The Good The Moto Z2 Play has a great screen and a full day of battery life. There’s plenty of storage, lots of software tricks and even a headphone jack.
The Bad Its best software feature doesn’t always work. The phone feels wide and uncomfortable without a magnetic back cover, and not much better with cases that don’t fit well. Last year, Z Play had a much longer battery life.
The Bottom Line High battery life, smart software and magnetic mods make Motorola Z2 Play a convincing midrange.
The Moto Z3 Play is the real real thing we had in our hands! It arrives this summer for $ 499 with an extra battery.
The more time I spend with the Moto Z2 Play, the more I like this mid-range phone.
It is by far the most interesting phone in its price range. These magnetic motomods, a host of functionality and software cuts go far beyond what can make the most $ 500. The hardware does the job and I appreciate the many small touches.
Go ahead and laugh, but the timer is the best of the four phones I currently use, including the Samsung Galaxy S8, HTC U11 and iPhone. The timer may seem unobtrusive, but since I use it three times a day as part of a regular exercise, I’m really starting to notice. (If you really want to know, the Moto interface lets you tap the home screen clock widget to open the clock, plus you can save multiple timers, say 1 minute and 2 minutes. On other phones, you open the clock app first and don’t save timers, so I’m scrolling a lot to switch the duration.)
Anyway I like this phone and I look forward to seeing how it compares to the upcoming OnePlus 5, which will launch on June 20th. 3T received the CNET ‘Choice Award for its mid-level prowess, so the OnePlus 5 should present some pretty tough competition.
(P.S. This review is based on the software that ends with the finale. Motorola says the final version of the phone’s software will be pushed out before the phone hits consumers in July.)
In the US, willing buyers can get it from Verizon in early July or buy it unlocked from Motorola.com.
Amazing battery life, a promising voice trick
I have good and bad news. The good news is that the best thing about Z2 Play is its battery life. In our Z2 Play looping tests, it took an average of 17 hours, which is pretty good for a phone that costs half as much money as the echelons like the Galaxy S8. ($ 500 on best purchase) and LG G6 . These guys ran 16 and almost 13.5 hours in exactly the same test.
In real life, you should be able to easily walk a day, a half or even two days, with some heavy use. I was broadcasting 45 minutes of video on YouTube without making a big gap. (Motorola claims the battery will last up to 30 hours.)
Ready for the bad news? This is because last year’s Z Play passed 23 hours in our video play test, so this year’s attempt is not so much a marathon. If you’re looking for a new phone, it’s still very good.
Moto Z2 Play struts its Mod stuff
So this was the best feature of Z2 Play. Most clever the feature – and its most promising – is actually a voice command that opens programs when you just say “show me”. That’s right: Do not ring a word such as “Siri”, “Alexa” or “OK Google” before telling your phone what you want. Just show me YouTube, show me maps, you get the idea.
You just move the shadow that appears and you are. Or, in the case of calendar and weather, the information appears on the screen before it goes out. Best of all, you can set up a “show me” feature from a lock screen when it recognizes your voice.
It’s an elegant setting, and I’d like to see how other ecosystems evolve, though Google’s home speaker is working on it using personalized recommendations. Even I would like to see how Moto goes a step further and directly opens the app, rather than presenting one more thing to be touched and promoted.
The bigger problem is that “show me” doesn’t work all the time. Sometimes he would jump into action in a loud bar. Another time he ignored me, even in my quiet office. Maybe I was talking too fast, or was holding the phone too close? I didn’t understand what went wrong, but I hope Motorola can improve it soon.
What else is good? Keyboard shortcuts and mods
Then you have a set of Motorola gesture shortcuts, such as twisting your phone twice to launch the camera and chopping it in the air to turn on the flashlight. I also really appreciated the extremely useful one-button navigation, which basically folds the Back and Receivers buttons (and more) into the fingerprint reader located at the bottom of the front of the phone.
Z2 Play is compatible with Moto Mods, a growing ecosystem of add-ons that can be tied to the back of any Moto Z phone. I tried the new TurboPower Pack charger ($ 80), Shell wireless charger ($ 40) and the JBL speaker SoundBoost 2 ($ 80).
Motorola’s TurboPower mobile charger was convenient to do when I needed to increase the power, although the phone made the back narrower than the front and inconvenient to hold. JBL speakers are great for home or meeting, especially if you don’t have any other portable Bluetooth speakers. But you want the speaker aimed at you for the best sound, making it less good for watching music videos.
Camera and processor
The 12-megapixel Z2 Play camera (with f1.7 aperture and dual-autofocus pixels) captured bright, colorful, detailed photos. Colors aren’t as rich as premium phones like the Galaxy S8, especially those made indoors and in low light, but they are good enough for sharing, especially after photo editing. Manual controls allow you to further customize the pictures before taking them.
The photos from the 5MP front camera are absolutely decent, but not as crisp and detailed as on some other phones. This is a selfie puzzle: Do you want to see yourself carefully and then maybe blur your spots in beauty mode or have a softer look?
I will say that the background color and details are also affected compared to lenses that fit more of the scene more clearly. The Z2 Play also has a powerful flash that will make your eyes pop if you forget to turn it off in the dark.
You can shoot 4K videos on this phone, but the default videos are up to 1080p at 30 frames per second (you can also shoot at 60 frames per second).
Motorola gave the Z2 Play a nice processor, which, although not advanced, contained everything from basic navigation to games such as Riptide Renegade. Although it is fixed at the lower end of our Graphics Test (3D mark – Ice Storm Unlimited), I did not notice any time delays while browsing, scrolling, and general tasks.
Moto Z2 Play features compared to OnePlus 3T, iPhone SE
|Motorola Moto Z2 Play||OnePlus 3T||Apple iPhone SE (2017 update)|
|Display size, resolution||5.5-inch; 1,920×1,080 pixels||5.5-inch; 1,920×1,080 pixels||4-inch; 1,136×640 pixels|
|Dimensions (inches)||6.1x3x0.23 in||6.01×2.94×0.29 in||4.87×2.31×0.3 in|
|Dimensions (millimeters)||156x76x6 mm||152.7×74.7×7.35 mm||123x58x7.6 mm|
|Weight (ounces, grams)||5.1 oz.; 145 g||5.57 oz.; 158 g||3.99 oz.; 113 g|
|Mobile software||Android 7.1.1 Nougat||Android 7.0 Nougat||iOS 10|
|Processor||2.2GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 626||2.35GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 821||Apple A9 chip (64-bit) with M9 motion co-processor|
|Storage||32GB, 64GB||64GB, 128GB||32GB, 128GB|
|RAM||3GB or 4GB (varies by region)||6GB||N/A|
|Expandable storage||Up to 2TB||None||None|
|Battery||3,000mAh||3,400mAh (nonremovable)||Up to 13 hours of internet use on LTE|
|Fingerprint sensor||Yes (at bottom of phone’s front)||Home button||Home button|
|Special features||Water-repellent||Notifications toggle, dual-SIM, Dash Charging||N/A|
|Price off-contract (USD)||$499 (Motorola.com)||$439 (64GB), $479 (128GB)||$399 (32GB); $499 (128GB)|
|Price (GBP)||Converts to £390||£399 (64GB), £439 (128GB)||£359 (32GB) £439 (128GB)|
|Price (AUD)||Converts to $AU675||Converts to AU$590 (64GB), AU$650 (128GB)||AU$679 (32GB); AU$829 (128GB)|