Motorola Moto Z2 Play Review
Interface and Functionality
Motorola continues to be the king of gesture controls
For what's often renowned as a particularly lightweight Android UI, Motorola's software offers some of our favorite options and customizations. None of this involves big, attention-grabbing features, but instead consists of a lot of smaller, more subtle ways to tweak the Android experience. For instance, your phone's auto-rotate toggle may let you choose between auto-adjustment and locking the phone in portrait, but Motorola adds the option to also lock the phone in landscape. Will you use that all the time? Maybe not, but we love having the choice, all the same.
Once again, gesture shortcuts are the star of the show here, and whether you're twisting the phone to start the camera, or using a “chopping” motion to toggle the flashlight. One of the most useful there is the phone's ability to detect when you're reaching for it, powering up to show Moto Display notifications without you even having to touch your handset at all.
We also see the return of the gesture navigation controls implemented through the phone's fingerprint scanner, just like we got to know on the Moto G5 Plus. They're entirely optional, but offer a fun way to quickly navigate through the Z2 Play's interface – once you get used to them.
And just like always with Moto Mods, the phone offers helpful how-to tutorials on each the first time you connect them.
Processor and Memory
An upgrade over last year, but maybe not a big enough one to be worth it
For a while now, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chip has been our go-to pick for a processor that delivers decent performance, but maybe more importantly, also conserves a heck of a lot of power, allowing phones based on it to deliver day-long endurance without breaking a sweat. That's the chip that powered the original Moto Z Play, but for this second-gen effort we see the 625 replaced by the newer 626.
In nearly every way that matters, the 626 is the same chip as the 625, and differentiates itself just by operating at a slightly higher speed – and really, we're only talking about 10% faster.
One consequence of that is that this new Z2 Play doesn't feel a lot faster than the original. While there are other reasons to upgrade here, it's a little disappointing that performance doesn't seem to be one of them. But this also paints the Z2 Play in an unfortunate light compared to newer phones like the Moto G5 Plus, which runs a Snapdragon 625. It ends up performing in the same league as the Z2 Play, and granted, it lacks Moto Mods support, but it also costs way, way less.
That puts the Moto Z2 Play in a difficult-to-market position: it's got mid-range hardware, but you're also asked to pay a premium for it over competing devices. And that's saying nothing of the cost of Moto Mods on top of the phone itself; at some point, will shoppers just decide it's a better value to drop a little more cash on a more full-featured flagship?
The version of the Z2 Play we got to try out is a 3GB RAM model, though a 4GB version should be available soon. While that extra wiggle room could be nice, we didn't run into any big headaches with multitasking, even with this much memory.
Right now the Moto Z2 Play is only available for Verizon, but Motorola promises that an unlocked version (and, correspondingly, one ready to be used on other carriers) will be sold directly through the manufacturer's website in a couple months. For the moment, Verizon connectivity works well, though we did have a few moments where speeds seemed a lot slower than our strong LTE connection would otherwise indicate we should expect.
For wired connectivity we've got a USB Type-C port, and while some phones may give you that fancy new connector but use slower USB 2.0 for data transfers, the Moto Z2 Play supports full-speed USB 3.1 – and that's great to see on a mid-range phone like this.
And of course, we can't forget the most important connectivity option of all: the connector array that allows for the attachment of all your favorite Moto Mods.