Moto Z and Moto Z Play first impressions: Hello ‘Modular’ Moto

A first look at the highly anticipated modular phones from Motorola, the Moto Z and the Moto Z Play.


Lenovo-owned smartphone maker Motorola launched its innovative modular smartphones, the Moto Z and the Moto Z Play today in India. The new Moto Z range is the company’s first attempt into making smartphones that can be modified in terms of hardware by adding specially made modules called Moto Mods. While the LG G5 didn't do all that well and Google's ARA project getting axed, it seems like a perfect opportunity for Moto.

We got to play with the smartphones at the launch event and we also tried the Moto Mods. Here is a quick looks the smartphones.

Build and design

Both the smartphones feel like glass slabs with a metal frame in the middle. The front and back are highly glossy so you end up having smudges and fingerprints all over the device. They are a bit slippery too. Moto has added a water-repellent coating on both the handsets as well so they can withstand a few splashes.

While the Moto Z is super slim at just 5.2 mm, the Moto Z Play is thicker at 6.9mm. That thickness is actually a plus point for the Moto Z Play as it gets a bigger battery and also retains the 3.5mm audio jack.

 Moto Z and Moto Z Play first impressions: Hello ‘Modular’ Moto

Overall the dimensions, apart from the thickness, feel same on the smartphones although the Moto Z Play is tiny bit bigger. This doesn’t make any difference while accommodating the Moto mods. The smartphones feature 5.5-inch displays and both have the peculiar square shaped fingerprint scanner on the front.

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The back features a round camera bump which is somewhat designed like the dial of the Moto 360 which oddly looks good. It is raised a bit from the main body, but if you use any of the Moto Mods, it becomes less prominent. The back also has the 16-pin magnetic connector at the bottom.

The design, even with the glossy finish, feels premium. The smartphones feel sturdy and solid and are definitely built to last. Also if you don't like a the glossy back, a quick snap of a custom back panel does the trick.

Display

Both offer 5.5-inch AMOLED displays although the Moto Z offers a better and higher resolution of 2560x1440 when compared to the 1920x1080 on the Moto Z Play. The Moto Z also gets Gorilla Glass protection. Either way, the displays are excellent. Colours look great, and sharpness is maintained with wide viewing angles.

Hardware

The Moto Z is priced higher so it gets better hardware than its younger brother. It runs on a Snapdragon 820 quad-core processor with an Adreno 530 GPU and 4GB of RAM. Internal storage is 64GB with an option to add a microSD card to expand it further. For photography, you get a 13MP rear camera with a dual tone flash and on the front there is a 5MP camera with a dedicated flash. Other features include a fingerprint scanner, a 2,600mAH battery and host of connectivity options including 4G LTE, dual-SIM option, USB-C, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, FM Radio.

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The Moto Z Play offers more mid-ranged specs including a Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor with an Adreno 506 GPU and 3GB of RAM. The internal storage is 32GB but you can expand it further using a microSD card. The primary camera offers a 16MP resolution with a dual tone flash while the front camera offers the same capabilities and resolution as the Moto Z. All other features including connectivity options offered on the Moto Z is available on the Play with the addition of a 3.5mm headphone jack and a larger 3,510 mAh battery.

Software

As with all Moto smartphones, you get stock Android with a few Moto apps here and there. The handsets run on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with Android 7.0 Nougat in the works. Moto’s features like active display, twist for camera and chop to trigger the flashlight are also present. The UI is fluid and felt lag-free but of course we need to test the smartphones properly for a better conclusion.

Camera

The Moto Z gets a 13MP primary camera with a f/1.8 aperture, OIS, laser autofocus and a dual-tone dual-LED flash. The Moto Z Play, on the other hand, gets a 16MP primary camera with phase detection and laser guided autofocus and a similar dual-tone dual-LED flash. No you may say that why does a more affordable phone have a better resolution camera, well in all fairness, the OIS and larger aperture opening definitely makes the camera on the Moto Z better.

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We could only shoot indoors so we can't say much of the image quality, but the cameras on both the smartphones seemed to work snappy. Both of them come with a 5MP f/2 camera setup on the front which also gets a dedicated flash for filling in light in your selfies.

Moto-mods

The biggest USP of the Moto Z range is the unique way of adding modules. They simply snap on the back using the 16-pin magnetic connectors. There is no switch, no opening of apps, nothing. Just snap and you are good to go. Motorola has announced a bunch of Moto Mods including battery packs, back panels, a speaker mod, a camera mod and even a projector mod. Upon attaching any of the modules, the phone gives a slight vibration confirming the connection and you get a quick notification as well. We tried all the mods and all of them worked seamlessly.

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Conclusion

This is probably the best approach by any smartphone maker to make a modular smartphone. Well, to be honest there is only the LG G5 which failed miserably. The Moto Z is definitely going to pave the way for proper modular phones. Having said that, as standalone smartphones, the Moto Z and Moto Z Play are just any other smartphones in their category. You will really need to invest in the mods, to actually unlock the true potential of the smartphones.

As for the price, Rs 39,999 for the Moto Z and Rs 24,999 for the Moto Z Play sound fair and quite acceptable considering the multiple option of modules you get with more in the works. The Moto Z and the Moto Z Play are very interesting smartphones, but are they worth spending? For that you will have to wait for our review.


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