Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Review
Can you hear me now? Sure, but with a little interference
We did experience one small issue, though, and during calls we were able to perceive a slight hiss from the earpieces of the phones. It was very quiet, and you're likely to experience far more interference when the person you're calling moves into an area of poor reception, but it's still just enough to take away from an otherwise stellar call experience.
For phones this thin, we'd expect a lot less.
The Moto Z Force Droid does better still, but we're a little disappointed it didn't last longer than it did. The phone's 3,500mAh battery is 35% larger than the Moto Z Droid's, but the just-over-seven-hours of battery life we measured represents only a 22% improvement. Considering the battery's size, we'd hope for closer to eight hours.
Both phones recharge quickly with their included Turbo Power adapters, with the Moto Z Droid in particular impressing with going from zero to full in just 72 minutes. The only annoying part here is that the USB cables are hard-wired to those adapters, making packing and traveling with them a little more difficult.
Lenovo aims high and pretty much nails it
These handsets are special in that we're not just reviewing the phones themselves, but also their Moto Mods add-ons. To be a successful modular platform, Lenovo's going to have to keep the accessories coming, and it's off to a good start: the Moto Z phones are launching with the JBL SoundBoost Speaker, a variety of Power Pack extended batteries, and the Moto Insta-Share Projector – already off to a better start than the LG Friends.
The JBL SoundBoost Speaker is a lot like the sort of battery-powered Bluetooth speaker you might carry around with you, only it attaches to the rear of Moto Z phones with its powerful magnets. A built-in battery offers up to 10 hours of playback time, and while its dual 3-Watt speakers aren't the loudest we've ever heard, they're a nice way to boost either phone's native output without taking up a lot of extra space – though to be fair, this is the bulkiest of the Moto Mods.
A built-in kickstand helps prop the speakers up to let sound flow out into the room, while also giving users a convenient way to watch videos on their phones. And if you're taking a lot of voice calls, the speakers function as a hands-free speakerphone.
The Moto Insta-Share Projector is a lot of fun, as you'd expect a smartphone projector would be. It's got a 50-lumen output that lets it project a screen up to about 70 inches diagonal, and packs its own 1,100 mAh battery. A stand helps aim its picture up at a nearby wall, and keystone auto-correction keeps the image straight (though you can always tweak that in software). In addition to a power button on the projector, there's also a scroll wheel for adjusting focus, though we found it to be a little finicky for our tastes – it was easy to overshoot the focal sweet spot, and immediately dialing back in the other direction often failed to reacquire focus.
Getting the right location for projector usage is key to its enjoyment, and you're going to want a dark environment with an unobstructed, light-colored wall. Finding that's easier said that done, but even if the situation you're in is less than ideal, being able to share your phone's screen like this is so novel that we imagine the Insta-Share Projector's going to find a lot of success. Maybe its biggest limitation is its battery life, and just projecting a music video or two can easily take 10% off the unit's internal battery.
As for the Power Pack, you'll find a variety of design options, and the plain black Tumi model we checked out augmented battery capacity to the tune of 2,200mAh hours. Unlike the speaker and projector, this one doesn't have its own USB Type-C port for charging, and instead can only be recharged when attached to the phone itself – a slight inconvenience, but we understand how it helps keep size down. When full, it will help keep the phone's battery charged, meaning you can run down the Power Pack and later pop it off, enjoying a slimmer phone with 100% battery as your work day winds down.
The magnets used by all Moto Mods accessories are quite strong, and we had no misgivings about anything shaking loose. These magnets are in the modules themselves, and while stray paperclips or twist-ties will stick to them all too easily, the actual smartphones won't be picking up any stray metallic items.
Software is also really well done, and the phones recognize each Moto Mod by name when attached, greeting you with an introductory slide show and offering configuration options where available. Also critical to the success of this project, the phones can keep users informed of available Moto Mods options, letting them discover new accessories as they come out.
Moto phones don't always seem like the most impressive handsets around. They can be stylish, sure, and their software is often well done, but it's been difficult for them to really wow in the face of more polished handsets like the Galaxy S7.
But with the Moto Z Droid, Moto Z Force Droid, and their Moto Mods, Lenovo has really given us reason to pay new attention to what Motorola phones can be capable of. Spend a little time with options like the Insta-Share Projector, and you quickly see how this could be huge – and we mean as it impacts the smartphone market, because even with the projector attached, the Moto Z Droid still comfortably fits in a pocket.
And honestly, even if there were no modular hardware here, the Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid would still be some really attractive handsets. The super-thin design is stunning while still feeling robust (even if it's tricky to get used to handling a phone so svelte), performance doesn't let us down, and both models offer some decent camera output.
Both phones are available for pre-order today, and arrive in one week, on July 28. The Moto Z Droid will run you $624, while the Moto Z Force Droid costs nearly $100 more, at $720. There's nothing particularly surprising about either of those figures.
As for the Moto Mods, they'll also all be available on July 28, when you can pick up the JBL SoundBoost Speaker for about $80, various Power Packs ranging from $60 to $90, or that Moto Insta-Share Projector for a cool $300. We'd have loved for all those prices to be a bit lower (as affordable availability would do nothing but drive sales of the high-margin smartphones themselves), and the Power Pack pricing seems especially high. But if you've got the cash, Lenovo and Verizon are happy to give you all the options you'll need for one of the best-equipped smartphone solutions you can find anywhere.
Software version of the review unit: Android 6.0.1; Build Number: MCL24.203-22