Moto Z2 Play

Smartphones have come a long way in the past decade. No longer are the days where the only use for phones was making calls. We’re in a new era now, and the possibilities are virtually endless when it comes to what we can do with these tiny computers in our pockets. And the first phone to land on our review desk – the Moto Z2 Play from Verizon – is the perfect example of what I’m talking about.

The folks at Big Red were super kind and send us out a Moto Z2 Play to test. Even more generously, they sent out a slew of Moto Mods to make this review even more fun than it already would have been. So, many thanks again, Verizon!

Rather than splitting this up into a bunch of separate reviews for each individual Mod, I’m covering it all for you, right here in this very post. There’s a lot of ground to cover, so grab yourself a snack and get settled in. When you’re ready, scroll on down and we’ll talk specs for the Z2 Play itself, first.

Device specs

The Moto Z2 Play launched in June of 2017. It features a 5.5-inch 1080×1920 Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, with 401 ppi pixel density, and Corning Gorilla Glass 3.

The Z2 Play has dimensions of 156.2 x 76.2 x 6 mm and is lightweight (without any mods attached). It weighs just 146g on its own. On the inside, it’s got an octa-core 2.2 GHz Cortex-A53 Snapdragon 626 with Adreno 506 GPU. The 32 GB model comes with only 3 GB of RAM, while the 64 GB model packs a bit of an extra punch with 4 GB of RAM. You can expand storage on either model to 256 GB via a dedicated microSD card slot.

In the camera department, we’re looking at a 12 MP f/1.7 primary shooter with phase detection and laser autofocus, plus a dual-LED flash.The main camera shoots video at 2160p@30fps, 1080p@60fps, and 720p@120fps. There’s a 5 MP f/2.2 camera with dual-LED flash and 1080p video recording capabilities around front, for taking selfies.

Rounding out the spec list, the Z2 Play has a fingerprint sensor located on the physical button on the front of the device, an accelerometer, gyro, proximity, and compass. It also has a non-removable Li-Ion 3000 mAh battery runs Android 7.1.1 out of the box.

Unboxing the Moto Z2 Play

Build quality, look and feel

The Moto Z2 Play is a nice-looking device with a few quirks.

Moto Z2 Play 6

For starters, the rear camera is raised quite a bit from the back of the phone, making it vulnerable to all sorts of damage. This isn’t an issue if you attach a Moto Mod, however, as the camera actually sits a bit inward from the back of the device then. The back of the device has a brushed-metallic feel, which can be a bit slippery at times, so this isn’t a phone I’d recommend owning without a proper case. You’re definitely going to want to protect your investment here.

A bit of forewarning, too – if you’re looking for a phone with tiny bezels, you’re not getting that with the Z2 Play. The side bezels are rather small, but those on the top and bottom might be a deal-breaker for you if you want something with a sleeker profile.

Another thing worth mentioning is the fingerprint sensor being on the front of the device isn’t nearly as convenient as it is centered around back, like on the GG. It’ll take some time to get familiar if you’re coming from a phone with a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor.

Moto Z2 Play 4

User interface

As I previously stated, the Moto Z2 Play comes running Android 7.1.1 out of the box, overlaid with Motorola’s gentle customizations. The user interface is simple, intuitive and generally easy to use.

However, if you’re like me, the first thing you’ll do is install a new launcher app to replace the default homescreen. I highly recommend Nova Launcher, if you choose to do so.

If you do decide to stick with the default launcher, it’s actually quite similar to Pixel Launcher, just with Moto’s *cough cough* lackluster icons. Swiping left brings up a rather generic copycat version of Google Now, which is powered by Evie. The Z2 Play’s settings menus are easy to navigate, and pretty much look identical to those found on ‘Pure Google’ devices like the Pixel.

I’ve gotta give it to Motorola here – their (currently unnamed) Android UI skin is probably the least intrusive out of all of the phones I’ve used, outside of Nexus devices. I’m sure some folks will find something to nitpick about it, but I have no complaints in this department, outside of those.

Performance

The Moto Z2 Play performs amazingly well for the mid-range device it is. Everything is smooth and snappy, and the transition between screens is fluid and without lag. I didn’t notice any overheating, even after long periods of screen-on time, heavy gaming, or video calling. I also didn’t experience any app crash or random device reboots, which is always a good thing.

