Lenovo, the parent company of Motorola announced the launch of its latest premium smartphone, the Moto Z2 Play. The Moto Z2 Play is the latest release by Motorola in its Moto line-up. The smartphone makes an attempt at bridging the gaps left in Moto's premium segment after the launch of Moto G5 and G5 Plus late last year. One thing to note here is that the Moto Z2 Play is not the company's flagship device as we are still waiting for the Moto Z2 to arrive in India. The Moto Z2 Play is the successor to the Moto Z Play that was launched last year alongside the Moto Z.
Lenovo has announced that the Moto Z2 Play will retail at Rs 27,999, which is in line with the mid-range smartphones in the market. I got my hands on the Moto Z2 and used it as my daily driver for 8 days. I pushed the smartphone to its limits in terms of usage. After extensive tests and usage, the Moto Z2 Play leaves me impressed. Here’s why!
Build and design: 8/10
Motorola has opted for an all-aluminum body on the back for the Moto Z2 Play. In comparison to the older model, the company has not made many changes to the design of the smartphone; except for that redesigned ‘fingerprint’ scanner on the front that is now rounded.
Instead of just working as a ‘fingerprint scanner’ (like on previous models), the new scanner also doubles up as a home button. Motorola emphasized that the company has redesigned the antennas on the Moto Z2 Play to ensure better connectivity for users no matter how they hold the smartphone.
In terms of the build quality of the smartphone, the device feels great. It feels sturdy without any squeaking parts. The smartphone maker has managed to make the smartphone even slimmer at 6 mm, in comparison to the 7 mm thickness of the previous model.
The slimmer profile of the smartphone is nice, but it also means that the device is hard to grip, especially in instances where I had to grab the phone from, say, a table, in a hurry.
The camera hump actually made it easier for me to grab the smartphone off the desk with the camera hump facing the table. The hump on the back raises the body of the phone by a few millimeters making it easier get a grip on.
Overall, the design and build remain virtually unchanged from the previous model.
The Moto Z2 Play features a 5.5-inch Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels) Super AMOLED display with a Corning Gorilla Glass 3 screen. The AMOLED panel comes with a 401 PPI pixel density and a 70.1 percent screen-to-body ratio. The phone is powered by an octa-core Snapdragon 626 processor clocked at 2.2 GHz along with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB internal storage. It offers expandable memory using microSD cards of up to 256 GB via the microSD card slot. The smartphone runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat out of the box.
The device features a 4G-enabled dual nano-SIM slot along with a dedicated micro-SD card to expand storage up to 256 GB. It comes with Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth v4.2 A2DP and LE, GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, NFC, FM Radio, a 3.5 mm headphone jack and a reversible Type-C USB 3.1 port in terms of connectivity. Motorola has also added a water-repellent nano-coating to the device to make sure that the smartphone does not get damaged from minor splashes of water or sweat. The device also packs a fingerprint scanner on the front.
The Moto Z2 Play packs in a 3,000 mAh non-removable Lithium-Ion battery along with Turbo-Charge, which, according to Lenovo, should last you a day. Fans of the Z Play will be disappointed with the reduced battery size, which is down from the earlier 3,510 mAh. The device will be available in two color options, gray and gold. Lenovo also announced the launch of four new Moto Mods along with the smartphone.
The new Moto Z2 Play features a 5.5-inch Full-HD (1080 x 1920 pixels) Super AMOLED display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection. The AMOLED panel comes with a 401 PPI pixel density and a 70.1 percent screen-to-body ratio. These things remain largely unchanged from the Motorola Moto Z Play that was launched last year. The display looks bright and vibrant with good viewing angles.
The colours on the display are crisp with no inaccuracy in terms of the colour rendering that I noticed. It comes with huge bezels at the top and bottom but it is not competing with the flagship smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S8, S8 Plus or the Essential Phone so these details would not really matter. The only thing that Motorola needs to improve with the screen is the reflection. The display does not perform as desired in direct sunlight as there is a lot of reflection. The display is sharp and you can see all the details clearly without any haziness.
The Moto Z2 Play comes with Android Nougat 7.1.1 out of the box along with the April Android security patch. This is one of the few smartphones that is running Android Nougat 7.1.1 as some of the companies are still launching smartphones with Android Nougat 7.0. For comparison, I would like to point that the first generation Moto Z Play still runs Android Nougat 7.0 with a planned 7.1.1 release.
The best part about the Moto Z2 Play and in fact, the entire Moto line-up, is the stock Android approach that the company has adopted. This means that the software can be easily updated at far greater speed in comparison to a scenario where the company would need to integrate its own skin and apps into Android and test it to ensure that everything works fine before releasing it to the general public.
The company has continued the Motorola philosophy of not adding any bloatware except for the ‘Moto’ and ‘Moto Mods’ app on the smartphone to deliver the ‘Moto Experience’. Lenovo detailed the ‘Moto Experience’ as the overall experience that it wants to deliver using the ‘Moto Actions’, ‘Moto Display’, and ‘Moto Voice.’
Each adds additional functionality to the stock Android experience to improve overall usability. I did not face many problems when it came down to the operating system and the overall experience of the software. Everything was fluid, smooth and snappy except for some stuttering animations while swiping up from the home screen to access the app drawer and scrolling through the app drawer, which I am sure can be easily fixed by a bugfix update.
