Motorola/Lenovo has just launched a new Moto Z phone called Moto Z Play. At the moment, we unit we have is a Verizon “Moto Z Play Droid”– but expect to find a GSM unlocked (and unsubsidized) version. The Moto Z Play has been designed to provide a premium experience and a very long-lasting battery life, for an affordable price. That is its “raison d’etre”, where the Moto Z is very thin, and the Moto Z Force is super-durable.
The Moto Z Play is not a small phone and could easily be compared to a Galaxy Note 7 when it comes to size. It has a 5.5” Display which is hidden behind an edge to edge tempered (flat) glass. The design is neat, and the materials look good. The Moto Z Play definitely feels like a premium phone rather than a mid-range handset.
The back of the phone is also covered with glass with a nice textured pattern surface behind it. The Motorola Logo is just above the middle of the back side, and the enormous camera module is right above it. The design of the camera is probably meant to “project power.”
Also, since the camera was going to budge anyway, Motorola decided to make a statement with it. It’s quite difficult (and probably expensive) to make the camera completely flush with the backside, and the Huawei P9 is one of the rare phones with a flush quality camera.
At the bottom, you can spot the MotoMods connector for the various modules the Moto Z Play can use. So far, there’s a Camera, a Speaker, a video Projector and a battery module. The neat thing with those modules is that they don’t require you to open the back cover or the bottom (like the LG G5). They just snap onto the Moto Z Play’s back.
The most peculiar thing I found on this phone is the fingerprint reader, which is located where the Home button usually is, but yet can’t be used as a Home button. Also, there was ample room to add Home/Menu and Back physical buttons to free up some space in the user interface.
Learn more: How do Fingerprint Scanners Work?
Display: Super AMOLED
With a 5.5” Super-AMOLED screen, the Moto Z Play offers an adequate image quality and sharpness. However, it has an FHD (1920×1080) resolution, probably to optimize its price positioning. Of course, it always nicer to have a QHD display, but in this price range, we find the decision to be completely reasonable.
Resolution aside, the display image quality is excellent. Out of the box, it’s not completely obvious because the preloaded images were a bit gloomy, but once I loaded our usual set of pictures used for phone reviews, I could immediately get a sense for it.
Of course, because it’s an OLED display, the contrast and black-levels are exceptional. I think that most people will be completely satisfied with what they see.
Learn more: LCD vs. OLED. Which is Best And Why?
The Moto Z Play has a 16 Megapixel main camera with an aperture of f2.0 and laser-based autofocus (AF). This means that it can quickly figure out of the subject is close or far to switch to macro and infinite AF modes very quickly. In between, it will use the distance estimator to adapt to the current situation. It’s a pretty good way of doing it.
There are other phones that use a laser-based AF, like the LG G4/G5, but the Moto Z Play isn’t as fast as they are when it comes to AF. The camera hunts a little bit at the moment, but it’s OK overall – just not as good as they best out there. We’re far from a Galaxy S7 here – but at about half the price, it’s hard to complain.
Also, the Moto Z Play camera does not come with an Optical Image Stabilization system (OIS), which means that it won’t be able to extend the exposure time in low-light conditions, or face blurriness. That, along with the f2.0 aperture would hint that the camera will be morfe challenged in low-light conditions when compared to the best out there
I’ll take more photo samples in challenging situations, but at first glance, the camera looks fairly decent. Last thing: the camera can be launched by a double-click on the Power button, although this is not enabled by default in the settings (why, oh why?).
Battery: 3510 mAh
With a battery capacity of 3510 mAh, the Moto Z Play leads the Moto Z Series of handset but doesn’t exactly break any records (The Moto Z has 2600 mAh, and the Z-Force has 3500 mAh). This is a very respectable capacity for a phone that size, so it’s completely competitive when it comes to battery.
Motorola claims that the phone is capable of going through “50 hours of mixed use” (with screen on). We have yet to put it to the test, but technically, what we see in the specs and software would lead us to be skeptical, at least with our own sense of what “mixed usage” is. Maybe Motorola needs to define a few things here.
Given that the Moto Z Play runs on a Snapdragon 625 chip (main processor), it’s reasonable to think that the energy budget is easily kept under control, so the battery life should be quite good. Given that high-end phones can last a day (or more) with a Snapdragon 820, we would predict that the Moto Z Play can breeze through the day without creating anxiety, again with a normal usage (vs. a power-user one).
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 is a very good SoC for phones in this price range. It has a two sets of four cores in a big.LITTLE style configuration in which the most appropriate cores do the job at any given time. They can all be enabled at once if needed, but that’s mainly useful for CPU benchmarks.
Learn more: what is a SoC or System On a Chip?
Launched in February 2016, the Snapdragon 615 is a mid-range processor which includes an Adreno 506 graphics processor (GPU). It’s not the most powerful in its class, since the Snapdragon 650 and 652 are faster, simply because they are optimized for QHD (2560×1600) displays. The 615 also doesn’t support broadcasting the phone’s screen over WiFi with Miracast.
There’s 2GB of RAM, so it’s best to keep multitasking under control. Concurrently running apps may result in having a more sluggish phone. This is one of main differences between mid-range and high-end handsets, when it comes to day to day computing.
Learn more: Are benchmarks a big deal?
The Moto Z Play Droid is set to be available on September 8 exclusively on Verizon at first, then in the unlocked market. It’s too early to tell if other carriers will join. At a full price of ~$400, the phone seems to carry a good quality/price ratio, but we’ll need to run the numbers and compare it with other players in this field, including the OnePlus 3, and the Honor 8. This market is extremely competitive, and differentiation such as MotoMods could help Motorola distinguishing itself and get out from the “specs” game.