Moto Z2 Play review: Excellent battery life and handy Moto Mods make for a compelling smartphone

  • Editors' rating
    7.5 Very good
  • $539.95

Pros

  • Amazing battery life.
  • Sharp, clear screen.
  • microSD support.

Cons

  • Random stuttering issue.
  • Limited to Verizon at the moment.

Lenovo plans to sell three million Moto Zs, Moto Mods will be compatible over next three years

With failed attempts at smartphone modularity, I've been hesitant to spend money on accessories. But Motorola Mobility recently revealed that we can count on Moto Mods for at least three years.

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Last month, Motorola announced the Moto Z2 Play and a few Moto Mods.

The phone and accessories are now available for preorder through Verizon Wireless, with an unlocked version of the smartphone set for launch in July.

For the past week, I've been testing the new device and three of the new Moto Mods. There's little to fault with the Z2 Play, which was a pleasant surprise for a device that's priced just over the $400 mark.

Specifications:

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
  • Operating System: Android 7.1.1 Nougat with Moto Experience
  • Display: 5.5-inch FHD (1920x1080)
  • Dimensions: 156.2 x 76.2 x 5.99mm
  • Storage: 32GB or 64GB with microSD support up to 2TB
  • Memory: 3GB or 4GB (country dependent)
  • Rear Camera: 12-megapixel dual autofocus pixel.
  • Front Camera: 5-megapixel wide view lens
  • Battery: 3,000 milliamp-hour with TurboCharge
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, 802.11 a/b/g/n 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, NFC
  • Ports: 3.5mm headphone jack, MotoMods connector, USB-C charging

Home button struggles

As I mentioned in my hands-on post last week, I struggled with remembering to touch the onscreen home button instead of the fingerprint sensor below the screen when I wanted to go back to the home screen.

Thankfully, Motorola includes a software tweak that turns the fingerprint sensor into a trackpad of sorts. When enabled, the onscreen navigation buttons disappear. A swipe to the right or left is used navigate back or view the app switcher. Single tap on the sensor to go to the home screen, leave your finger on the sensor for a split second to lock the phone, or long-press to launch Google Assistant.

Shortly after posting my hands-on article, I enabled the One Button Nav feature. It took a couple days of adjustment, but now that I have the hang of it, I can't see myself using a Motorola phone with onscreen buttons ever again.

A random stutter

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During my testing, I would randomly experience a weird stutter when scrolling through the app drawer. I noticed the issue in Chrome or Twitter as well, but it was most prominent in the app drawer.

The weird part is it would come and go without any discernible reason. I experienced it shortly after rebooting the phone, as well as hours after the phone had been on and in use.

Random issue notwithstanding, the overall performance of the Moto Z2 Play was a non-issue. Apps would open fast, switching between apps was without problems, and the device performed as one would expect.

The camera was quick and reliable. Years ago, Motorola integrated my favorite gesture to quickly launch the camera app on its smartphones. While holding the Moto Z2 Play, you can quickly turn your wrist as if you are turning a doorknob, and the camera opens ready to take a shot.

I used the Moto Z2 Play to capture photos and videos of kids and family at a Fourth of July celebration, and I was able to consistently capture the shot.

Motorola's expected battery life for the Moto Z2 Play is 30 hours. It's wrong. At the 30-hour mark, I still had 11 percent of battery life left. For a device that's this thin, it's amazing to me how Motorola is able to achieve stellar battery life.

Moto Mods are turning into more than a novelty

Last year, when Motorola sent me a Moto Z smartphone to test, the Insta-Share projector was included. If nothing else, the projector mod demonstrated the possibilities of what could be done with the Moto Mods platform. Still, the idea of adding a projector to the back of a phone screamed gimmick.

This year's crop of updates and new Moto Mods includes a style shell that adds a fashionable cover and wireless charging, an updated JBL SoundBoost2 speaker, and a TurboCharge-capable TurboPower battery pack.

I can't imagine most people will load up a backpack full of Mods and carry them around. Instead, I think a more appropriate way to view Moto Mods is having a tool for a specific use case. For example, I found that the JBL SoundBoost2 mod stayed in my room and was primarily used while getting ready in the morning. It's plenty loud enough to be heard over the shower, but no so loud that it disturbs whoever is in the next room watching TV.

The TurboPack sat next to my car keys, ready to power through a day outside of the house. And I used the style shell as a back case of sorts when another mod wasn't in use.

Each of the Moto Mods I was sent for this review served its purpose and felt like it actually added functionality to the phone.

Modular smartphones may not ever truly catch on and become mainstream, but Motorola sure is making the idea modularity more appealing than it was just a year ago.

Conclusion

At $408 for Verizon Wireless customers, or $499 for an unlocked version when the Z2 Play sees wider availability later this month, this phone is one heck of a deal.

Between the outstanding battery life that never wants to quit, and the expandability of Moto Mods, which at this point have moved past being a gimmick, it's hard not to recommend the Moto Z2 Play to those wanting a respectable device at an affordable price.

Other stories:

Specifications

Cellular
Type Smartphone
Operating System Android 7.1 Nougat
Miscellaneous
Color Fine Gold
Processor
Clock Speed 2.2 GHz
Manufacturer Qualcomm
Processor Core Qty Octa-core
Display
Diagonal Size 5.5 in
Dimensions & Weight
Width 3.0 in
Depth 0.23 in
Height 6.1 in
Weight 5.1 oz

Topics: Reviews, Google, Lenovo, Mobile OS, Mobility, Smartphones

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Where To Buy

Motorola Moto Z2 Play (Fine Gold)

Part Number: CNETMotoZ2PlayFNGGLD

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