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With its Moto Z Play, the company trimmed down the hardware but beefed up the battery, retained the quirky Moto Mod feature and slapped on a cheaper price. And what can I say? I'm all for it. Affordable, reliable and boasting super-long battery life, the Z Play is an excellent midrange phone even without the Mods.
The device is available in the US on Verizon for $408, but an unlocked version that's compatible with GSM networks will be available globally in October for $450 (or £347 and AU$590, converted). Compare that with the original Z and its other counterpart the Z Force, which costs an additional $200 or more, the Z Play offers you all the goodies from Motorola's Z series, without breaking your wallet.
The Z Play is a fully functioning handset, but on its back are two rows of magnetic bumps that let you attach and swap out accessories called Moto Mods. These Mods have a variety of uses and can be as simple as a decorative back cover (those covers come in a variety of patterns and textures) or as complex as an extra battery case, a snap-on speaker with kickstand or a projector. Motorola's newest Mod, a point-and-shoot camera accessory with a 10x optical zoom, is called the Hasselblad True Zoom.
The Mods are incredibly easy to use. With the audio speaker, music automatically starts playing when attached,and the projector requires hardly any setup. Even the True Zoom takes only a few seconds to ramp up and start capturing pictures.
The Z Play looks like the Z and Z Force (they share that annoying fingerprint sensor on the front that can be mistaken too easily for the home button), but as the more affordable midrange option, its specs vary. For one, instead of ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack like the other two, the Z Play still has its jack. That means its USB Type-C port and headphone jack exist side by side, together and happy, and you don't need a dongle adapter to listen to your music. You can also charge your phone while listening to beats. With even the Apple iPhone 7 losing its jack, maybe there's hope for your wired headphones in this cruel post-headphone-jack world, after all.
Though Z Play's 5.5-inch display is the same size as the other two, but it has a 1,080-pixel resolution compared with the others' 1,440p, and it isn't as durable as the Z Force's ShatterShield display. The Z Play also has a less powerful processor and a bit less RAM and its 16-megapixel rear camera sits between the Z and the Z Force's in terms of megapixels (compare all specs below). The camera lacks optical image stabilization too, so your photos might look blurrier if you have an unsteady hand.
Lastly, the Z Play is a tad thicker and heavier than the already weighty Z Force. This is because the former packs a slightly larger battery. Motorola says this is the "longest-lasting phone battery" on a Moto phone, which I'll get to later. For a quick comparison, check out our chart below:
|Motorola Moto Z Play||Motorola Moto Z||Motorola Moto Z Force (US only)|
|Display size, resolution||5.5-inch; 1,920X1,080 pixels||5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels||5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels|
|Pixel density||403 ppi||535 ppi||535 ppi|
|Dimensions (Inches)||6.16x3x0.28 in||6.11x2.96x0.2 in||6.14x2.98x0.28 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||156.4x76.4x6.99 mm||155.3x75.3x5.19 mm||155.9x75.8x6.99 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, grams)||5.82 oz; 165 g||4.79 oz; 136 g||5.75 oz; 163 g|
|Mobile software||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow||Android 6.0 Marshmallow||Android 6.0 Marshmallow|
|Processor||2.0GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625||2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820||2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820|
|Storage||32GB||32, 64GB||32, 64GB|
|Expandable storage||Up to 2TB||Up to 2TB||Up to 2TB|
|Battery||3,510 mAh (nonremovable)||2,600 mAh (nonremovable)||3,500 mAh (nonremovable)|
|Fingerprint sensor||Below screen||Below screen||Below screen|
|Special features||Headphone jack, Moto Mod snap-on accessories and dedicated accessory port on back||Moto Mod snap-on accessories and dedicated accessory port on back||Moto Mod snap-on accessories and dedicated accessory port on back|
|Price off-contract (USD)||$450 unlocked||$699 unlocked||$720 (on Verizon)|
|Price (GBP)||£347 converted||£499||£555 converted|
|Price (AUD)||AU$590 converted||AU$905 converted||AU$944 converted|
The phone's 16-megapixel camera took clear, decent photos and its shutter operated quickly. Though I didn't have as a noticeably rough time with the camera's white balance as I did with the Z and Z Force, some images I captured still had white hues that were slightly tinted blue. Dimmer environments understandably featured more graininess, but the camera was altogether satisfactory for quick, casual shots. For more about photo quality, check out the images below and click on them to view them at their full resolution.