I’m not a fan of benchmarks, but I know there a plenty of readers here who are, so for the sake of my review, I ran an Antutu test. Antutu is an app that performs benchmarking tests. In computing, a benchmark is an act of running a computer program, a set of programs, or other operations, in order to assess the relative performance of an object, normally by running a number of standard tests and trials against it.

Moto Z2 Play Antutu

The Moto Z2 Play scored a 67748 in my test, with the following sub-scores:

  • 3D:13048
  • UX: 26622
  • CPU: 22199

All-in-all, the Z2 Play offers solid results in the performance category. This phone is more than enough for most moderate users, although it may leave power users looking for just a bit more.

Battery life

This is one area where the Z2 Play lacks. The original Moto Z Play packed a 3510 mAh battery, while the follow-up only has a 3000 mAh battery. This may be a turnoff to some OG owners thinking about bumping up to the newer model.

That said, the Moto Z2 Play gets adequate battery life and should get you through your day, unless you’re doing a lot of gaming, using memory intensive apps, or taking a bunch of photos/videos.

Camera quality

The camera on the Z2 Play isn’t going to win any awards, but it’s not coming in as “Worst in Show”, either. It performs well in both bright and in low-light situations, but it doesn’t perform great in either category. There’s a lot to take in with this review, so I won’t talk much about the camera itself, rather I’ll leave you with a nice gallery full of images I shot with the device, both in high and low light settings.

Normal lighting

Carl the Jack Tzeagle (Moto Shot)

Low lighting

 Moto Z2 Play Low Light

Selfie Cam

Moto Z2 Play Selfie Cam

Sample video

Verizon’s network

Before we dig into Verizon’s network specifics, I’ll let you know that I’m a T-Mobile customer for my personal cell phone; I have been for over 11 years now.

Magenta is a great carrier, but its network has some downfalls, like network speed and 4g coverage here in Iowa. I live in the capital city of Des Moines. I get a decent signal when I’m out and about around town, and just OK signal while I’m at home.

Verizon’s Moto Z2 Play seems to get a much better signal and significantly higher download speeds for me, compared to those of my LG G6, on T-Mobile. To get concrete evidence of this, I don’t have to look further than running a couple of speed tests on both devices from the comfort of my living room.

Take a look – I’ll let you be the judge on this one…

Verizon Speed Test September 2017
Verizon (Moto Z2 Play – September 2017)

 

T-Mobile Speed Test September 2017
T-Mobile (LG G6 – September 2017)

Dubya Tee Eff, T-Mobile?

Am I the only one who sees a problem here?

Again, these two screenshots were taken in the same spot at the same location: In my home, where I spend a good majority of my time. Sure, T-Mobile’s speeds are sufficient, but knowing they could be so much faster makes jealous. And since the chances of getting the Pixel 2 directly from T-Mobile are slim, I’m actually thinking about jumping ship for the first time. (Emphasis on thinking.)

Moto Mods

The star of the show here isn’t the Moto Z2 Play itself, rather it’s the awesome Moto Mods the device plays friendly with. For the record, all first-gen Moto Mods for the Z series. Verizon sent out three mods for me to test with the Z2 Play, and in my opinion, I got the coolest of the bunch.

I got the JBL Soundboost Speaker, the 360-degree Camera, and the InstaShare Projector. Each and every one of these mods is awesome in its own right, but my absolute favorite is the projector. There’s something special to be said about having the ability to turn your living room into a movie theatre.

That said, time to take a closer look at each of these beasties. Now’s a good time for a potty break before we dive into this next portion of my review.

JBL Soundboost Speaker

JBL Soundboost Speaker 1

The JBL Soundboost Speaker is nice, don’t get me wrong, but it’s the least exciting of the three Moto Mods I got to test in my time with the Z2 Play. It’s a speaker that attaches magnetically to the back of the phone and has a kickstand to prop it up.

