with 3x optical zoom
Sturdy design with fun color options
Not every color option is available everywhere
Camera can be slow to load
Samsung clearly understands that this is a time for people to pare back their expenses because the Galaxy S20 FE is a value flagship that really doesn’t skimp. It’s based on the successful foundation of the Galaxy S20+, featuring a spacious 6.5-inch 1080p AMOLED display with a luxurious 120Hz refresh rate, a Snapdragon 865, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and an all-day 4,500mAh battery.
Of course, to hit its affordable price point, Samsung needed to make some sacrifices, so it traded the Galaxy S20 series’ back glass for colorful plastic — the FE is available in six delicious colors — and cut back on the quality of the triple-camera setup ever-so-slightly.
Still, the S20 FE has everything you’d expect in a high-end phone and performs just as well. We especially love the IP68 water resistance and wireless charging, two features rare in this price bracket. Plus, it shares the same primary camera sensor as the Galaxy S20 and S20+, ensuring beautiful results in good light and bad.
Samsung’s One UI 3.0 is also on-board, and the company’s promising three years of platform and security updates, ensuring that you’ll be getting the latest Android features well into the next decade.
Finally, Samsung includes sub-6Ghz 5G in all variants of the Galaxy S20 FE, and we found performance to be excellent on both AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s 5G networks. If you want a Verizon version that supports mmWave, it’s also available for purchase.
Bottom line: The Moto G Power 2020 has reliable hardware combined with outstanding battery life and clean software. There are a few downsides — it’s limited to 10W charging and will only get one Android update, but you are getting a great entry-level package overall.
6.4-inch LCD, 2300×1080, 60Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 665
16MP primary, 8MP wide-angle, 2MP macro
159.9 x 75.8 x 9.6mm
At least two-day battery life
Large 1080p display
Will get only one Android update
Charging limited to 10W
If you’re in the market for an entry-level phone, the Moto G Power 2020 is still a great choice in 2021. Motorola has nailed the basics here, delivering a robust phone with all the features you’re looking for in a budget option.
The standout feature on the Moto G Power 2020 is the battery: featuring a large 5000mAh battery, the phone manages to last over two days without fail. The charging situation isn’t ideal, though; the Moto G Power 2020 has 10W wired charging, so you will want to plug in the device overnight.
The phone holds up pretty well in other areas too. You get a 6.4-inch 1080p LCD that’s decent enough in its own right, and the Snapdragon 665 is a reliable performer in normal use. The phone has stereo sound, a 3.5mm jack, a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, and a microSD card slot. And as the phone is officially sold in the U.S., it works on all the major carriers.
In fact, it’s a better option than the Moto G Power 2021 in key areas — the 2021 model has fewer LTE bands, a lower-resolution 720p display, and a less powerful chipset. You’ll find positives on the software side as well, with Motorola offering a clean interface without any bloatware. The downside here is that the phone will get just one Android update — to Android 11 — and if you’re okay with that, the Moto G Power 2020 has plenty to offer in 2021.
Bottom line: If you’re looking for a value flagship and want a phone with a gorgeous design, the latest hardware, stellar cameras, fast charging, and clean software, the OnePlus 9 is the obvious choice.
6.5-inch AMOLED, 2400×1080, 120Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
48MP primary, 50MP wide-angle, 2MP portrait
65W wired, 15W wireless
160 x 74.2 x 8.7 mm
Sublime 120Hz AMOLED display
Clean software with no bloat
65W wired / 15W wireless charging
Three years of Android updates
Single-SIM in the U.S.
With the OnePlus 9, OnePlus sets its sights on the Galaxy S20 FE. The phone delivers on the same fundamentals as Samsung’s value flagship, offering the latest internal hardware, a 120Hz AMOLED display, reliable cameras, and many extras from the OnePlus 9 Pro.
The 120Hz AMOLED display on the OnePlus 9 is one of the best you’ll find in this particular category, and thanks to the Snapdragon 888 chipset, the phone handles anything you throw at it without breaking a sweat. You also get 5G connectivity over Sub-6, Wi-Fi 6, NFC, AptX HD audio codecs, and an excellent vibration motor.
The phone has the same 4500mAh battery as the OnePlus 9 Pro, and you get 65W wired charging. What’s new this generation is the addition of 15W Qi wireless charging. It may not be quite the same as the insane 50W wireless charging on the 9 Pro, but the upside is that the OnePlus 9 works with any Qi-enabled wireless charger available today. This particular feature is missing on the Indian and Chinese models, but you’ll find it on the OnePlus 9 variants sold in North America and Europe.
Coming to the software, OxygenOS 11 continues to set the standard in terms of customizability. The bloatware-free UI is a delight to use, and recently OnePlus announced that it would begin supporting its flagship phones with three years of Android platform updates.
Overall, the OnePlus 9 is a solid contender to the Galaxy S20 FE. It has the latest hardware, great cameras, clean software, and fast charging, and for what it costs, you are getting a great overall value.
Bottom line: The ASUS ZenFone 8 is a bit of a departure from its predecessors, but it is the best smallest Android flagship you can buy right now. It has an excellent build, clean software, great cameras, 5G, and the powerful Snapdragon 888 SOC.
5.9-inch OLED, 2400×1080, 120Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
64MP primary, 12MP ultra-wide
148 x 68.5 x 8.9 mm
Easy to use one-handed
Gorgeous screen with 120Hz refresh rate
3.5mm headphone jack
No wireless charging
No telephoto camera
If you’re one of those people who still pines for a smaller, flagship-level phone, then we have some good news for you. The ASUS ZenFone 8 delivers one of the best Android experiences that you can get in mid-2021 for much less than the competition. Plus, it’s one of the smallest Android flagships around.
Unlike the ZenFone 6 and 7 series and the ZenFone 8 Flip, the ZenFone 8 has done away with the flipping camera module in favor of a more traditional design. While this new (older) form factor makes the device more pocketable, ASUS was able to retain an excellent camera setup nonetheless. It also means that it is now IP68 water-resistant. The ZenFone 8 features a gorgeous AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate, and it even retains an old-school fan favorite with its 3.5mm headphone jack.
The ZenFone 8 has top-notch internal specs, too, including the powerful Snapdragon 888 processor, fast 20W wired charging, and one of the cleanest builds of Android we’ve seen this year. However, you miss out on wireless charging, and ASUS’s track record for updates has left us wanting in the past.
This is the perfect phone for someone who admires the size and capabilities of something like the Google Pixel 4a but who also wants a more premium and performant Android phone.
Bottom line: Folding phones are here, and the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is the best one we’ve seen yet. It’s basically a smartphone and tablet in one device, and while it is costly, it’s also the best attempt yet we’ve seen for this form factor.
6.23-inch AMOLED, 2260×816, 60Hz refresh rate
7.6-inch AMOLED, 2280×1768, 120Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+
12MP primary, 12MP telephoto, 12MP ultra-wide
25W wired and 11W wireless
159.2 x 128.2 x 6.9mm (unfolded) and 159.2 x 68 x 16.8mm (folded)
Puts a mini-tablet in your pocket
Great cameras and battery
App compatibility issues
Just like any piece of technology, smartphones evolve and change as time goes on. We’ve seen screens get bigger, cameras get a lot more capable, and processors rival those found in computers. The next big thing for phones is the folding form factor, and so far, the best yet in this niche is the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2.
The best way to think about the device is as a phone and tablet in one. When the Z Fold 2 is closed, you’re treated to a 6.23-inch AMOLED display that you can use for anything you’d like — checking email, scrolling through Twitter, watching YouTube videos, you name it. Should you find yourself wanting a larger canvas, however, all you need to do is open up the Z Fold 2 up. There, you’re treated to a larger 7.6-inch AMOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate. It’s a lot like having an iPad Mini that you can fold up and take with you wherever you want, and if you ask us, that’s pretty amazing.