The most outstanding thing about the Z Play is its battery life. For our lab tests (we conducted two trials) of continuous video playback in Airplane mode, the device lasted an eyebrow-raising 23 hours and 3 minutes. Outside the lab, with mild usage it lasted four whole days without a charge. Four! The handset also comes with a 15W Turbo Charger for fast charging. Within an hour it regained 56 percent of its power and it was fully charged after 1 hour and 48 minutes.
As for its processor, the Z Play's Snapdragon 625 chipset isn't as advanced as the Snapdragon 820 on paper. Our benchmark tests confirmed this when I compared it with the Z and Z Force. The OnePlus 3, which also has the 820 processor but costs the same as the Z Play, outscored the Z Play as well on all tests, and the Alcatel Idol 4S, which has a 652 processor, beat the Z Play too.
But with day-to-day usage, you won't be able to discern much of a difference. The Z Play is fast enough to satisfy your common phone needs, and I didn't notice any sluggishness or delay with real-world tasks like opening the app drawer, calling up the keyboard, and launching apps like games and the camera.
Although it isn't as fast on paper as its Z and Z Force brethren, or its fellow $400 rivals like the OnePlus 3, Alcatel Idol 4S or ZTE Axon 7, the Motorola Moto Z Play is still worth your consideration. Sure, if you're on a tighter budget and don't find its Moto Mods completely necessary, I say go for the OnePlus 3. You'll be saving some dough and you'll have a more attractive handset by far.
But if $450 is still within your price range (or £347 and AU$590, converted) and you want a phone that you can go days without charging, get the Moto Z Play. You won't have to use its Mods if you don't want to buy them (though they are fun to play around with), and you'll still get an enduring handset (with a headphone jack!) that'll outlast the next $400 or even $700 phone by far.
|Motorola Moto Z Play||OnePlus 3||Alcatel Idol 4S||ZTE Axon 7|
|Display size, resolution||5.5-inch; 1,920X1,080 pixels||5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels||5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels||5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels|
|Pixel density||403 ppi||401ppi||534 ppi||538 ppi|
|Dimensions (Inches)||6.16x3x0.28 in||6.01x2.94x0.29 in||6.06X2.97X0.28 in||5.97x2.95x0.31 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||156.4x76.4x6.99 mm||152.7x74.7x7.35 mm||153.9x75.4x6.99 mm||151.8x75x8.7 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||5.82 oz; 165 g||5.57 oz; 158 g||5.26 oz; 149 g||6.53 oz; 185 g|
|Mobile software||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow|
|Processor||2.0GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625||2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820||1.8GHz + 1.4GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 652||2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820|
|Storage||32GB||64GB||32GB||64GB, 128GB (varies by region)|
|RAM||3GB||6GB||3GB||4GB, 6GB (varies by region)|
|Expandable storage||Up to 2TB||None||Up to 200GB||Up to 128GB|
|Battery||3,510 mAh (nonremovable)||3,000mAh (nonremovable)||3,000mAh (nonremovable)||3,000mAh (nonremovable)|
|Fingerprint sensor||Below screen||Home button||Back cover||Back cover|
|Special features||Moto Mod snap-on accessories and dedicated accessory port on back||Notifications toggle, dual-SIM, Dash Charging||Boom Key (programable key), reversible OS, dual-SIM||Dual-SIM|
|Price off-contract (USD)||$450||$399||$400||$400|
|Price (GBP)||£347 converted||£329||£385||Converts to £345|
|Price (AUD)||AU$590 converted||Converts to AU$530||AU$470||Converts to AU$605|