The cheaper end of the smartphone market is increasingly cluttered, but Motorola's latest effort, the Moto G31, is keen to make a mark among the best cheap phones. It doesn't entirely succeed thanks to being respectable if unremarkable, but it's certainly cheap at $200/£170 (around AU$280).
As it lacks 5G it's a complete miss for anyone looking for a budget 5G phone, and there are definitely similar offerings that provide that. But if you're not too fussed about 5G, you could do a lot worse than the Moto G31.
That's aided by the fact that the Moto G31 offers a relatively clean Android experience. Besides the use of Moto gestures, it's a fairly pure form of Android 11, which is certainly appreciated.
Elsewhere, a competent if unremarkable set of cameras means you'll gain reasonably sharp images even if the color is a little off. Don't count on a great macro lens here, but its wide and ultra-wide lenses are suitably effective, with HDR doing its best.
The Moto G31 is available in either baby blue or mineral gray colors. It's the build of the phone that will likely delight you most though. Offering curved edges and a textured rear, it feels good to hold and suitably secure in our hands too.
The phone's 6.4-inch AMOLED display looks bright and vibrant most of the time, even if it misses out on having a refresh rate any higher than 60Hz. The rest of the build is fairly standard, with volume, power, and a fingerprint reader all on the right edge of the phone.
A 5,000mAh battery also proves useful, as it's reasonably long-lasting, but don't count on speedy charging. We found the phone to be pretty sluggish at getting back up to full power, but at least you won't need to recharge too often.
Performance is similarly sluggish. The Moto G31 is powered by a MediaTek Helio G85 chipset with 4GB of RAM, and while it's not the slowest of phones out there it's still woeful if you expect too much of it.
Despite that, there's a certain sense of reliability to the Moto G31. It certainly won't wow you but if you're looking for a cheap and competent phone, it does the job.
Lack of 5G and wireless charging, along with subpar performance, means this isn't a phone for future proofing, but for a cheap purchase right now, you could do a lot worse.
Moto G31 price and availability
- Available now in the US, UK and Australia
- Retails at $200/£170/AU$299 (around AU$280)
- Two color choices
The Moto G31 is available in the US and the UK, starting at $200/£170. It's availability in Australia at the time of writing is very limited, currently available only via Officeworks, priced at AU$297. Elsewhere the Moto G31 is available from many third-party retailers as well as direct from Motorola.
It's only recently been launched at the time of writing, so there are no discounts just yet, but it seems likely we will see some price cuts further down the line. Two color schemes are available – baby blue and mineral gray. It's also possible to buy it with either 64GB of internal storage or 128GB.
- Plastic body
- No significant water resistance
- Comfortable grip
The Moto G31 feels good in your hands. Even in this reviewer's fairly small hands, the phone feels comfortable. That's thanks to a textured back with curved edges, so it feels simple to grip. It's also relatively slim at 8.6mm, with full measurements of 161.9 x 73.9 x 8.6mm. Weighing 181g also means this isn't a hefty phone by any means either.
We had the mineral gray model to review, and it looks quite classy. It might have a plastic body, but it doesn't look that way. Instead, it looks rather smart.
The right-hand side of the phone is the 'action' side. On that side you'll find buttons for volume and power, along with the fingerprint reader. The latter might have felt more comfortable on the back, but it means that the back of the phone looks suitably minimalist, other than the camera lenses in the top left-hand corner.
The textured plastic body means no risk of fingerprints either, so it looks good no matter how long you've been using it for. A punch-hole at the top of the screen offers up the selfie camera lens, but it truly takes up the bare minimum of space - it's literally just the lens.
On the bottom there's the USB-C charging port and a speaker. There's no headphone jack on this budget-ranged phone, alas.
There's also minimal water resistance, with a mere IPX2 rating meaning you don't want it anywhere near water if you can help it.
- 6.4-inch AMOLED screen
- 1080 x 2400 resolution
- Vibrant colors
Thanks to its AMOLED display, the Moto G31 offers fairly vibrant colors and deep blacks. It's ideal for watching Netflix or similar, capturing all the colors how you'd like them to be.
