Motorola Moto Z2 Play Review
Moto Z2 Play is nicely intelligible as well.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.