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Moto Z2 Force Edition review: Solid Android smartphone for Moto Mod users

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Written by Matthew Miller on
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7.8

Motorola Moto Z2 Force

Very good
$295.22 at Amazon
Like
  • Shatterproof plastic OLED display
  • Flawless performance and responsiveness
  • Native Google interface with useful Moto Actions and Moto Display
  • Moto Mods support
Don't Like
  • Display scratches easily
  • Nano coating, but no advertised IP rating
  • No standard headphone jack
  • Editors' Review
  • Specs

I still have an evaluation Moto Z Force Droid from Verizon that I use occasionally to test Moto Mods and the Verizon network. It was one of my favorite devices from last year thanks in large part to the Moto Mods support, stock Android experience, and long battery life.

The new Moto Z2 Force Edition is similar to the Moto Z Force Droid, but thankfully is launching on other carriers besides Verizon. It also supports Moto Mods and has a stock Android experience, but comes with a much smaller battery. After a week of use, see my first impressions from last week, it is a good successor to the Z Force Droid and on my top five list for 2017.

Moto Mods are handy ways to extend the functionality of the Moto Z2 Force Edition and the new Moto 360 Camera Mod was a blast to use on our gondola ride to the top of Crystal Mountain resort and fly fishing on the Green River. There is also a new Moto Gamepad Mod that looks interesting for gamers. Moto Mods are clearly here to stay and extend the functionality of Moto phones better than has been done by others before.

Specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 octa-core
  • Display: 5.5 inch 2560x1440 pixels resolution POLED ShatterShield
  • Operating system: Android 7.1.1 Nougat
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 64GB internal with microSD expansion card slot
  • Water and dust resistance: Water repellent nano-coating
  • Cameras: Dual rear 12 megapixel IMX 386 sensors, 1.25µm pixel, f/2.0 aperture cameras. Front 5 megapixel with f/2.2 aperture
  • Battery: 2730 mAh with Turbo Charge charging technology
  • Wireless connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2 (5.0 after Android O update), NFC
  • Sensors: Fingerprint, G-Sensor, Gyroscope, Compass, Ambient Light, Proximity, Edge Sensor
  • Dimensions: 155.8 x 76 x 6.1 mm and 143 grams

The specifications of the Moto Z2 Force Edition are as good as can be expected for an Android flagship, with the exception of the water resistant rating and limited battery capacity.

Hardware

The Moto Z2 Force Edition has a similar look and feel to the Moto Z Force Droid from last year, but is slightly taller and narrower. It is also thinner, in large part due to the 770 mAh reduction in battery capacity of the Moto Z2 Force Edition. The top, bottom, and side bezels around the display are similar too.

One improvement in the Moto Z2 Force Edition is the change to an oblong fingerprint scanner that is now set down into the front panel while the Z Force Droid had a small square one that was raised slightly above the front panel. It's a bit strange to have the fingerprint scanner only act to unlock and lock the phone, but you can chance the settings in Moto Actions to enable one button navigation to easily go back, view recent apps, or go to the home screen.

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The plastic OLED display is designated ShatterShield and designed to be shatterproof if you drop your phone. I've never had a cracking or breaking issue with the ShatterShield display of the Moto Z Force Droid and nothing has broken on the Z2 Force Edition. However, several scratches have already developed on the display of the Z2 Force Edition and I take great care of my smartphones. None of my other regular glass display smartphones have cracked so I'm not sure if I would rather have a shatterproof display or one that doesn't scratch, but may break. If you purchase the Z2 Force Edition, I recommend you apply a screen protector before using it much.

There is no standard 3.5mm headset jack on the Moto Z2 Force Edition, another trend I hope is short lived and limited to just a few smartphones. The same volume and power buttons are on the right side with the SIM and microSD card slot on the top and USB Type-C port on the bottom.

Moto Z2 Force Edition review: in pictures

One of the new features in the Z2 Force Edition is the dual rear camera that supports true black and white along with depth enabled photos. The dual camera design is similar to the approach Huawei has taken with one sensor in color and one monochrome. This results in better looking black and white photos with data for other camera enhancements. I particularly enjoyed the selective black and white editing options that let you select elements to enhance with color while the remaining parts of the image remain in monochrome.

The black and white photos looked good, but I didn't have much success with the depth enabled functionality while trying to shoot wild flowers on a hike near Mt Rainier. That said, the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus also did not do well with the selective focus mode.

You can check out a few sample photos I took with the rear cameras and front facing camera during some adventures in Washington earlier this week in my full resolution Flickr album.

Moto Mods

The back of the Moto Z2 Force Edition is designed to accept the same Moto Mods as previous Motorola smartphones. I tested out a Moto Style Shell and JBL SoundBoost Speaker Mod. Both worked flawlessly and fit the same as previous Moto smartphones.

