Motorola Z2 Play: Upgrades, Mods, and Trackpad, Oh My!

Companies have tried to create modular smartphones or smartphone components and those efforts have largely been fails. I was intrigued when Motorola released their Moto line of phones with Moto mods, but was hesitant to fully jump on board with the idea because of the lack of success of previous efforts. Sure they may be good first gen products, but what happens when a second gen is released? Will this attempt even last longer than one generation? Well, Lenovo has answered those questions with their second generation Moto Z2 Play, and there’s a lot to like. 

That Second Generation MOTO Hardware

First things first, the Z2 Play is the first of the Moto Z line to receive it’s second generation offering and that’s a good thing. Of the the strongest components of the first gen Z Play was its battery life. Forget having just “all day” battery life, that phone had days long battery life! This trend continues, though the battery in the Play2 is actually smaller than the previous iteration. With the Z Play you get a 3510mAh battery, but in 2017 they’ve reduced that battery to 3000mAh. So, what does that mean for you? Instead of three or four days, you’ll be able to stretch this one to two days, and easily get a full day of hammering the device without monitoring the battery level.

Watch the full video review here: 

This year’s model will cost you a bit more than last year’s but that’s because this new device is positioned somewhere between the previous Z Play and Moto Z.. That goes for pricing, it’s now $500, and specs as well. The Z2 Play still rocks the 1080P screen at 5.5 inches with the traditional 16x9 aspect ratio, but the processor has been updated to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 626 SoC and things are plenty fast enough with this midrange chipset. The rest of the hardware is solid spec. You get USB-C and keep your 3.5mm headphone port. The power, volume up and down buttons, are on the right side, nothing on the left and your SIM/micro SD tray is up top, along with a microphone. On the front of the phone you get a f/2.2, 5 megapixel front facing camera with dual LED dual-tone flash. Looking at the gallery, you can see a selfie I took in my car while it was stopped and how vibrant and detailed the image was. I’ve also taken some selfies indoors to show the difference. With that 22.2 aperture, the front facing camera does pretty decent in low light. Also on the front is the long speaker on the phone, which gets loud enough to play music at a decent level. Like most phones though, if you really want sound worth listening to, you’ll want to plug up a decent pair of headphones.

 

Fingerprint Scanner Awesomeness

The most exciting thing on the front of the phone, heck the entire phone, even more so than the mods is the fingerprint scanner. I absolutely LOVED the way Lenovo handled the implementation of the fingerprint scanner on the Moto G5 Plus! You were able to get rid of the on-screen navigation buttons after enabling the fingerprint scanner to do their job. In essence, it became a touchpad for your Android phone. Well, the trickle down (or up) magic found its way over to the Moto Z2 Play and via the Moto app you can jump into Moto Actions and activate the full potential of the Z Play2’s fingerprint scanner. As it was with the G5 Plus, so it is with the Z2 Play! One Button Nav, as it is called in their menu, allows you to: Swipe left or right to either go back, or for recent apps, tap quickly to go home, touch and hold until you feel a short buzz to lock the screen, touch and hold until you feel a long buzz to launch Google Assistant. The functionality is rock solid, works like a charm and you’ll get more screen real estate once the soft buttons are gone.

Being super thin comes at a price where the rear camera is concerned and that means that if you don’t have one of the Moto Style Shells, you’re going to have a noticeable camera hump protruding vicariously from the back of the phone. For me that’s tough because I tend to use my phones case-free and having the lens exposed like that makes my eye twitch. Good news though, Lenovo has updated the camera on the Z2 Play. While it doesn’t have optical image stabilization, it does have a faster lens and focus than the previous gen device. That lack of OIS is going to hurt it in low light conditions but the camera is an improvement and takes passable photos in low light and good photos in solid lighting conditions.

 

No Mods on Moto Mods

Look, if you’re going to sell the public on a modular phone with accessories which aren’t necessarily inexpensive, then they better be able to get more than one phone cycle’s use out of them. And considering that many companies are releasing new phones annually, that’s a big deal and an investment. Lenovo did not disappoint in this area! Moto Mods from the first gen devices, also work with the Moto Z2 Play. So, that Hasselblad camera you bought? Yeah, it works. The extended battery mod? Slap it on, you’re good to go. The car dock? Still works. And if you’re really into the modular thing, Lenovo has released some new mods. The new Style Shells for example, now feature 10 watt wireless charging for a speedy top off.

Overall, Lenovo’s Motorola Moto Z2 Play is a solid phone and the fact that first gen mods work with this second gen equipment is definitely a confidence builder if you’re considering buying into this ecosystem of products. At $300-$400 less than higher end phones and still $200 or more less than closely spec’d phones, the Moto Z2 Play makes a compelling case at $408 on Verizon’s network only for now. You’ll need to add at least $20 to that to get a basic Style Shell, or $40 for the wireless charging enabled Style Shell so you don’t have to worry about that camera hump; I recommend you do this.

 

Disclosure: Lenovo provided me with a demo unit for the purpose of this review

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