As you might expect for a new technology like a folding phone, the Z Fold 2 does come with some unique dilemmas. For example, the Ultra-Thin Glass for the tablet display is prone to scratches more than traditional glass. The folding design raises questions about long-term durability, and not all apps are properly optimized for that larger display size. There’s also the matter of price, with the Galaxy Z Fold 2 costing more than two OnePlus 8 Pros.
This isn’t a phone that we recommend everyone go out and buy right now, but as far as folding phones go, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is the best we’ve seen to date. If you’re willing to spend the money and put up with those quirks, the Z Fold 2 has a lot to offer.
Bottom line: The Galaxy A52 5G gives you amazing hardware in the form of a 120Hz AMOLED screen and a Snapdragon 750G chipset with 5G connectivity. Although the design looks similar to the S21 series, you also get great cameras and all-day battery life, which is much more affordable.
If you want to switch to a 5G phone but don’t want to pay too much money, then the Galaxy A52 5G may just be the ideal option for you. Samsung has always delivered value packages with the Galaxy A series, and it is taking things to a whole new level in 2021.
The Galaxy A52 5G offers considerable upgrades over its predecessor; the 6.5-inch AMOLED panel now has a 120Hz refresh rate, giving you a level of immediacy during daily interactions that was missing in last year’s Galaxy A51. The internal hardware has also received a boost, and the Snapdragon 750G chipset is faster in almost every day-to-day scenario.
The camera has received some attention as well, with the A52 5G now offering a 64MP lens at the back. There’s even a MicroSD slot and a 3.5mm jack, two features you won’t find on the Galaxy S21 series. And thanks to a generous 4500mAh battery and 25W fast charging, you don’t have to worry about battery life.
Samsung added IP67 dust and water resistance to the Galaxy A52 5G, making it just that little more enticing. Oh, and there’s, of course, 5G connectivity here, so if you’re thinking of switching to a 5G plan this year and need a mid-range phone, the Galaxy A52 5G ticks all the right boxes.
Bottom line: The ASUS ROG Phone 5 is designed for gamers. It has an incredible build, a stunning 144Hz AMOLED display, and is paired with a massive 6,000mAh battery and 65W wired fast charging. There are also great accessories and extras to help you get the most out of your mobile gaming experience.
6.78-inch AMOLED, 2448×1080, 144Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
64MP primary, 13MP ultra-wide, 5MP macro
172.8 x 77.2 x 10.2mm
Huge battery (6,000mAh)
144Hz refresh rate
3.5mm headphone jack
Gaming inspired design
Fast and fluid performance
This phone is BIG
No wireless charging
No water resistance
Gaming phones are definitely a niche category, but the folks who are interested in these devices really care how they perform. ASUS knows this subset extremely well and has been cranking out heavy-duty gaming phones for several years now. Its ROG line of phones complements its gaming PCs quite well, and there is undoubtedly a lot of crossover between owners of these computers and phones.
The latest in the vaunted ROG series is the ROG Phone 5. It boasts one of the largest capacity batteries we’ve seen (6,000mAh) for extended play sessions, as well as a brilliant AMOLED display with an high 144Hz refresh rate to make your content fly. You also get a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you don’t have to worry about audio latency, and it’s all powered by the latest and greatest Snapdragon 888 chipset.
There are several great accessories that you can purchase separately to help you get even more out of the experience, such as gamepads, coolers, and cases, but the phone looks great au naturale. The biggest drawbacks of the phone are that it doesn’t have wireless charging or an official IP rating, and it is quite a big and heavy device.
Bottom line: The Redmi Note 10 Pro takes things to a whole new level in the budget segment. The phone has a 120Hz AMOLED display, robust internal hardware, a 64MP camera that takes great photos in any lighting, and a gigantic 5020mAh battery with 33W fast charging. You can’t ask for much more in a budget phone.
Xiaomi knows how to deliver a value-focused package, and with the Redmi Note 10 Pro, it is setting a new standard for budget phones. The phone has features previously only seen on flagships, including a 120Hz AMOLED display that makes an immediate difference in day-to-day use.
The Snapdragon 732G delivers decent performance for most tasks, including intensive gaming. The phone also has generous memory and storage options, and you get a 3.5mm jack, microSD slot, NFC, and even an IR blaster that lets you control your TV or other AV gear. The phone also has IP53 dust and water resistance to withstand the occasional splash of water or be submerged in a pool without any issues.
The 5,020mAh battery on the Redmi Note 10 Pro easily delivers over a day’s worth of use as for battery. When you need to charge the phone, the bundled 33W charger ensures the battery is full in just over an hour. You won’t find wireless charging here, but honestly, the battery life is good that you don’t need to plug it in during the course of a day.
The 64MP camera is also new, and it takes great photos in just about any lighting condition. This may just be one of the best cameras you’ll find for under $300, making the Redmi Note 10 Pro that much more enticing. Xiaomi has made a lot of changes on the software front as well. MIUI 12 comes with Android 11 out of the box, and the UI is cleaner than earlier iterations. You get more customization options than you’ll end up using, and there are genuinely useful features here.
Ultimately, the main drawback is that the phone isn’t available officially in the U.S. You can pick up the global version of the Redmi Note 10 Pro from Amazon, but you miss out on the warranty.
How to pick the best Android phone
Android phones have never been better than they are right now. So regardless of how much or little money you can spend, you can go out and buy a phone that you’ll be thoroughly happy with. Out of every single phone on the market in 2021, however, we have to give our top recommendation for the best Android phone to the Samsung Galaxy S21.
Samsung makes amazing phones every year, but you need to pay out the nose for the privilege of owning one more often than not. With the Galaxy S21, you get a top-tier Samsung experience for less than previous years, and that makes it a better overall value.
Compared to a more expensive Galaxy handset like the S21 Ultra, the standard S21 does an admirable job of holding its own. It has a 120Hz AMOLED screen, excellent performance, great battery life, and the same One UI software experience. Even wireless charging and an IP68 rating are here, and the only area it misses out on is the Quad HD+ display and a glass back.
There are plenty of other options on this list if something about the Galaxy S21 just isn’t clicking for you, but we think it’s easy to see why it has our highest recommendation at the end of the day.
1. What size screen should I get?
You should consider many different things when buying a new Android phone, and it all starts with the display. This is the component you interact with more than anything else, so you must get one that you’ll enjoy using. Things like the resolution and refresh rate of a screen are worth talking about, but more so is the size.
Smartphones come in different shapes and sizes, and the biggest determining factor for that is the display. A 6.8-inch screen results in a much larger phone than one with a 5.8-inch one, and because of that, you need to know how big or small you’re willing to go.
Take the Galaxy S21 Ultra, for example. It has the largest display on this list (outside of the Z Fold 2, but that’s different), and because the screen is so huge, it’s a phenomenal canvas for watching movies, playing games, and browsing the web. Basically, any kind of content consumption you do looks better on a larger display because the more room you have, the bigger and easier to see your media is. The downside to this, however, is that phones like the S21 Ultra can be rather unwieldy. Especially if you’re someone with smaller hands, managing a phone like that can be a pain in the butt.
Then there are smaller-sized phones, such as the Pixel 4a. It’s substantially easier to manage and can actually be used with one hand, but you have less room for your movies and games on the flip side. It also means you can fit less content on the screen at one time, and if you’re someone who likes to increase your font size, things are easier to read, which could result in you having to do a lot of scrolling.
And, of course, there are plenty of phones that fall somewhere in the middle between these two extremes. If you’re really concerned about whether or not a phone will be too big or small, your best bet is to honestly go hands-on with it yourself at your local carrier store or Best Buy before making your purchase.
2. Are software updates important?
It’s easy to compare displays, processors, and cameras, but something that’s just as important to talk about is software updates. Android is constantly evolving and getting better, and unfortunately, only certain phones are backed by a few years of software support.
As it currently stands, Google, Samsung, and OnePlus are the best in the business when supporting their phones with long-term updates. All of the Pixels, Galaxy devices, and OnePlus phones mentioned on this list are backed by three years of major OS updates from their initial release, which is by far the best support any Android phone maker has to offer. Google even goes a step further with three years of guaranteed monthly security patches, and while Samsung does the same for its flagships, it is now starting to follow suit for its mid-range devices.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, you have a company like Motorola. Take the Motorola G Power, which is only promised to get a single update to Android 11. Security patches are even worse, with Motorola having a track record of falling multiple months behind on updates.
