Hello Moto: Timely Android 7 Nougat update propels Z Force Droid over the Google Pixel XL

One compelling reason to buy a Moto X was the confidence in knowing that Android upgrades would be timely while the user experience was nearly stock. Lenovo killed that strategy, but it looks like things are improving with the Moto Z.

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The Moto Z Force Droid Edition, see my full review, was launched in August and it demonstrated that a functional modular design was possible. I then purchased my own GSM Moto Z, but returned it because it was priced too high, the battery wasn't large enough, and I wasn't sure when it would get updated to Android 7 Nougat.

I bought my first 2013 Moto X because of the customization capability and the fact that it received upgrades from Motorola as fast as Google's Nexus devices. While these Moto devices were fairly stock, there were also valuable additions in the Moto Actions, Voice, and Display utilities.

After Lenovo's 2014 acquisition of Motorola Mobility we saw this upgrade strategy, and thus advantage over other Android devices, fall apart. Thankfully, with the new Moto Z line it appears that the Moto we knew is back in action. I was recently sent another Verizon Moto Z Force Droid Edition to test for a few months and shortly after it arrived the Android 7 Nougat update was released, along with the December Android security update.

It was impressive to see this version of the Moto Z upgraded so quickly since it is a Verizon-branded model and Lenovo hasn't been known for committing to quick updates. Needless to say, I was very pleased with the upgrade and am satisfied with the improvements on the Moto Z Force Droid Edition. Android Nougat improvements on this device include:

  • Split screen support: You can now use two apps at once on the large 5.5-inch display of the Z Force Droid.
  • Double tap of task switcher: This handy action has proven to be quite valuable on my Google Pixel XL so it's great to see support for it on the Z Force Droid.
  • Settings area updates: The handy status lines in the settings, positioned below the name of the setting, are present. You will also find suggestions at the top of the settings page.
  • Improved battery life: Improvements with Doze translate to longer battery life on a phone that already had solid battery performance.
  • Google Daydream support: I purchased a Daydream View when I bought my Google Pixel XL and popped in the Moto Z to test it out. Everything I tried works perfectly and it's nice to have this functionality on a Moto device.

In addition to these Nougat improvements, the Moto Z Force Droid Edition is a fairly standard Android device that has Moto Actions for quick camera launching and flashlight enabling, Moto Voice for a custom Google Now launch phrase, and Moto Display for the best standby screen notification implementation on any smartphone today.

Given this rapid update and other Moto enhancements, the Moto Z Force Droid Edition is a compelling alternative to the Google Pixel XL. The Moto Z is priced at $720 (32GB) and $770 (64GB) while the Google Pixel XL is $770 for a 32GB model and $870 for a 128GB model. In addition to the lower prices, the Moto Z Force Droid Edition offers the following over the Google Pixel XL:

  • Water repellent nano coating: I don't go swimming or try to dip my phones in the water, but it sure is comforting to know your phone might be able to survive an accidental dunking. Every high end phone ought to have this capability.
  • ShatterShield display: The display is designed not to crack or shatter, which is rather stunning. If you spend time outside or work in the field, it's an easy choice to pick the Z Force Droid over the Pixel XL for durability.
  • Moto Mods: Instead of a select few unimpressive modules like what LG launched with, there are good Moto Mods with new ones launching as well. I've tested the JBL speaker mod, projector, and Hasselblad camera. There are battery mods, including a new one from Mophie. Moto Mods are an easy way to extend the functionality of your phone, but most are still quite expensive.
  • Expandable storage capacity: You can quickly and inexpensively add more storage to the Moto Z Force through a microSD card.

Have you made a decision between the Google Pixel XL and Moto Z Force Droid Edition? Do you agree that the Moto Z may indeed be the better choice?

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