“Moto’s Z2 Play offers support for the company’s Moto Mods and an incredible battery life in an even slimmer package”

A modular design is a design approach which divides a system into smaller, replaceable modules and Google’s Project Ara showed the way as far as smartphones were concerned. That project is now defunct though. Even Korean giant LG, which introduced the modular G5 (review) last year took a more grounded approach with its flagship smartphone, the G6 (review) this year. So is the concept of modularity in smartphones merely a pipe dream? Well, Moto doesn’t think so, as the company is back with the semi-modular Moto Z2 Play (first impressions). The handset does have some pretty big shoes to fill, considering its predecessor, the Moto Z Play (review) was a pretty compelling smartphone. Can Moto manage to wow the critics a second time? Stay with me to find out.

Specs at a glance

Display
Size 5.5 Inch
Resolution Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)
Performance
CPU Octa core, 2.2 GHz, Snapdragon 626
RAM 4 GB
Storage
Internal memory 64 GB
External memory Up to 2 TB
Battery
Capacity 3000 mAH, Li-ion, Non removable
Camera
Primary camera 12 MP
Secondary camera 5 MP
Connectivity
Network support Dual SIM 4G
Other options Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS
Others
Battery Capacity 3000
Operating system Android 7.1.1 Nougat

Design and display

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If you’re upgrading from the Moto Z Play, then you might get a sense of Déjà vu when you first look at the Z2 Play but before you shun Moto for being uncreative, allow me to make a case for the smartphone. Seeing how the average shelf life of an affordable Android smartphone is anywhere between 1-2 years, the similar design language retains the universality for Moto mods. Therefore, buyers won’t have to constantly reinvest in new mods even when a newer version of the Z Play comes out. That’s not to say that the Z2 Play is a carbon copy of its predecessor as there are some differences in design here and there. For starters, the glass back from the Z Play is now gone and instead, the Z2 Play has been constructed entirely out of metal.

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The switch to a unibody metal design doesn’t just contribute to the smartphone’s sturdiness, but makes it less of a fingerprint magnet as well. While the back of the smartphone is flat, there’s no shortage of curves on the Z2 Play. All four sides of the smartphone sport subtle curves and are chamfered towards the edges, where they meet the front of the Z2 Play. Moto has shaved off a considerable amount of chunk from the smartphone too, however that could be because of a smaller battery housed inside the device. More on that later though. The handset is now a millimetre slimmer in girth than its predecessor and feels a lot lighter. To put things into perspective, the Moto Z Play weighed 165g whereas the Z2 Play comes in at just 145g. Interestingly, the Moto Z2 Play comes with a headphone jack and is almost as sleek as the original Moto Z, a device which traded the beloved analog port for its slim profile.

You will find a 3.5mm headphone jack at the bottom along with a USB Type-C port. The volume rocker as well as the power button have been positioned to the right side of the smartphone and to avoid confusion, the power button comes with a textured finish. A dual-SIM tray can be found at the very top which comes with room for two SIM cards and a microSD card too. Therefore, you won’t have to pick and choose between using two SIMs or expanding your storage. The top bezel is home to an LED flash, a front-facing camera, the earpiece and some sensors. A speaker has been integrated inside the earpiece which gets really loud and since the sound is being directly projected towards you, the Z2 Play is a great device to watch movies on. The fingerprint sensor on the Moto Z2 Play can be found below the display and ranks right up there with the likes of OPPO F3 Plus in terms of responsiveness and accuracy. Towards the back of the smartphone, buyers will find the primary camera below which rests the Moto insignia and the 16-pin connector for Moto Mods. Antenna lines can be found at the back too and have been cleverly disguised as a design trait which help in breaking the monotonous gold of the Moto Z2 Play.

All in all, Moto deserves a pat on the back when it comes to the design of the Z2 Play. Not only has the company managed to better the design of the smartphone, it has done so without losing the support for older Moto Mods making the Moto Z2 Play, in my opinion, one of the classiest smartphones one can buy for under Rs 30K. The only nitpick I have with the smartphone’s design is that the weight is not evenly distributed across the board and therefore, you’ll have to be extra cautious while using the smartphone with just one hand as it tends to tip. An easy fix for this problem is to invest in a Style Mod which will help you grip the smartphone better.  

