Hands-on with the Moto Z2 Play and new Moto Mods

Motorola's latest smartphone and new Moto Mods have a launch date and a price.

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Motorola's new Moto Z2 Play is getting closer to availability, and Motorola sent me a Moto Z2 Play and three Moto Mods to test out leading up to the device's launch. I've only had the devices for a couple of days -- not nearly enough for a thorough review. Instead, I thought it would be good to cover some of my first impressions of the new smartphone and modular accessories.

The Moto Z2 Play goes on sale today for $408 through Verizon Wireless and will begin shipping July 6. According to Motorola, "for a limited time" customers who buy the Z2 Play will receive the JBL SoundBoost 2 Moto Mod for free.

It's still thin...

Last year's crop of devices surprised a lot of tech reviewers with just how thin Motorola was able to get the Moto Z line of smartphones without a significant impact on battery life. This year, Motorola shaved one-millimeter off of the Moto Z2 Play's thickness, and somehow preserved its 30-hour battery life.

Outside of the same, even thinner, form factor the Moto Z2 Play looks a lot like 2016's lineup. Motorola painted itself into a design corner with its implementation of Moto Mods. Between backward compatibility, magnets, and the pins required for communication between the phone and a mod, don't expect Motorola's Z line to make drastic changes quite yet.

On the right side of the Moto Z Play are the power and volume control buttons. The power button is on the bottom, with down and up volume keys just above it. A lot of Android devices have a similar setup, be it on the right or left side of the phone. However, Motorola made the power button the exact same size as the volume buttons. The power button is textured, but I still find myself double-checking I have the right button when trying to adjust volume.

The fingerprint sensor isn't the home button

The Moto Z2 Play isn't the first Motorola device I've tested where the fingerprint sensor sits just below the on-screen home button, and yet I find myself constantly tapping the sensor when trying to get back to the home screen. It's confusing and downright annoying.

Motorola does include the option to enable one button navigation on the Z2 Play. With the feature turned on, the sensor transforms into a pseudo trackpad for navigating the phone's interface: Swipe left to go back in an app. Swipe right to view recent apps. Tap the sensor to go home.

With the feature enabled the onscreen buttons disappear, giving you slightly more screen space for viewing photos or spreadsheets. I plan to try one-handed navigation and include some thoughts on the overall experience in my full review sometime next week.

Moto Mods

Motorola sent me the new JBL SoundBoost 2 speaker, the TurboPower Pack, and a Style Shell that also adds wireless charging to the phone.

All three Mods attach to the phone using the same magnetic alignment and pins as the original Moto Z lineup used, meaning all of the Mods will work with older devices as well.

Just a few days into testing, I haven't used the SoundBoost 2 speaker enough to form an opinion. As for the TurboPower Pack and the Style Shell, both have proven useful thus far. The TurboPower Pack's efficiency mode keeps the Z2 Play's battery at a consistent 80-percent until the pack's battery is depleted without a significant increase in overall size of the phone.

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