Remember recently when I reviewed the Lenovo P2? I received some excellent feedback and it’s definitely a fantastic phone for an amazing price.
However, there is another range of phones from the same company. Lenovo also have the Motorola brand is their cupboard, and for the past few weeks I have been using the new Moto Z Play.
The Z range brings an interesting twist to Android smartphones. Here we have magnetic attachments that snap onto the back. It means that you get a great modular handset you can customise to your taste easily.
The front of the Z Play has what looks like the “2017 standard”. A large touchscreen with a front-facing camera plus a small fingerprint reader at the bottom. There is one big difference here though, and I go into this shortly.
The camera up top is a 5-megapixel lens and can capture 1080p video for mobile vlogging or if you just fancy making a video call. Here though, if it’s dark, you also get a front facing camera flash to help illuminate you.
Other phones tend to brighten the screen to take selfie photos, but the Z Play has a dedicated flash which is REALLY bright and fantastic to use when in poorly-lit conditions.
That screen is a 5.5″ Super AMOLED panel with a 1080p resolution. It delivers 403 ppi, which is 2 ppi up from the Lenovo P2 I looked at. It’s a great screen to use even though it’s not 2k resolution.
The fingerprint sensor at the bottom is square and right in the middle. In actual fact, it is actually NOT a button, it’s just a fingerprint reader that you can use to unlock the device or use for mobile payments on Android Pay.
Turn over to the back and you have a strange design, mainly because this is where the mods come into play to cover it over.
Up top you find the 16 megapixel camera with dual tone LED flash. This takes great photos in good lighting conditions. Sometimes in poor lighting, the flash kicks in and has a negative impact on the photo, making part of it darker. It might be worth trying a snap without a flash in this case.
Right in the middle is the now famous ‘M’ logo, which obviously stands for Motorola.
Below this is a strange array of gold connector pins. These are used for attaching the mods to the Z Play. Connect up and it’ll kicks into action.
The back is shiny and can annoyingly become a complete fingerprint magnet. If you’re not careful then it’ll also scratch easily too, so your best bet is to put one of the back plates on. You can hopefully see this in the photos. This will help to protect it and will also make the phone flush to a table due to the camera hump.
The left side of the Moto Z Play is completely plain with no buttons or switches. These are all positioned on the right side instead.
Flip over to that right side and you’ll find the volume controls. These are normal flat keys but the power button has ridges on it, so you can easily identify it without looking.
At the top of the Moto Z Play is a built-in microphone and the SIM tray. When opened you can insert a Nano SIM on one side and a microSD card on the other to expand storage.
The bottom houses a 3.5mm headset jack. It might not be the standard for some people, but for many they’ll be pleased to see it.
Charging however is via a newer USB-C connection. It might annoy people who prefer their older micro USB standard that they have chargers to fit, but with USB-C being a new standard it is time to move on. The best news is the speedy ‘turbocharging’, giving 9 hours of use in just 15 minutes.
In my testing, the built-in 3510mAh battery was more than enough for daily use, and never ran out before the evening. This is something a lot of phones struggle with.
If you are worried though, there is always the Incipio magnetic back mod that gives an additional 2220mAh of battery power. This should be more than enough for even the most power-hungry users out there.
Performance-wise, you get a Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor. This is paired with 3GB of RAM which is plenty for multitasking, multimedia and gaming if you want to play on the go.
Storage comes in at 32 GB with the option to add expandable memory via a microSD card. This slots in behind the SIM card in the tray.
The camera on the back is a 16-megapixel snapper with f2.0 aperture. This will give you some decent everyday photos in good lighting and variable quality if you use the built-in flash.
Here are some samples and screenshots of the camera interface. It’s very simple to use but does give you a few options to get the best out of the camera. If you’re familiar with advanced settings and you know how to play with these then you can add some flare to your snaps.
The video mode is 4K as expected in a device with a 16-megapixel camera. Quality is…well… OK. It does lack a ‘wow’ factor and seems to struggle with any type of movement.
Ever since the days of Google-owned Motorola, software on their new smartphones is as close to “stock” as you can get without buying a Nexus or Pixel directly made by Google.
Thankfully this has rolled over to the Lenovo purchase and software is snappy. It’s speedy and includes some great enhancements.
Twist your wrist twice and the camera loads. The Z Play will also listen to your voice even when the screen is off and you can also see notifications on the lock screen without needing to wake your phone.
Oh and best of all, do a double karate chop and on comes the torch!
There are a whole load more of Moto specific movements and commands available on the Z Play, and that makes this a very interesting device to play with.
Incipio Power Pack
I was sent two of the available mods with my review unit, and the first was the Incipio power pack which is a snap on magnetic 2220mAh battery giving you extra battery should you need it (the built-in battery is huge anyway).
Worth £60 at time of writing, the extra battery is not cheap and it does add some extra bulk. But, if you are on the move all the time and want a HUGE battery without the worry then it is a worthwhile investment, especially as it is easy to remove. Unlike a battery case like from Mophie, for example.
JBL SoundBoost Speaker
The other mod I was sent was the JBL speaker. This adds stereo sound to your Z Play and has a little kickstand on the back so that you can stand the device up on a desk. It’s very handy for watching the F1 or football if you are into sports, plus it’s also great for YouTube and Spotify for music.
At £70, this is a handy additional item to own. The results were a little quieter than I was expecting from a JBL stereo speaker setup. It was however, very clear and had lots of detail… plus at time of writing, you can get one FREE with your order of a Moto Z Play.
I was lucky enough to have the Moto Z Play in my hands to review for a good few weeks to make sure I was able to get the most from it, as well as the mods that came included.
In my testing I used the Moto Z Play as my main device. I regularly accessed 3 email accounts, Twitter, Facebook and watched 25 minutes of Netflix on my lunch breaks. Then I listened to another 15 minutes worth of music on the way home from work.
The camera is another area I tend to look at quite heavily, and thankfully the Moto Z Play also handled this very well provided there were good enough lighting conditions.
Where the Moto Z Play really stands out is with the range of magnetic attachments Motorola call ‘Mods’.
I was sent the JBL Speaker, as well as the Incipio battery case which were both really simple to use, and brings even more enjoyment from what is already a great smartphone.
At £369 on the official Motorola site right now, you also get the JBL speaker thrown in worth an extra £70. It’s a fun addition for watching videos or listening to music.
In the tightly-contested price bracket between £300 and £400, there are quite a few options to pick from, such as the OnePlus 3T. Even cheaper is the battery beast also made by Lenovo in the P2. Can the Moto Z Play win your money?
If you want the most flexible option on sale right now with a great battery, decent camera and a handy front-facing flash, then the Z Play is an amazing choice. The free speaker makes it a great deal.
If you want to get even more mods, you have the option of a camera with 10x optical zoom and xenon flash, and a projector, as well as a wide range of colour back plates to stop it scratching.
This is a modular phone done the right way!
Find out more on the Motorola website.