LG G6 vs Moto Z2 play – two very different devices, that I want to merge into one.

Several months back, I started looking at phones to replace my Microsoft Lumia 950. I feel like on the budget I had my journey had ended, for now, with a choice of two excellent phones. The LG G6 and the Moto Z2 Play. They both feature USB C charging, Qi Wireless charging, NFC, and some form of glance/ambient display and run Android 8.0. Yet I like them for different reasons and the contrast between the devices on many features is stark. So in this post I will compare a few of the differences, and LG and Motorola are different in pretty much every key area.

Moto Z2 PlayLG G6
Back materialMetalGlass
Aspect ratio16:918:9
Screen technologyAMOLEDLCD
Always on displayNoYes
Fingerprint sensorFrontBack
Headphone jackBottomTop
SpeakerEarpieceBottom edge
Volume keysRight SideLeft Side
CustomizationsLightHeavy
Theming
(i.e can get dark/black mode)
NoYes

So while the LG is a “flag ship” and the Motorola is a “mid range” device, those personal preferences about how the phone controls are positioned, screen tech and size might well make that the phone for you. That said, for me I like a phone that’s smaller (LG) with AMOLED (Moto), the ability to have a dark theme (LG) and a front fingerprint sensor (Moto). So it get’s a little more complex. So here’s an in-depth comparison of these 2017 devices for me, coming from Windows 10 Mobile, in 2018/2019.

Hardware

Overall Size and layout

The LG G6 and Moto Z2 Play represent different aspirations here. The Moto Z line with its modular mods was created when the way to get a lot of screen in the phone was simply to have a big 16:9 screen. The LG G6 came out at the start of the move to taller, thinner screens, and so it’s 5.7″ 2:1 (or 18:9) screen comes in a smaller package than the 5.5″ 16:9 display on the Moto Z2 Play. Another thing to impact the size is LG’s decision to use a rear fingerprint sensor, where as Motorola’s is on the front below the screen, and above the screen Motorola balances this by adding the “moto” logo between the screen and earpiece. Both phones have nicely curved corners, but the LG G6 has smaller bezels on all sides of the screen and this makes the LG much easier to hold overall, even though the Z2 Play is almost 2mm thinner (except at the camera hump).

The volume and power buttons on the Motorola are on the right, where as on the G6, they show, somewhat unusually (for me anyway) on the left. The fingerprint sensor on the G6 is on the back but on the front of the Z2 play (more on this in a bit). The top of the Z2 play has a sim card slot which is a little awkward to use, especially compared to the tray on the right side of the LG. The top of the LG has the headphone jack, which is on the bottom of the Z2 PLay. The LG is IP68 certified as waterproof, dustproof and shock proof. The Moto Z2 play is splash proof. 

I do enjoy using the larger screen at times but overall, the G6 is that much easier to hold that for me, even though the next topic might mean you need to use the G6 in a case or with a skin. That IP68 rating also opens up options for using in water, which is nice. LG wins here. The Z2 play is just too big for me.

Materials

Both phones have an all glass front, slightly curved towards the edges, and a metal band around the sides. The backs are different though with LG choosing a curved glass back vs Motorola’s flat metal one. The back of the Motorola also has the contacts for Moto mods, a significant camera hump and a Motorola logo, compared to the LG which has dual recessed cameras (behind a different pieces of glass). Overall, the Z2 play seems more sturdy and I would think that while I find the back of the Silver version of the LG G6 to be particularly attractive, you would want to use the G6 in a skin or a case – in fact I’ve already broken the glass around the camera on one of My G6’s – thankfully it was easy to find replacement glass on Amazon and directions on YouTube.  I know the glass back helps Qi charging but I don’t enjoy using phones in a case and feel that you need one, or a skin, for the G6. Speaking of Qi, there are at least moto mods that can enable this for the metal backed Z2 Play. Moto Z2 Play Wins.

