Reviews: Phones

Moto Z2 Play's strength lies in its solid battery life

The Moto Z2 Play is the upgraded 2017 version of the mid-range Play line, which features Moto Mod support.
The Moto Z2 Play is the upgraded 2017 version of the mid-range Play line, which features Moto Mod support.PHOTO: MOTOROLA MOBILITY

Moto's Z Play smartphone, released last year, is a stripped-down, mid-range version of the flagship Moto Z, both of which belong to the same smartphone line that has the honour of being the first to do modular phones right.

A key selling point of the Z-line of smartphones is their adaptability. Users can snap on various Moto Mods on the back of the phone, which add new features such as audio speakers or a zoom camera.

The Moto Z2 Play, released late last month, is not radically different from its predecessor.

Innovation is hard to come by when new phones have to be backwards-compatible with existing Moto Mods, and so the overall design of the Z2 Play looks similar to the original phone.

The back of the phone features the same magnetic clasp system to attach various Moto Mods onto the device. These work immediately, without the need to power off or reboot the phone.

The Z2 Play catches up with current mid-range phones by sporting a respectable Snapdragon 626 processor and 4GB of RAM.

However, the phone's camera is average at best and photos just don't impress on the same level as other smartphones.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $799

    PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 processor (Octa-core 2.2GHz)

    DISPLAY: 5.5-inch, Full HD, Super Amoled 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, 401ppi pixel density

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 7.1 Nougat

    CAMERA: 12MP, f/1.7 (rear); 15MP, f/2.2 (front)

    MEMORY: 64GB (microSD expandable to 2TB), 4GB RAM

    BATTERY: Non-removable 3,000mAh

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 3/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 3/5

Both front and rear cameras are neither the fastest shooters in the market nor the sharpest, since the phone lacks optical image stabilisation. That really hurts the detail on photos, producing noticeably soft photos lacking in definition in low or artificial lighting.

The automatic white balance errs too much on the warm side, and I find myself constantly adjusting settings in manual mode, which is a minor inconvenience especially when I want a hassle-free, quick and easy shooting experience that smartphones are supposed to provide.

There is a marked improvement when shooting in natural lighting, with more accurate colour reproduction and detail. There is a slight tendency for the camera to overexpose the scene, though, leading to blown highlights.

On the plus side, the Z2 Play has a solid battery life that stretches over a day even with constant use. The fingerprint sensor on the front of the phone is snappy and responsive and has a nice feature of also locking the phone when gently pressed while the screen is switched on.

Another point in favour of the Z2 Play is that it is one of the cheaper options for a stock Android phone, without manufacturer bloatware. This makes the software run smoothly and fuss-free, just as Google intended.

The Z2 Play is, however, one of the pricier mid-range phones out in the market, almost hitting the $800 mark.

Furthermore, since the entire design philosophy of the Moto Z line revolves around maximising the use of Moto Mods, the cost of buying into the ecosystem goes up when you consider the extra Mods you have to pay for to get the most out of the Z2 Play.

And these mods aren't cheap - the JBL speaker mod costs $139, the projector mod $399, and the Hasselblad camera add-on $459 - more than half the price of the Z2 Play.

So far, not many mods have been released in the market since the first four mod options were launched last year.

New additions that have trickled into the market include a vehicle dock and various power packs from various manufacturers.

The slow addition of new mods to the ecosystem is a factor to consider, since, without them, the Z2 Play is just another generic mid-range phone in the market.

However, Motorola is launching some new mods this year that aren't derivations of the previous ones.

There is an updated JBL Soundboost 2 mod, and a new back shell case, with which the phone can be charged wirelessly.

The most interesting one, however, is the Moto Gamepad, which transforms the phone into a handheld gaming device complete with joysticks and four buttons. These mods are expected to arrive in Singapore after this month.

•Verdict: The Z2 Play is a decent mid-range offering with good battery life and smooth software. It is pricey for a mid-range phone and gets more expensive when you consider the various Moto Mods to purchase in order to maximise what it can offer.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2017, with the headline 'Moto Z2 Play's strength lies in its solid battery life'. Print Edition | Subscribe