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Moto Z Play hands-on: The headphone jack is back, Jack

The more affordable Moto Z Play arrives September 8 with more battery, and yeah, that headphone jack is back.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
2 min read

Motorola's Moto Z is a premium phone that made its mark with magnetic snap-on accessories that make a lot of sense. The new Moto Z Play uses those same Moto Mods, but costs less. It wants to be your modular midrange friend. It's arriving September 8 in the US as a Verizon phone for $408 (or, $17/month), or GSM unlocked in October for $450 (versus the Moto Z, which will cost $700). Internationally, it arrives in September for "about 499 Euros.")

As a midrange phone, its specs vary from those of the Z and Z Force. For one, it brings back the headphone jack! The Z made waves for ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack in favor of just having USB-C, plus an included adapter dongle. Well, miracles happen: USB-C and a headphone jack exist on the Moto Z Play, side by side, together and happy. Maybe there's hope for your old pair of headphones in this cruel post-headphone-jack world, after all.

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Moto Z Play works with all the MotoMods.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Z Play is also a bit thicker and heavier than the big-battery Z Force, packing a slightly larger battery. Motorola says this is the "longest-lasting phone battery" on a Moto phone. Fast-charging powers the phone up to about 9 hours of use in 15 minutes of charging. We haven't run full battery tests on the Z Play we have here at the office.


The headphone jack...has returned. See, it was gone on the Z and Z Force.

Sarah Tew/CNET

You probably won't notice the other differences right off the bat, but there are a handful of spec alterations. It looks a bit like the Z Force -- which is a US-exclusive phone for Verizon -- with a less durable screen and some stepped-down specs. Or, well, it's a different phone. The 5.5-inch AMOLED display is 1080p, instead of the 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution of the other Zs. The Qualcomm processor's a little different. There's a bit less RAM. The camera, at least, seems nice: 16 megapixels, but it lacks optical image stabilization.

Moto Z, Z Force and Z Play compared

Moto ZMoto Z ForceMoto Z Play
Size 153mm x 75mm x 5.19mm155.9mm x 75.8mm x 6.99 mm156.4 mm x 76.4 mm x 6.99 mm
Weight 136g163g165g
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 820Qualcomm Snapdragon 820Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
Display 5.5-inch 2,560 x 1,440 AMOLED5.5-inch 2,560 x 1,440 AMOLED5.5-inch 1080p AMOLED
Rear camera 13MP, f/1.8, OIS, 21MP, f/1.8, OIS16MP, f/2.0
Battery 2,600 mAh3,500 mAh3,510 mAh
Headphone jack nonoyes
Storage 32/64GB, microSD32/64GB, microSD32/64GB, microSD

Most importantly, this is a more midrange phone that still has that funky 16-pin MotoMod connector. It works with all the magnetically swappable Z Moto Mod accessories unveiled this summer with the Z, like a personal projector or the a Hasselblad TrueZoom camera lens.

The Moto Z Play will cost about $400 in the US as a Verizon-only phone, but will be available globally like the Moto Z. (Converted, that's about £305 or AU$530.) Motorola says the phone will be available unlocked by the end of the year. Stay tuned for a full review soon.