The original Moto Z Play was a popular device among those who wanted a massive battery in a mid-range device with decent hardware and software. The 3,510 mAh battery delivered some of the best results of the year, and when combined with Moto Mod functionality, the Z Play at its $400 price point was one of Motorola’s most successful devices.
The Moto Z2 Play is a little different. It's still a mid-range offering, slotting between the flagship Moto Z2 Force at the top, and the quality budget Moto G phones below. But instead of targeting battery enthusiasts like its predecessor, the Moto Z2 Play is a more traditional mid-range handset that offers access to modular functionality at a lower price point.
The battery has been reduced to 3,000 mAh, which is average for a mid-tier handset, as Motorola has opted for a slimmer handset over better battery life. The phone still uses a mid-range Snapdragon 62x series SoC, with a 5.5-inch 1080p AMOLED display. It’s still available unlocked and with stock Android on board.
The most curious aspect to the Moto Z2 Play is its price point. The phone is available for $408 locked to Verizon, or $499 as an unlocked device. This places it dangerously close to budget flagships like the Xiaomi Mi 6 and OnePlus 5, which offer better hardware for a lower price.
Sure, the Moto Z2 Play is cheaper than most high-end phones like the LG G6, Galaxy S8, Moto Z2 Force, and so forth, but the market is more crowded than that, and the Z2 Play will have to offer something special to compete strongly. So let’s take a look.
The most striking aspect to the Z2 Play is its slim body. At under 6.0mm thick, yet still packing a 3,000 mAh battery, the Z2 Play is one of the slimmest phones on the market right now. As before, this has come at the expense of battery capacity: the Z2 Play is a millimeter slimmer and 20 grams lighter than the Z Play, but its battery is 15 percent smaller. The Z Play wasn’t a fat phone by any stretch, so it’s interesting that Motorola felt the need to make the Z2 Play slimmer. Personally I’d prefer to keep the larger battery, but the Z2 Play’s slender construction is certainly pretty remarkable.
Opting for such a slim body has resulted in a very prominent circular camera bump on the rear, which protrudes several millimeters out to accommodate the 12-megapixel sensor and f/1.7 lens. From a design standpoint, the protruding bump doesn’t look bad, though when viewing the phone at off angles it can look somewhat strange. As an option, you can purchase “style shells” that clip onto the back and reduce the impact of the bump; one is included in the box.
The build quality of the Z2 Play is very good across the board. The phone is mostly made of metal around the sides and rear, with a polycarbonate antenna band wrapping around the entire rear slab in a way that looks fairly respectable. The design and copious use of metal makes the handset easy to grip and hold, which isn’t the case with competing phones with slippery glass backs. The front is protected by Gorilla Glass.
My main issue with the design is the massive amount of bezel around the display. This is quite clearly a 5.5-inch screen in a 5.7-inch body, with big bezels above and below the display, as well as a gap on either side. Modern smartphone design trends are about reducing bezel size, but Motorola hasn’t bothered here, which leaves their design looking dated. Naturally they do have some design restrictions to keep the Moto Z line compatible with Mods, but a larger screen would have been appreciated not just on the Z2 Play, but Motorola’s other Z phones as well.
Speaking of Moto Mods, the Z2 Play is compatible with the entire line-up released so far. Motorola is the only company with a successful modular phone lineup – other companies like LG tried and failed – and part of the success has come from having multiple phones that support the same mods. The Moto Mods ecosystem has grown slowly but steadily, and it’s reached a point where there are some genuinely useful additions.
My personal favorites are the battery packs from third parties such as Incipio and Mophie. The new 360-degree camera, along with the gamepad, are also clever additions that some may enjoy. All mods magnetically attach to the rear, and connect through the large pins on the bottom. Mods are easy to attach and detach when you want, and magnets are strong enough that mods won’t fall off during everyday use. The implementation is clever and it just works.
The rest of the phone is pretty well featured. There’s a fingerprint sensor on the front, below the display, though I feel it would be better if it doubled as a home button alongside capacitive navigation buttons; instead the Z2 Play opts for on-screen buttons. There’s also a USB-C port, a 3.5mm headphone jack (not found on the more expensive Z2 Force), and a water repellent nano-coating that protects against minor splashes. The Z2 Play doesn’t have an IP rating and it isn’t water resistant, but it should survive if you accidentally spill some water on it.
Like some other Motorola phones of late, the Z2 Play has a single speaker above the display, which is used for both phone calls and as a loudspeaker. The volume this speaker produces is average, and the quality is okay, though it'd have been nice to see an additional speaker on the bottom edge (or front) for a stereo experience.