Motorola’s best smartphone for 2017 is a thin, classy-looking handheld with a long-lasting battery. It’s compatible with Moto Mod accessories, and sold at a fair price. That phone is the Moto Z2 Play, which I reviewed two months ago.
It’s newer sibling is the Moto Z2 Force, and it’s a much better deal for the wireless carriers than it is for you. If you are a spec sheet shopper who bases buying decisions on the numbers, maybe you’re puzzled by my preference for the mid-range Motorola.
After all, the Moto Z2 Force brings a cutting-edge Snapdragon 835 processor and Quad HD display, neither of which are present on the Moto Z2 Play. But I’m still convinced that, at 5.5 inches, most normal folks can’t tell the difference between full HD and 2K.
And Motorola did such a good job tuning the performance in the Moto Z2 Play that I would have no problems whatsoever using it as a daily driver, especially given how well its predecessor aged.
I don’t see the Snapdragon 835 as a particularly compelling argument for this phone either. It should make the carriers happy, though, since the Snapdragon 835’s modem supports a few network-friendly features the cheaper ones do not.
I was more concerned with the decision to go with a battery smaller than every other flagship Android of 2017. And after a week of testing, I’m sorry to report that that concern was justified.
While most of the competition can see me through a 14 to 16-hour day, the Moto Z2 Force is an 8 to 10-hour phone for me, and I’m doubtful that any amount of optimization can overcome this combination of a flagship spec set and a small battery.
If you buy this phone and spend any length of time away from a charger, you basically need the $80 TurboPower battery pack to go with it, great for the carrier that sells it to you though.
Part of the reason Motorola slimmed down the internal battery was to accommodate the ShatterShield display. And if there’s anything that’s gonna sell this phone apart from the Moto Mods, ShatterShield is it. It delivers on its promises.
I saw review devices absolutely brutalized at the launch event and afterwards, and it’s genuinely impressive to see how well it withstands impact. But it accomplishes this by trading the typical brittle glass for soft plastic. As a result, the top layer shows warping and visual distortions. And more damning, it’s extremely scratch-prone.
There’s a feature in the Motorola software that lets you silence the phone by placing it face-down on a tabletop, but I’ve never used it on this phone because I’m too worried about the soft plastic being scratched up by toast crumbs or whatever.
Motorola recommends buying a third party screen protector, which I’m sure your carrier will be happy to provide for a fee.
In brighter news, the software is as awesome as ever. Almost every feature Motorola has added is a useful addition that Android itself doesn’t provide.
From the simple gestures to activate key features, to the small but super useful conveniences. I covered those features in my Moto Z2 Play Review, So I’ll just say that this is the best version of Android you can find outside of the Google Pixel and OnePlus 5.
Around back, the phone has sprouted a second camera with the same resolution as the primary, but the lack of colour filters on that sidecar, means it can kick out monochrome photos with more sharpness, clarity and depth than just slapping a black-and-white filter on an existing photo.
The added depth information also allows for a portrait mode on this camera, which artificially blurs the background to make the subject pop. I don’t like portrait mode on this phone any better than I like it on any other Android. There are stitching errors galore, and it’s little more than a toy.
But pair it with the Moto depth editor, and it becomes a pretty fun toy. Mostly, I was happiest when shooting standard photos and video with the phone, which have a bit more saturation than I’m used to seeing from Motorola.
The typical complaints about low-light photography hold firm, and there’s more digital noise in sky shots than I generally like to see but, well, these are issues with almost every phone out there. And not every front-facing phone camera has a front-facing flash, something you’ll appreciate if you take a lot of night time selfies.
My two biggest complaints about this shooter are the lack of optical stabilization, and a bit of a lag between hitting the shutter button and actually getting the capture. There’s a software update landing post-launch that will hopefully tweak that latter issue and hopefully improve that electronic stabilization a little bit. But even if it doesn’t, this camera will serve the vast majority of folks just fine.
Everything else is the same as on the Z2 Play, from the too quiet front-facing speakerphone to the call quality. So let’s spend a second touching on the latest Moto Mod. On the plus side, I love that it’s stick it and click it. You slap it on there and start using it right in the main viewfinder.
Ultra wide-angle photos and video, tiny planets, live streaming to Facebook coming soon, it’s a 360 camera mod, and it’s a lot of fun. But it’s also a lot of money, $300. And it doesn’t bring any spare battery capacity even though it has the room for it.
And it’s not as widely compatible as the Gear 360 from Samsung, which is also much cheaper. The last time Motorola made an over-priced mod with this many compromises, well, it ended up giving them away for free a year later.
That’s a snarky way of saying you get a free projector mod when you buy this phone, which is cool, but this phone really needs a Turbopower Mod a lot more than a projector. And it would also be nice to see the 30W charger that came with last year’s Force.
This year’s is a pokey 15W. And that complimentary style shell from last year? Well that’s gone too. All this corner cutting to produce a phone that Motorola wants to charge you 45,000 INR for the privilege of owning.
|Network Support||GSM / HSPA / LTE|
|SIM Type||Dual Nano SIM Cards (Dual Stand-by)|
|Display||P-OLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
5.5 inches (~70.4% screen-to-body ratio)
1440 x 2560 pixels (~534 ppi pixel density)
|Chipset||Qualcomm MSM8998 Snapdragon 835|
|Processor||Octa-core (4×2.35 GHz Kryo & 4×1.9 GHz Kryo)|
|RAM||4 GB RAM|
|Memory||64 GB Internal
microSD, up to 256 GB (uses SIM 2 slot)
|Camera||Primary: Dual 12 MP, f/2.0, laser & phase detection autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash
Features: 1/2.9″ sensor size, 1.25 µm pixel size, geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, HDR, panorama
Secondary: 5 MP, f/2.2, dual-LED (dual tone) flash
Video: 2160p@30fps, 1080p@30/60/120fps, 720p@240fps
|Battery||Non-removable Li-Ion 2730 mAh battery|
|Sensors||Fingerprint (front-mounted), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer|
|Operating System||Android 7.1.1 (Nougat)|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth v4.2, A2DP, EDR, LE (5.0 after SW update)
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, WiFi Direct, hotspot
GPS with A-GPS
Type-C 1.0 reversible connector, USB On-The-Go; magnetic connector
No FM Radio
|Special Features||– Photo/video editor
– Document viewer
– No Java Support
– Fast battery charging
– Moto Mods
Moto Z2 Force will be in market from 10th August, 2017. It will be priced at 45,000 INR. ($720)
If I were buying a Moto Z this year, I’d make it the Moto Z2 Play. You’ll save at least 15,000 INR. The sacrifices you make in processor and camera (Also Headphone jack) will not be noticeable to most folks, and it’s still compatible with all the mods that make owning one of these so genuinely fun.
Unless you really need ShatterShield or you can pick it up for a song, there are better phones in the class than the Moto Z2 Force.
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