Moto Z and Moto Z Force (Droid Edition) & Moto Z Play


Moto Z and Moto Z Force

The Moto Z and Z Force are the first phones to break from Moto's attractive, but well-worn look and feel. Gone are the complexly curved sides, thick middle body and unibody construction. Instead we have a modern and somewhat angular design that's actually very slim, unlike the old Moto design that got chubby toward the middle. Whether this is Lenovo's influence or just the next step for the folks at Motorola who work largely independently from their parent company, we don't know. What we do know is that the Moto Z and Moto Z Force (both Droid Editions in the US and exclusive to Verizon Wireless) are some of the best phones on the market today. They run on the top dog Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 CPU with Adreno 530 graphics and 4 gigs of RAM. They have colorful and very bright QHD 2560 x 1440 AMOLED displays, capable cameras, and a unique modular accessory system that puts LG's "Friends" for the LG G5 to shame. You can get stylish back covers, an extended battery back, a projector (Lenovo does love putting projectors on mobile devices) and a JBL speaker back. It's easy--magnets hold the various back covers firmly on the back, and the phone automatically recognizes them (and informs you of that fact) without a need to disassemble, reboot or yank out the battery. In fact, for better or worse, both Moto Z models' batteries are sealed inside. This is how a modular phone should be: simple and attractive. The question is, do you want or need a modular phone? While I personally don't feel that I must have one, the Moto modules are useful enough and easy enough to use that I find them tempting.
The Moto Z and Moto Z Force are available for pre-order on July 21, 2016 and will be in Verizon Wireless stores on July 28th.

What's the Difference Between the Moto Z and Moto Z Force?
The two models are nearly identical, with the same CPU/RAM/storage, wireless features, screen size and front camera. The Moto Z has a 13MP rear camera while the Moto Z Force has a 21MP rear camera. The Moto Z has a 2600 mAh battery while the thicker and heavier Moto Z Force has a capacious 3500 mAh battery. To be fair, the Moto Z is one of the thinnest phones on the market at 5.2mm, so the 7mm Moto Z Force is by no means thick just because it's not as slim at the Moto Z. Both models' displays are covered by Gorilla Glass 3, but the Z Force has a shatter-proof covering for those who need serious screen robustness. Moto invited us to drop the phone from 5 feet onto a hard floor to test that shatterproof screen, so they're confident (note that this isn't a rugged phone and it might suffer damage elsewhere when harshly tested). $96 sets the two models apart in the US. The Moto Z is $624 ($26/month) on Verizon Wireless, and the Droid Z Force is $720 ($30/month).
Moto Z and Moto Z Force
Design and Ergonomics
Both phones have slim designs with an aluminum chassis, metal surround and a striped glass back with antenna windows in black at the top and bottom. The phones will likely also be available in white with a gold back and black with gold trim, but our two review units are black with gunmetal trim. The smartphones are intended to be used with Moto Style Shell back covers that cover and protect the many gold pogo pin connectors that interface with optional Moto Mods. With a Style Shell mounted, there's no camera hump, but if you use the phone naked there is a large round camera hump on the back. The shells are slim and light though sturdy, and one is included in the box.
The Moto 5.2mm Z is exquisitely thin (Moto claims it's the thinnest phone currently on the market), and the Moto Z Force is thicker, but still relatively slim for a phone with a 5.5" display. The phones have a fairly large and identical footprint, but they're smaller than the Nexus 6P and 5.5" iPhone 6s Plus. They're easy enough to handle, and the sides are easy to grip, unlike the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge with a curved 5.5" display. That Samsung is however the smallest among the 5.5" competition. Build quality is excellent and the phones feel like quality products, though the front faces are a bit generic and look much like the Moto G4 Plus. The Moto Z models have a front mounted fingerprint scanner that works impeccably. You might be tempted to use that scanner button as the home button, but the home, back and multi-tasking buttons are on-screen. The fingerprint scanner simply locks and unlocks the phone.
The volume buttons and power button are small (perhaps too small) and are clustered tightly together near the top right side of the phone. I'd like more separation or a different size/tactile feel for the power button.

Moto Mods
- Style Covers ($20-$25): these are cosmetic backs and they'll be available in six designs at launch; Washed Oak, Charcoal Ash, Silver Oak, Black Leather, Black Herringbone and Red Nylon. More will be added in the future. They're sturdy, yet slim. Though they slightly thicken the phones, they do remove the camera hump and protect the many data pins on the back. I do like the look of the naked phones, but our black models show so many fingerprints so quickly, that I'd rather cover it.
- The InstaShare Projector ($299.99) has a built-in stand and a secondary 1100 mAh battery. This is a 50 lumen DLP projector (400:1 contrast ratio) that can project up to 70" images and it has keystone and brightness adjustments. For those unfamiliar with projector specs, this isn't a very bright or high contrast projector, so you'll use it in dark rooms to maximize viewability and contrast.
- The JBL SoundBoost ($79.99) makes the phone as loud and full sounding as a laptop...a laptop with better than average audio. The Mod has stereo 3 watt speakers (6 watts total) with a claimed 80db loudness. It also has a 1000 mAh secondary battery and a built-in kickstand.
Moto Z and Moto Z Force
- Incipio OffGrid power back. A not too thick 2200 mAh battery that augments battery life. It's likely most appealing to those who go with the Moto Z rather than Z Force, since the basic Z has the smaller battery. There are other battery backs coming with some serious style from Kate Spade and Tumi priced from $60 to $90.
There are more Moto Mods under development, and third parties can develop Mods with the help of Moto's dev kit. Mods must be certified by Motorola, which is likely a good thing so you won't have to worry about poorly designed Mods that might disrupt the phone's functions. Motorola says that the Moto Mods platform will be supported by future Moto Z phones, so they'll likely find new life if you upgrade to next year's Z phone.
Deals and Shopping:

