Lenovo and Motorola brought their modular functionality concept to the mid-range with the Moto Z Play last year. This device was one of our favorite value smartphones of 2016, and now its successor, the Moto Z2 Play, features some key improvements and even more Moto Mod accessories.
However, Motorola seems to have made a few compromises this time around. The Z2 Play has a much smaller battery than before, and also went up in price. Will this be another home run like the original Z Play, or did the company make too many compromises? Find out, in our full Moto Z2 Play review!
Motorola didn’t set out to redefine the Moto Z line this year. Instead, the company introduced a handful minute, yet notable changes to the Z2 Play from its predecessor. That’s especially true on the design front.
One of the most noticeable changes in terms of design is the fact that the Z2 Play is 1 mm thinner than its predecessor, giving it a much better in-hand feel. It also features a metal back plate this time around, which is a huge improvement over the fingerprint-prone glass back of the Moto Z Play.
Motorola can’t really mess with the design too much with the Moto Z line, and that’s because it wants to make all its smartphones compatible with Moto Mods. We probably won’t see a drastic redesign of the Moto Z lineup for a few years.
We won't see a drastic redesign of the Moto Z lineup for a few years
A handful of new Moto Mods were released alongside the Moto Z2 Play, and they all fit and work perfectly with this new device, as well as with the Moto Z Play, Moto Z, and Moto Z Force. In fact, Motorola is guaranteeing Moto Mod compatibility for up to three years, so you don’t have to worry about older Mods becoming unusable with every new iteration of the phone.
The Moto Z2 Play comes with a 5.5-inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, resulting in a pixel density of 401 ppi. As expected from an AMOLED screen, you get to enjoy vibrant colors and deep blacks, as well as great viewing angles.
However, the display doesn’t get very bright, which makes it difficult to read under direct sunlight even with the brightness set to maximum.
Under the hood, you’ll find Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 626 Mobile Platform, backed by the Adreno 506 GPU and either 3 or 4 GB of RAM. This Verizon version of the device is the 3 GB model, which is what I’ve been using for the past week.
While the Moto Z2 Play drops frames on occasion, it's not something that happens too often
The phone performs well with general everyday tasks such as browsing the web, reading emails, and checking social media. However, it does tend to drop frames on occasion when playing graphic-intensive games. That’s not something you will notice very often though, since the experience is very smooth for the most part. I never found the infrequent dropped frame to be much of a distraction.
With the Z2 Play, you have the option to choose either 32 or 64 GB of onboard storage, which also dictates the amount of RAM. If you are worried about storage, the good news is that expandable storage via microSD card is available for up to an additional 256 GB.
You won’t find a whole lot of bells and whistles with the Moto Z2 Play, as it is, after all, a mid-range smartphone. There’s no IP certification for resistance to the elements, but Motorola does, as always, include a nano coating that is water repellent and provides some form of splash protection.
There's only a single speaker embedded in the earpiece, which means the audio experience isn't great
The audio experience is also unfortunately not that great with there being only a single speaker unit embedded in the earpiece. While I do appreciate that it is a front-facing speaker, it doesn’t get very loud and its location results in a very lopsided listening experience when you are watching videos or playing games in landscape orientation. Of course, a great way to enhance the audio experience is to get your hands on the JBL SoundBoost Moto Mod.
The fingerprint sensor has been redesigned with the same oval shape that was first introduced earlier this year with the Moto G5 Plus, and it works great at unlocking the phone with reliability and speed. In addition, you can use various gestures on the scanner to move around the user interface instead of the on-screen navigation keys. This is a great way to maximize the display real estate, but there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to using one button for everything.
Even with the phone being a millimeter thinner than its predecessor, there was still enough room for Motorola to include a headphone jack. This design choice did result in another compromise though, with the battery capacity being reduced to 3,000 mAh from the 3,510 mAh unit that was available with the original Z Play.
As a result, the Z2 Play isn’t going to provide the two full days of battery life that was possible with the Z Play. However, it can still last at least a day and a half, which is definitely well above average and more than what you typically get with most current generation Android smartphones. Even with heavy usage, it was never a struggle to get a full day of use with this phone, and most of my days ended with 25 to 40% of battery still remaining.