Screen and Always on Display

One of the things I have really enjoyed about my Windows phone (and Meego and Symbian before that) devices was the always on display and both of these phone have built in features to satisfy that need. However, the display technologies are a big influence here and while I have used the Lumia 830 with Glance turned on, I didn’t use the option for ity to be on all the time on that LCD phone, and worried about it’s impact on battery life in a way I didn’t for the Nokia N8, Lumia 925, and 950 for example, which have AMOLED screens.

The LG G6 has a gorgeous 1440 x 2880 display – that’s an insane amount of pixels to me but it really does look great. However, it’s and LCD and so the colors pop a little more on the AMOLED 1080 x1920 display of the Moto Z2 play. This also makes the Moto Z2 Play perfect for an always on display.

Ambient display

However, it’s LG that has provided a built in always on display setting, and not Motorola. It’s fairly basic and has very few options but an display the time, date, battery percentage and notification icons. When new alerts come in, the display shows just the icon for the app associated with that alert for a few seconds and then back to normal. You have a few options for the way the time is displayed, You can set a timer so it only shows during certain hours – I set mine to be off overnight when I’m expecting to be asleep. It’s basic, and the icon sizer are a little small, but it works, and doesn’t seem to consume much battery life. Well done LG.

Motorola provides Moto Display which also shows the date, battery life, time and notifications. It also allows you to interact with those notifications, pressing for more info, such as to see the content of an incoming text, and the ability to reply to some without unlocking the phone. You can also dismiss notifications. The icons and fonts are a good size too and it all looks very good and works well, with one caveat. It’s not an always on display and there is no option in Moto Display for it to be so. It fades in when you pick it up or wave our hand over it, and for a few seconds after a notification is received. It’s very good, but I do wish there was an option for always on (excluding when the phones in your pocket, and I do like LG’s option of turning it off during certain hours),

There are several Always on display apps in the store and so I have been using Glance Plus with the Moto Z2 play which does all the things Moto Display can do and more, including providing an always on option. However, I am more concerned that 3rd party apps for this sort of thing will drain more battery life than built on ones and so I haven’t yet gone there with the LG G6.

Moto Z2 play wins, pretty much for choosing an AMOLED screen which provides confidence in trying always on display apps from the store in addition to their own very-good-but-not-always-on Moto Display app.

Fingerprint sensor, plus a bit on navigation.

LG has placed a slightly small, fast and easy to reach fingerprint sensor on the back about a centimeter below the phone’s camera. It doubles as a power button and does the job well for unlocking the phone quickly with a touch, locking with a short press and powering on or off with a long press.

Motorola has a front fingerprint sensor below the screen which works well most of the time but I fond did get dirty more easily that that on the G6, and so had more cases where my touch wasn’t registered. It can also be used to lock the screen with a press and hold. However, Moto Actions enables the use of the fingerprint sensor for swipe navigation. This means swiping right across it to go back, and left across it to go to your open apps, and a tap to go home. This allows the on-screen navigation controls to be hidden and the whole 16:9 screen to be used for content, which I liked and works well most of the time as long as you remember to make a definitive action and your swipes reach the edge of the sensor area.

LG does have a way to remove the navigation icons and to change them but it means an extra action to bring them back to then do some navigation and isn’t nearly as convenient.

Moto Z2 play wins as front facing sensors are easier to use if the phone is on a table or wireless charger, and the added navigation controls are a useful benefit.

Camera

Motorola put a 12 MP, F1.7 aperture  camera with Laser and phase detection autofocus in the back of the Mot Z2 play. It’s a perfectly decent camera, and an Improvement over the camera on  Moto Z play. Up front is a 5Mp wide angle camera with Flash and support for HDR, again, perfectly decent, and with the front flash, better than many. However, the Moto Z2 play is a mid-range device and this is one of the areas where it shows. The camera software, I think, is the Android stock camera app, which is also perfectly ok.

