IT has been a year since Motorola Mobility, or simply Moto, released its second play in the then-nascent modular smartphone market: the Moto Z Play, a midrange iteration of the brand’s flagship Moto Z, which was released in June 2016. While the former didn’t have the latter’s best-in-class bragging rights in terms of hardware (Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor vs the 820 chip; 3 gigabyte of RAM vs 4GB; Quad HD display vs Full HD, etc.), the original Moto Z Play nonetheless earned high marks from the tech media for performing pretty much like it was a flagship device, minus the steep price.
Now, Moto has ushered in the sequel: the Z2 Play, which was given a splashy regional reveal early last month in Bangkok, Thailand, and is now available in Motorola stores in the CyberZone hubs of SM City North Edsa, SM Megamall and SM Mall of Asia; and at partner-retailers nationwide and online at Lazada.com.ph. The retail price is pegged at P24,999, which until the end of the month comes with a freebie—what the local office of Moto calls the Unlimited Possibilities gift box that should delight consumers, as it includes a Moto Style Shell Mod, protective metal bumper, selfie stick and liquid nano-screen protector.
Quite a nice freebie, it must be said, but what about the star of the bundle itself, the Moto Z2 Play: How does this sequel play compared to the widely praised original? (AndroidAuthority.com called the Z Play “one of our favorite value smartphones of 2016.”)
After a few weeks of living with Motorola Mobility’s latest offering, we can say that, yes, the Moto Z2 Play plays quite nicely indeed.
You won’t find that big a departure in the Moto Z2 Play in terms of design and dimensions. It retains the rectangular design with the corners beautifully rounded. It does weigh considerably less (145 gram vs the original’s 165g) but the dimensions pretty much remains the same, save for a point millimeter shaved here and there.
There’s a reason Motorola, which is now owned by the Chinese multinational technology company Lenovo headquartered in Beijing, China, has chosen not to mess with the Z2 Play’s design and dimensions. Not only is the company’s Z series among the best-looking mobile phones in the market, but staying within those dimensions also doesn’t break compatibility with the family of exceptional modules, called Moto Mods, that came with the release of last year’s Z smartphones. As we said in our review of last year’s flagship Moto Z, Motorola’s implementation of the modular smartphone design is the best, period. Meanwhile, the global South Korean brand LG, whose execution was dodgy at best, has apparently abandoned the modular market.
Despite the lack of obvious differentiation between the original and the Moto Z2 Play, there are differences both above and under the hood. On the surface, the new version has ditched glass for metal for the backside. Meanwhile, the Super Amoled display’s resolution remains Full HD (1080×1920 pixel resolution), but the pixel density has gone down just a notch, from ~403 ppi of the original to a ~401 ppi in the new version, this perhaps to compensate for the 3,000 mAh nonremovable battery, another step down from the original’s 3510 mAh. The Moto Z2 Play, on the hand, screams on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 Octa-core 2.2 GHz Cortex-A53 processor, an upgrade from last year’s 2.0 GHz chip; plus 4GB of RAM, up from the original’s 3GB.
All these changes may seem a wee schizophrenic, a two steps forward and one step back, but it all comes together rather marvelously, with the Moto Z2 Play looking and playing much like a top-tier device without burning a hole through your wallet. The upgraded processor and additional RAM allows it to be up to punishing loads that would typically slow down a phone, such as having plenty of Chrome tabs open (how about, say, 47?) chugging in the background alongside Instagram, Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts, while you get sucked into the latest outrageous goings-on in the Trump White House via Twitter. How about playing such resource-intensive games as “Asphalt 8: Airborne”, while Google Play is updating some apps in the background?
All this and more, the Moto Z2 Play handled rather quite well during our time with it.
Of course, the oversharing, selfie-obsessed crowd—which nowadays really means everybody—would want to know how the Moto Z2 Play works as a shooter, and we’re happy to report that it plays very well. In the megapixel count, the phone might seem weak with only a 12 MP for the main rear-facing camera, and front-facing 5 MP selfie shooter. However, the main camera has an f/1.7 aperture, which according to photography literature means it allows more light into the lens, theoretically resulting in better-looking photographs even in poorly lit conditions. In our tests, the snaps we took on the Moto Z2 Play yielded images with good reproduction of color and detail, no doubt worthy of the many Instagram posts you will make on this LTE-powered phone. And, yes, your selfies will also look sharp with the secondary camera.
Needless to say, the Hasselblad Truezoom Camera Mod, with its 10x optical zoom, will give you and your Moto Z2 Play even more imaging muscle—and that’s the beauty, perhaps the most compelling value-proposition of this newest baby from Motorola, in particular, and the rest of the Z series family in general: the Moto Mods transform your phone into areas of surper-functionality it didn’t have. From superior imaging that would please even a professional photographer, to bringing in the party beat with the JBL Soundboost 2 Speaker Mod, to playing like a hardcore gamer with the Moto GamePad Mod, no other smartphone in the world offers such truly useful extensibility.
For us, however, the most pleasant surprise we got from the Moto Z2 Play is that, unlike with all the dual SIM smartphones we’ve used, with which we had to go either really dual SIM minus microSD card, or single SIM plus microSD card, Motorola’s latest offering allowed us to use both our Globe and Smart LTE-enabled SIMs plus a 128GB card that has our varied music collection and every episode of The Great British Bake-Off, The Great British Sewing Bee and The Great Pottery Throw Down.
This Anglophile can now really play.