The new Moto 360 Camera Mod captures 360 still and video content. It comes with a rubber camera cover to keep the lenses protected while not in use. The 360 Camera Mod will eventually work on previous Moto smartphones when a software update is issued.

The Moto 360 Camera Mod has two 13 megapixel camera sensors with f/2.0 aperture. It can capture 360 4K video at 24 fps.

After placing the 360 Camera Mod on the back of the Moto Z2 Force Edition, the Moto camera application will launch with some new buttons and options. Tap the two arrows on the left side to toggle between the 360 Camera Mod and standard rear camera of the Moto Z2 Force Edition. While in 360 mode, tap the three dot menu button on the right to choose between photo, ultra-wide angle photo, or professional mode. If you tap the video button, there are no options on the right side of the interface. You can also tap the icon above the double arrows to switch the viewfinder of the 360 still image.

The Moto 360 Camera lets you capture 360 degree and 150 degree content. You can also edit 360 content with the Moto software, which is what I prefer to do since it is not that simple to edit on a computer or other device without messing up the required 360 parameters. You can crop a 360 photo into a flat photo, apply filters, and adjust other image particulars. Video editing options are also present in the software.

Software

The Moto Z2 Force Edition runs the latest Android 7.1.1 Nougat operating system with the July monthly security update present on the evaluation unit. There is primarily a stock Android experience installed with some very useful Moto Actions and Moto Display options we have seen on Motorola phones for the last few years.

The Moto Actions are key to the success of these Motorola phones and once again are my favorite feature on the Moto Z2 Force Edition. At first I hated the new fingerprint scanner as it appeared to only serve to unlock and lock the phone. Simply flip the switch to enable one button navigation and then you can use the fingerprint scanner to unlock, go home, swipe to go back, swipe for recent apps, and press hold to launch Google Assistant. It is excellent for efficient navigation and the flush mount with wider oval design is nearly perfect. Chopping twice for the flashlight, twisting to launch the camera, pickup to stop ringing, approach for Moto Display, and flip for do not disturb are all present and available in the Moto Actions settings.

Motorola was one of the first to launch a useful active lock screen and Moto Display continues to be one of the most useful as it shows you more detailed information than any other always-on display feature on other phones. The Moto Display is enhanced on the Moto Z2 Force Edition with the capability to interact with your notifications. For example, you can now reply to a text without even waking your phone by pressing on the notification and then sliding your finger over the option to take.

Moto Voice has also been improved on the Moto Z2 Force. With Google Assistant available on most all Android smartphones, I never thought of trying Moto Voice again. However, it has been enhanced with a cool new "show me" option. Without speaking your launch phrase, simply state "show me..." to have the action take. This currently includes weather, next meeting, app names, and more. It is a nice enhancement to Google Assistant.

Price and competition

The Moto Z2 Force Edition is available for pre-order for $720. Motorola is also including the $299.99 value projector mod with pre-orders.

The LG G6 is normally also priced at $650, but T-Mobile has it on sale now for $500 so that is a fantastic deal. The Galaxy S8 is $750 and the larger S8 Plus is priced at $850, but Samsung has regular sales on both so you can actually find them in the $575 and $675 price range at Samsung and Amazon. The Apple iPhone 7 Plus equivalent, 128GB unit, is priced at $869. The equivalent 128GB Google Pixel XL is also priced at $869.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

With a 2730 mAh battery capacity, I was worried that the Moto Z2 Force Edition would die in the middle of the day. Over the past week, the battery has surprised me by lasting into the evening. It doesn't last as long as the 3500 mAh Z Force Droid and my S8 Plus, but given the fast charging technology and options for a battery Moto Mod I don't think battery life is a major concern.

The Moto Actions and Moto Display are extremely useful and help with productivity and efficiency in using your device. I particularly enjoy the chop twice to toggle the flashlight and double twist to launch the camera. Being able to perform some actions from the display with the phone off may have helped me conserve battery life too and this was very useful for text messaging.

The Moto Z2 Force Edition doesn't offer much in the way of exciting hardware, other than the Moto Mods, and there are other better phones currently available. The fact that scratches happened so quickly on a phone that I babied is a bit concerning to me and I would really hate to see what the display might look like after a couple of months of use.

The Moto 360 Camera Mod was a blast and I enjoyed using it more than the Samsung Gear 360 because it was so well integrated into the phone itself and didn't require pairing or transfer of content to edit and share that content. It would be great to see this 360 Camera Mod appear as the free included launch special since $300 is a hefty price tag for a Moto Mod.

Overall, the Moto Z2 Force Edition is a solid Android smartphone at a price less than the flagships. There are other compelling smartphones at the same or lower price so you really have to like using one or two Moto Mods to justify the Z2 Force Edition.

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