Motorola g9 Play – a lot of phone for $299

Motorola g9 Play

The Motorola g9 Play offers a serious kit for $299 – a 5000mAh battery, fast charge, dual sim, Wi-Fi AC/BT 5.0/NFC and a 48MP triple rear camera.

The Motorola g9 Play is the first of the new g-9 series that generally includes Power, Power Lite, Plus, and the g9. There will also be a 5G, and maybe the Moto g Pro stylus will get here. To say Moto is covering all bases is an understatement.

Although we have to be realistic about how many models it brings here. Australians will buy about 7 million handsets this year (down from 8 million in 2019), and at least 85% will be below $600. You can read our latest market share report here.

Anyway, Motorola, or Moto as we affectionately call it is in a massive resurgence in Australia. Its new 5G Edge is a great phone, it has a new 5G Razr coming, and the new g9-series has a few tricks up its sleeve to beat the competition. As always the Motorola g-series is a safe buy, especially for business owners.

Australian review: Motorola g9 Play Model XT-2083-3 ‘Retapac’ software

  • Australian Website: Not yet. The Europe site is here.
  • Manual and basic specs (it is a PDF – check downloads)
  • Price: $299
  • Elevator Pitch: Moto is out to own the $299 segment
  • From 7 October: Sapphire Blue – JB Hi-Fi, The Good Guys, Officeworks, Big W, and the Motorola online store. Spring Pink – JB Hi-Fi, The Good Guys and the Motorola online store.
  • Warranty: 1-year ACL warranty
  •  Country of Manufacture: China
  • Lenovo (Est 1984) is a multinational technology company with its main operational headquarters in Beijing and Morrisville, North Carolina. It is the world’s largest PC maker. It purchased Motorola Mobility from Google in 2014. Most of Lenovo’s smartphone business is now under the Motorola brand, and it has grand plans to become a ‘top five’ smartphone maker.

This is a review against parameters you can expect in a $299 device. We use FAIL, PASS and EXCEED against more than 70 test paradigms to arrive at a rating.

First impression – EXCEED

  • Sapphire Blue is quite nice. Glad Moto did not send Spring Pink!
  • The 48MP tri-camera is in the ballpark
  • Nice size – a little chunkier than some especially with the TPU bumper cover on
  • Fine for one-handed operation
  • 6.5″ screen is good
  • Love the reliable rear fingerprint reader
  • USB-C and 20W charger
  • Battery life – amazing
  • 3.5mm jack
  • No BS website – just the facts

I have only used it for a week – it does all you should expect in reliable Moto style

Motorola g9 Play

Screen – PASS

Size6.5″ centre teardrop IPS TFT LCD
Curved waterfall style with an edge screen
Resolution1600×720, 60Hz
PPI/Ratio269ppi, 87% STBR
Colour GamutNatural, Boosted and Saturated.
Test: 84% sRGB bosted to 90%
Delta E >8 – no calibration expected at this price.
NitsTest:  Approx 300 typ and 375 max
Brightness1500:1 typ and 1800:1 Max
Viewing angle
Approx 135° H/V
DRMWidevine L1 HDCP 2.3 – should stream Netflix in HD
ProtectionNot stated but unlikely

Screen summary: It is as good as you can expect for$299.

Processor – PASS

SoCQualcomm SD662 11nm
4x2GHz and 4×1.8GHz
GPUAdreno 610
Supports Open CL 3.2, Vulcan 1.1 Decode HEVC, VP9 Supports 3rd gen AI for camera Compute Open CL: 3711
Game use: most games on low to medium settings
Storage64 eMMC (44GB free)
499/190Mbps sequential read/write
micro-SDUp to 512GB
GeekBench 5Single 315
Multi 1402
Roughly equal to a 2017 Samsung Galaxy Note 8 or Samsung A51
15-minute test
Max: 146,800GIPS, Average: 122,137GIPS – 26% loss over 15 minutes
CPU temp reached 97°
This is not unusual for a $299 phone – it simply means that gamers will not use it
Motorola g9 Play
This is acceptable for normal use

It’s a 2020 chipset (good) and surpasses the SD665 for Wi-Fi 6, BT 5.0 and better camera AI – ISP and DSP.

Comms – PASS

Wi-FiWi-Fi 4 N, 2.4 and 5Ghz, 1×1
Signal Strength 5Ghz – distance from ASUS AX1100 router
– 2m:  -35dBm/433Mbps (good/fair)
– 5m: AX1000 router -62dBm/175Mbps (good/fair)
– 10m: Unusable
BluetoothBT 5.0 – A2DP, LE, aptX/HD, SBC, AAC, LDAC
Super Bluetooth 4 devices – see sound tests later
Single-band 10m accuracy fine for turn-by-turn navigation
NFCGoogle PayWave and peer-to-peer – not Mag Stripe
SensorsLSM6DSO is a lower-cost combined sensor –  Accelerometer, Gyroscope, pedometer, and tilt detection. eCompass
Ambient Light sensor
Proximity sensor

Has NFC as well as Wi-Fi AC and BT 5.0 – tick!


SIMDual hybrid with microSD (one active at a time)
Ring toneSingle
SupportVoLTE – carrier dependent – generally yes
Wi-Fi calling – Yes
UL (Mbps)Test: 23Mbps
DL (Mbps)Test: 55Mbps
BandNot specified (yet) but includes band 28
Test-101dBm in a 3-bar reception area (average)
Did not find the next tower

Reception is average – it is more of a city/suburbs phone. We surmise that the signal strength is commensurate with a shared Wi-Fi/RF antenna design.

