Motorola’s Moto Z family is a pretty impressive collection of smartphones, but the standard Moto Z and Moto Z Force are by no means cheap, in fact, they’re right there along with the most expensive Android devices out there today. Step in the Moto Z Play ─ an affordable Moto Z with a step down in specs and crazy battery life claims. Is it worth buying? Let’s take a look…
Hardware & Design
The Moto Z Play looks very similar to its more expensive counterparts; the Moto Z and Moto Z Force. It has an all glass back, and metal chassis, which feels substantial in the hands. It feels like a premium, flagship phone. Just like the other two phones in the Moto Z lineup, it has a fingerprint sensor on the front, and the Moto Mods connections on the back for attaching a JBL speaker, projector, battery, style mod; even a camera. More on the camera mod in a bit, but read here for a deep dive on Moto Mods.
It has a Snapdragon 625, massive 3510mAh battery, headphone jack, USB C connector, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage with microSD card support, 16MP rear camera with laser detect and phase detect autofocus, a front facing 5MP camera with flash, along with a loud front facing speaker.
The power button and volume buttons on the Moto Z Play are tactile and clicky, and the fingerprint sensor is extremely fast. You can also hold it down to put the device to sleep mode. Thankfully, this feature also works with applications that use fingerprints (such as Hexlock).
The Moto Z Play sports a 5.5-inch 1080p AMOLED display covered with Gorilla Glass 3. Colors look vibrant, texts are sharp, and the display gets pretty bright with great viewing angles. Because it is an AMOLED display, you won’t get an annoying backlight when using Moto Display in dark areas. Only the pixels needed are shown; the rest of the display stays off. If you aren’t aware of Moto Display, it is a feature where you can wave your hand over your phone to check the time, battery, and any notifications. It’s much better than Google’s Adaptive Display, and more efficient than Always On displays.
Two words: amazingly insane. With a 3510 mah battery working together with the power efficient Snapdragon 625, a 5.5-inch 1080p AMOLED display, and Moto’s software optimization ─ I simply can’t get this phone to die. This is the phone to get for those who are always looking for a power outlet throughout the day. Playing back video on YouTube for one hour at about 75% brightness only drained 4% of the phone’s battery. In daily use, I routinely end the day with 80% or so (which is crazy, especially since my Nexus 5X would simply die by the end of the day). If you’re really crazy for power, snap on the Incipio PowerPack Moto Mod and you’ll get a killer 5710mAh of total power. And if you ever do run out of battery, the TurboCharger will give you lots of power with minutes of charge.
Software & Performance
The Moto Z Play has a Snapdragon 625 with 3GB of RAM. Even though that is a downgrade from the Moto Z and Moto Z Force; performance was buttery smooth; and I could tell the Moto Z Play was faster than my Nexus 5x. Scrolling through social media, reading web pages, opening PDF documents were zippy, and I didn’t notice any stutter when playing graphic intensive games such as Asphalt 8 or Dead Trigger 2.
Just like the Moto Z and Moto Z Force, you’ll also get Moto’s amazing software experience. In short, it’s fluid, pure Android; with more useful features on top. There are no duplication of applications. The one and only calculator app is Google’s calculator. The one and only gallery app is Google Photos. The one and only calendar app is Google Calendar. I love this implementation of Android, as everything just works seamlessly under Google’s ecosystem.
Of course, we can’t talk about a Moto device without talking about Moto Gestures; you know, chops for flashlight, twist for camera, approach for display, and a bunch more. All these gestures work perfectly, and rarely didn’t recognize my specific gesture. And don’t worry, walking with the Moto Z Play won’t accidentally activate the flashlight or the camera; unless you’re playing imaginary fruit ninja. In all seriousness, I’ve tried holding the phone in my hand while running down the street; and that didn’t even activate the flashlight.
The Moto Z Play sports a 16MP f/2.0 aperture, with laser and phase detect autofocus. The pictures are in line with mid-range devices: great in daylight, mediocre in low light. In bright light, you can capture photos with vivid details, accurate colors, and good white balance. In low light, Moto’s camera software will take a few seconds to gain enough exposure. For video recording, you get a max of 4K at 30fps. The camera doesn’t have optical image stabilization, but the software stabilization does a pretty decent job.
Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod
One of the coolest mods in the Moto Mod line up is the Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod. The area surrounding the camera lens is made of metal; with the grip being a rubber-like material. It gives you a solid grip when capturing or recording; and it doesn’t leave behind any fingerprints.
Now to camera performance. It’s great in bright light, perfect for vacations or just casual outdoor shooting. It provides crisp and sharp photos that look really great. I noticed photos out of the Hasselblad had better colors than the Moto Z Play itself. And of course, the 10x optical zoom is really fun to play with. The zoom is extremely smooth and seamless, with no lags or stutters through the Moto Mod connection. It has OIS for stills, which works pretty well; especially when zooming. I did notice that it takes a few seconds to focus if you’re using the telephoto optical zoom. It also has a professional mode; which allows you to adjust focus, white balance, ISO, and zoom. In low light, the Xenon flash does a very good job lighting up the room; significantly better than the onboard LED flash on the Moto Z Play itself. However, the small aperture makes it a worse low light camera than the Moto Z Play itself. I’ll have some camera samples below.
With video, the stabilization is noticeably better than the onboard camera; but it doesn’t have 4K recording. Videos come out good; with decent colors; and don’t look too over saturated. Keep in mind that you can’t use the Xenon flash when recording video (it’s way to bright, probably will blind someone). I’ll have two video samples below; one is standing still, the other one is walking.