Last but not the least, the company has also added the subtle animation when the user long presses on the home button to activate Google Assistant.
When it comes to performance, the smartphone is quite capable. I ran the smartphone through a number of benchmark tests and it scored decent scores. However, the smartphone left me extremely impressed when it came to the real world performance. I did not experience any lag or freezing during the length of my review.
Almost all the apps that I used ran perfectly well. Extended gaming sessions of heavy duty games like Modern Combat 5 ran at smooth 60 fps (the settings allowed for this) and similar performance levels were seen in games like Asphalt 8: Airborne, and Dead Trigger 2 as well.
I went about playing Modern Combat 5 for six hours straight — don't judge me, I had nothing better to do — without any heating issues on the device. One thing to note here is that the phone heats up a bit when using the Turbo-Charger.
There was no issue while placing cellular or internet calls using the Moto Z2 Play as the connectivity and voice clarity was spot on. The bundled earphones with the device did not pose any problems as the sound was clear with decent noise cancellation.
The smartphone comes with a 12 MP camera with an f/1.7 aperture for better shots in low and dimly-lit conditions. The company has also added a dual autofocus system by adding phase detection and laser detection along with a dual tone dual-LED flash for sharper and improved focus.
The camera feels very snappy in performance and it does not hunt for focus as the shot is taken almost immediately. It could do with some software tweaking as the photographs lose texture and details once you zoom into the photos. Again, this is not limited to photos shot in low light but extends to the photos shot in sufficient daylight; as well as those shot in the HDR mode.
The photos turn blotchy when you shoot in darkness. Thankfully, Lenovo has added a professional mode that allows users to tinker with shutter speed, focus, white balance and the ISO settings of the camera. The professional mode does help with the noise but that means experimenting with the settings with makes it less than ideal for casual users.
The front-facing camera of the smartphone is decent with no issues. This comes as no surprise as Lenovo clarified that the 1.4 µm pixel size of each pixel in the camera sensor will ensure better photos. The front camera features a 5 MP sensor with an f/2.0 aperture with a dual tone dual-LED flash.
In terms video recording, the rear camera can shoot 4K video at 30 fps, while the front camera can only manage 1080p video. When compared to the previous generation, the megapixel count is down from the 16 MP mark but the camera gains dual-autofocus.
Motorola has ensured that the Z2 Play delivers when it comes to battery life. The smartphone easily lasted a day for me on heavy usage, which included gaming for an hour or so, three email accounts syncing, constant emailing, WhatsApp messages, 10-20 photos and listening to music for 3-3.5 hours at a stretch. The PCMark for Android Work 1.0 Battery test could not be completed as the benchmark test kept freezing after 20 percent on repeated attempts.
However, the Moto Z2 Play is not the only device to throw such an error so we collected the conventional battery graphs provided by Android.
My marathon six-hour session with Modern Combat 5 began when the battery was at 100 percent. At the end of six hours, there was still 26 percent to spare. More than enough to last me a few more hours of regular use.
The Moto Z2 Play comes with a 3,000 mAh non-removable Lithium-Ion battery along with Turbo-Charge. The smartphone boasts an impressive screen on time when you compare it with other competitors with a similar battery capacity. The battery is smaller than the one on its predecessor, but it doesn't seem to matter much now.
Verdict and Price in India:
Lenovo has priced the Moto Z2 Play at Rs 27,999 in the Indian market. The price of the Z2 Play places it as a premium device with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 626. The company has decided to focus on the overall experience instead of engaging in a race to pack the latest and greatest in terms of specifications. The final result of this direction has paid off as the Moto Z2 Play is an impressive device with great battery backup, stock Android with good additions in terms of Moto Actions and Moto Display.
The device marks a great improvement over the Moto Z and Moto Z Play. One thing we should not forget is the Moto Mods support where you can use the Mods that you have previously purchased. You can also invest in new mods without worrying about forward-compatibility. One thing which Lenovo can improve upon is the price, which seems a tad too high in the face of competition, especially from the likes of the more powerful OnePlus 3.
Motorola loyalists have no better option in India for a better smartphone but they can also look at the Moto G5 Plus if they want to save money. The Moto G5 Plus offers the similar design aesthetics, hardware options and Stock Android. However, you would lose on the Moto Mods support and end up with a budget smartphone offering from the company.
As concluded last year with the review of the Moto Z, the Moto Mod ecosystem needs to evolve to the second generation with significant improvements if it wants to be taken seriously. I can see that the company is working towards those improvements with the upcoming Gaming Pad Mod and other mods in hackathons that the company has held in the recent past.
If you are looking for alternatives then you can look at the OnePlus 3T which gives flagship specs along with a better camera and Dash Charge for Rs 29,999. If you are not a OnePlus fan then you can go with the Xiaomi Mi 5 for Rs 22,999 with comes with Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 and 3 GB RAM for flagship grade specifications from 2016. Beyond the OnePlus 3T, Xiaomi 5, and Moto G5 Plus there are no smartphones that I can suggest you in the range.
To conclude, if you want stock Android with great battery life and you don't really care about the flagship specifications, you can invest your money in the Moto Z2 Play. But, if you want the latest and greatest, it's better to look at OnePlus 3T or Xiaomi Mi 5 for those specs.