I switched to this $150 Motorola cellphone for 2 weeks, and it went surprisingly nicely

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

ZDNET’s key takeaways

  • The 2024 Moto G Play is available now for $150, and it’s looking to be one of the better budget phones available.
  • The phone is affordable, attractive, and feels good in the hand, with useful Motorola software features and long battery life.
  • Performance and camera quality at this price point will be limited, and I wish it had 5G support.

I use my smartphone regularly to get work done and stay connected with my loved ones. Thus, my return on investment for purchasing flagships is often easily justified and realized. However, there are millions of people buying their first phone or looking for a less expensive phone as a backup or emergency device, and I like to keep that in mind whenever I review handsets on the opposite end of the budget spectrum.

Also: The best budget phone I’ve tested in 2024 is not from Google or Samsung

Motorola has a slew of phones available for buyers and its Play series offers some of the best value at low prices. I had my T-Mobile SIM in the 2024 Moto G Play for a couple of weeks, and, to my surprise, this $150 phone has been able to provide an enjoyable experience for communication, entertainment, social media, and more.

View at Motorola

For starters, don’t expect this phone to run intensive games without a frame drop, keep several apps up and running while you bounce between them, or connect via 5G for flawless video streaming. Such features are a rarity in this price range, and shoppers should keep that in mind with the Play.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

That’s why it impresses me how the phone feels amazing in the hand, with a matte finish and acrylic construction that looks fantastic in the sapphire blue variant I received. The lovely curves that transition from the back panel around the rear camera and flash is a look I would love to see on a flagship phone. Motorola’s standard water-repellent design elements are present, along with a 3.5mm standard audio jack on top.

The 6.5-inch LCD has a 1600 x 720 pixels resolution with a 90Hz refresh rate and it has been great for watching video content. I’ve also found the 5,000mAh battery to provide long enough battery life when combined with Qualcomm’s power-sipping Snapdragon 680 processor. I charged the phone every two to three days in the past few weeks of testing, which is perfect for anyone who wants a device that can keep them connected to the internet for as long as possible.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

To offer a phone at a low $150 price point, there must be compromises made to save money. For example, there is no 5G modem in the 2024 Moto G Play, and the 4GB of RAM is going to limit how many apps you can open and run simultaneously without experiencing a stutter here and there. I’m less bothered by the 64GB of internal storage, which can be expanded with the built-in MicroSD card slot.

Also: I wore Motorola’s bendable smartphone-watch hybrid, and it left me all kinds of confused

The biggest compromise that I experienced was the camera quality. The 50MP sensor lets you capture decent photos in good lighting, but images may appear oversharpened, with a lack of saturation.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Motorola offers my favorite software across phones because it offers a fairly stock Android experience with unique customizations. The Moto experience includes useful gestures like doing a chop motion to turn on the flashlight, security features, display enhancements, and even gaming optimizations. I highly recommend spending the time to go through the Moto as it will help you enjoy the phone and use it to its fullest.

Also: The most affordable folding phone I’ve tested is on sale for just $499 right now

The 2024 Moto G Play launches with Android 13, but given the $150 price point, you will likely see just a single update to Android 14 and limited security updates. The Moto customizations and current operating system make this a solid phone as long as you have limited expectations and appreciate what it does for the price.

ZDNET’s buying advice

One of my primary phones is the OnePlus Open, but I will never take the $1,699 foldable with me when I run, ride my bike, or head to the beach. In situations like those, a backup like the 2024 Moto G Play is perfect for maintaining communications while having a battery that easily gets me through a full day. The Moto G Play isn’t going to blow anyone away with its performance, but it feels good in the hand, offers handy Moto customizations, and serves as a solid budget device.

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