The LG G6 was made as a high end device, to made to improve on the camera in the G5 and supposed to compete with the Samsung Galaxy S8. And so it’s very good and very versatile and LG wins this section easily. The rear camera setup has two 13MP cameras, a main camera with F1.8 aperture and Optical Image Stabilization, and a second camera with a 2.4 aperture and a wide angle lens. These camera are both very good and using the zoom function in LG’s camera app can end up switching between them. The front facing camera is also a wide angle lens with flash and does a good enough job there too. Both phones can do up to $K video recording, but the OIS on the LG makes a big difference for camera shake and the high definition mics record clear audio.

Sound

The Moto Z2 play and LG G6 split in the audio department in a few key ways: Do you prefer your 3.5mm jack to be at the top or at the bottom? If top, LG G6. Do you prefer a dedicated speaker or just the earpiece turned up loud, if so, LG, do you want a built in equalizer when using headphones or bluetooth? If so, Moto (The LG g6 plus and European LG G6 which have a quad dac might have this, but the US one does not). But away from that there are a few important things to realize. The Moto Z2 play earpiece turned up loud does sound quite good in practice and is tuned to  provide more bass by default (although this really kicks in when connecting to external devices). It’s nice to have equalizer options if you want a more nature sound (and you may well do when connecting to external devices), but the default is loud, clear, punchy and overall, I quite like it, although the volume is such that even on the first click above muted, it can be too loud for night time listening while going to sleep. However, using the built in speaker was better than using lower end external speakers.

The LG’s dedicated, bottom firing, speaker is quieter, but clear and probably more natural. You will want to connect it to an external speaker if you want the sound to really fill the room, and as there is no equalizer, you will be relying on the speaker or headphones to provide tone differences unless you download a 3rd party equalizer app, like Equalizer FX.

Overall though, out of the box, the Moto Z2 Play sounds better.

Battery life and charging

The LG G6 has a slightly larger battery, built in Qi wireless charging and Quick charge 3.0 via it’s USB type C connector. Game over, right? Well, the Moto Z2 play actually has better battery life as it’s screen and processor use less energy to run, has wireless charging via a Moto Mod (this add’s 2-3 mm to the phones thickness but actually, that’s not too bad as the device was pretty thin to begin with), and also has QuickCharge technology. Plus, battery saver can be set to turn on automatically at a given percent remaining, but for some reason LG removed this with the Oreo update so you get prompted to turn it on but still have to do this manually. How annoying. 

Calling it a tie – That battery saver thing is mystifying, but built in Qi charging is better than needing a $20-$40 accessory.

Performance

The LG G6 is a high end device and should win this, and honestly it does. It’s got a faster processor and GPU and it shows in general use and gaming. The MOto Z2 play is no slouch and is plenty fast most of the time, the G6 is just a bit better, especially in gaming where I have seen the Moto Z2 play struggle at times (Goal celebrations on Dream League Soccer 2019, for example).

LG G6 wins.

Software

So that’s all hardware differences out of the way. Motorola and LG have very different approach on the software front too – Motorola more minimalist and LG more heavy. Maybe if you are looking for a close to stock experience this already screams Motorola Z2 play as the better device here, but is the G6 all that bad?

Home screen, skins and theming

Motorola have gone for a near stock experience for their home screen and have very few menu customizations. It works great and if you are coming form other Android devices, you will find your way around very quickly. This also means you had better like white backgrounds on menus as there is no theming available. WHat I haven’t yet figured out is how the background for the phone dialer got to be bright red, and the contacts app blue. Ah well.

LG have made several changes, providing 3 versions of the home screen (including one with out a app drawer and one without a dock), their own home screen info pane for calendar items, music and smart settings (more on those in a minute), and have 2 layout options for the settings menu (flat or tabbed). Personally, I don’t mind the home screen option with the dock and app drawer, and I like the tabbed settings view with headers of Network, Sound, Display, General and the only thing I’m not sure about there is the order those tabs appear in.