So, how important is it that your phone gets software updates? That ultimately depends on how much you care about new Android features. Google releases a new version of Android every year, and while these updates don’t tend to be that drastic from year to year, they give your phone important features and security settings that help keep it running in tip-top shape for a long time. It also ensures that your phone stays compatible with all the apps and games on the Play Store because as Android versions become too outdated, app developers eventually drop support.
A phone like the Motorola G Power won’t be unusable two years down the road just because it’s running Android 11 and not Android 13, but it’s also a bit disheartening to buy a product and know it’s backed by such a small window of post-purchase support. This divide in updates is something Android has been faced with for years, and while companies are gradually getting better in these regards, we still have plenty of room to grow.
3. How many cameras and megapixels do I really need?
Over the last couple of years, there’s been a trend going on with certain phone companies where they throw as many cameras onto their devices as possible. As it’s become more common for phones to ship with two, three, or even four cameras, there’s something of an expectation that phones have to have multiple camera sensors to be any good.
Spoiler alert — this isn’t true.
Let’s look at the OnePlus Nord 9, for example. It has a 48MP primary camera, 50MP ultra-wide, and a 2MP monochrome portrait camera. Compared to the single 12.2MP camera on the Pixel 4a, one would assume that the OnePlus 9 takes better photos, but that’s not always the case.
Having those extra camera sensors can be a lot of fun, but only if they’re high-quality. Far too often, we see companies throw in a bunch of extra cameras on their phones only to have these secondary lenses not be very good. The primary camera sensor is always the most important, so that’s the one you want to be concerned about the most.
On a similar note, more megapixels (referred to as MP) don’t always mean you’re getting a better camera. As mentioned above, the 48MP camera on the OnePlus 9 sometimes takes photos that aren’t as good as those taken from the 12.2MP camera found on the Pixel 4a. There are so many other factors that come into play with phone cameras, so don’t let the megapixel count be your only factor for judging them when you’re out shopping. Read reviews, look at camera samples, and you’ll have a much better understanding of what kind of camera you’re dealing with.
4. What size battery should I get?
Battery life isn’t the most fun thing to talk about with smartphones, but ultimately, it’s one of the most important components. Your phone can have the best display and processor around, but if it’s constantly dying throughout the day, what’s the point?
There are many different battery capacities for all of the phones on this list, and if you don’t regularly keep up with them, it can be difficult to know what a good size is and what isn’t. So, here’s a general rule of thumb. If you’re buying an Android phone in 2021, the ideal capacity is 4000mAh or larger. As phones move toward larger displays with faster refresh rates, more battery is needed to keep them powered throughout the day.
Of course, this can vary a bit depending on the type of phone you’re buying. The Pixel 4a, for example, only has a 3140mAh battery but can still get through a full day of use without a hitch. What gives? It has a small display by 2021 standards and only has a 60Hz refresh rate, resulting in substantially less power use.
These are factors you’ll need to consider when shopping for your phone, but generally, more mAh means more battery life.
5. What smaller features should I look out for?
Last but certainly not least, there are a few smaller features and specs that can be easy to overlook when doing your shopping — a prime example being NFC. NFC stands for Near Field Communication, and it’s the chip in most phones that allows you to pay with your smartphone with Google Pay at grocery stores, restaurants, etc. Most of the phones on this list support NFC, but many cheaper Motorola phones often lack the feature. You may not care about Google Pay, but if you do, it’s worth double-checking that the phone you want to buy does, in fact, have NFC.
Another spec to check for is an IP68 rating. This is a seal of protection many phones have, and it ensures they’re protected from a certain amount of dust and water. If you happen to get caught outside in the rain or take your phone to the beach, an IP68 rating is nice peace of mind that your phone should survive just fine.
Some phones lack this IP rating yet boast water resistance or have a water-repellent coating. Those devices are also probably fine to get splashed with water here and there, but you don’t have that same guaranteed protection. The best-case scenario is to avoid getting your phone wet whenever possible, but if you happen to be around the water a lot, it’s probably worth getting something with that IP68 protection.
We should also address a trend that’s been going through the smartphone space for a few years now — the death of the headphone jack. The vast majority of new phones coming out these days no longer have the port, but few holdouts continue to offer it. It’s certainly nice to have if you’re someone that primarily uses wired headphones or earbuds, but if you’ve moved on to the wireless bandwagon, it’s not something you need to be all that concerned with.
Android 11 brings much-needed privacy and security features alongside exciting UI changes.
Android 11 continues to push Google’s vision of Android forward. With Android 11, Google is making a few tweaks to refine the platform instead of making wholesale changes. Privacy is a big focus with Android 11, with Google introducing one-time permissions and granular control over what sort of data you share.
There are new features to get excited about as well — the power button menu picked up a massive overhaul, the Conversations view does a great job highlighting your messages, and there are little tweaks throughout the interface that give it an added polish.
Android 11 is powering the best Android phones of 2021, and manufacturers are doing a better job rolling out the update to their 2020 phones. So here’s everything you need to know about all the new features in Android 11, and when your phone will receive the update. We also highlight what’s on the horizon with Android 12; Google just rolled out the first public beta, introducing a radical new UI and exciting new features.
Is Android 11 available for my phone?
Following months of Developer Previews and Betas, Google launched the final build of Android 11 on September 8, 2020. The update was available for Pixel phones on day one as per usual. This year, Android 11 was also available on the same day for select handsets from the likes of OnePlus, Xiaomi, OPPO, and Realme.
That’s a big step forward for Android updates as a whole, but there’s also still plenty of work that’s left to be done. Samsung is now rolling out One UI 3.0 based on Android 11 to its flagships and mid-range devices, but the likes of Motorola, Nokia, Sony, and others are yet to roll out the update.
While that’s certainly annoying, we’re making things as easy as possible for you by tracking any and all Android 11 updates as we learn more about them.
What’s going on with Android 11 on non-Pixel phones?
As noted above, this year’s Android update rollout was a bit different compared to past releases. Instead of Pixels being the only phones treated to the new software, handsets from other select manufacturers were also treated to Android 11 in some form.
Let’s first look at Samsung, which is marketing its Android 11 update as One UI 3.0/3.1. Most of the core design principles remain in place, but there is a lot that’s new to check out. Samsung’s touting things like an improved lock screen, a more customizable always-on display, new accessibility tools, and more.
Samsung has already delivered the Android 11 update to most of its 2020 phones, and is now working its way down the list to its 2019 phones. It shifted to the One UI 3.1 build in recent months that debuted on the Galaxy S21 series.
We should also mention OxygenOS 11, which is the Android 11 update for OnePlus phones. OxygenOS 11 introduced a major design shift for OnePlus, with the company moving away from its stock Android aesthetic and embracing design elements found in Samsung’s One UI interface. OnePlus rolled out the OxygenOS 11 stable build with the 8T, and the Android 11 update is now available for the OnePlus 8 series, 7 series, and set to make its way to the 6/6T. The stable build is also making its way to the Nord shortly.
Nokia has also kicked off its Android 11 update rollout, with the Nokia 8.3 5G picking up the stable update starting February 8. HMD has lagged behind in this area over previous years, but with the Nokia 8.3 now on Android 11, we should see the update rolling out to other Nokia devices in the coming months.
Then there’s Xiaomi. The stable MIUI 12 update based on Android 11 is now rolling out to the Mi 10 series and Redmi Note 9 devices and should make its way to other Xiaomi phones very soon. We’ve rounded up Xiaomi’s Android 11 rollout timeline to make it easier for you to learn when your phone will get the update.
Motorola has kicked off the Android 11 update to the foldable Razr 5G starting April 15. LG has also started to roll out the Android 11 update, with the V60 and the Velvet receiving the stable build. Although LG will no longer make phones, it has stated that it will deliver the Android 12 and Android 13 updates to its current portfolio.
