Call Quality


While the use of the earpiece as the phone's main speaker may not make for the most satisfying multimedia consumption, it does mean that no one's neglecting the component's output – and indeed, voice call quality is quite solid. We tried the phone out on Verizon's network, and in addition to distant parties sounding nice and clear, our callers report that audio coming from the Moto Z2 Play is nicely intelligible as well.

Battery Life

Between a battery-life hit from last year, and south-of-average recharge times, the Z2 leaves us wanting more

To get incredible battery life out of the Moto Z2 Play, all Motorola had to do was as little as possible: the original Moto Z Play already had insane endurance, and short of fattening the phone up with a larger battery, there wasn't much left to do to improve on that.


But the Moto Z2 Play is a thinner phone than its predecessor, with a smaller 3,000mAh battery under the hood. And though the Snapdragon 626 processor enjoys some of the same efficient operation as the Z Play's 625, less battery capacity is inevitably going to translate into shorter time between charges.

Indeed, we see battery life drop from the almost 14 hours we got last year to a slightly more conservative nine-and-a-half. That's still pretty solid, and while some users will lament that Motorola didn't just keep the phone thicker and with that same big 3510mAh battery, this isn't the worst compromise we've ever faced.

One downside, though, is slightly longer-than-average recharge times. They're not bad by any stretch, taking a little over two hours to charge back up, but lately we've been seeing a lot of phones come in between 90 and 120 minutes, so the Moto Z2 Play is slower than all those.

Battery life (hours) Higher is better
Motorola Moto Z2 Play 9h 19 min (Excellent)
Motorola Moto Z Play Droid 13h 43 min (Excellent)
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 10h 26 min (Excellent)
OnePlus 5 9h 18 min (Excellent)
Charging time (minutes) Lower is better
Motorola Moto Z2 Play 132
Motorola Moto Z Play Droid 156
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 106
OnePlus 5 99

Moto Mods

The whole point of a Moto Z-series phones, the latest Mods are nice – but can you really afford to collect them all?


It wouldn't be a Moto Z phone without support for Moto Mods hardware, and this year we're checking out the Z2 Play alongside a trio of three new accessories.

First up we've got the Wireless Charging Style Shell. This looks a lot like one of the plain, featureless Style Shells we checked out last year, but adds support for wireless charging to the phone. We'd love it if that ability were built in to the Z2 Play, but when you're popping new backs on the phone all the time, we understand how it makes sense to make the feature external.

It looks good, and works good, though you'll need a compatible 10W Qi charger to take advantage of quick-charging mode (which the Samsung wireless fast charger we tested the Style Shell with does not support, forcing us into slow mode). The back has an attractive woven fabric texture, and while that looks nice and feels even better, we worry that it's already fraying a bit around the edges. The Wireless Charging Style Shell will go up for sale at the end of July, priced at about $40.

Next there's the Moto TurboPower Pack, which more than doubles the Z2 Play's battery capacity with an extra 3,490mAh battery. This one's got a ridged, rubberized texture, and while it looks nice, it does tend to pick up a good amount of dust and debris. You can charge the Pack directly with its side-mounted USB Type-C port, and a button on its back lets you quickly check remaining charge through a four-LED readout.

While a battery pack seems pretty straightforward, the accessory's software does offer a nice degree of customizability over how the phone takes advantage of it: you can go for a turbo mode, that gives your phone as much juice as it can take, or opt for a more reserved efficiency mode, that instead tries to keep your handset's battery hovering around 80%.

Understandably, this one's quite a bit thicker than the wireless back, and adds a good amount of weight, but its custom Moto Mods shape does make the accessory a lot more palatable than a generic third-party battery case would be. Again, sales start at the end of July, but this Moto Mod will fetch closet to $80.

Finally, we've got the new JBL SoundBoost 2, the sequel to the speaker add-on we first checked out last summer. The basic layout is the same: a pair of stereo speakers, separated by a convenient kickstand. That stand makes video-watching really convenient, and offers a good reason for why you should use the SoundBoost 2 instead of an external Bluetooth speaker.

The new speaker sounds great, looks really cool with its red-fabric exterior, and this year adds water-resistance to its feature set – perfect for outdoor summer usage. Attaching it to the Moto Z2 Play makes the phone preposterously thick, so you're not likely to travel with the SoundBoost 2 attached, but it's handy to snap on and leave on a table, filling the room with sound. The speaker contains its own battery (and charges separately from the phone), good for about 10 hours of playback.

Sales of this one start on July 10, for about $80, but there's a promotion going right now that can snag you one for free with the purchase of a Moto Z2 Play. Normally we'd be on the fence, just because of its size and convenience issues, but knocking that price down to $0 quickly obliterates any minor objections.

Conclusion


The Moto Z2 Play is an important phone, if only because it's keeping the Moto Mods story going. It's incredible that the project has lasted as long as it has, and other manufacturers would have thrown in the towel long ago (just look at LG or Google), so we love the fact that the Z2 Play exists at all.


And looked at by itself, this phone does a lot reasonably well. Performance is alright for a mid-ranger, battery life is good (even if we were hoping it might be better), and even pricing's not bad, with Verizon selling the handset for just over $400.

But then we take a step back, and can't help but find ourselves wishing for something more – or maybe just something different. There are lots of little issues that start adding up, like the not-nearly-bright-enough screen, or the speaker that seems to utterly lack any ability to reproduce bass tones.

That dissatisfaction is compounded by the Z2 Play not feeling like a full-on sequel to the original Z Play; it's just not better in enough ways, and feels more like a “Moto Z Lite,” that trades battery life for thinness.

Looking at the rest of the Motorola lineup, we also find ourselves forced to draw comparisons to another recent affordable handset, the Moto G5 Plus. That phone has similar performance, a very similar camera, and while it doesn't support Moto Mods, it costs nearly half as much. Modular hardware may be cool, but is it worth paying an extra $150 or more for? And when the simplest add-ons cost $40 themselves, you really have to stop and ask yourself how much money you intend to sink on your smartphone spending.

If you like modular hardware, you like your phones on the thinner side, and you dig a screen with bold colors over one that's super-bright and easy to read outdoors, the Moto Z2 Play won't do you wrong. It's a solid handset, and the ability to add new capabilities really does help offset some of our misgivings. But there's also a lot of room for improvement here, and maybe more than anything, this phone has us wishing for yet another Moto Z handset, one that pushes the envelope even further.



Pros

  • Attractive, thin design
  • Decent battery life
  • Motorola's Android UI tweaks work great
  • Largely satisfying camera
  • Modular hardware is an open door for new features

Cons

  • Display not bright enough, colors not accurate
  • Sound quality is not very satisfying
  • Recharge times should be faster
  • Performance not a huge upgrade over first-gen model
  • Moto Mods can add significant cost to ownership

PhoneArena Rating:

7.6

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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: 1337; 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: 729; 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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