Moto Z Play: Owner’s Review

I recently did a review of the Moto 360 2 watch, from the perspective of someone new to smartwatches. I realized that it, as someone who’s owned a smartphone for several years, it wouldn’t hurt to review the phone itself – considering it’s still relatively new, and pretty uncommon in a sea of Samsungs and iPhones.

So, the Moto Z Play. What does someone who owns one have to say about it?

What Is It?

The Moto Z Play sits below the standard Moto Z in Motorola’s hierarchy as a slightly larger, slightly heavier, slightly less powerful alternative at a more affordable price point. That’s a relative term – buying the phone outright set me back $670 Canadian. Having paid $300 for my Nexus 5 a few years back, the shock of how expensive even midrange phones cost now was palpable. For people who subsidize or finance their phone normally, expect lower monthly and upfront costs.

That said, it’s still a great piece of hardware for the price, relative to the Moto Z and other flagship iPhones and Samsung Galaxies. It also has a party piece…

What Does It Do?

Well, being a modern smartphone, it can access the web, use a variety of apps from Googles’ Play Store…

Oh, you mean stuff that actually makes it different from every other phone?

Well, Motorola (wisely!) does very little to mess up the standard Android OS. Looking at you, Samsung! People used to using vanilla android, from the Pixel or any of the Nexus phones, will be right at home. People who text iPhone users frequently will also be right at home with the lack of support for viewing certain iOS emojis… which is probably my wife’s biggest annoyance with it.

Unique Moto-specific features are limited to usability – you can use a range of gesture controls to turn on the flashlight, open the camera, turn on do-not-disturb mode, or a range of other things without needing to touch the screen or buttons at all.

What About Specs?

Pretty much everything about the Moto Z Play is average; the cameras are decent, not exceptional. The processor is quick, not cutting edge. The weight is a little heavier than the thinner Moto Z, but by no means outlandishly heavy.

But what do you get when you combine a completely average CPU with the largest battery available in any smartphone? You get battery life. And battery life, and battery life…

I’m not a hardcore user, but I use my phone for lots of emails, some call-time, some photos and a few YouTube videos each day – plus at least an hour a day of running Bluetooth to give me music in the car. And I can get two days of that kind of usage out of this phone without breaking sweat.

The freedom afforded by the battery life gives comfort for travelling, for long days and special events, and makes the Moto Z Play an absolute hero for the five people out there who still play Pokemon GO.

I once checked the battery meter when I was down to an indicated 9% and it estimated 4 hours of life remaining. Try getting that out of your S/i 7.

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“What IS this thing?!”

And that’s without the MotoMod battery pack…

MotoWhat??

The other unique proposition that Moto phones have is the availability of MotoMods. There are magnetic strips in the back of the phone, and a set of connector pins exposed on the surface. You can buy a range of accessories and simply stick it to the phone, and you unlock some really cool extra functionality faster than you can say “Uhh! Apple-pen!” (note to future readers – that was already cringe-grade dated at time of writing).

Available mods include a projector, a premium audio speaker, a Hasselblad camera, and a high-capacity battery pack… because that’s what this phone needs, more frigging battery.

I haven’t picked up any of these mods, at least not yet, because they are pricey and I don’t really have the need for them in my current life. But I tried the JBL SoundBoost speaker at my providers’ store – just stick it together and BOOM – you fill the store with Lindsey Stirling without even intending to. Travelling DJ’s arbitrarily limited to 500g of equipment, take note.

Verdict

I’m really happy! As someone who’s skeptical of the idea that most consumers are going to use more than a portion of the capabilities baked into most flagship phones, the Moto Z Play delivers a relatively approachable price point, slick usability, and genuine salvation from the one thing that people have feared and complained about since the original iPhone – battery anxiety.

 

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