It has all bands necessary for Australia. It does not have enough LTE bands for global 4G roaming where it will mainly fall back to 3G.

Battery – PASS+

Battery mAh5000 (rated)
ChargerComes with 5V/3A, 10V/2A and 12V/1.67A (20W) QC 3.0 compatible
Specs say 15W charging capable*
30% – 30 minutes
01-00% – 2.5 hours
TestsVideo Loop test: 1080p/50%/aeroplane mode – 17 hours
Typical use 4G, Wi-Fi Test: 13 hours
MP3 music test: 50% volume played from storage – 80 hours
100% load Battery drain – 5.5.hours
T-Rex – 429.9 (7.13 hours) 2802 frames
Drain screen off: 300mAh (about 30+ days)

* This explains why 20W fast charge should be much faster – but its well ahead of standard 5V/3A charging.

After a week of use, we confirm that this is a 2-day device.

Sound – PASS

SpeakersMono earpiece and down-firing speaker*
Has an EQ to alter frequency response but makes little difference to a mono speaker.
AMPQualcomm Aqstic amp and codecs
BT 5.0 SBC, AAC, aptx
MicDual with noise cancellation
Tests dBMedia 80
Ring 82
Alarm 82
Earpiece – 52
RadioYes if you use ‘cabled’ buds for an antenna

* It is not fair to measure the sound signature on a mono speaker system. The primary use is for clear voice. It is not for music or movies with no bass or mids before 1000Hz and no treble after 10kHz.

It is reasonably loud all around and with the dual mics makes for a good handsfree speakerphone.

The review unit came with a set of Motorola MotoBuds SH067. Note that these are not the Motorola VerveBuds True Wireless series.

 If these are part of the final offer, they are a great bonus. Unfortunately, we discovered this in the box after the review completion. We tracked these down via an FCC ID. They are

  • BT 5.0
  • 50mAh battery per ear and 155mAh in the USB-C charge case
  • We expect that battery life will be about three hours plus three case recharges

BT output to our reference Sony WH-1000XM3 (M4 review soon) on SBC and AAC is loud and clear – more than CD quality.

Build – PASS

Size165.21 x 75.73 x 9.18 mm x 200g
BuildGass – no pre-fitted protector
Plastic Frame
Paint deposition plastic back – unibody design
IPNone but claims water repellent design
CoverTPU bumper cover provided

It appears solidly built – it is 20-30g heavier the most (that’s all battery muscle) with good screen-to-chassis fit. It is slippery, so use the TPU cover and find a tempered glass protector.

Android 10 – PASS+

AndroidPure Google Android 10 – Apparently Android 11 is coming
Security patch 1 July 2020
Note that security updates handled by Google in Android 11
UIMyUX is a light overlay over Android to offer Motorola Actions and features
Moto GesturesGestures: Quick capture, Fast torch, Three-finger screenshot, Screenshot editor, Flip for DND, Pick up to silence, Media controls, Lift to unlock
GoogleAll standard apps, Google Lens and Assistant. Dedicated Google Assistant key.
Update PolicyAssume one OS update. Security patches should come

Motorola has snuck in MyUX, and for the most part, it leaves Android alone. We expect to see this get Android 11 and Google will take over security updates from then.

Motorola G9 Play camera – PASS

Despite the tri-camera claim, it is really a 48MP binned to 12MP that does all the work.

We really question why it needs a 2MP macro when that real-estate could use an ultra-wide or wide-angle lens.

We know the Samsung S5KGM1 sensor well, and it’s a great day/office light camera. It struggles with low light. The images were all, in my opinion, a little soft (yes, I cleaned the lenses). I suspect that it was an engineering sample, and firmware will address that.

The selfie has accurate colours and skin tones that don’t make you look like a boiled lobster.

 Camera 48MP Primary
12MP binned
Selfie 8MP
SensorSamsung S5KGM1OV02b10OV02b16S5K4H7
Aperture f-stop1.
Pixel size um.8 (bins to 1.6)1.7521.751.12
FOV° and cropped(68.4)   
StabilisationNo – some basic EIS from GPU   
FlashSinge LED  
Video1080p@60/30fps  1080p@30fps
AIAuto smile capture
Smart composition
Shot Optimisation
Night Vision
AR stickers
Active photos, Google Lens

  Auto smile capture
Portrait mode
Face beauty
Spot Colour
Group selfie
Gesture Selfie
Motorola g9 Play
1X decent colours but details are a little soft
Motorola g9 Play
2X – ditto
Motorola g9 Play
8X – softness spoils what should be a good shot
Motorola g9 Play
Decent macro with detail – colours are a little off
This is not a low light camera
Night mode – introduces way too much noise

GadgetGuy’s take – The Motorola g9 Play is a low-cost phone that meets or exceeds our expectations. What more could you want?

At $299 it competes with OPPO A52 64GB (4.8/5), vivo Y30 64GB, Nokia 5.3 (4.3/5 $349) and Mintt X5 (4.4/5). You could not go wrong with any of these.

Moto offers terrific Australian support, low failure rates, almost pure Android, and the g-series are Android Enterprise recommended.


It meets or exceeds every test parameter for a $299 phone. That earns it the base 4/5. But all a Qualcomm SD662, 4/64GB/micro-SD, Wi-Fi AC, BT 5.0 and NFC and we start talking some additional points.

Value for money
Ease of Use
Reader Rating20 Votes
Well built, well supported
Close to pure Android
Excellent battery but not so fast charge
Screen brightness not enough for direct sunlight use
Needs an ultra-wide lens
Low light pushes the camera too hard
Occasional processor lag