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The new Moto G6 has two cameras on the back and a home button below the screen.

Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

Motorola wants to keep up its momentum for budget phones in a big way, with three new Moto G6 phones for 2018 in the Moto G6, Moto G6 Plus and G6 Play. There's also the even-more-budget Moto E5 Plus, Moto E5 Play and Moto E5.

Back to the Moto G6 phones, the most important thing to know is that there's no screen notch. OK, OK, that's not really the most important thing. But they do resist notch fever

If you learn one thing about these three devices, it's that the Moto G6 Plus hoards the highest-end specs, followed by the G6 and finally the G6 Play -- with the exception of one sleeper feature: The Moto G6 Play houses a 4,000-mAh battery. The Moto E5 Plus goes the extra mile with a 5,000-mAh battery.

The Moto G6 Plus and G6 have a fingerprint reader beneath the screen that can help you navigate one-handed and a USB-C port. The G6 Plus is the only one to support NFC. All three phones run on Android 8.0 Oreo, have an 8-megapixel front-facing camera, have a splash-resistant coating and -- gasp! -- a headphone jack. The Moto G6 Play uses the now-antiquated Micro-USB charger port. 

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Moto G6, G6 Play and G6 Plus pricing and sale date

The Moto G6 Plus is 299 euros, which converts to about $370, £260 or AU$475. The Moto G6 will cost $249 when it goes on sale globally in "late spring". That's about £175 or AU$320. Meanwhile the Moto G6 Play will sell for $199, roughly £140 or AU$255. 

Moto G6 Plus, Moto G6, Moto G6 Play prices

Motorola Moto G6 Plus (299 euros) Motorola Moto G6 Motorola Moto G6 Play
Converts to $370 $249 $199
Converts to £260 Converts to £175 Converts to £140
Converts to AU$475 Converts to AU$320 Converts to AU$256

The phones will sell through carriers and will also be available unlocked from Motorola's site in these regions:

  • Moto G6 Plus: Asia Pacific, Europe and Latin America
  • Moto G6: Brazil and Mexico, followed by Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America
  • Moto G6 Play: Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America

The Moto G6 and G6 Plus will work on all major US carrier networks.

Hands-on with the Moto G6

Both the Moto G6 and G6 Play adopt the trend of a 18:9 screen ratio, which means that the display is twice as tall as it is wide. That makes it comfier to hold with one hand, and it helps keep the device from looking or feeling too hulking.

That updated shape helps Motorola succeed in making this year's Moto G ($449 at Amazon) phones sleeker, and the Moto G6's curved backing adds some style to keep it feeling fresh. The devices have pretty slim bezels on the sides, but there's a noticeable "chin" beneath the screen.

In our short time with the device, we especially liked turning the fingerprint sensor (which otherwise isn't really a home button) into a tiny thumb pad for navigating the screen through swipes and long holds. This is a carry-over feature from previous Moto G phones that you get on the Moto G6, but not the G6 Play.

The Moto G6 is also home to dual 12-megapixel and 5-megapixel camera setup with features that the Moto G6 Play doesn't have, like:

  • Portrait mode and selective focus: Adjust blur before or after you take a photo
  • Selective color that turns the rest of the image black and white
  • Timelapse video (there's also slow motion, too)
  • Face filters for the front-facing camera
  • Active photos: Creates a short video when you take a picture (like the iPhone ($900 at Boost Mobile)'s Live Photo). This is works with Google Photos, the Moto G6's native gallery app
  • Smart Camera can surface information about a landmark or scan text, similar to Google Lens or Bixby Vision on the Samsung Galaxy S9 ($254 at Amazon) and others

The Moto G6 can take time lapse videos.

Sarah Tew/CNET

While we snapped a few photos during our demo, we didn't have enough time with the camera to know how accurate portrait mode is, how clear the shots, and how good the face filters, but the still shots we took looked promising.

The Moto G6 also has face unlock, which uses a 2D photo of your face to quickly unlock the phone. This is a trend you're seeing on a lot of Android phones, and it's one we largely ignore because it's less secure than a fingerprint, pattern or pin, for example. Only Apple's iPhone X and select Samsung Galaxy phones like the Galaxy S9 have face unlock tools that are secure enough for mobile payments.

Lastly, you can scan your notifications by hovering over an alert, and use long-time Motorola gestures, such as the "chop chop" motion that turns on the flashlight. Twist your wrist to launch the camera.

Moto G6 Play hands-on

The Moto G6 Play looks fairly similar to the G6 at first glance, but you'll notice that the Moto G6 Play is taller, with a big chin below the screen and a fingerprint sensor that's moved to the back.

Screen resolution is obviously poorer when you hold the phones side by side, despite both having the same 5.7-inch display measurement. There's also a single 13-megapixel camera on the back, rather than doubled-up sensors.

Still, it's that 4,000-mAh battery with a promised 36 hours of use on a single charge that will draw people to the Moto G6 Play. That and the lower price tag, of course. 

Moto G6 Plus one-ups them all

We didn't get a chance to see the Moto G6 Plus in the flesh, but we know a bit about it. Like that it's the only one of the bunch with NFC support. Like the Moto G6, the G6 Plus, too, has a USB-C charger port and a fingerprint scanner on the front that can handle one-hand navigation.

It's got a 5.9-inch screen, dual cameras, 64GB of storage and the fastest processor of the group.

Motorola Moto G6 versus Moto G6 Play

Motorola Moto G6 Plus Motorola Moto G6 Motorola Moto G6 Play
Display size, resolution 5.9-inch LCD; 2,160x1,080 pixels (18:9 screen ratio) 5.7-inch LCD; 2,160x1,080 pixels (18:9 screen ratio) 5.7-inch LCD; 1,440x720 pixels (18:9 screen ratio)
Pixel density 409ppi 424ppi 282ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.3x3x0.3 in 6.1x2.8x0.3 in 5.1x2.8x0.4 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 160x75.5x8 mm 153.8x72.3x8.3 mm 154.4x72.2x9 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.9 oz, 167g 5.9 oz; 167g 6.2 oz; 175g
Mobile software Android 8.0 Oreo Android 8.0 Oreo Android 8.0 Oreo
Camera 12-megapixel and 5-megapixel (f1.7) 12-megapixel and 5-megapixel (f1.8) 13-megapixel (f2.0)
Front-facing camera 8-megapixel (16-megapixel with low light mode for Asia) 8-megapixel 8-megapixel
Video capture 4K 1080p 1080p
Processor 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 1.8 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 1.4GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 427
Storage 64GB 32GB/64GB 16GB/32GB
RAM 4GB or 6GB (varies) 3GB or 4 GB (varies) 2GB or 3GB (varies)
Expandable storage 128GB 128GB 128GB
Battery 3,200 mAh 3,000 mAh 4,000 mAh
Fingerprint sensor Below screen Below screen Back
Connector USB-C USB-C Micro-USB
Headphone jack Yes Yes Yes
Special features NFC, splash-proof, time lapse video, Turbo Charger Splash-proof, time lapse video, 15-watt fast charger Splash-proof, 10-watt fast charger
Price off-contract (USD) Converts to $370 $249 $199
Price (GBP) Converts to £260 Converts to £175 Converts to £140
Price (AUD) Converts to AU$475 Converts to $320 Converts to £255