Moto Z3 Play hands-on: a tougher sell this time around
The Moto Z Play models have always been underrated, overshadowed by the superior Moto Z flagship line, but they've had a lot going for them as well. This year's offering, the Moto Z3 Play, continues the push forward for Lenovo by adopting trends we've been seeing for the last year now: dual cameras and a taller screen, to name a few. However, with a price of $499, the Moto Z3 Play may be facing some serious competition in the value-for-money space when it goes on sale this summer in the US.
Thankfully, there's plenty of attention paid to the design of the Moto Z3 Play, seeing that it could easily be mistaken for a flagship-caliber device with its premium construction – one that features 2.5D glass on the front and back, sandwiched by 6000-series polished aluminum frame. Since it accommodates many of the Moto Mods that have been created for the Moto Z line, its overall appearance doesn't stray too far from its predecessors. Therefore, expect to find the same camera hump as before and those pin connectors. And even though it's technically not water-proof for submersion, it can still withstand minor incursions with water because it features the usual splash-resistant p2i nano-coating.
What really stands out with the design of the Moto Z3 Play, versus other phones in the line, is how the fingerprint sensor is now fashioned onto the right side of the phone – as opposed to beneath the display where it's been positioned typically. Accessing it doesn't appear to pose any problem, but there's no denying that it's a different approach versus the vast majority of phones out there. Regrettably, though, they've removed the headphone jack entirely from the phone!
Following on the taller screen aspect ratios that have become popular amongst smartphones in the last year or so, the Moto Z3 Play follows suit with its 6-inch 2160 x 1080 Super AMOLED display with an 18:9 ratio, protected by Gorilla Glass 3. It looks good, as it bears many great qualities that make it pleasing to the eyes. From its rich colors tones, wide viewing angles, and reasonable visibility, it suffices for almost any application. The difference here, though, is that there's now more screen stuffed into the phone's frame – without adding any change to the phone's overall size from previous years.
Inspecting the software that's running on the Moto Z3 Play, a mostly stock looking Android 8.1 Oreo experience, Lenovo adds in a slight tweak in the form of its one nav button that replaces the typical on-screen Android buttons. The implementation here with the one nav button is very similar to the new gestures incorporated with Android P, as the swiping it can accomplish functions such as getting back to the home screen, accessing the recent apps menu, and even perform a back function. Beyond this, though, it continues to carry the usual array of signature Moto experiences like Moto Display and Actions.
On one hand, we're not terribly surprised that the Moto Z3 Play leverages the Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 SoC, which is coupled with 4GB of RAM and starts off with 32GB of internal storage. That's because it's kind of expected given how Qualcomm's premier chip is largely reserved for flagship-caliber devices, but we're still nonetheless a little bit concerned because for about the same price, the OnePlus 6 is powered by the Snapdragon 845. At least its performance in our short time checking it out appears to be fluid and responsive, but we're curious to find out how it'll handle gaming.
Again following through with the trends, the Moto Z3 Play packs a dual camera system that break down to a main 12MP f/1.7 camera and a secondary 5MP depth one. Naturally, this combination allows the phone to capture portrait shots. It's nothing we haven't seen before, but Lenovo does include a few neat tools that add some fun to the shooting experience. Take for example Cinemagraphs, which offers a creative and dynamic look with photos as it blends some animated elements to a still shot. Moreover, the Moto Z3 Play is the first phone with Google Lens support – enabling its camera to intelligently detect scenes and provide relevant information pertaining to what you're capturing.
Moving onto the front camera, it's an 8MP shooter that also supports portrait mode – cool, but nothing that we haven’t seen with other phones.
There's no change with the battery capacity here, since it still sizes up with a capacity of 3000 mAh. Then again, we're crossing our fingers that the optimizations with the software and Snapdragon 636 will allow it to offer better longevity than its predecessor. There's no built-in wireless charging, but there's a Moto Mod for that – while the 15W TurboPower charger included with the phone should do nicely in getting it juiced to a decent level in a short period of time.
The Moto Z3 Play will be available in the US through carriers like Sprint and US Cellular, but an unlocked version will be sold through retailers such as Best Buy, Target, Walmart, and much more, for the outright price of $499. We're also told that an Amazon Prime Exclusive version will become available as well, but no word on a pricing for that. With the purchase, Lenovo will be bundling a battery Moto Mod that'll extend its battery life significantly.
Where its two predecessors were regarded as underrated phones, it's tough to come to the same sentiments here with the Moto Z3 Play because for a little bit more, the OnePlus 6 offers a slightly more attractive package. In all fairness, the Moto Z3 Play seems like a top-notch phone when we look and play around with it. However, when we take its pricing into consideration, the new benchmark established by the OnePlus 6 doesn't make the Moto Z3 Play nearly as compelling – that's unless you prefer its modular design more than anything else!