Motorola Moto Z hands-on

At Lenovo Tech World today, Motorola’s parent company unveiled some impressive technology, and made some major announcements. Not least among them (albeit the very last thing announced), was the announcement of the new Motorola Moto Z series of smartphones. The new Moto Z, and Moto Z Force bring a new premium design language to the forefront, featuring more metal to the forefront, sharper edges, and flat panels across the back.


Motorola has joined the rest of the gang in stepping up the game with a premium build quality for the new Moto Z line-up. Of the two, the Moto Z is the thinner, and slightly slimmed down cousin to the Moto Z Force. Though what it compromises with a smaller battery, and lower resolution camera, it makes up for by being a super svelte 5.2mm thin. As flagships go, the Moto Z is the skinny member of the club.

Both the dark gray and white/gold models are attractive, at the expense of being a fingerprint magnet. That does not take away from the  high-quality feel to the build quality, however. The volume rocker and power/lock buttons are small, but easy to feel and have a good click to them. To bigger hands, the Moto Z may feel a little edgy due to simple lack of physical bulk.

On the front of the device, Motorola’s sensors are abound for the gestures, and a small square finger print sensor. Indeed, on the white and gold Moto Z, the front looks like an assortment of a diplay surrounded by sensors. The fingerprint sensor is not a home button, and the interface uses Android’s on-screen navigation soft-keys. USB-C connectivity is present, as expected. Like its slightly thicker brother, the Moto Z has no 3.5mm headphone jack. 


There is a lot to love about AMOLED displays, like bright, vibrant colors. Motorola switched gears from the LCD panels used in last year’s Moto X, and endowed the new Moto Z with a pretty looking 5.5-inch quad-HD AMOLED display.

The colors we saw on the display units looked nice and saturated, the viewing angles up to par with the rest of the field. The panel was also responsive to the touch, not yielding any latency. The Moto Z does not land with Motorola's Shattershield technology, so users will not want to heave it over the edge.


The main camera on the Moto Z Force is a 13-megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization and laser-assisted autofocus. On paper, that is not a huge departure from previous Motorola smartphones, but the interface to use the camera has been nicely enhanced, with easy to identify shutter button, and on-screen brightness adjustment at the point of focus. It is intuitive and, on these pre-release units we had on-hand, was quick to take a picture. The front facing camera is 5-megapixels with a flash.

Processor and memory

Under the snazzy new exterior, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 CPU hums along, managing the near-stock Motorola interface with no visible trouble whatsoever. On board, you should be able to choose between 32GB or 64GB of non-expandable storage, and 4GB of RAM round out the package.

Interface and functionality

The interface is basically stock Android 6 Marshmallow, with some add-on Motorola apps, like the rounded clock widget. Motorola eliminated virtually all redundancy with many applications, Google Photos, Google Contacts, and Calendar are all there, and no Motorola duplication. There is a Motorola email app, but that is no surprise.


We will share more details about MotoMods in separate write-ups, but MotoMods is a far, far, better execution on modular accessories than what LG did for the G5 and its modular “Friends” achieved. With nothing to disassemble, no batteries to remove, the flat back plate of the Moto Z is a canvas for accessories – external speakers, projectors, monster batteries, and stylish covers from MotoMaker. There is a 16-pin connector at the bottom of the phone, and MotoMods accessories connect via four magnets positioned on the phone.

MotoMods snap in to place, no pairing, no connecting, just slap it on and go. It literally is that simple.

Pricing, release date, and expectations

No pricing or release dates were offered at Lenovo Tech World, but with flagships packing new goodies typically come flagship prices. The new Moto Z series will be a Verizon exclusive in the US at launch this summer, carrying on the Droid line-up for Big Red. Later in the year, Motorola says that unlocked models will be available for sale through retailers like Best Buy

Carrier exclusives grind the gears, and if you are frustrated with that circumstance, you are certainly not alone. Verizon gets a head start with not only some impressive looking new smartphones from the iconic Motorola, it also ostensibly owns all the nifty MotoMod accessory sales during that period as well.



1. djkhalid

Posts: 156; Member since: Jul 01, 2013

Verizon exclusive will kill them

2. Scott93274

Posts: 6040; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

Yeah, that's a toxic relationship that's going to kill Motorola. They need to make their top model available to everyone in the states.

12. sgodsell

Posts: 7531; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Both Moto X models have 4gb of ram and a SD 820 Processor. The only difference is the force is going to be exclusive for a period of time, and it has a shatterproof, 3600 mha battery.

15. Veteater

Posts: 59; Member since: Aug 04, 2015

The differences between the standard and the force are that the force seemingly has a better camera, is thicker, has the shatterproof screen instead of the gorilla glass 4, and has a larger battery than the Moto Z, quite a bit larger. And the force will be more expensive. Both will be Verizon exclusive in the states until about August-September, which is when the unlocked versions of both phones come out. And yes, both will get unlocked variants of themselves, so the force will not stay exclusively on Verizon when the standard Z is unlocked, each phone will have unlocked variants.

