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Moto Z2 Play Review: A Refined Battery Life Champion Returns

Lenovo introduced their Moto Z family last year with high hopes of being something different. The evolution of smartphone design has been more iterative than innovate in recent years from most manufacturers. The Moto Z smartphones, however, offered modularity to allow the phones to adapt to a user’s in-the-moment needs.

The Moto Mods concept is an intriguing one, but was ultimately met with mixed reviews. It is certainly the best execution we have seen to date with a growing selection of mods and simple plug-and-play operation, but many users are put off by needing to keep the phone-sized mods around. There has also been a fair question of if Lenovo would stick with the platform, as LG has abandoned theirs in moving from the G5 to the LG G6, but the second generation of Moto Z phones now indicates the mods at least have a future.

moto z2 play 1

For the most paired-down member of the Z family, the Moto Z Play, the intrigue for many users had little to do with the Moto Mods functionality and more to do with its seemingly endless battery life. In a world where many flagship phones fade after four or five hours of actual screen-on usage, the first generation Moto Z Play presses on for ten or twelve hours. As someone who regularly uses their phone for eight or more hours a day, the Z Play easily became one of my favorite phones to use and has been my daily driver since it launched.

Now the second generation Moto Z2 Play is here with modest hardware improvements and a slightly scaled back battery capacity. Is this successor still up to the task of powering through my workday? Let's find out together...

moto z2 play 3

The Moto Z2 Play trades up to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 SoC, which is effectively a higher clocked version of the Snapdragon 625 in the original (2.2GHz vs 2.0GHz). The Snapdragon 626 does bring Bluetooth 4.2 Low Energy support, but otherwise the two chips are effectively interchangeable. The Moto Z2 Play is available in two hardware variants. Ours is the 32GB model which has 3GB of RAM available for $408 on Verizon. It is also available as a carrier unlocked variant with 64GB of on-board storage and RAM bumped up to 4GB for $549 to $499, depending on retailer.

Moto Z2 Play Droid
Specifications & Features
Model NameMoto Z2 Play Droid
Display5.5 inch Super AMOLED Display (1080 x 1920 Resolution, 403 ppi pixel density)
ProcessorQualcomm MSM8953-Pro Snapdragon 626, Octo-Core Processor
Dimensions
156.2 x 76.2 x 6mm, 145g
SIMSingle SIM (nano) or Dual SIM (nano)/SD Card Slot
ProtectionIP52 Water-repellent nano-coating
GPUAdreno 506
OSAndroid v7.1.1 (Nougat)
RAM3 GB LPDDR4 (Verizon) / 4 GB LPDDR4 (Unlocked)
Storage32 GB (Verizon) / 64 GB (Unlocked)
Micro SD up to 256 GB
Camera12 MP f/1.7 rear camera, phase detection and laser autofocus, dual-tone LED flash, Video 2160p@30fps, 1080p@60fps, 720p@120fps
5 MP f/2.2 front facing camera with LED flash, Video 1080p
NetworkingGSM / CDMA / HSPA / LTE support
v4.2 LE Bluetooth, NFC, USB Type-C, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, A-GPS
SensorsAccelerometer, Fingerprint, Gyro, Compass, Proximity
Battery3000 mAh Removable Battery
ColorsBlack, White
ExtraMoto Mods including Turbo Power battery pack and JBL SoundBoost 2 speaker mod
Price ~ $449 on Verizon, Unlocked Variants Also Available

Externally, the Moto Z2 Play looks almost identical to the first gen Z Play save for the now oval fingerprint reader and slimmer profile but it brings more design improvements than are immediately apparent.

moto z2 play 2

The original Z Play was a little bit of a heavyweight thanks to the massive 3500mAh battery inside and also its glass backing. The Moto Z2 Play, by contrast, is nearly 20 grams lighter with a lighter plastic back and, combined with a millimeter slimmer body, feels a lot nimbler than its predecessor.

The ergonomics are also vastly improved. Last year, we did not mourn the camera bump because the Z Play needed a style plate or mod in place to feel comfortable in the hand as the corners were rather sharp. The Moto Z2 Play, however, has slightly more rounded edges making a style plate no longer ergonomically necessary. It is still wise to use one though, to level off the camera bump and protect the rear contacts.

moto z2 play 4

Thankfully, the thinner frame is still well constructed and the phone resists flexing at all under pressure. Motorola has done well over the years to resist sacrificing structural integrity for aesthetics, a priority admired by those of us who can be hard on our devices.

On the flip side, the Z2 Play retains the large bezels of its predecessor. We know the footprint of the phone is effectively fixed to maintain mod capability, but we would really love to see a taller aspect ratio to at least fit in more screen. There is enough space to stretch the screen out to an 18:9 (2:1) ratio without drastically repositioning the fingerprint sensor, camera, flash, and speaker grill.

moto z2 play 10

The display is still a 5.5-inch 1080p AMOLED screen and that’s just fine for its price point. It looks good and sharp enough for general usage though VR users may want to look for higher resolution devices. Color reproduction is great with a Vivid preset out of the box, though we prefer the more muted Standard color profile for better accuracy. Regardless, an OLED panel is, well, OLED and you don't get much better brightness and pop from any other display type in handsets currently.

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