Lastly, we have ColorOS — the custom Android interface used on OPPO smartphones. ColorOS 11 is rolling out now to OPPO devices, and it offers a lot of exciting improvements. In addition to the usual Android 11 goodies, some other highlights include a customizable dark mode, a power-saver mode to extend battery life, and a new feature called OPPO Relax 2.0 that aims to help you unwind and fall asleep at night.
Where can I learn more about Android 11?
We’ll dive into some of Android 11’s biggest features below, but before we do any of that, we should address the elephant in the room — is Android 11 any good? The short answer, yes — it is very, very good, as per our Android 11 review.
Understandably, some people may find Android 11 boring or not very different from Android 10, but the fact of the matter is that Android no longer needs massive overhauls every year the way it used to. The core Android experience is darn good, and Android 11 elevates it even more. All of the conversation improvements are great for streamlining notifications, more powerful permissions are always something we’re happy to see, and the new power button menu adds a ton of extra functionality.
There are a couple of changes we aren’t completely in love with (namely the new multitasking window and Suggested Apps feature for the home screen), but those things are easy to overlook. The vast majority of what Google did with Android 11 was for the better, and the result is software that’s more functional and enjoyable to use.
How do Android 11 chat bubbles work?
As mentioned above, there isn’t one single overhaul or massive change found with Android 11. Instead, it’s a mix of many small tweaks here and there. A few of them focus on improving your messaging experience, with Google offering a lot in this department.
First on the list, we have chat bubbles. Similar to what Facebook’s offered for years with its Messenger app on Android, chat bubbles in Android 11 hide your ongoing conversations in little bubbles on the side of your screen. You can move the bubbles around, and tapping on them reveals that specific conversation. The Bubbles API is available for all messaging apps, with Google encouraging developers to adopt it.
In another effort to make sure you can get to your messages as quickly as possible, Android 11 introduces a dedicated conversation section in your notification shade that offers instant access to any ongoing conversations you have. It also makes it easier for your messaging notifications to stand out from others, ensuring you never miss an important text ever again.
Speaking of messages and notifications, Android 11 makes it possible to send images directly from the notification shade when replying to a message.
What’s new with permissions in Android 11?
Looking back on Android 10, one of its highlights was its improved handling of app permissions. Android 10 gave users more control over applications and what they could access, and Android 11 keeps this train rolling with a wonderful new addition.
Now, when an app asks for permission to use sensitive features like your location, microphone, or camera, you can choose to only grant it access on a one-time basis. The app will be able to use that permission during that instance of you using the app, but the permission is revoked as soon as you leave it. The next time you use the app, and it wants to use that permission, it needs to be granted access again.
Giving apps permission to these aspects of your phone should not be taken lightly, so we’re thrilled to see Google giving users more control over their data like this.
Does Android 11 have a built-in screen recorder?
For the past few Android releases, we’ve been patiently waiting for Google to add a built-in screen recorder. It’s not something you’ll use every day (if ever for some people), but the fact that such a basic function isn’t baked into Android at its core is getting annoying.
Thankfully, Android 11 finally changes that. This Android version does include the feature, accompanied by a clean UI and toggles for recording audio and showing touches with your recording.
There’s not much else to say about this, other than the fact that we’re glad we can finally put this feature request to bed.
Is Android 11 compatible with folding phones?
If there’s been a place of notable advancement in the Android space, it’s been with displays. Companies are doing what they can to offer the best and most exciting smartphone screen possible, and as great as this is, Android needs to catch up with better support for all of these advancements.
Folding phones are proving to be quite popular so far, and especially with devices like the Galaxy Z Flip and Motorola RAZR that have the “flip phone” folding design, Android 11 adds the “hinge angle sensor API” so apps can easily detect the hinge of these folding phones. With this information, developers can adapt their apps to work around the hinge and create unique experiences because of that (like how Google Duo changes its UI when you do a half-fold on the Z Flip).
The other big upgrade displays have seen has to do with faster refresh rates. It’s no longer uncommon for phones to ship with screens that refresh at 90Hz or 120Hz, and Android 11 allows developers to take better advantage of these powerful displays. Developers can select which refresh rate their services should run at, and if the developer determines their app looks best at 90Hz or 60Hz, they can make that decision and have the phone’s display change its refresh rate accordingly when using that app.
How does Android 11 work with 5G?
5G is finally starting to make its way to people, and more and more folks have started connecting to the next generation of wireless data. To ease the transition, Android 11 adds a very important “Dynamic Meterdness API.”
That may not sound very exciting on paper, but it essentially allows phones to take full advantage of all the power 5G brings.
If the API detects that you’re connected to an unlimited 5G signal, you’ll access the highest possible quality for videos and graphics. The potential for 5G is pretty darn cool, and this API ensures you take full advantage of the speeds available to you.
What phone should I get for the best Android 11 experience?
Whether you want to be among the first to get Android 11 or experience it the way Google intended, the Pixel 5 is the phone for you. It’s the newest flagship Pixel currently available, and if you prefer metal over plastic or glass, it’s a hard phone to ignore.
The Pixel 5 is all about delivering a flagship-quality Android experience for a relatively low price, and in these regards, it succeeds tremendously. Google crammed a lot into the Pixel 5, including phenomenal cameras, an OLED display, good performance, long battery life, and more. The design is a little plain, but the phone’s also a great size for one-handed use.
Best of all, the Pixel 5 and other Pixel devices get quarterly Feature Drops from Google, bringing new features to the Android 11 experience without requiring a full-scale platform update.
When is Android 12 coming?
The Android 12 public beta is now live, and the OS is the biggest visual change in Android’s history. Google is rolling out the new Material You design aesthetic, giving you much better customizability and new privacy features.
The key highlight is that you now have a color palette that lets you change system-wide colors to your liking, including the notification shade, volume controls, lock screen, and more. The notification shade has a cleaner design, and there’s a dedicated snooze button that lets you mute notifications with ease.
Android 12 is also set to add scrolling screenshots, but the feature isn’t quite live at this moment. And while the home screen UI itself is unchanged from Android 11, there’s now an option to set a 4×5 grid. You can also easily share Wi-Fi with Nearby Share, making it easier for others to connect to your Wi-Fi network.
The stable version of Android 11 was released a few months ago, and while it isn’t the most revolutionary update we’ve ever seen, there are plenty of reasons to get excited about it. Whether you’re looking forward to the new conversation notifications, chat bubbles for messaging apps, or the upgraded permission handling, it may be a while before you can actually start messing around with all of these software goodies.
The update is available for the Pixels and selects OnePlus phones, while the Galaxy S20 and Note 20 lineups have also received their One UI 3.0 update which is based on Android 11. We’ve rounded up all of the current info to help give you a better idea of when Android 11 will arrive on your device.
The timelines change based on manufacturer and region, but the list below should give you a broad overview of if and when you will get the Android 11 update on your phone.
The phrase “fast Android updates” is usually an oxymoron, but Google‘s lineup of Pixel phones is the exception to that rule. Whenever a new update or security patch is released, Pixels are the first-in-line for that software — making this one of the biggest benefits of owning a Pixel in the first place.
The Android 11 stable update is now available to download on all Pixels starting with the Pixel 2 series. Here’s the full list:
Samsung used to be one of those manufacturers that you couldn’t rely on for good software support, but within the last year, it’s improved significantly. Samsung announced that it’s now committed to three years of major OS updates for all of its flagship phones, starting with the Galaxy S10 series.
The company has been on a tear as of late, releasing the final version of One UI 3.0 (based on Android 11) to the likes of the Galaxy S20, Note 20, and even the Galaxy Z Flip 5G. A few other devices are seeing the update as well that weren’t exactly expected as soon as they have arrived.
