Hands on with Motorola’s Moto Z2 Play and new Moto Mods
Modular phones dead? Motorola doesn’t think so.
The company’s still very much committed to pushing the modular system it introduced with last year’s Moto Z series, even if Google and LG are done with them. The latest addition to the family is the second-generation Moto Z2 Play.
Arguably the best thing about the original Moto Z Play is its long-lasting battery life — it can last 48 hours on a charge depending on your usage. Which makes it all the more disappointing that the Moto Z2 Play doesn’t go further and comes with an average 3,000 mAh battery that’s rated at up to 30 hours. Instead, Motorola has focused its attention on the design and camera.
The Moto Z2 Play has a new aluminum body instead of the glass back on the original, and it comes in two color variants (gold with a white front or gray with a black front). The phone’s noticeably thinner than the original, no doubt due to the smaller battery.
It’s still a handsome phone, and I appreciate that Motorola made the Moto Mods magnetic pin connector prettier. All of the exposed pins look neater now.
Screen size is still 5.5 inches with full HD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution at 401 pixels per inch. Below the screen is a fingerprint sensor that’s also a smart home button. Turn on a feature called “One Touch Navigation,” and you can set the button to replicate and replace Android’s on-screen navigation buttons with swipes. Swipe left for back, swipe right to launch recent apps, and press to return to the home screen. It’s a neat trick that isn’t overly gimmicky.
Inside, there’s Android 7.1.1 Nougat, Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 processor, 3GB or 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of 64GB of internal storage (expandable via microSD card up to 2TB). The phone’s midrange on paper, but if the original Moto Z Play is any indication, it’ll perform just fine. Qualcomm’s midrange chips are really solid these days.
The Moto Z2 Play isn’t water-resistant, but it’s got a water-repellant coating to protect from light splashes. I nagged Motorola about this, and they told me they chose not to make it water-resistant for two reason: People aren’t submerging their phones in day-to-day use, and phones advertised as water-resistant aren’t even backed by manufacturer warranties if they’re damaged from liquids. Fair enough.
The biggest improvement on the Moto Z2 Play is its camera. Though it’s dropped from 16 megapixels to 12, it now has dual autofocus pixel and a second-generation laser autofocus sensor. The combined camera technologies, along with the the f/1.7 aperture, should result in sharper low light photos, and fewer missed shots even in challenging situations. My only quibble is how huge the camera bump is — it’s seriously massive. On the front is a 5-megapixel selfie camera with LED flash.
Best of all (I feel like I’m always saying this now) the phone’s got a 3.5mm headphone jack and a USB-C port with support for TurboPower charging which adds up to 7 hours of battery life with 15 minutes of plug-in time.
Launching with the phone — which, by the way is an exclusive to Verizon — are four new Moto Mods. There’s the $80 TurboPower Pack that comes with a 3,490 mAh battery and its own USB-C port for TurboPower charging.
The $40 Wireless Charging Style Shell is a thin snap-on that, well, adds wireless charging support. It’s compatible with Qi and PowerMat inductive charging (wireless charging pad sold separately, though), and comes in wood, fabric, and digital print designs.
Then, there’s the $80 JBL SoundBoost 2 speaker. This one’s like the original, except it now comes in blue or red in addition to black. The kickstand’s been upgraded to a more durable metal, and the design has been rounded off to look better. It comes with a built-in 1,000 mAh battery, too.
My favorite of the new Moto Mods is the $80 Game Pad. Pop this baby on (gotta love the magnetic connection port) and you’ve got a traditional gamepad controller for all your gaming needs. It’s kinda like having a Nintendo Switch. I only played with a prototype, but the dual analogs, ABXY buttons, D-pad, and shoulder buttons felt pretty solid.
I only got to play with the Moto Z Play for a few minutes, but it looks like a strong follow-up to the original. The battery could last longer, but I’ll reserve full judgment for when we get one in for review. Who knows, maybe its stamina will surprise me.
While the future of modular phones is up in the air, it’s good to see Motorola is still hanging in there. Someone has to, right?