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.

Design


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. 

Display


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.

Cameras


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.

MotoMods


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.

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