We can look forward to all of the following phones to get an Android 11 update:
Galaxy S10 Lite
Galaxy S20 Ultra
Galaxy S20 FE
Galaxy S21 Ultra
Galaxy Note 10 Lite
Galaxy Note 10
Galaxy Note 10+
Galaxy Note 20
Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
Galaxy Z Fold 2
Galaxy Z Flip 5G
Galaxy A52 / A52 5G
Galaxy A72 / A72 5G
Galaxy A32 5G
Galaxy M31 / M31s
The Galaxy S9 series should be able to run Android 11, but Samsung revealed its roadmap for which devices would see the update. Sadly, the S9 was not on the list. However, the company did commit to bringing security updates to these devices for at least the next year.
As for the speed at which Samsung will roll out Android 11 to its phones, we’re anticipating the update to drop within a few months of the initial launch. Google introduced Android 10 on September 3, 2019. The Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S9 got the update in December and January, and Samsung has been following the same trajectory with Android 11 for its enormous lineup of smartphones, with many devices being updated in late December 2020 or throughout January and into February 2021.
What started out as a small enthusiast brand has transformed itself into a mainstream player in the U.S. smartphone space. OnePlus kicks out some of the best Android phones, and thankfully, it’s quite good when it comes to updating them to new software builds.
OnePlus is rolling out the Android 11 stable update to the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro. There’s a new visual layout in OxygenOS 11, along with a host of exciting features.
Despite seeing a few issues with the official OxygenOS 11 rollout for the OnePlus Nord, it seems that everything is back on track.
Here are the OnePlus devices that will make the switch to Android 11:
OnePlus 9 Pro
OnePlus 8 Pro
OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren Edition
OnePlus 7T Pro
OnePlus 7 Pro 5G
OnePlus 7 Pro
OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition
With the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro making their arrival, that adds a couple of more devices that are running Android 11. Plus, both of those devices will see the update to Android 12 and at least Android 13. Which is more than we can say about the OnePlus Nord N10 5G and Nord N100 which are slated for only one major Android release. Meanwhile, those are still running Android 10, and the company has not given any indication as to when Android 11 will come to the budget-friendly handsets.
OnePlus 6 and OnePlus 6T owners who have been waiting patiently for the arrival of Android 11 will have to keep waiting a little bit longer. The company has confirmed that the Android 11 update won’t be arriving until after the release of Android 12, which is currently slated to launch this fall.
Xiaomi is one of the world’s largest phone manufacturers, and the brand has turned its attention to Western markets in the last two years. Xiaomi sells phones from $100 all the way to $1,200, and it has made a name for itself as the go-to player for value.
The company has already pushed the Android 11 update live for owners of the Xiaomi Mi 10 and has turned its focus onto the Mi 10T and Mi 10T Pro. A new beta program has opened for these devices, as Xiaomi continues to bring the latest version of Android to its vast lineup of smartphones.
Based on a post that showed up on Xiaomi‘s MIUI community forums, the Android 11 update will be going out to 30 models across Xiaomi, POCO, and Redmi product lines. More phones will be added to the list, but for now, these are the Xiaomi phones that will be updated to Android 11:
OPPO is also turning its attention to Western markets. The Chinese manufacturer made a lot of changes to its ColorOS interface over the last 12 months, making it more palatable to a global audience.
OPPO has introduced ColorOS 11 based on Android 11 in closed beta for the Find X2 series and the Reno 3 Pro series, with a stable update slated to arrive before the end of the year.
We have a tentative timeline for when OPPO phones will get the ColorOS 11 beta based on Android 11. These are the OPPO devices that have already received the update to ColorOS 11:
A74 / A74 5G
Find X2 / X2 Pro
Find X3 Pro
Reno 2 F
Reno 4 5G
Reno 4 Pro 4G / Pro 5G
Reno 5 Lite
Reno 5 Pro+
Reno 5 Pro 5G
Reno 5 Z
Note that these are the expected timelines for the beta builds and not the stable update:
From October: Reno 4 Pro 5G
From November: Reno 4 5G, Reno 4 Pro 4G
From December: Reno 4 4G, F11, F11 Pro, F11 Pro Avengers Edition, A9, A92, A72, A52, Find X2 Pro Automobili Lamborghini Edition
From Q1 2021: Reno 10x Zoom, Reno 2, Reno 2F, Reno 2Z, Reno 3 Pro 5G, A91, F15
From Q2 2021: Reno, Reno Z, A5 2020, A9 2020
When will my Realme phone get Android 11?
Realme is also doing a closed Android 11 beta based on Realme UI 2.0 for the X50 Pro. Realme UI 2.0 comes with a host of new features, but at this moment, there’s no indication of when the stable build will be made available.
We don’t know how many Realme phones will be updated to Android 11, but most devices released in the last 18 months should qualify for the update. Here’s the list:
Although Huawei phones aren’t very common/popular in the United States, the manufacturer gets a lot of attention in other parts of the world.
Huawei‘s Android 11 update will take the form of EMUI 11, and the company has finally shared its roadmap for what devices will receive this update. The list is surprisingly long, with even some tablets getting in on the Android 11 action.
There are a lot of Huawei phones we expect to get Android 11/EMUI 11, including:
Huawei Mate 40 series
Huawei P40 series
Huawei P30 series
Huawei Mate 30 series
Huawei Mate 20 series
Huawei Mate X/Xs
Huawei Nova 5T
Regarding how fast those updates will be pushed out, you’ll likely have to wait a few months. The Huawei P30 and P30 Pro received Android 10 in mid-November, shortly followed by the Mate 20 series.
This past year has been an exciting one for Motorola. The company is still churning out high-quality budget devices, and alongside those, we’re seeing Moto‘s return to the flagship space. However, it’s still straggling behind in an area that’s been a pain point for years — software updates.
After staying mum for a little while, Motorola finally revealed which of its latest devices will be receiving an update to Android 11, and the list is as follows:
Motorola RAZR / RAZR 5G
Moto G Stylus
Moto G Power
Moto G Fast
Moto G 5G / 5G Plus
Moto G Pro
Motorola One Fusion / Fusion+
Motorola One Hyper
Motorola One Zoom
Motorola One Action
Motorola One Macro
Motorola One 5G
Moto G8 Plus
Moto G8 Power
Moto G40 Fusion
Moto G9 Play
Moto G9 Plus
Moto G9 Power
Lenovo K12 Note
That’s a solid list at first glance, but it comes with a big caveat. For every phone but the Edge+ and RAZR, Android 11 is the one and only software update they’ll receive. There’s also the fact that Motorola took its time with the Android 10 update, with the platform version not coming to the Moto G7 until May 11, 2020.
Keeping with the theme of manufacturers that often drop the ball for software updates, we have LG. With no update roadmap in place, here are the devices we think will get Android 11:
Android 10 was made available for the LG G8 in December 2019, with the LG V50 starting its Android 10 update in February 2020. We don’t consider that to be a fast turnaround time, but it is better than what we usually see from LG.
Our fingers are crossed that LG gets even faster with rolling out Android 11, but we’ll have to wait and see if that pans out.
Nokia has announced its Android 11 update schedule, with the first slate of devices set to receive the update by the end of 2020. While Nokia’s devices fall under the Android One initiative, phones like the Nokia 7.2 and Nokia 9 PureView won’t get the Android 11 update until Q2 2021.
After officially rolling out Android 11 to the Nokia 8.3 5G, the company’s Chief Product Officer took to Twitter, suggesting that the rollout would be coming much quicker than expected for the rest of Nokia’s devices. Only time will tell if that’s to be believed, but Nokia seems to be sticking to its timeline that was laid out late in 2020.
Motorola has announced which of its phones will receive an update to Android 11, along with some of the new features to expect. The list of phones is long; if you purchased a Motorola device in the past 12 months or so, chances are you’re covered.
Here’s the full list:
motorola razr 5G
motorola razr 2019
motorola one 5G
motorola one action¹
motorola one fusion
motorola one fusion+
motorola one hyper
motorola one vision
moto g 5G
moto g 5G plus
moto g fast
moto g power
moto g pro
moto g stylus
moto g9 play
moto g9 plus
moto g9 power
moto g8 power
Lenovo K12 Note
According to Motorola, Moto users should expect features like Chat Bubbles, streamlined device and media controls, and improved privacy settings. We also confirmed earlier this month that as part of Motorola’s Android 11 update, some of its phones will support a new Desktop Mode.
