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.

AnTuTu Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z2 Play 68351
Motorola Moto Z Play Droid 62728
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 63191
OnePlus 5 178968
JetStream Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z2 Play 27.235
Motorola Moto Z Play Droid 30.556
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 29.879
OnePlus 5 69.780
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z2 Play 22
Motorola Moto Z Play Droid 23
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 23
OnePlus 5 60
GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 on-screen Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z2 Play 6.3
Motorola Moto Z Play Droid 9.9
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 6.9
OnePlus 5 40
Basemark OS II Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z2 Play 1069
Motorola Moto Z Play Droid 1074
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 375
OnePlus 5 3500
Geekbench 4 single-core Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z2 Play 902
Motorola Moto Z Play Droid 796
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 783
OnePlus 5 1941
Geekbench 4 multi-core Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z2 Play 4526
Motorola Moto Z Play Droid 2542
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 3586
OnePlus 5 6678

Connectivity



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.

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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: 1345; 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: 731; 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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