Motorola just applied some Force to its Z2 phone line -- the Z2 Force gets dual rear cameras, Android 7.1.1 and a shatter-resistant screen. And, actually, a few more key upgrades.

Last year, Motorola's modular Z phone came in three varieties, and one, the shatter-resistant Z Force, was exclusive to Verizon in the US. This year, the shatter-resistant Z Force is cross-carrier, and on paper it looks like the best version of the Z to buy. It's thin now, not bulky like last year's model. In fact, forget the name "Z2 Force," because this might as well be the straight-up Z2... it feels more like the sequel to the mainstream Moto Z.

The Moto Z2 Force Edition, as it's officially called, is also like a new step-up version of the Z2 Play that launched earlier this year, with a series of improvements. What's the difference? The Z2 Force has a better processor, better display, better cameras, more RAM and an impact-resistant ShatterShield display covering. The only thing that's up in the air is battery life. The Z2 Force has a smaller 2,730mAh battery versus the 3,000mAh Z2 Play, and while it also has fast charging, it might mean it's a less impressive road warrior between charges.

In the US, the Z2 Force is arriving on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular and Verizon starting August 10. AT&T's version will support the DirecTV Now app, and AT&T orders through October 6 will also get a free Lenovo Insta-Share Projector mod -- a pretty fun freebie.


A look at the dual rear cameras on the Z2 Force.

Lori Grunin/CNET

Hands-on impressions

The Z2 Force is really thin -- just 6.1mm -- and feels a lot like last year's Moto Z. It's basically a more premium-ish Z2 Play, as advertised. The dual cameras, in my brief time with the phone so far, are hard to judge. Depth-of-field effects looked pretty mixed, and sometimes created odd patterns of blur in a few test shots. 

Motorola even invited us to drop the phones at a test station to see if the ShatterShield screen is up to snuff. I dropped the Z2 Force a bunch of times onto hard brick from about 5 feet up, and the screen (and phone) survived... but the case started to look pretty scuffed up.

We're looking at the Z2 Force in greater depth as you read this: stay tuned for a full review.

Is it worth the upgrade?

The Z2 Play is already a great phone. The Z2 Force should be even better in terms of hardware. It's a pricier phone for sure. It'll cost between $730 and $810 depending on which US carrier you go with, and if you buy it prepaid or as part of a monthly plan (that'll come down to about $30 per month). UK and Australian pricing and availability were not announced, but $800 converts to about £615 or AU$1,000.

For comparison, the Moto Z2 Play costs $500 from, a $200 to $300 savings for a midrange phone we liked a lot. You're paying a fair amount for the Z2 Force's upgrades, and there's a chance that those upgrades just won't be worth it for many people.

The Z2 Force, just like the Z2 Play, works with all existing and upcoming magnetic snap-on Moto Mod accessories. It's slimmer than the Z2 Play, and that's probably why it has a smaller battery.

The Z2 Force's standout feature compared to other Z models is its dual rear cameras, which can be used for depth-of-field effects. One camera's monochrome and the other's color, Moto says.

Still, this phone also has all the other perks that the Z2 Play enjoyed, including a snappier "Show Me" shortcut to voice control and Moto's suite of apps.


The Moto 360 camera costs $300 extra.

Lori Grunin/CNET

A 360 camera mod, too

Motorola also debuted a new snap-on mod: a 360-degree camera, also available August 10 for $300. The camera can shoot 360-degree or 150-degree wide-angle shots, can shoot 4K video, can sync into Google Photos and can be edited on the phone with Motorola's own software.

It's also big. The camera mod is part of a phone-sized snap-on back cover with its own battery, and is significantly larger than the upcoming Essential Phone's smaller clip-on camera design.

The camera was pretty easy to operate in my brief hands-on time so far. Is it better than the competition? That remains to be seen. 

Update, 12:45 p.m. PT: Added photos, video and hands-on impressions.

Moto Z2 Force vs. Z2 Play

Moto Z2 Force Moto Z2 Play
Display size, resolution 5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 with ShatterShield 5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080
Size (mm) 156x76x6mm 156x76x6mm
Weight (grams) 143g 145g
Camera (rear) 12-megapixel (dual) 12-megapixel
Camera (front) 5-megapixel 5-megapixel
Processor 2.35GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 626
Storage 64GB, 128GB (varies by region) 32GB, 64GB
RAM 4GB or 6GB (varies by region) 3GB or 4GB (varies by region)
Battery 2,730mAh 3,000mAh
Fingerprint sensor Touch area below display Touch area below display
Connector USB-C USB-C
Expandable storage Up to 2TB Up to 2TB
Water resistance Nano-repellant (splash) Nano-repellant (splash)