Okay, it didn't seem like all that long ago that I reviewed the Moto Z Play, but it was back in October. Really didn't seem it.
Anyhow, there was a release of some new mods (new speaker, new battery), so might as well launch a new device too. I'm not complaining, it's a great device and a great follow up to the Moto Z Play.
I was given the device about 3 weeks ago, and usually, I like to get a review out by the end of week 2. I took a bit longer with this as I was just enjoying it so much again. I had taken it on a few trips with me and was showing off the mods again, and well, it didn't feel like a 'new' device to me. It worked well, the features are so well integrated, I just 'forgot' it was the device I needed to write something about!
Now, this successor has a couple of main point differences that I'll just briefly outlay before we go into the full review:
- Smaller battery - it went from 3510mAh down to 3000mAh
- (hmm... wonder if the 3510 is to match the 3490 of the new power pack?)
- Slightly skinnier
- the fingerprint sensor is now elongated and can do 'gestures'
- price increased - last year it was $650CDN, this year it's about $800
There are some pluses and minuses. Overall, it's held its own against my flagships and I could definitely see myself using this as my daily.
Okay, so let's dive in about the specs
- 5.5" @ 1920x1080
- 2.2GHz x8 Snapdragon 626
- 3GB RAM
- 32GB storage + microSD
- 12MP (f/1.7, 1.4um) / 5MP (f/2.2, 1.4um)
- Android 7.1.1
First up, the device itself is definitely skinnier than last year's and is almost as skinny as the Moto Z. Looking around the device, everything is pretty much the same as other Z devices. Separated volume up/down, textured power button, all on the right side. A camera 'bump' as a means to hold/guide the mods, sim/SD tray on the top left, flash for the front facing camera...
The main difference now is that the square fingerprint sensor is now a longer rectangle. The indentation is a little more natural looking than the little 'walled square' from before but mainly serves the purpose to allow you to do new gestures with it.
Okay, seeing as we're starting to get into some of the software features, let's talk about it.
Before I get into the customized, let me point out that it's running Android 7.1.1 and it's using essentially the 'Pixel launcher' (or at least it looks to be, but try to find the settings is very hard, I had to end up going through Settings / Apps / Moto Launcher ... not an easy find).
There are even the 'actions' that pop up if you long press an icon on the homescreen, similar to the Pixel (which is similar to Force Touch on iPhone 6S and up).
You have the new look of the home button, which lets you know it'll bring up the Assistant.
Aside from that, there's very little 'bloat' or pre-installed software, the major one being the Moto App; from here you can play with all the gesture/automated settings.
We've talked about all of these in the past, and it's amazing how natural many of them are to use, like the double twist for the camera. I use that several times a day. The chop for the flashlight, etc...
There is the odd setting to put in 'recommended apps' where periodically you'll get app recommendations. This did not last long for me.
The only real addition here is the gestures for the sensor. This seems awkward at first, but give it a week and it's awkward to try to go back to anything else.
What it does is hides away the navigation buttons (giving you more real estate) and to simulate pressing 'back' you swipe the sensor from right to left (i.e. going towards where the 'back' button was), and similar for the 'recents'. Hitting the sensor quickly simulates a home button press. Long press it and it shuts the screen off. Holding it down even longer launches the Assistant.
It takes some practice to get just right, as it can be very finicky. I've been doing it for 3 weeks and I still have mis-hits (try to swipe for back, but it registers as 'home').
That's pretty much all the customizations you'll find, or at least new.
There was a weird thing to find a setting for 'notifications when wirelessly charging', yet it's not got wireless charging built in (you can get it if you get the right style shell/mod, but then shouldn't the setting be in the Mod settings?). There's also the annoying carrier name in the notification tray, but luckily you can disable that in the settings. Nobody wants to see that up there blocking notifications.
Okay, on to the camera. The camera on the original Play was decent, and I was concerned that the lesser MP on this might make it less, but the better aperture really has made it quite a great camera. Coupled with how simple Moto makes the app, it's really made taking photos easier (especially when you can just double twist).
See below for some samples, I was impressed by it. (if the quality below isn't good enough, check out the Google Photos Album I made.
Performance, this thing hums along just fine. Sure it's a Snapdragon 626, so it's not the top of the line, but it was more than adequate. It almost had me thinking that it was my flagship device as I used it for the few weeks. It was only when I went back to the G6 that I noticed the subtle speed differences. Something that more than 99% of the people out there wouldn't even notice. Rest assured, this will handle your needs. If it can take the abuse I put on it, I'm sure you'll be fine.
Battery? Well, it's less than last years, so it can't be as good. Sure, it can't be, that's just math. But how good is good for you? When I can go more than a full day of use and still have like 30% or so left, I'm thinking that it should be fine. 3000mAh is more than enough for a full day's worth of use. And besides, I usually keep a battery mod on mine. When I did that, I lasted to the end of day 2 and still had 20% battery.
I had measured after a full full day of use that the device had drained the mod (the 2200mAh version) and 30% of the main. Which works out to just over 100% of the 3000mAh battery.
I did notice that there's some discrepancy with Qualcomm's QuickCharge chargers and using this device. It doesn't register for QC2.0 and needs their TurboCharge in order to get the faster charging. But, like I said, you are getting good battery anyways.
All in all, it's a great phone. It holds its own against the flagships even, and carries the weight of mods with it. Is it worth the price jump from last year? That's a tough call. Because it has the latest version of the mod platform, it might well be worth it (I'm pushing the Moto folks to give me an answer when the Moto Z will get 1.6, the Moto Z Play already does). It really depends on what it's replacing. If it's replacing another phone, I say it would. If you're not already on the mod-life, you should be. If it's replacing the Moto Z Play, I'd say maybe not. If it's the Moto Z... quite possibly...
Either way, you'll enjoy the phone, a lot! I know I did.