The end of the year is one of the most exciting times for tech releases and general nerd stuff, in my opinion. The year’s hottest videogames release, exciting new TV shows debut or another season begins, and we are still treated to incredible smartphone releases. Motorola is looking to go all out with a three-punch combo this fall season with the release of the upmarket Moto Z, the mid=range Moto Z Play, and their accompanying modular pieces called Moto Mods. In many ways the Moto Z Play is considered the little brother of the Moto Z, but little is an understatement. Of the three phones in the Z series (there’s a third phone called the Moto Z Force, but that may not see a Canadian release), the Play is the thickest and heaviest of the family. This is mostly in part to the absolute monster of a battery Motorola have put inside it. It’s a pretty well rounded phone that also packs a great camera and some decent components on the insides.
First, let’s take a look at the outside of the phone. What you’ll first notice, aside from its gorgeous black and grey body colouring, is how beefy it is. Weighing in at just over 5.8 ounces and just about 7 mm of thickness, you could probably add “building material” to the list of features to the Moto Z Play. If it wasn’t already enough of a brick, once you start attaching the Moto Mods, it truly starts to look like a beast. Thankfully, this extra bulkiness means we get to listen to our music through wired headphones. Motorola opted to outright remove the headphone jack from the standard Z and the Z Force. Most notably, Apple did the same with their latest release, the iPhone 7. This is a trend I would rather not see continue as I am someone who still prefers wired pieces of tech, and the Z Play caters to those who feel the same. I find that they just preform much more reliably. In keeping with the family, nearly every other design feature was included on the Play, such as the bottom fingerprint scanner and the 5.5-inch display. However, the screen only features a 1080p resolution, while the other two sit at 1440p.
On the inside, we find a much different story than the other two phones. Being that this is the midrange device, it’s expected that we will get weaker innards. For the processor, we are given a Snapdragon 625, compared against the 820 found in the other two. We are also only given 3 GB of RAM. This may not seem like a huge difference, but having used other phones this year with roughly the same specs, there are noticeable performance issues. For storage, we are given only one option of 32 GB, with the others featuring a 64 GB option.
Now, what the Play does have over the other two is its battery. How good are we talking? Try 3510 mAh on for size. Oh yeah. What a monster this is. On an idle test, I didn’t have to charge this puppy for over three days. In a combo test of idle and strong use, I finally had to plug it in after just over two days. That is absolutely incredible for a phone. What ultimately improves on this is the inclusion of fast-charge seen on the other two phones. It went from below 20 per cent to just over 80 per cent in roughly 30 minutes, and I felt like I blinked once and it was already at 100 per cent. So, if the battery is what sells you alone on the phone, you could probably stop reading here and go pick up this beauty of a device. I need to continue on however, as the camera still needs to be addressed.
In terms of the camera, it’s probably the weakest in the line. We are presented with a 16 MP back camera and a 5 MP front facing, which also includes a flash. Despite the second highest MP count of the three, the photos it took came out just OK looking. They were still decent looking shots, but there are a couple hiccups with the camera. First, I noticed some hue issues in terms of the white balance and a blue tinge to the photos, which was kind of off-putting. What really got me was the lack of optical image stabilization. I tend to be not so steady with my shots, and this was definitely noticeable when I was attempting to take photos with the Z Play camera. If I shook at the wrong time or pushed the shutter button a little too hard and made the phone move, I would blur up the photo. This is definitely not the phone’s selling point, but this could be forgiven.
Despite the standard Z being the flagship model of the two phones that released in Canada, I feel like the Z Play probably would be better suited to that spot. I did end up giving the Z a better score, but that was mostly due to it having better internal components and a much more reliable camera than the Play. What the Play does have over it is the monster battery you would find in a high-end phone, the inclusion of the headphone jack, and a decent price point. When it comes to the two, if you have the money and care about the better internals, go with the standard Z. The Z Play, however, should not be overlooked.