Introduction


Modular smartphone hardware is, at the very least, an intriguing concept: since phones are far from one-size-fits-all, it makes sense to let users choose the hardware features that matter most to them, and by making this hardware modular, it saves shoppers the expense of picking up a whole new phone every time their desires shift.

But for as nice as the idea is, actually making modular smartphones work is an uphill battle, and even giants like Google have looked long and hard at such projects before eventually declaring, “Nope!”

But last year Lenovo-owned Motorola did the impossible, and launched not just a modular smartphone, but a whole family of both modular phones and the modules that attach to them: the Moto Mods. We were promised that this wouldn't be a one-shot phenomenon, and this year they're indeed back, as we get a new phone and some new Moto Mods add-ons.

Will this new batch of hardware finally convince the nay-sayers that modular smartphones are here to stay? Or is there little here that's going to sway a critic who wasn't already won over by last year's lineup? Join us as we take a look at the new Moto Z2 Play, as well as a trio of new Moto Mods.

In the box:

  • Moto Z2 Play
  • Motorola Turbo Charge adapter
  • USB Type-C to standard-A cable
  • SIM tool
  • Safety card
  • Quick-start guide

Design

Thinner than the original Moto Z Play, but with that same, unavoidable Moto Z look


The blessing of support for Moto Mods can also be a bit of a curse: on the one hand, you're giving a phone support for a growing body of add-on hardware, letting users augment the handset with a heavy-duty camera, extra battery capacity, or maybe even a digital projector. But on the other hand, you're locking your phone into being a particular shape and size, with Moto Mods support inherently linked to the physical makeup of a phone.

While that does give Motorola some wiggle room to experiment with handset thickness, other aspects of the phone's design, from that utterly flat back panel to the prominent, centered camera bump, are set in stone.

As a result, the Moto Z2 Play looks and feels a lot like its predecessors, even as it strays a bit from the decisions that went into making the original Moto Z Play. Perhaps most notably there, Motorola's decided to give us a thinner phone this time around, with the Z2 Play's 5.99mm thickness (no Moto Mods attached) coming in below the first gen's 6.99mm. As a consequence, though, battery size also takes a hit – which we'll talk about just a bit later.

Layout-wise, we've got a 5.5-inch screen dominating the phone's face, with a fingerprint scanner below and front-facing camera hardware up top – including a rare dual-LED front-facing flash. The hybrid SIM tray (with support for microSD expansion) lives up top, and along the right side we've got the power button, as well as discrete up-and-down volume controls. Underneath we find the phone's USB Type-C port, and also the analog headphone jack – a feature we got on the first Moto Z Play, but not the other Moto Z phones.

On the back, there's a camera that sure looks a lot like those on earlier Moto Zs, but that's hiding some new hardware within, and down below is the critical Moto Mods interface.

By itself, the Moto Z2 Play is both quite thin and notably lightweight, coming in at just 145g. But neither of those will last for long, as the phone is just begging to have some Moto Mods attached.


Motorola Moto Z2 Play

Motorola Moto Z2 Play

Dimensions

6.15 x 3 x 0.24 inches

156.2 x 76.2 x 5.99 mm

Weight

5.11 oz (145 g)

Motorola Moto Z Play

Motorola Moto Z Play

Dimensions

6.16 x 3.01 x 0.28 inches

156.4 x 76.4 x 6.99 mm

Weight

5.82 oz (165 g)

Motorola Moto G5 Plus

Motorola Moto G5 Plus

Dimensions

5.91 x 2.91 x 0.38 inches

150.2 x 74 x 9.7 mm

Weight

5.47 oz (155 g)

OnePlus 5

OnePlus 5

Dimensions

6.07 x 2.92 x 0.29 inches

154.2 x 74.1 x 7.25 mm

Weight

5.40 oz (153 g)

Motorola Moto Z2 Play

Motorola Moto Z2 Play

Dimensions

6.15 x 3 x 0.24 inches

156.2 x 76.2 x 5.99 mm

Weight

5.11 oz (145 g)

