With Android phones you don’t really need to change phones every six months. If you have some basic Google search skills and commonsense to lookup and muster the courage to flash your phone for newer, more customized firmware, even if the phone’s original manufacturer doesn’t support it anymore, you are golden. In this way, I’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 for three years now and with community support, I haven’t felt left out of new updates and new apps and newer phones haven’t been offering anything significantly different either to push me to adopt a new hardware. But I’ve been on the lookout for modular phones since Google’s Project Ara, so when I got the opportunity to trade my Note 3 and some cash for the Moto Z Play, touted as the best modular phone concept till date, I didn’t think have to twice.
Battery Life & Charging
Whichever review of the phone you’re gonna read, it’ll unmistakably mention the phenomenal battery life of the Moto Z Play. With my normal use, which includes browsing the net, checking my social media, reading and replying to emails and practicing Spanish with Duolingo, I can literally go 3 days on a single charge from 100% to 0%. It’s hard to find a phone that provides such a battery life in this day and age. This is thanks to it 3510 mAh battery paired with its “mid-range” specs of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chipset, 3GB RAM and an Adreno 506 GPU . But hey, it does its job and it was at a bargain!
Performance & Design
For a “mid-range” phone, the Moto Z Play sure doesn’t look like one! In fact, there’s little difference with its Moto Z and Moto Z Force flagship premium counterparts. The world’s thinnest (and very light) Moto Z aside, the Moto Z Play has almost the same dimensions and weight as the Moto Z Force. While both Moto Z and Moto Z Force boast Quad HD displays, the Moto Z Play packs a 5.5-inch Super AMOLED screen running at 1080p. I don’t miss nor feel the need for the superior screen of its premium counterparts, mostly because my previous phone, the Note 3, also featured a 1080p display. So meh for me, but if you are nit-picky about pixels and definitions, this might nag you.
Performance-wise, the phone does what’s expected of it from me. It browses the net, runs apps, plays music and videos flawlessly. I’ve even received the Nougat update, which is pretty neat! And since it runs very close to stock Android, you’re getting the Android experience as it is meant to be. Neater! Motorola’s subtle additions include gestures like waving at the screen to display the time and notifications, double karate chop to black belt switch on/off the torch, pick up to stop ringing and a few others that you can enable or disable to your liking.
Strength & Durability
This brings us to the Moto Mods. And that’s where the Moto Z Play (or any other Z phones) stand out, and is personally, its best feature. The tag-line “unlimited possibilites” that Motorola has used for its modular line of phone indeed holds true. The possibilities for the Moto Mods are endless; add-on battery, projectors, speakers, style shells, you name it. And Motorola is actively pursing and encouraging development of further mods. With its “Transform the Smartphone Challenge” initiative, Motorola has been calling to developers to pitch in their ideas for Mods and we’ve seen some pretty awesome ones like an Amazon Alexa Mod and a gamepad mod, which are all coming very soon!
Another gimmick that it features is the now-mandatory fingerprint scanner. It’s pretty accurate and I’m enjoying using it to quickly lock and unlock the phone.
And last, but surely not least, the Moto Z Play features a… headphone jack! Yes, this soon-to-be feature of the ancient is still present in this phone and no one is complaining!
As great as it sounds, it’s not all roses with the Moto Z Play. For its price and what it offers, Motorola has had to cut corners.
First off, the Z Play’s speaker is located at its earpiece. A terrible design and an equally terribly awkward location; and the sound quality does not compensate either! But this is easily remedied by plugging in a standard earphone, thanks to its headphone jack (lifesaver!). Another design flaw that I’ve noticed is the location of the volume and power buttons. They are all located on the top left side of the rim and are pretty hard to reach when you are talking on the phone and you want to adjust the volume.
Even if it boasts a 16 MP camera, it doesn’t perform quite as expected in low lighting conditions. Sure, in a well-lit room, you’ll capture pretty pictures but switch off the lights and the quality plummets, even with the help of the flash. And with its lack of image stabilization, things get worst for dark pictures. Nevertheless, it’ll give you decent pictures enough for your Instagram and is definitely not VGA-level.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chipset is another notable downside of the phone. This mid-range chipset might not affect the more casual users. Indeed it is perfectly capable to handle your daily screen-scrolling through your feeds, messaging activities and video streaming. But the discrepancy is felt especially when playing graphically-demanding games, where the phone’s performance will slow down and affect your gaming experience. It’s the trade-off for a 3-day battery life.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Google’s Project Ara, thinking about it as a game changer. I was understandably disappointed when it was shelved and I’ve been on the lookout for concretized modular phones since. The LG G5? Barely had any “friends” other than those accompanying it at launch. But then Motorola came up with the Moto Z line of phones, which at first glance look like regular smartphones (the Moto Z Droid is even the slimmest smartphone at the time) but flip them over and you’ll see some weird pins on the back; these can accommodate so called “Moto Mods” giving the phone additional features, in short, a modular phone that looks like a regular phone! I’m sold!
The Moto Z phones are indeed the best modular phones till date. With numerous upcoming Mods, support and incentive from Motorola itself, it looks like the phone will fare well in the foreseeable future. And the Moto Z Play opens this world of opportunity to an even wider audience with its affordable price point (from $450). I’d recommend it for fans of modular phones, those looking for an affordable phone that offers a premium feel or those simply looking for a different phone.