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Motorola Moto Z2 Play Review: Battery Champ

We review the Moto Z2 Play!

The prospect of slapping on new parts to a smartphone to change how it behaves and functions isn’t new – Google’s modular smartphone project, codenamed Ara, tried to make that dream into a reality. LG tried going the modular smartphone route via their G5 and its accompanying friends, and Motorola took a swing at the ambitious idea by utilizing removable accessories, dubbed Moto Mods. Of the three, only Motorola’s initiative is still alive, and with the Z2 Play, they’re making good on the promise to customers that the mod system that they’ve built for their phones isn’t a one-trick gimmick. While the Z2 Play doesn’t break new boundaries in terms of design and hardware, it’s a statement to Motorola’s commitment to the accessory platform that they’ve built.

Motorola Moto Z2 Play

  • 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 octa-core processor
  • Qualcomm Adreno 506 graphics unit
  • 4GB RAM
  • 5.5-inch Full HD AMOLED display, 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 64GB expandable storage, via microSD
  • 12-megapixel rear camera, f/1.7, Dual Pixel, with PDAF, 4K video
  • 5-megapixel front camera, f/2.2, wide-angle, with dual-LED flash
  • WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, NFC
  • Fingerprint sensor, USB Type-C, 3.5mm headphone jack, Moto Mods
  • 3000mAh battery
  • Android Nougat

Not a lot of change design-wise compared to last year’s offering

Because of the requirements of Motorola’s modular accessory system, the company hasn’t drastically changed the design language of the Z2 Play compared to last year’s offering. The phone still uses a large camera hump that juts in the rear, as well as the multi-pin system that hides a magnet to secure accessories to the phone’s back when in use.

And just like last year the Moto Z2 Play still uses a unibody metal design, though there are improvements, most notably the noticeably thinner frame of the phone compared the original Z Play. While it’s not quite as thin as the Moto Z at 6mm thick, the Z2 Play is the best compromise between thickness and comfort. The Moto Z Play was a little too thick, while the Moto Z was too thin – the Z2 Play is the best compromise between the two devices.

A redesigned antenna band goes around the frame of the Z2 Play, and despite being 6mm thin, the Z2 Play still retains its 3.5mm jack that was removed in last year’s flagship. The controls are at the usual place (power button on the right, along with the fingerprint scanner) and the device uses a USB Type-C connector for data and power.

New for this year is some degree of splash and dust resistance, but unfortunately the Z2 Play does not carry an IP rating. Occasional splashes of water are alright, but we’d still keep the phone away from the pool if you ask us.

The biggest appeal of Motorola’s high-end devices was their compatibility with Moto Mods, an ever expanding library of attachable accessories that changes how the phones work. They range from the mundane style cover that gives your phone a new look, to the useful, like the Incipio battery pack that extends the life of the phone beyond their rated battery lives. Motorola says that they’re committed to backwards and forwards compatibility for the mods for up to three years, so users of the Moto Z onwards (up to three generations) can be sure that any new Moto Mod released by the company will work with their phone.

And really that’s what you’re buying with the Moto Z2 Play. There’s already a large contingent of interesting Moto Mods to choose from in the market, and Motorola will be adding quite a bit more, including new ones that we saw in Bangkok, Thailand. Of course, accessories like the Hassleblad TrueZoom aren’t cheap, but these mods add something new and interesting to the platform that can’t be matched by other brands currently.

The Moto Z2 Play uses a 5.5-inch, full HD panel in front, with a bigger, redesigned fingerprint scanner located right below it. The phone uses on-screen navigation keys to get around Android 7.1.1 Nougat.

The display looks good, and despite us wishing for more pixels to push we can’t really find a major thing to nitpick with the panel. It has good color output and generous viewing angles. The display also has Gorilla Glass protection, and while we can see hairline scratches on the display it has proven itself to be tougher than other, more expensive phones we’ve tested.

Mid-range hardware does its job

The Moto Z2 Play’s hardware is a bit of a throwback to last year’s offering: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 processor performs almost the same as the Snapdragon 625 processor on last year’s offering. There are a few hardware improvements though – the phone has 1GB more RAM than last year’s iteration, as well as 32GB more storage. Despite being a close relative to last year’s chip offering, the Snapdragon 626 processor is still capable of running most apps without any problems. You’ll be able to run most games on the highest graphical setting, though there will be titles that you’ll have to scale back on the eye candy to get them running smoothly on the phone.

One thing we really like about Motorola is that they tend to keep the version of Android running on their phones clean and pure, which is not always the case. The Moto Z2 Play has little to no bloatware, which we like, a lot. There’s still some customizations put in place though, namely the always-on display. Wave your hand over the display and it’ll show you a quick look at the notifications on your device at any given time.

The phone’s earpiece doubles as the speaker, delivering sound towards the user instead of below which is usually the setup on most devices. It’s loud and well defined, but it’ll get drowned out in a moderately noisy room, unfortunately. The fingerprint scanner is larger than before, and unlocks the phone quickly. Call quality was great, as well as LTE and GPS performance.

Camera is so-so

The Motorola Moto Z2 Play sports a 12-megapixel rear camera paired with an f/1.7 aperture lens and PDAF. It’s a big leap compared to the camera sensor offered in last year’s model. But does it deliver the goods?

Well, yes and no. The bigger opening that the f/1.7 aperture gives you allows the phone to grab more light when taking photos but unfortunately it still results in some blurry photos in some cases. We also encountered several instances of blown-out highlights in well-lit areas, as well as washed out colors.

The camera will be suitable for most people who just need snaps for social media, but if you’re a more discerning user you probably won’t like the output of the Moto Z2 Play.

Still a beast when it comes to battery life

The Moto Z Play’s claim to fame when it was announced last year was its beastly battery life. With a large battery, power-efficient screen and chipset the Moto Z Play managed to get run times of up to 2 days on a single charge.

It’s understandable then that many people were disappointed when Motorola cut the Moto Z2 Play’s battery down to 3000mAh for a slimmer body which usually means less battery endurance overall.

We’re happy to tell you that’s not the case. Yes, the phone doesn’t last two days on a single charge anymore, but it can still outlast most phones in the market today. On a full charge, we recorded around a day and a half of battery with moderate use. That’s incredibly impressive considering the phone’s battery is just 3000mAh.

Even better, you can extend that battery life further with the Incipio battery pack mod that adds 2220mAh of power to the back of the phone. If that’s not an option, you can quickly charge up the phone back to 100% using the fast charger that comes with the package.

Verdict: A great buy if you’re looking to get into Motorola’s mod ecosystem

While the Motorola Moto Z2 Play doesn’t break any new ground when it comes to design and hardware, it’s still a good buy for people looking to get into Motorola’s Mod ecosystem that they’ve been pushing since last year. It’s also a solid phone for people looking for a device that lasts quite a bit between trips to the charger that’s reasonably powerful and capable.

If you’re looking to jump into Motorola’s Mod ecosystem, now is the best time to get in it. There’s more mods available for the device than ever before, and with Motorola’s 3-year backwards-compatibility commitment for their phones, you can be sure that there will be a ton of Moto Mods avaiable to purchase for the phone in the months ahead.

The Motorola Moto Z2 Play retails in the Philippines at Php 24,999.

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

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