Motorola Moto Z Play

Motorola Moto Z Play

Dimensions

6.16 x 3.01 x 0.28 inches

156.4 x 76.4 x 6.99 mm

Weight

5.82 oz (165 g)

Motorola Moto G5 Plus

Motorola Moto G5 Plus

Dimensions

5.91 x 2.91 x 0.38 inches

150.2 x 74 x 9.7 mm

Weight

5.47 oz (155 g)

OnePlus 5

OnePlus 5

Dimensions

6.07 x 2.92 x 0.29 inches

154.2 x 74.1 x 7.25 mm

Weight

5.40 oz (153 g)

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page



Display

Bold colors are great, but come with some big tradeoffs


From the moment you first boot up the Moto Z2 Play, the phone looks ready to impress with a dazzling, high-contrast Motorola logo on-screen. It's a great way to grab your attention, and really emphasizes some of the best properties of the phone's 5.5-inch AMOLED display.

The screen's 1080 x 1920 resolution looks decent at this size, but by default the phone's interface doesn't take great advantage of all those available pixels, with text and on-screen elements displayed quite a bit larger than they need to be – and making the screen seem less well-equipped than it really is. Luckily, you can quickly make strides towards fixing that with a few settings tweaks.

But while we were impressed by that early onslaught of classic-AMOLED saturation and bright colors, that honeymoon period didn't last. By default the phone is set to its “vibrant” color mode, but even in “standard,” which claims to deliver realistic colors, our tests found the screen doing not such a great a job at accurately depicting colors – and beyond the general intensity issues we see with AMOLEDs, we also found magenta hues in particular to be poorly reproduced, leaning much more towards blue than they should.

Those disappointments continue when it comes to screen brightness, which seems to top out just north of 400 nits. That's significantly less bright than the majority of phones that cross our path, and notably worse than we saw on the much-more-affordable Moto G5 Plus – which hit nearly 600 nits.

In the end, the screen is detailed and colorful, but still comes up short in a few key areas, and even for a $400 phone, we expect a little more.



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8 Comments

2. Einstein333

Posts: 146; Member since: May 22, 2012

"Those disappointments continue when it comes to screen brightness, which seems to top out just north of 400 nits. That's significantly less bright than the majority of phones that cross our path, and notably worse than we saw on the much-more-affordable Moto G5 Plus – which hit nearly 600 nits." All of this results in a "good" max brightness rating ??

4. bucknassty

Posts: 1326; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

my question is why is the screen so dim?

3. Lois13

Posts: 61; Member since: Nov 20, 2015

Had to take away the amazing battery life so they can sell more battery pack mods. Consumers will love that. Remove features and then sell those features as add-on mods to make more money.

5. shamrock_sean

Posts: 37; Member since: Apr 27, 2017

Seriously Phone Arena you do moan about silly things. Camera is decent and if same as G5 Plus then it's sharp and detailed as I have Moto G5 Plus. And G5 Plus also has a loud and pretty bassy front speaker, probably same as this handset, did you not even adjust EQ settings?? One thing of note Moto should have made the phone thicker with bigger battery and that would remove camera bump and need for a Mod

6. mahima

Posts: 727; Member since: Nov 20, 2014

do you still read phonearena phone review? its a joke i always skip to the last page to read pros and cons to get a little laugh and to entertain myself... that's all and read comments if i have time to waste!!

7. NickHill

Posts: 388; Member since: May 07, 2016

Yeah just like I read your comment to waste some time.

8. SYSTEM_LORD

Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

This phone is essentially a downgrade to the original. How sad. It's no wonder Moto X4 is now shipping with a 3000mAh battery instead of a 3800mAh as previously rumoured...no need to buy this thing and it's overpriced mods!

9. GlenBarrington

Posts: 12; Member since: Feb 04, 2016

For the record, I think the Z2 Play is the best smartphone I've ever owned. Certainly, it is FAR superior to the Galaxy S5 that it replaced.
Moto Z2 Play
  • Display 5.5" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 5 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 626, Octa-core, 2200 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3000 mAh(30h 3G talk time)

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