Moto Z and Moto Z Force Video Review

Moto Z Play Video Review

Hasselblad Camera Moto Mod Video Review

Display
Whether you choose the Moto Z or Moto Z Force you'll get the same bright and colorful AMOLED 5.5" display with QHD 2560 x 1440 resolution for a high 535 PPI pixel density. These are truly lovely displays, and the Moto ShatterShield on the Z Force Droid Edition doesn't reduce image quality despite a complex 5 layer design. Colors are saturated and blacks are inky, which is typical of AMOLED, but they're a bit more natural than the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. If you like Samsung AMOLED displays, you'll probably like these Moto displays. If you found those Galaxy displays attractive but a bit too saturated, you might even prefer the Moto Z family screens. The Z screens are plenty zingy and saturated (more so than IPS phones like the LG G5), but they're not as saturated as Samsung's, even on the "vibrant" setting.
Moto Z
Horsepower and Performance
There's nothing to see here, move on. The Snapdragon 820 is currently the top of the line CPU available in US flagship Android smartphones, and it performs similarly here compared to the Samsung Galaxy S7 family and the HTC 10 running on the same CPU. It's a fast and efficient 4 core CPU (two 2.2 GHz high power cores and two 1.6 GHz low power cores) that's plenty fast. While we noticed occasional lag on the midrange Moto G4 with the Snapdragon 617, we experienced zero lag on the Moto Z and Moto Z Force Droid Edition models. There's plenty of Verizon bloatware on board, but Moto's very clean Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow build (close to Nexus clean) helps. Moto is typically very quick to update to new Android versions, and we hope to see Android Nougat at the end of summer when available from Google, but Verizon isn't the fastest carrier when it comes to approving Android OS updates.
Moto Z benchmarks
The Moto Z and Moto Z Force Droid Edition models are available with 32 or 64 gigs of internal storage and they have a microSD card slot compatible with cards up to 2 TB.
Moto Z and Moto Z Force
Cameras
Just a few years ago, Motorola was synonymous with mediocre cameras in phones. That certainly has changed, and the 13 and 21 megapixel cameras in the Moto Z and Z Force are able to hold their own against the flagship competition. The Droid Force's 21MP camera with the Sony IMX338 sensor is noticeably better at capturing fine detail than the lower resolution 13MP Moto Z, which isn't surprising. Though both phones are quick to focus thanks to the usual contrast detect system augmented with laser focus, the Moto Z Force nailed more photos spot on in challenging situations like macro and subjects with movement (from branches swaying in the breeze to a zipping kitty). It adds PDAF (phase detection auto focus), which is the next step up not just for camera phones but for mirrorless and dSLR cameras. While both cameras are good, the Moto Z Force camera stands out and yields more keepers. If your phone is your only camera and photography is important to you, the Z Force is the one you want. If you just want good camera phone photos, but it's not the most important feature on your list, then the Moto Z will do.
Both cameras can shoot 4K video at 30 fps and 1080p video at 60 fps. They have optical image stabilization, which helps reduce jitters in video footage and allows the camera to use lower shutter speeds for sharper low light photos. Auto HDR and panorama are standard, and there's an advanced mode if you want control over more settings. The camera app is simple and fairly intuitive.
Moto Z and Moto Z Force

Battery Life
Both phones have relatively good battery life compared to their flagship brethren, and the Moto Z Force obviously has the better battery life since it has a higher capacity 3500 mAh battery vs. the 2600 mAh in the Moto Z. Both smartphones' battery life can be augmented via the Incipio 2220 mAh Moto Mod back and both come with a Moto TurboPower charger, which is akin to a Qualcomm Quick Charge charger. It can top up the battery by 40% in 30 minutes. I had no trouble routinely making it through the day with the Moto Z with moderate use, and the Moto Z Force lasted until the next afternoon. If you're a Pokemon Go fanatic, the data connection and heavy GPS use will result in lower runtimes.

Conclusion
The Moto Z and Moto Z Force Droid Edition Android smartphones are modular phones done right. Rather than the geeky Project Ara approach where you build the phone from scratch via component building blocks (camera, processor, battery modules and more- how many folks feel qualified to do this well), or LG's Friends modules that require a battery pull and reboot for the limited number of available Friends, Moto has the simple way to add accessories on. Equally as important, they have a useful selection of accessories at launch--a projector, stereo speakers that fit on the back of your phone, even second displays and thermal sensors may be on the horizon. It's an accessible and even fun to use system, and the style covers are the natural evolution of removable plastic backs now that many phones are sealed. Even if you're not particularly interested in Moto Mods, these are attractive, slim smartphones with a clean Android build that's likely to get timely OS updates. There's no heavy UI overlay, but in the US, there's Verizon's usual mess of apps.
Competition is fierce, and the Moto Z models are up against the Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 edge, the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 7, the HTC 10, the iPhone 6s Plus and the LG G5. These Motos hold their own in terms of screen size and quality, performance and imaging. If you find the Samsung and LG phones heavy UI overlays too much, the Moto Z family along with the HTC 10 are worth a strong look.
Price: $624 for the Moto Z and $720 for the Moto Z Force


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