Say hello to the extra value meal of the smartphone world - a handset so cheap you could almost buy one with the change found down the back of the sofa.

The Moto E6 Play is officially the cheapest phone Motorola makes, and a refreshing change from the eye-wateringly expensive flagships currently doing the rounds. It'll set you back a mere £89, with promises of a stock version of Android and luxuries like fingerprint unlocking.

But is it the bargain it appears to be? Moto's own E6 Plus only costs a tenner more, and the entry-level is awash with Chinese imports threatening the status quo. Time to find out if you'd be better off saving those pennies a little while longer.

DESIGN & FEATURES: CHEAP, NOT TACKY

Lined up with the rest of Motorola's phone range, the E6 Play doesn't immediately scream "sub-£100" - it has a design in keeping with handsets more than three times its price, with a polished rear, front-filling screen and minimal branding.

Up front, the skinny 18:9 aspect ratio display makes it feel modern enough, although the chunky bezels around all four sides give the game away that this is a cheap phone. Naturally the whole thing is made from plastic, and that mirror-like finish on the back is a real magnet for fingerprints, but the handy clear plastic case included in the box should help it stay looking clean. The whole thing does at least feel fairly solid for what is a mostly plastic handset, too.

There's a single camera on the back, even if Motorola has tried to make it look like two with some clever placement of the flash, and the logo is built into the fingerprint sensor, giving the phone a rather sleek appearance. It's very accurate and quick to skip the lock screen.

It doesn't have the most extensive feature list, with no NFC for contactless payments, a microUSB port instead of the newer USB-C, and no water-resistance to speak of.

DISPLAY & SOUND: MEETS THE GRADE

At 5.5in and with a 720p-and-a-bit resolution, the E6 Play's LCD screen is decent enough for a sub-£100 phone. You'll only spot individual pixels with your nose pressed up to the display, viewing angles are surprisingly good and decent contrast gives images a pleasant visual punch.

Colour accuracy isn't all that great, with images taking on a noticeable blue hue that can't really be tweaked away using the colour temperature slider buried in the display settings.

The bigger issue is brightness - there just isn't enough of it. Crank things up to the max and the screen will still sear your retinas when you're lying in bed, but head outside and even on cloudy days you can struggle to see what's onscreen. It's not a dealbreaker for what is otherwise an OK display, but slightly pricier rivals are a noticeable step up.

Sound is pumped out of the earpiece speaker, which can get surprisingly loud, but it's also rather shrill and unpleasant when you really crank things up. Better to reach for some headphones for anything other than web-based video clips.

PERFORMANCE: SLOW MOTION

Saying the E6 Play is a bit sluggish is putting things mildly. It has the dubious honor of being the slowest phone we've tested in quite some time. But then what did you expect from a £90 handset with an entry-level CPU that's been kicking around for over two years?

The Mediatek MT6739 might have four cores and tick along at 1.5GHz, but it struggles to run even basic apps smoothly. Simply typing can be an exercise in frustration, as the onscreen text lags behind as you tap the keys. 2GB of RAM is barely enough to keep Android feeling functional in 2020, too, so don't expect to be able to multitask without each app having to redraw as you swap between them. Step up to a little over £100 and the competition offers more than double the performance.

Gaming is a chore, with a lot of the apps we usually rely on for testing not even supported. In those that are, visual settings default to their lowest levels, and even then frame rates can tank to slideshow-like levels depending on what's happening onscreen. Stick to basic 2D titles and things improve, but load times are still particularly poor.

One of the few positives is storage: it might only come with a lowly 32GB of onboard memory, with a quarter of that already used up by the operating system, but a dedicated microSD card slot means you can add more, and still have the option of dual SIM cards.

BATTERY LIFE: IS THAT IT?

Given the treacle-like performance, you'd think the CPU wouldn't be all that power-hungry, but unfortunately the E6 Play can't last all that long away from the mains.

The 3000mAh battery is good from breakfast to bedtime, but only if you're sensible. Any amount of gaming, video streaming or snapping with the camera will make a big dent in your remaining charge, and could have you searching for a plug socket by mid-afternoon. Rivals that cost only £20 more can last much, much longer.

It's telling that the built-in battery saver can be set to kick in automatically at a whopping 75% charge - normally this would top out at a much lower figure. And when you do plug in, you're stuck with outdated microUSB charging.

OS & SOFTWARE: STOCK LOCK

An almost vanilla version of Android should be the E6 Play's saving grace, but even that isn't enough to make up for the dire performance. Animations are slow, and even trying to tap a web address into Chrome can mean waiting several seconds for the keyboard to appear.

At least it isn't bogged down with any bloatware, with Google's own apps doing all the heavy lifting, but even then the experience is marred by the slow performance. Waiting five seconds for the Play Store to load really highlights just how slow this phone is.

The normally-standard Motorola app isn't even compatible with the E6 Play, meaning no peek display for checking notifications without waking the phone, gesture controls or option for swapping from onscreen keys to swipe navigation.

It's running Android Pie, but don't go thinking an update to Android 10 will have any positive effects on performance - and with no confirmed release date, you could be waiting a while.

CAMERA: BEYOND BASIC

With a solitary 13MP sensor paired to an f/2.2 lens, the E6 Play should be capable of decent enough photos compared to other sub-£100 rivals. But even with realistic expectations, picture quality is disappointing.

Fed with enough light, daylight shots look detailed enough at first glance, but you don't need to look closely to spot the smudged details and lack of definition on textured surfaces or faces. It struggles with consistent exposure, with no auto-HDR to balance lights with shadows, and even when forced on manually it regularly blows out skies or crushes darker areas.

Low-light shots are even worse, with a real lack of clarity and sharpness as it struggles to find a focus point, and increases the shutter speed to a point that camera shake all but guarantees a blurry image. Noise levels made some shots all but unusable.

It's frustrating, as pictures look decent enough onscreen, with fairly vibrant colours - but only after a few seconds when they've resolved properly. Scrolling through a big album is nothing short of laborious.

Motorola Moto E6 Play image gallery

Motorola MOTO E6 PLAY VERDICT

Look, we get it. Not everyone can afford a flagship smartphone - and for a lot of people even the mid-range alternatives are out of reach. But given the huge number of superb budget handsets already available, there's just no reason to pick up a Moto E6 Play. It would be doing your wallet a disservice.

Performance is astonishingly slow, the camera is disappointingly basic, and battery life is sub-par as well. Even other sub-£100 rivals can claim to be faster. The only reason it doesn't score less is because it does work as advertised - just barely.

Find an extra £20 and you could pick up a Nokia 3.2, Xiaomi Redmi 7A or Motorola's own Moto G7 Play. You'll be glad you did.

Tech Specs 
SCREEN
5.5in, 1440x720 IPS LCD
CPU
Mediatek MT6739 quad-core
MEMORY
2GB RAM
CAMERA
13MP, f/2.2 rear w/ phase-detect autofocus, LED flash. 5MP, f/2.2 front
STORAGE
32GB on-board, microSD expansion
OPERATING SYSTEM
Android 9.0 Pie
BATTERY
3000mAh non-removable
DIMENSIONS
147x71x8.3mm, 140g
Stuff says... 

Motorola Moto E6 Play review

It costs very little, but the Moto E6 Play skimps in all areas to make it under £100
Good Stuff 
Stock version of Android
Cheap
Comes with a free case
Bad Stuff 
Terrible performance
Basic camera quality
Battery life sucks