LG’s skin also supports theming and there are 5 themes built in, as well as the option to download more. These themes cover the look and feel of most of the system screens and menus and so if you like the High Contrast theme, it can really feel like you now have a dark theme option tuned on, especially if you theme your keyboard to match (I use SwiftKey and have done this) – sadly, you can’t adjust the forground colors separately, so orange text it is, but I liked it and ran that way for a while, before diving into the the store and settling on a White on teal them (Whale).

This is strong personal preference and I know purists will hate this, but while I prefer Motorolas home screen, I, like many others will install a new launcher anyway, and broadly I like LG’s changes to the menu’s, and the ability to theme it adding an increased level of customization that’s supposed to be part of the point of Android, isn’t it? When Google finally figures out what it needs to do to enable system level dark theme’s, maybe Motorola would get the nod here, but until them Windows Phone FTW! (sorry, I mean, LG).

Built in apps and tools and other settings

So what changes have Motorola actually made? When a few very useful ones via their Moto app, which come under the feature of Moto Actions, Moto Display, and Moto Voice. To be fair, Moto voice isn’t that interesting, though if we didn’t have Android Auto it would provide a hand’s free voice interface for use when driving. Moto Display is the almost excellent not-quite-always-on-display which I mentioned earlier. Moto Actions provides the ability to use the fingerprint sensor for navigation freeing up the screen, and gestures like a twist to launch the camera, a double shake to turn on the flashlight, and some other gestures too. These work well and are the customizations  I missed most when using the LG G6. 

The LG G6 has a longer list of add-on’s. LG Mobile switch is to help set up your G6 from an different LG device, LG Health provides step counters, location tracking and notifications encouraging you to walk more if you haven’t made your targeted number of steps. Less usefully, smart capture allows you to take and annotate screenshots and share them which is OK but I’m not sure that it’s necessary to have their own app for this, LG’s “Music” player crashed on me and I haven’t really been able to see it getting much use, and LG friends manager feels like something they forgot to remove when moving from the G5.

In settings LG has shortcut keys which amount to double tapping the volume up ro volume down key when the screen is locked, but these shortcuts are locked down to Camera (useful) and Smart Capture (also known as Capture+ and not useful). There is the ability to customize the navigation buttons to change the order of them or to include Capture+ or something called QSlide which allows you to quickly move between up to 8 apps. Smart Settings allows you to set the phone to take some actions on your behalf when you come and go from home, or connect wired or wireless headphones although the options are a little limited. There are also options for display scaling given the 18:9 aspect ratio, and more.

Most things are welcome though not as useful as Motorola’s Moto actions and some things are a bit pointless. 

A tie perhaps.

Updates and the future

So these are 2017 devices but both LG and Motorola have said they will get Android 9 (Pie). LG has not been great for updates over the years and Motorola has been better but at the moment there isn’t any timing info available. As for the current state, both devices run Android 8.0, with fairly recent security patches depending on your variant.

A tie.

Conclusion

My first conclusion is these are both great devices to pick up on the secondary market where you can find both for less than $200, at least in the USA. Compared to newer devices at that price and I bet they would both fair well, especially if you are looking for features like Wireless charging and (almost) always on displays as apart of the package. Many users will be very happy with either one.

At a simplistic level both phones won 4 categories (not a fix, I promise you, I added this up for the first time just now). It’s fair to say however, that as a high end device the LG won in two categories it should – Camera and performance. Motorola edged the other, like the finger print sensor, and display, but LG wasn’t far behind. 

As a Windows phone fan, one of the things I loved was the always on display and I wish LG had used an AMOLED display on the G6, or added more customization here. But then I also value Qi charging, and the ability to customize, and of course, a great camera. Can I not just merge these two into one amazing device (still under $200 mind you)?

For me, Motorola are to be commended on creating an excellent device and the Moto Z and Z play lines, with their Moto Mods should be highly recommended. However, I think they are still just a bit too big, and the size, feel, waterproofing and camera on the LG G6 make that the winner for me – just. Now, to get a skin for it.

 

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