It’s unclear which Motorola devices will support the new mode, but we got a brief glimpse at it possibly running on the Moto G 5G Plus. Either that or it was the company’s upcoming Snapdragon 865-powered “nio” handset.
The plan right now is for Motorola to roll out Android 11 “in the coming months.” Unfortunately, we have no exact dates, and Motorola warned that its current plans could change. “This information communicated is not a commitment or an obligation to deliver any product, product feature, software update or functionality and Motorola Mobility reserves the right to change the content and timing of any product, product feature or software release,” Motorola wrote in a blog post.
Motorola said that the rollout of Android 11 is also influenced by partner support. Hopefully, we’ll see Motorola release Android 11 sooner rather than later. There’s a long list of devices expected to get the update, and we’re hoping Motorola can hit every one on the list.
Motorola released a list devices it plans to update to Android 11.
All of the phones on the list came out in either 2019 or 2020.
After all the disappointment 2020 brought with it, you might have hoped a company like Motorola would have tried to end the year on a high note. But that’s not to be the case. The company shared its Android 11 upgrade plans, and they’re no better than anything Motorola has put together over the past couple of years.
As you can see from the list below, if you own a Motorola phone that came out before 2019, don’t expect the company to push the latest version of Google’s operating system to your device. What’s more, even if you own a Moto phone from 2019 or 2020, you may end up waiting a while to get anything. Motorola says it will begin rolling out Android 11 “starting in the coming months, pending partner support.” In other words, expect a potentially long wait, particularly if you don’t own one of the higher-end devices on the list like the Razr 5G or Edge.
If you happen to own a Motorola One Action you bought in North America, you’re also out of luck. Motorola only plans to update the Latin American and European variants of that phone to Android 11 since it’s included in Google’s Android One program in those places. Even by Motorola’s lacklustre support standards, this is not a great showing for the company.
Thankfully, update lists like the one above may become less common in the future. Google and Qualcomm recently announced a partnership to deliver four years of support to future Snapdragon-equipped devices. That pledge is likely to help low-end and mid-range devices the most.
Few brands can boast such a monumental legacy as Motorola – one of the original forefathers and titans on the mobile scene. And it’s not just the brick-like phones of the past that contribute to this special status either. You only need to turn the clock back five years or so from now to see the original Moto G at the forefront of a budget smartphone revolution. One that is continuing to this day, compelling manufacturers to constantly push the envelope on what is possible with a budget device.
Of course, financial turmoils, several buyouts, management and business changes later, these historic Motorola glory days appear to be in the past. But even so, Moto lives on and so does the Moto G. Now in its sixth generation and a sprawling family of three – the G6, G6 Plus and last, but not least, the G6 Play.
All that being said, at $200, the latter can’t really hope for the instant recommendation, many of its predecessors got back in the day. Especially in 2018, with good quality value offers flying in left and right and seriously mounting competition from the likes of Xiaomi, Huawei and even a resurrected Nokia.
Motorola Moto G6 Play
Body: Plastic back; 154.4×72.2x9mm; 175 grams; p2i water repellent nano coating on some markets
Screen: 5.7-inch, 18:9, HD+, IPS LCD, MAX Vision
Rear Camera: 13MP, f/2.0 lens; Secondary 5MP; LED flash; 1080p@30fps video recording
Front Camera: 8MP, 1080p@30fps video recording; LED selfie flash
However, don’t do kicking the Moto G6 Play to the side quite so hastily. The proverbial runt in the Moto G litter still has a lot going for it, besides a legendary reputation. Lenovo managed to cram a massive 4,000 mAh battery, inside the 9mm thin handset and even throw in snappy 15W fast charging support in the mix.
Just like its bigger sibling, the G6 Play has an extra-tall Max Vision display. It’s even complete with rounded corners, for a truly contemporary look. All the while, the Moto G6 Play remains a lot truer to the original Moto G spirit than the rest of the family.
A clean front, with no controls and only on-screen navigation and a the familiar “M” dimple on the back, make for a rather classic experience, that long-time fans of the series might actually prefer. Of course, that’s also complimented by the traditional Vanilla approach to Motorola‘s Android ROMs. Another integral and well-known part of the Moto G mix.
Join us on the following pages, as we explore the new, yet familiar Moto G6 Play in more detail.
Back in the day, the Motorola Moto G had a pretty clear angle going for it. It was the go-to, budget and vanilla Android device of choice for many. Since then, things have become a bit more complicated within the Motorola lineup. Now, there’s a sprawling Moto E family, a growing Moto C and even a Moto E, all filling up the proverbial nooks and crannies of the budget niche as best they can.
While choice is hard to complain about, this new-found market saturation and segmentation do require some involved choices on the user’s end. Thankfully, for the most part, the Moto G6 Play brings a balanced mix of design and features to the table. Just like its older predecessors, the G6 Play is plastic all around and it still works just as well.
There are plenty of advantages to using the relatively light and less dent-prone material. Lenovo has even put in the extra effort to coat the central frame in a metal-like fashion. We’ve seen more believable finishes out there, but still, a good effort.
In place of the more traditional unibody approach, Motorola decided to go for a modern look this time around and a glossy, curved back surface. Naturally, just like the rest of the body, it’s plastic as well, but actually does a pretty convincing job of imitating metal.
This could potentially spell out trouble if you tend to bang and slap your phone around a lot. Plus, chances are you’ll never get to see the surface fingerprint-free from the moment you first pick up the Moto G6 Play. Still, it does make for a decent hand feel.
On a more positive note, the signature Motorola splash-resistant nano coating on the electronics inside is still part of the mix. We are kind of hesitant to get the phone deliberately wet to test it out. But then again, that’s missing the point entirely. It’s just meant to be the extra piece of mind in case of rainy weather or an accidental splash of water.
In many ways, the Moto G6 Play has a traditional setup on the front – no capacitive navigation keys or fingerprint reader, a fairly wide bottom chin, with the entire surface covered by an undisclosed version of Gorilla Glass.
At the same time, however, the new Moto G look is trendier than ever, mostly thanks to an extra-tall, 18:9, LCD panel, shared by all three siblings. It even has rounded corners, in keeping with the trends of the day. Just like the regular Moto G6, the G6 Play gets a decently sized 5.7-inch display – fairly large for a “Play” device.
The only real difference in the display department between the two devices is the resolution – it’s 720 x 1440 pixels on the G6 Play. However, fewer pixels mean less strain on the GPU for on-screen rendering task. A bonus that is sure to shine through in the benchmark section of the review.
We can’t fail to mention that Motorola didn’t find it necessary to fit a notification LED on the front of the G6 Play, but there is still an LED selfie flash.
Like we mentioned earlier, the curved back side of the Moto G6 Plus is plastic and thus not necessarily the most sturdy surface out there. We would definitely recommend using the provided case, which also offers the bonus of not having to deal with the almost unnatural amount of dirt and grease the back accumulates.
The camera module protrudes a bit, but it’s nothing major. One would hope so, considering the G6 Play is 9mm thick. It has this watch dial effect going for it and the lack of a second camera module allowed Motorola to go for a vertical arrangement. So, there are no shocked and surprised smiley configurations on this one.
Right underneath the familiar circular camera module is an even more familiar and traditional “M” dimple. Long-term fans will remember the little signature detail was mostly for show back in the day. Now, it also doubles as a home for the fingerprint reader. Getting the dimple once again looks retro fancy in just the right way. Resting your index finger there during calls feels right.
The fingerprint reader itself is pretty reliable, but not exactly what we would consider speedy. It is more versatile than before now that Motorola can use it as an authentication to manage and auto-fill passwords in apps and websites and even log-on to Windows devices.
There’s not a lot to mention about the sides of the Moto G6 Play. The bottom is almost entirely empty, housing only the dated microUSB port and the main microphone. So, where are the speakers then you ask? Well, turns out the phone only has one and it’s the earpiece. It’s pretty quiet as well, but more on that later.