If battery life was a concern to you, it certainly will not be with the Moto Z2 Play. When you do have to plug the device in to charge, Motorola’s Turbo Power charging allows for the phone to be charged up to 50% after just 30 minutes.
Another improvement that Motorola has made with the Moto Z2 Play is in the camera department. The number of pixels has been reduced this time around to 12 MP in favor of larger pixels, and the camera now features a lens with a much wider f/1.7 aperture.
The camera is slower to a capture in low light situations especially when using HDR
This certainly helps with creating brighter images in low light conditions, but the camera still has to resort to the slowest shutter speed possible which can result in a lot of noise. The camera is slower to a capture in low light situations especially when using HDR, and without optical image stabilization, don’t expect the photos to have much sharpness or detail. Colors are also very washed out, and highlights are overblown with a lot of lens flares.
Photos captured in good lighting conditions are certainly better and feature more accurate color reproduction and detail. However, images still lack sharpness, and properly exposed highlights are just as problematic here as they are in low light. Overall, camera performance is sufficient, but is unfortunately not very close to competing with the expensive flagships out there.
The front-facing camera remains unchanged from what was available with its predecessor. The 5 MP shooter with an f/2.2 aperture and front-facing LED flash does a decent job when it comes to taking selfies. While the front flash does well to illuminate your face without being too harsh, it does cause a lot of detail to get crushed in the background, almost to a point where you might be better off not using it.
On the software side of things, the Moto Z2 Play is running Android 7.1.1 Nougat. What I love about Motorola’s software is that everything is kept very close to vanilla Android, with only a few software tweaks added that further enhance the experience.
You still get all of Motorola’s software additions like the double chop to turn on the flashlight, wrist twist to launch the camera, and the ever-so-useful battery-friendly notifications that fade in and out with Moto Display. Of course, if you get the Verizon version of the device, you will have to deal their entire suite of bloatware applications as well as a few other pre-installed third-party apps like NFL Mobile and Slacker Radio. That won’t be a problem with the unlocked model when it is released.
|Moto Z2 Play|
|Display||5.5-inch Super AMOLED
1920 x 1080 resolution
|Processor||2.2 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 626|
|MicroSD||Yes, up to 2 TB
|Cameras||Rear: 12 MP Dual Autofocus Pixel sensor, 1.4 μm, ƒ/1.7 aperture, laser autofocus, phase detection autofocus, dual LED flash
Front: 5MP sensor, 1.4 μm, ƒ/2.2 aperture, wide-angle lens
TurboPower charging for up to 8 hours of use in 15 minutes (50% charge in 30 minutes)
|Water resistance||Water repellant nano-coating|
|Connectivity||Moto Mods connector
USB Type-C port with USB 3.1 support
3.5 mm headset port
Bluetooth 4.2 LE + EDR
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n 2.4 GHz + 5 GHz
|Network||CDMA (850, 1900 MHz)
GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
UMTS/HSPA+ (850, 900, 1700, 1900, 2100 MHz)
4G LTE (B1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 38, 41, 66)
|Software||Android 7.1.1 Nougat|
|Dimensions and weight||76.2 x 156.2 x 5.99 mm
Pricing and final thoughts
The Moto Z2 Play is currently a Verizon exclusive, and if you buy it by July 26, the JBL SoundBoost Moto Mod is included for free. If you are not on Verizon, there is an unlocked version that will be available later this summer, priced at $500. That is a $50 hike when compared to its predecessor, and is definitely a steep ask considering that it’s a mid-range device.
At this price point, the OnePlus 5 is a fantastic and more powerful alternative than the Z2 Play, and is certainly a better purchase when comparing the phones themselves. But your buying decision will likely boil down to one main factor: how much you need Moto Mods. If you are already invested in the Moto Mods ecosystem and have them from a previous Moto Z device, it wouldn’t make much sense to switch to another smartphone that doesn’t support them.
Your buying decision will likely boil down to one main factor: how much you need Moto Mods
Moto Mods aren’t exactly cheap, however, and there are cheaper third-party accessories that offer similar functionality and are compatible with all devices. Granted, there is nothing as sleek or unique as Moto Mods, but in the end, what you are essentially paying for is the convenience factor.
The Moto Z2 Play is not a bad smartphone by any stretch of the imagination. However, to truly make it worth your while, you will need to spend your money on more than just the phone itself.