Here’s a quick rundown of the device followed by a few thoughts.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 6 x 3 x 0.5 in.
  • Weight: 4 oz

Features

  • High-quality JBL audio
  • Magnetically snaps into place on your compatible device
  • Instant playback; no pairing necessary
  • Position the integrated kickstand at the optimal viewing angle
  • Listen to music for up to 10 hours without using your phone’s battery
  • Loud and clear hands-free calls on built-in speakerphone

Sound quality with the JBL Soundboost is pleasing. The device packs a punch for its compact size, and battery life for me is consistent with the 10 hours advertised. And the party doesn’t stop once the battery dies, either. The speaker actually runs on your phone’s battery once its own internal battery completely discharges, although this obviously causes your phone’s battery to die a bit faster.

JBL Soundboost Speaker 2

One thing worth mentioning, however, is that you can achieve similar results for much less, although saving money comes at the expense of sound quality in most cases.

The JBL Soundboost speaker will set you back $79.99. In my honest opinion –  just a bit steep for what it does, but it’s a nice mod to have if you have the extra cheese to put towards an audio accessory.

Moto 360 Camera

Moto 360 Camera 3

360-degree cameras aren’t exactly new, but this is the first one I’ve ever used. And it’s nothing short of awesome. It’s another Moto Mod that attaches to the back of the Z2 Play magnetically, and it has a 360-degree camera on top. There’s a cover that you remove during use and put back on after to keep the camera lens safe.

Moto 360 Camera 2

Specs

  • Capture the feeling – Shoot interactive 360° video, audio, and images in a snap
  • 360° 4K video + 3D sound – Relive the moment in Ultra HD with immersive sound
  • Edit on the go – Edit photos and videos with advanced software—right on your phone
  • 150° ultra wide-angle views – Add a whole new perspective to your selfies and snapshots
  • Click to share – Sends to friends or straight to social media, right from the Google Photos app
  • Go live – Live stream in 360° to your social network
  • Plays well with others – Moto 360 Camera is compatible with any phone in the Moto Z Family

Moto 360 Camera

Moto 360 Camera footage

 

The Moto 360 camera runs $299 (it’s on sale at Verizon now for $199), which is certainly a pretty penny, but it’s a really cool accessory to have, especially if you’re into cinematography, or you just want to share your surroundings with friends and family.

Insta-Share Projector

Insta-Share Projector 3

This one is, by far, my favorite of all the Moto Mods I got to test. The Instashare Projector hooks up to the back of the Z2 Play like all the rest of the mods and instantly transforms your living room or any other space into a movie theater.

My kids love it even more than I do, as it’s their favorite thing to do each night before bedtime; popcorn and a movie on the wall!

Specs

  • Works with any moto z – Compatible with the Moto Z Family of phones.
  • Project up to 70″ – Instantly turn any flat surface into a 70″ big screen on the fly.
  • Up to one extra hour of screen time Watch more before using your phone’s battery.
  • Display at any angle, anytime – Take the ultra-thin projector anywhere and share onto just about any flat surface. Use the integrated kickstand to project at any angle.
  • Share videos, photos, and more – Gather friends around to share your vacation photos, watch your favorite shows, or tune into the big game.

It’s kinda hard to explain how awesome the Insta-Share Projector is with just words, so he’s a few photos of it in action. Can you guess what movie the kids and I are watching?

Insta-Share Projector 5

The Insta-Share projector also runs $299. As you can see, once you start throwing a few mods on the Z2 Play, the price starts to jump pretty quickly. You’ve gotta pay to play in the technology world, folks.

Final thoughts and rating

For a mid-range device, you really can’t go wrong with the Moto Z2 Play. At $408 as of the time of this post, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better deal for an Android device with some bells and whistles. Unfortunately, to get the full effect, you’re going to have to shell out almost twice the cost of the phone itself, should you decide you want to get the Moto Mods I went over here in my review.

Either way, the Moto Z2 Play is a recommended device for those looking for their first taste of the Z Family lineup. If you’d like to purchase one, you can do so by visiting Verizon’s website. Additionally, here’s the links to the Moto Mods I tested for this review:

Once again, I want to send a big thanks to our brothers from another mother and our sisters from another mister at Verizon for the opportunity to test the Moto Z2 Play. We’ll be getting this back to them in the next day or so, and hope to have our hands on the Galaxy Note 8 in the coming weeks to review next. Be sure to stay tuned for that.

Whew… That was a DOOZY, boys, and girls. If you’re still reading this, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to go through all of that with me. I told you there was a lot to take in.

Until next time!