The top is equally barren, with a pair of holes – one for the secondary, noise-canceling microphone and the other the tried and true 3.5mm audio jack. The left-hand side has a single cut-out for the card tray. Motorola could have done a better job slicing it out and then dampening it since it doesn’t really sit flush and rocks in place a little bit when nudged. However, these are all petty complaints that get dwarfed by the fact that the tray has three whole slots (two in the Single SIM models). Two for SIM cards and a dedicated microSD one. That means you don’t have to choose between another phone line and memory – always a plus in our book.
All the buttons sit pretty high up on the right side of the device. Perhaps a bit too high for comfort, if you have smaller hands. Other than that, they are nice and clicky and well-defined. The power button, while on the slim side, even has an edged pattern going for it, so its very easy to feel around.
Overall, as far as controls go, no real complaints. It seems Motorola has handled the transition to a new extra-tall aspect ratio pretty well.
Extra-tall displays are an increasingly common sight on budget devices nowadays. Even though the new aspect ratios typically leave you with less horizontal real estate, it is still hard to complain or argue against the practical benefits of more vertical room for most everyday tasks. Especially, when the deal does not include a notch.
Just like many of its competitors, Motorola decided to hunker down and bring 18:9 to the masses, including as part of the affordable Moto G6 Play package.
Users looking to same a few bucks from the regular Moto G6 won’t have to sacrifice on screen diagonal at all.
The Play does come with a slight bump down in resolution. But, 720 x 1440 pixels and a density rating of 282ppi is still pretty decent for an entry-level phone.
Motorola Moto G6 Plus (Max Auto)
Motorola Moto G6 Plus
Motorola Moto G5S (Max Auto)
Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus
Motorola Moto G6 Play (Max Auto)
Xiaomi Mi A1
Huawei P Smart
Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) max auto
Xiaomi Redmi 5
Nokia 6 (Global version)
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) Max Auto
Motorola Moto G6 Play
Huawei Honor 7X
Motorola Moto G5S
Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017)
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017)
The IPS LCD panel Moto managed to acquire and fit inside the G6 Play budget is decent, if not particularly impressive. Under normal conditions, its brightness tops off at 476 nits, with respectable enough contrast. Max Auto allows it to shine at up to 554 nits, at the cost of some contrast.
The Moto G6 Play offers a less than stellar experience under strong sunlight, but it’s still usable in most cases.
On a more positive note, color accuracy is surprisingly good, if a few conditions are met. In it’s default mode, the whites on the G6 Play screen have a distinct blue hue. Switching between the Standard and Vivid color modes does little to correct that. The maximum deltaE sits at 6.4, with a maximum of 13.3 in the blue.
However, setting the color temperature from the default setting to Warm does yield tangible results. This way, you can get the color deviation down to a respectable average deltaE of 3.8 and a maximum of 6.5. Almost what we would consider color-accurate.
Moto G6 Play Battery Life
At 9mm thick, the Motorola Moto G6 Play is quite a chunky phone, no question about it. Still, it does compensate for it’s girth, at least to some extent, with a large 4,000 mAh battery. Sure, you could justifiably argue that a lot of the juice end up kind of wasted on the inefficient 28nm Snapdragon chipset. Undoubtedly, something newer, like the Snapdragon 450 would do a better job, with its 14nm node. Failing that, the older and now likely more affordable Snapdragon 625 is tried and true and still a solid choice.
But, we might be getting a bit too picky. The Snapdragon 430 (non-US) review unit, we tested at the office still did a solid job, stretching the 4,000 Mah battery pack to its full extent.
It scored an overall endurance rating of 92 hours – more than respectable.
Looking at the particular numbers in detail, Motorola appears to have done a bang-up optimization job all-around. The near-vanilla Android OS definitely helps a fair bit and as a result, the Moto G6 Play easily breaks the 200-hour barrier in standby.
Even with its older 28nm development process, the Snapdragon 430 and its X6 LTE modem, in particular, manage to clock in over 30 hours of call time. Google’s Chrome browser and File app/video player don’t disappoint either. Both manage to keep pushing content on the HD+ display for over 14hours on a single charge. Overall, while the Moto G6 Play is a bit on the chunky side, it feels quite comfortable away from a power outlet for prolonged periods of time.
Motorola was also considerate enough to include support for its own Turbo power fast charging standard in the Moto G6 Play. It is actually one of the cheapest phones out there, with quick top-off support.
The Moto G6 Play is, theoretically capable of sucking in power at up to 15W. However, we can’t really confirm is a compatible Turbo Power charger will be provided in the box. Package contents frequently differ from market to market and Lenovo has a pretty bumpy track record in this area. So, the best way to go about it is to check with your local retailer of choice.
Motorola was definitely generous in the battery department, but the loudspeaker setup is a whole other story. The Moto G6 Play only has a single speaker – the earpiece, above the display. It is powered to pump out some volume and that’s about it.
Pink noise/ Music, dB
Ringing phone, dB
Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016)
Motorola Moto G6 Play
Motorola Moto G6 Play (Dolby audio)
Xiaomi Redmi 5
Huawei P Smart
Huawei Honor 7X
Motorola Moto G5S
Sony Xperia L2
Motorola Moto G5S Plus
The G6 Play is a bit quiet, especially in its default mode, with the audio equalizer turned off. Speaking of which, it’s a bit odd that Motorola decided to provide a really in-depth audio equalizer, for the single, underwhelming speaker. It even bears the Dolby audio branding.
Still, we can’t complain too much, unlike most smartphone audio tuning suit, this one did not reduce the overall output volume. On the contrary, it increased it slightly, while also managing to open up the soundstage noticeably. If configured correctly, that is.
If you spend enough time tweaking the sliders and toggles, for your content of choice, you can actually achieve tangible results, like a clearer voice in movies or richer simulated bass, if that’s your thing.
Motorola Moto G6 Play matched the splendid clarity of its Plus sibling in the active external amplifier part of the test. Its loudness fell seriously short though, giving away its lower standing.
Loudness remained below average when we hooked up our headphones too, but the clarity was downright impressive. The Moto G6 Play delivered a performance that would be worthy of a device with a much higher price tag. Unless you have high impedance headphones and the volume is actually a deal-breaker, you really can’t wish for much more than that.
IMD + Noise
Motorola Moto G6 Play
Motorola Moto G6 Play (headphones)
Motorola Moto G6 Plus
Motorola Moto G6 Plus (headphones)
Oppo F7 (headphones)
Nokia 6 (2018)
Nokia 6 (2018) (headphones)
Nokia 7 Plus
Nokia 7 Plus (headphones)
Honor View 10
Honor View 10 (headphones)
The Motorola Moto G6 Play was never meant to be a performance powerhouse in any way, shape or forms. Still, in 2018, we are finally a bit past the days when you had to take anything you could get for $200, or so. That being said, we approached the Snapdragon 430, 3GB RAM review unit with clear expectations of a smooth overall experience. Definitely not unreasonable, especially considering the near-stock Moto Android ROM.
To our surprise, however, the Moto G6 Play experiences some noticeable performance dips, even when dealing with everyday tasks.
Frankly, it’s an odd position to find a current Moto G device in. While far from ideal, we know for a fact that the Snapdragon 430 has plenty of power to drive a fluent UI experience, if nothing else. The raw performance numbers out of the Moto G6 Play indicate the same as well. So, we can only surmise, the occasional hiccups and dropped animation frames while browsing the menus and opening apps are due to some odd optimization issue. Hopefully one that gets cleared up quickly.
Before we move on to the actual scores, it is worth noting that certain US carriers and retailers will be offering the Moto G6 Play with an even less-powerful Snapdragon 427 chipset. You should probably stay away from it, if possible. It only has four Cortex-A53 cores and the GPU is downgraded from the Adreno 505 to the Adreno 308. Definitely not ideal.
Speaking of the CPU, the non-US Moto G6 Play, we are testing, has eight Cortex-A53 cores at its disposal, clocked at 1.4 GHz. While that overall configuration is pretty popular in the budget market segment, 1.4 GHz is a pretty low clock.