18. Scott93274

Posts: 6040; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

I actually don't think that the Force will be available with other carriers in the US. I think it will remain a Verizon exclusive. I know that the Moto Z will eventually be released unlocked to other carriers in September, but just the Z, not the Z Force. It'll be the same scenario as the Moto X Force and Moto X Play last year, any Motorola phone with the plus sized battery gets the Droid brand in the states and remains a Verizon exclusive.

16. Veteater

Posts: 59; Member since: Aug 04, 2015

@Scott93274 @djkhalid If you read my comment below, then you will know that both the standard Z Droid edition and the Z Force Droid edition will get unlocked variants in September, sold internationally. Right now they are Verizon exclusives.

19. Scott93274

Posts: 6040; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

Well I watched and re-watched the announcement video and it's stated that the Moto Z will be unlocked later, but there was no mention of the Moto Z Force. Maybe it was improperly communicated and you might be right, in which case that's awesome, but I still stand by my initial statement that the Motorola and Verizon relationship is toxic. Also it would have been difficult for me to have read your statement as I had posted my comment 4 hours before you had bothered to post your statement.

22. Doc_Oc

Posts: 20; Member since: Aug 01, 2014

If the Motorola/Verizon relationship was "toxic" they wouldn't have the relationship. It clearly works very well for them. Your impression of the relationship is irrelevant and has nothing to do with reality.

24. Scott93274

Posts: 6040; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

You do realize the reason why Android exists today is because Apple had an exclusive contract with AT&T. All other carriers couldn't get the iPhone so Google had gone unchallenged in the Smartphone market allowing them to catch up to Apple and pass them. I would have gotten the iPhone if it was offered to Verizon when it was first released. Now Apple has less than 14% market share when it could have had total global domination.


Posts: 1461; Member since: Mar 09, 2010

I echo that sentiment....too bad

4. EC112987

Posts: 1216; Member since: Nov 10, 2014

Really want this phone but I'll never go Verizon. By September I expect better options but if the price is right I might go for it.

5. TrackPhoneUser

Posts: 256; Member since: Oct 21, 2015

Glad front flash is still there, even though I barely use it

6. Desponent

Posts: 8; Member since: Jun 09, 2016

One step forward three steps backward. Another phone that's going to my ignore list. Keep up culling features phone makers! It makes it really easy to sort you guys out.

7. Polishbandit

Posts: 4; Member since: Jun 09, 2016

The Verizon deal makes sense, big red will give them 3 months of advertising till the Note 7 comes out and the Z will go unlocked and if the phone gets good price and word of mouth people will buy it unlocked.

8. sissy246

Posts: 7129; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Ugly , that camera bump is hideous and the bottom bezel.

13. mohit17kr

Posts: 8; Member since: Mar 12, 2015

They can't fit a camera that powerful in a 5mm phone without a bump. That's a downside of slim phones. But that bump won't be a concern with moto mods. :)

9. KingSam

Posts: 1494; Member since: Mar 13, 2016

The dots on the white model at the bottom...... Are those sensors? Damn ugly but the black with ride good accents ftw.

14. Veteater

Posts: 59; Member since: Aug 04, 2015

Yes, those dots have always been on the top of the line Moto phones since 2013, and are IR sensors for Moto's smart contextual features. Nobody buys the white versions of Moto X and now Moto Z phones because the white models show all of those sensors required to do what these can do. We learned not to buy white Moto x's and it applies to these too. The black one looks nice, and shows no sensors.

20. Scott93274

Posts: 6040; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

Not that it's all that relevant, but those sensors were not in the 2013 Moto X, but they were in the 2014 model.

10. Sebaeza

Posts: 4; Member since: Mar 11, 2016

Disqualified Axon 7 maybe?

11. Barney_stinson

Posts: 672; Member since: May 30, 2016

Whatever you do people just gonna yell for anything!!! Moto z lineup is great and with great things comes ...............!!?? Wait for it

17. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

another hideous bottom bezels from moto... what a waste of space, at least they should double that button as home plus 2 capacitive button beside it.. or just give it front facing stereo speaker

21. dcwt2010

Posts: 74; Member since: Feb 01, 2013

"Like its slightly thicker brother, the Moto Z has not 3.5mm headphone jack." I know this article has been rushed out but you could still try to get it proof read before you publish it?

23. ydl08

Posts: 55; Member since: Nov 01, 2013

so ugly

25. roscuthiii

Posts: 2383; Member since: Jul 18, 2010

That ugly front... this is why I just can't like white phones. The sensors break up any possibility of elegance. Black it is.

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