A reasonably sharp resolution of 1080 x 2400 helps too, although the lack of a 90Hz refresh rate is a shame. Still, at this price, it's not massively surprising you're stuck with a typical 60Hz refresh rate instead, although other brands might offer more. We didn't notice any considerable visual lag when playing games or watching videos at least.
It could be a little brighter in bright sunlight, but other than that, it's all pretty sharp and exactly what you'd like from this kind of phone.
- 50MP + 8MP + 2MP rear camera
- 13MP selfie camera
- Plenty of software functionality
The Moto G31 has three lenses on the back, with one at the front for selfies and video calls. Its main camera has a 50MP sensor, and there's also an 8MP ultra-wide lens (that also works as the depth sensor when taking photos in Portrait mode) and a 2MP macro camera.
Predictably, the main camera is its strongest. For the most part, photos taken in daylight offer natural colors and reasonable dynamic range. At times, the HDR makes things look a little too vibrant, but it's certainly eye-catching.
Where things falter is with the other lenses. The ultra-wide one may help with portrait shots, but it produces ultra-wide shots that tend to look a bit blurry.
Blurriness is also the theme for low-light photos. Switch night mode on and things improve, and certainly look brighter than you might expect, but the results don't always look realistic.
The macro camera is pretty pointless too, but that's often the case with cheaper phones.
Elsewhere, selfies come out fairly well here at least, ensuring this is a camera that's fine if nothing special.
On the plus side, the Moto G31 does offer plenty of great software options that are easily picked out as and when you might want to use them.
Specs and performance
- Powered by the MediaTek Helio G85
- 64GB or 128GB of storage
- Mediocre performance
The Moto G31 uses the MediaTek Helio G85 chipset, which is fine. Just plain old fine. It's supported by 4GB of RAM so it's far from a speedy phone, but it's also not the slowest either.
This isn't really a phone for multitasking, but it can do it in a bind. Similarly, heavy-duty gaming can take a while to get going, and the phone can get quite hot when doing so, but it works.
In our Geekbench 5 tests, the Moto G31 achieved a single-core score of 345, which is pretty low but beats the likes of the ageing Xiaomi Redmi Note 7. The multi-core score was slightly better sounding at 1,311, but could still only beat the likes of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 7.
Fellow Motorola phone, the Moto G9 Power, comes in about the same at 311 and 1,371, but it's also older.
The Moto G31 comes with Android 11 as standard and is fairly bloat free. The only additions here are Motorola's Moto Actions - which are often-useful gesture controls, and a few other minor tweaks, but the additions are easy enough to ignore and don't take up much space.
It's possible to buy the Moto G31 in either 64GB or 128GB varieties, with the latter costing a modest amount more.
- 5,000mAh battery
- No wireless charging support
- Slow charging
The Moto G31 has a battery of 5,000mAh, which means it lasts a good couple of days without too much trouble, unless you're using it a lot.
That's lucky as recharging is pretty slow going at 10W, and there's no wireless charging support. So it's not the most convenient of devices to top up, but at least with such strong battery life, that isn't something you need to do too often.
Should you buy the Moto G31?
Buy it if...
You want a comfy phone
The Moto G31 feels good in your hands. Easy to grip firmly and comfortably, it's a nice phone to hold if you're prone to clumsy moments.
You want an easy-to-use camera
Working well as a point and shoot camera, the Moto G31 might lack the finer details and refinements, but it offers some easy-to-use software features that mean this is ideal for the average snapper.
You don't need the latest tech
If you don't need 5G any time soon and wireless charging is inessential, the Moto G31 will cover all the bases you need while on a budget.
Don't buy it if...
You need 5G
5G is likely to be far more commonplace in 2022 and beyond. The Moto G31 lacks it, and you may come to regret your choice.
You want speed
The Moto G31 isn't the slowest phone out there but it's not great either. If you're an avid gamer or multitasker, steer clear.
You need ruggedness
With limited water resistance and no dust resistance to speak of, it's going to be tough to keep the Moto G31 safe in many situations.
First reviewed: December 2021