Single 13MP camera
Unlike its two bigger siblings, the Moto G6 Play doesn’t get the privilege of a fancy dual-camera setup. It is stuck with a single 13MP snapper, with 1.12µm pixels. It sits behind an f/2.0 lens. Nothing really too spectacular. There are still a couple of extras sprinkled in, like phase detection autofocus and a surprisingly decent EIS stabilization for video.
While on the subject, not only does the stabilization work surprisingly well, but it even comes with a real-time preview during capture.
Just like the stills, the 1080p clips, themselves, are actually quite usable. These get recorded in a standard AVC, plus AAC stream, inside an MP4 file, with a bit rate of about 18 Mbps and stereo audio. A bit more detail wouldn’t hurt and the same goes for the dynamic range. Still, we can’t nitpick too much.
The original Moto G from some 5 years ago was a real game-changer in terms of value and an easy instant recommendation. A lot has changed since then. The legendary American brand has been changing ownership quite a bit over the last few years. Internal turmoil and brand-identity aside, the sprawling budget scene the phone launches on looks quite different in 2018.
There are a lot more options to explore. Perhaps even too many. Even Motorola‘s own lineup now features a trio of Moto G devices. And that’s on top of other viable affordable devices, like the Moto E line. Which brings us to our first couple of contenders – the Moto G5S and G5S Plus. Sure, neither features a trendy new 18:9 display, but other than that, specs-wise the Moto G5S is an almost perfect match to the G6 Play. Its bigger brother – the G5S Plus is even more alluring, complete with a much more-potent and power-efficient Snapdragon 625 chipset, as well as a dual 13MP camera setup.
Samsung has some well-rounded devices up on offer around the $200 mark as well. The budget Galaxy J7 (2017) pairs a sizeable battery, with another battery-efficient chipset – the Exynos 7870 and a Super AMOLED panel – sharp, colorful and also easy on the battery. There are some interesting accompanying options as well, like the option for the more compact and slightly more premium Galaxy A3 (2017) instead. Or even saving a few bucks with the older J7 (2016), which still offers most of the models highlights.
The resurrected Nokia has been soaking up quite a bit of attention lately and rightfully so. HMD is putting a lot of effort into build quality and producing reasonably priced devices with a great bill of material and overall durability. The original Nokia 6 from last year seems to match the Moto G6 Play almost spec to spec even down to the overall clean approach to Android. Price-wise the two aren’t far apart either.
Moto G5S Plus • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) • Nokia 6 • Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro • Huawei Honor 9 Lite
Of course, we can’t glance over Xiaomi’s constantly growing lineup for affordable models. The trendy Chinese brand has become amazingly quick in adopting new tech in its products. The most obvious competitor to the Moto G6 Play would be the Android One running Mi A1. A Snapdragon 625 and dual camera setup make for a more potent hardware platform for pretty much the same price tag. The soon-to-hit-markets Mi A2 looks even more enticing but might be a little outside the budget. Currently, the Redmi Note 5 Pro seems to offer the best value for your buck, with a trendy exterior and pretty potent internals.
Last, but not least, Huawei and its Honor sister-brand have a stable finger on the pulse of the market and some really competitive devices to offer. You can pretty much match the Moto G6 Play spec for spec with the new Huawei Y7 Prime (2018) and potentially even save a few bucks in the process. However, devices like the Huawei P smart and the Honor 9 Lite arguably have even more value to offer, within roughly the same budget.
It’s really hard to make any noticeable dent in today’s highly-competitive and overcrowded budget smartphone scene. Adapting as you go seems to be the only path to survival and Motorola has been doing plenty of it lately. The company’s excellent reputation backed by Lenovo’s distribution network helps it along its way too.
Combines a classic Moto control layout with a trendy new extra-tall display on the cheap
There’s a dedicated MicroSD cars slot on the SIM tray, so you can have to SIM cards and and SD at the same time.
Display has decent brightness, contrast and sunlight legibility. It is surprisingly color-accurate, when set propperly. The only thing you are really loosing compared to the regular G6 is resolution.
Great battery endurance at 92 hours. Quick top-offs, thanks to Turbo Power charging support, up to 15W.
Good, clean audio quality through the 3.5mm jack. A bit quiet, though.
A fine blend of vanilla Android and just the right amount of useful proprietary customizations
Good photo and video quality. Full-featured manual mode. LED selfie flash. EIS for video is a great little bonus and it works surprisingly well.
No notification LED and MotoDisplay isn’t quite like an always on display (not that it automatically renders the LED redundant)
The speaker is not particularly loud or clear. Audio output though the 3.5mm jack is also on the quiet side.
Some noticeable performance dips (skipped transition animation frames and micro-stutters) are observable even while just browsing the UI. Likely an optimization issue that should get fixed, since the Snapdragon 430 can drive a smoother experience.
Video capture is limited to 1080p@30fps.
The selfie fixed focus sweet spot is a bit distant, which resuts in the faces getting blurry at times.
Despite the few minor issues we found with the Moto G6 Play, it definitely won’t steer you wrong. It’s a dependable phone with a nice feature set. However, in this price range you can (and should!) get hardware that provides hiccup-free performance. So if you shop around a bit, there is more value to be had elsewhere. We hope Lenovo sorts things out with the Moto G6 Play performance, otherwise as things stand right now, it’s hard for it to get the recommendation it deserves.
If you recently bought a Moto G5 Plus at a discount, you should reinvest some of that money you saved on a case to keep it in tip-top condition. I’ve rounded up a wide variety of cases here —from heavy duty and rugged to slim and sleek — but I don’t think you can do much better than the exceptional Spigen Rugged Armor.
Spigen Rugged Armor
Spigen’s Rugged Armor lineup offers a great balance between style and functionality without adding a ton of bulk to your phone. This is one of the most popular cases in the world for a reason.
Striking the right balance between protection and thickness, the Ringke Fusion series is one of the most popular for a reason. Get the Moto G5 Plus version in one of three awesome colors: Smoke Black, Rose Gold Crystal, and Clear.
Tudia’s Merge Series may not be the most imaginative style in the world, but it’s dependable, affordable, and offers some distinctive color combos like the grey/green seen here. Get a protective case with personality like the Merge Series.
Supcase Unicorn Beetle Pro with Built-in Screen Protector
The Supcase Unicorn is thick and bulky for a reason: it’ll protect your Moto G5 Plus from anything life throws at you. It comes with a built-in screen protector, too, so you can protect that shiny metal back and shiny glass back in one complete package.
If you’re looking for a lightweight rugged case, Incipio’s NGP case is the right voice for you. It’s a no-fuss choice that provides considerable protection, specifically around the sides and back. The black is more reserved, but it also comes in hot pink.
If rugged protection is the name of the game for you, you’ll want to consider this Poetic Revolution case for the Moto G5 Plus. It offers full protection for your phone, including a front plate with a built-in screen protector that also adds water resistance to the mix.
These thin hardshell cases from ORNARTO may not offer as heavy-duty protection as Poetic Revolution, but it will protect that shiny metal finish from scratches while adding a bit of grip and a lot of color. I’m partial to this genie blue, but the green and red pop, too.
While the Moto G5 Plus may not have quite a much room for card carrying as other phones, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a cute folio case that can carry the essentials. Skip the purse and grab this slim magnetic folio in one of six colors instead.
Tudia’s carbon fiber Ultra Slim case is the perfect way to cover your Moto G5 Plus with minimal bulk. A stylish and inexpensive solution for not a lot of money, and it’s available in three colors to give you a choice beyond the Spigen Rugged Armor’s boring black.
The Moto G5 Plus is one excellent-looking all-metal budget phone, but that shiny metal finish is very easily scratched. While all of these choices are fantastic, I really love the Spigen Rugged Armor, which offers the best of all worlds of protection for your phone.
If you want a little more flair in your case, there are still great options out there like the clear-backed Ringke Fusion or the TUDIA Merge Series, which has some muted and bold color options. After all, life’s too short for boring tech, so get a case with some personality to it!