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Talking about the display of the smartphone, Moto has furnished the Z2 Play with a 5.5-inch Super AMOLED full HD panel. As is the case with every Super AMOLED panel, the display has a high contrast ratio and can produce some deep blacks. The screen is sharp, has good viewing angles and gets adequately bright in broad daylight too. For those in the audience who don’t quite enjoy an over-saturated display, The company has included a ‘Standard’ mode in the settings which makes the colours feel more realistic. There’s also a night mode which automatically turns on according to a user’s preference and acts like a Blue light filter, thereby lowering the strain on a user’s eye at night.

Cameras

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The Moto Z2 Play comes with a 12MP rear camera with f/1.7 aperture and a 5MP selfie-shooter with f/2.2 aperture. Going by the spec sheet alone, the Moto Z2 Play’s rear facing camera might seem as a downgrade when compared to its predecessor, which came with a 16MP primary camera. However, we here at 91mobiles have proved it time and again that the pixel count is merely a small cog in an otherwise big machine. There’s a lot that goes behind the scenes after you press the shutter button which needs to be taken into account when considering the camera prowess of a smartphone.

The primary camera of the Z2 Play has seen considerable improvement over its predecessor and now comes with dual-pixel technology and laser autofocus as well, which allows the camera to click much better shots. In my testing, long shots taken by the camera turned out fine and had rich colours, but showed noise when zoomed in. Moreover, turning the HDR mode on doesn’t really make the colours pop or increase the dynamic range of an image all that much. Having said that, the camera excels at taking macros and captures the details of the subject in full. The smartphone’s laser autofocus comes into play here as well and focusses extremely quickly on to a subject. Unfortunately, the low-light performance of the camera wasn’t up to the mark and the images I clicked turned out to be grainy. Another major let down of the Z2 Play’s rear camera is that while the handset can shoot 4K videos at 30fps, there is no support for OIS and therefore, the final footage is shaky.

For selfies, buyers will be looking into a 5MP camera with f/2.2 aperture. Motorola has also furnished the Z2 Play with a front facing selfie flash, which could be an enticing feature if you love clicking selfies. The camera is certainly not the best in the league but it gets the job done. Shots taken in daylight have sufficient details and the built-in HDR mode makes selfies feel more realistic. The camera shines (quite literally) in low-light scenarios and selfies captured in the night are passable, to say the least, by social media standards.

Software

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The Moto Z2 Play boots Android v7.1 Nougat from the get go and unlike some other manufacturers, the software onboard the Z2 Play is mostly stock. Matter of fact, besides Google’s essential suite of applications, the smartphone comes with just two pre-installed apps from Moto which is great as you won’t have to manually uninstall duplicate apps when you get the phone. Moreover, as is with most other Moto handsets, the Z2 Play also supports the company’s famed Moto Actions which are a bunch of gestures which can be invoked by the flick of a hand. For instance, you can double karate-chop the phone to turn on the flashlight or twist it twice to switch on the camera and they work flawlessly.

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While gesture-based controls do take some time getting used to, they are not always a gimmick and the brand’s implementation of Moto Actions is a testament to that. Much like last year, the fingerprint sensor of the Moto Z2 Play does not double up as a home button. However this time around, buyers do have an option to reconfigure it as a one-key navigation button through the Moto app. To do so, simply open the Moto app and enable one button nav from the popup. With the feature turned on, buyers can swipe right on the fingerprint sensor to open up the multitasking menu and swipe left to go back. A single short tap will take you to your home screen whereas long-pressing the fingerprint sensor will lock the smartphone. 

Performance

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The Moto Z2 Play ships with a Snapdragon 626 processor which works in tandem with 4GB of RAM. The smartphone gets 32GB of onboard storage which can be further expanded up to 256GB via a microSD card. On paper, the specs of the Moto Z2 Play pale in comparison with flagships like the OnePlus 3T (review) and even the substantially cheaper Lenovo Z2 Plus (review), both of which come equipped with better Snapdragon processors. However, as I mentioned earlier, Moto’s Z2 Play (and the Z series in general) will retain support for Moto mods even in the future and therefore, you could upgrade your phone’s features down the line if you deem fit. Having said that, the Moto Z2 Play is an excellent performer and in all honesty, I wasn’t expecting the smartphone to fare as well as it did. My primary smartphones have been the OnePlus 3 (review) and the LG G6, both of which employ higher-end processors than the Z2 Play. I was expecting the smartphone to stutter every once in a while, but the Z2 Play handled everything like a champ which goes on to show that while specs do matter, it’s equally important for the software to be optimised to work well with the hardware. I am certain that had the Z2 Play been running on a bloated OEM skin, the smartphone’s performance wouldn’t be as good as it was with stock Android. Jumping in and out of apps was buttery smooth and I faced no instance of lag, even whilst intensive games. I tested the smartphone across a myriad of games such as Clash Royale and Asphalt: Street Storm, but the Z2 Play managed to hold its own. Even unoptimised games like AfterPulse ran fairly well on the smartphone with some occasional instances of frame drops. As I mentioned earlier, there are plenty of smartphones in the market which will offer you a much better configuration than the Z2 Play. However, if you have your mind set on the smartphone, I would like to assure you that the handset is perfectly capable of gaming and running day-to-day tasks without any hiccups.

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Arguably one of the biggest reasons for the Moto Z Play’s success was the fact that it shipped with a 3,510mAh cell, which lasted for days. The handset offered an incredible battery life and when the Z2 Play was first announced, it was met with a lot of criticism. While most of the specs of the smartphone have seen an upgrade from its predecessor, the battery’s size took a massive hit and the Z2 Play ships with a 3,000mAh battery. Seeing how many other smartphones in the market are fuelled by a 3,000mAh or higher batteries, the battery life of the Z2 Play should be average at best. However, nothing could be further from the truth as the Z2 Play currently has the best battery life in the affordable segment, bested only by its predecessor, the Moto Z Play. During daily usage, I was consistently hitting the 5-hour screen on time mark and the handset comfortable lasted me a day of heavy usage. Moreover, when the battery did drain, it took the smartphone less than two hours to refuel completely. This furthers my point that optimised software and good hardware can not only get you an incredible performance but stellar battery life too.

Verdict

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The Moto Z2 Play is certainly not the most powerful handset you can buy for Rs 28,000 and yet, it manages to run butter smooth, offers exceptional battery life, a great display and a decent camera configuration as well. It’s running the latest version of Android and will continue to get updates even in the future and most importantly, the smartphone supports Moto Mods, allowing you to upgrade the device’s speakers or battery life on a whim. The caveat here is that Moto Mods don’t come cheap and will set you back anywhere between Rs 5,999-20,999. For the additional price you might pay for the mods, you could just get yourself a much superior smartphone such as the recently launched OnePlus 5 (review). Moreover, if you’re someone who is never going to invest in a Mod, then buying the much cheaper Moto G5 Plus which comes with identical specs makes more sense for you. Don’t get me wrong, the Z2 Play is an excellent smartphone but you can get similar performance out of a handset for much less. And if you must spend Rs 28K on a device, then bear in mind that there are much better options than the Z2 Play when it comes to pure performance or camera prowess. 

Therefore, in closing, I’ll suggest you get your priorities straight. If you want a smartphone which will last you upwards of a day off a single charge and is futuristic, then the Moto Z2 Play is probably your best bet. Otherwise, if you have no intention of investing in a Moto Mod, then the notion of buying the Z2 Play is a little unconvincing. All in all, the Z2 Play is a solid contender from Moto in the mid-range segment and I can’t wait to see what the company comes up with next.

Editor’s Rating: 3.5 / 5

Pros

  • Incredible battery life
  • Support for Moto Mods
  • Sleek design 

Cons

  • No standout feature apart from modularity
  • Camera image quality could be better

Photos by Raj Rout