Gadgets Now | Oct 19, 2016
Moto Z Play 32GB features a 5.5 Inch display and runs on Android v6.0.1 (Marshmallow) operating system. The device is powered by a processor paired with 3 GB of RAM.
2000 MHz, Octa core
NEW DELHI : The world is hungry for smartphones that are value-for-money. Moreover, the market is getting increasingly competitive and demanding, with cheap yet capable devices being launched almost everyday. Consumers want smartphones that are good looking and perform well, but don’t cost too much. Samsung, HTC, Sony, Apple and now Google all have powerful flagship offerings. But all of them are above Rs 40,000 and thus, fall into the ‘high-end’ segment. Lenovo-owned Motorola, on the other hand, seems to be playing a different game.
Ever since launching the first generation Moto X, the company has carved a name for itself by offering value-for-money devices in the mid-range segment. And with the recently launched Z series, it seems Motorola is moving ahead in the same track.
After unveiled the Moto Z and Moto Z Force at its Tech World event earlier this year, the company revealed the third member of the family – Moto Z Play, at the 2016 IFA conference in Berlin, Germany. Both Moto Z and Moto Z Play were launched in India earlier this month for Rs 39,999 and Rs 24,999 respectively.
With the introduction of the Moto Z series, Motorola has gone ‘modular’. All three Z-series smartphones support ‘Moto Mods’ (sold separately). These snap on to the back of the devices and impart them different functionalities. There are currently four Moto Mods available – Incipio OffGrid powerbank, InstaShare projector, JBL SoundBoost speaker and HasselBlad True Zoom camera.
So, does the Moto Z Play and its companion Moto Mods have what it takes to stir the Indian smartphone market? Read the rest of our review to find out.
Design and display
Motorola followed a certain design approach for the Moto E, Moto G and Moto X series of devices, refining it for the Moto X Play and Moto X Style. However, the Moto Z Play (and by extension, the entire Z series) now bears a completely overhauled design. That’s quite a welcome change.
We like how the Moto Z Play looks. It’s aesthetically pleasing and the design is quite premium. Oh, and it retains a ‘feature’ that its other Z siblings lack – a 3.5mm headphone jack.
It is understandable that manufacturers are moving forward by ditching the 3.5mm audio jacks, but it’ll still take a few years before they are not needed at all. That said, Moto Z Play isn’t as thin as the Moto Z due to the presence of the 3.5mm audio jack.
Measuring 156.4×76.4×6.99, the Moto Z Play is quite lightweight as compared to its competitors. The front is covered with a 2.5D Full HD (1080×1920 pixels) display, while the back is glass-coated and thus, attracts smudges.There is a single metal band that runs along the side with chamfered edges. All of this adds up to a beautiful-looking design. That said, the build quality makes it feel a little delicate. If you stretch your thumb a little, you can easily use the Moto Z Play with one hand.
The power and volume buttons are placed on the right side. Oddly, all three of them are almost similar in size so it’s very likely that you’ll end up pressing the wrong button quite a few times. The 3.5mm headphone jack and USB Type-C port sit at the bottom, while the SIM card tray is up top. A fingerprint sensor is placed below the display, with the front-facing camera (with flash) and the usual collection of sensors above the screen.
Coming to the back, there’s a 16MP rear camera (with dual LED flash) module encased in a circular hump, something which many users may find irksome. Also, there’s a magnetic connector at the lower back which is used for interfacing with the Moto Mods.
Since the display uses Super Amoled technology, it is comparatively better than the panels found in other devices within the same price bracket. The 5.5-inch Full HD display is vibrant and bright enough to be used easily under direct sunlight. Colours are saturated and viewing angles are quite good. The closest competitor to the Moto Z Play’s display can be considered to be OnePlus 3’s Optic Amoled panel, which is also Full HD. In addition, the quick glance feature (called Moto Display) always comes in real handy if you want to peek at notifications quickly without waking up the phone.
In essence, we found the Moto Z Play’s display to be one of the best available in its price bracket.
Performance and camera
While the design and display proved to be plus points of the Moto Z Play, its performance was less-than-flawless. Although majority of the apps worked perfectly and playing heavy media files was also a non-issue, we encountered random app crashes quite frequently. Switching between apps, though, was seamless.
Moto Z Play is powered by an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor clubbed with 3GB of LPDDR3 RAM and Adreno 506 GPU.
The device runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow out-of-the-box and is confirmed to receive the Android 7.1 Nougat update in future. Its stock Android experience is clean and simple, unlike the heavily-customized UI layers such as HTC Sense UI and Samsung TouchWiz.
However, Motorola has baked some nice additional features on top of stock Android. These include Attentive Display (keeps the screen on as long as you are looking at it), Flip for Do Not Disturb (turning the phone on its face activates Do Not Disturb Mode, Pick up to stop ringing (self-explanatory) and Swipe to shrink screen (shrinks the screen content for easier one-handed usage).
Moto Z Play includes 32GB of internal storage out of which, about 8.15GB is used by the OS. This leaves about 23.85GB for media and apps storage. However, the storage can be expanded up to 2TB via microSD cards, which should be a sigh of relief.
Motorola hasn’t made any compromises in the battery department either. The 3,510mAh battery in the Moto Z Play effortlessly lasts a day on mid to heavy usage. With light usage, it can even stretch to the next day. Interestingly, it’s more than the flagship Moto Z’s 2,600mAh battery, which lasted around 14 hours during our testing.
In addition, the Motorola Turbo Charge technology acts as icing on the cake. The company claims that the handset can run for 8 hours in ideal conditions when charged for just 15 minutes. However, in our tests it ran for little more than 3 hours on regular use.
A good camera can be a vital factor when deciding a smartphone’s fate. And in case of the Moto Z Play, thankfully it doesn’t disappoint. We are not fans of camera bumps but did find the overall performance surprisingly impressive.
The 16MP rear camera delivers even more crisp and detailed images than the 13MP camera used in the flagship Moto Z. It features Phase Detection Autofocus and f/2.0 aperture, which is not quite satisfying in low light situations but good enough for general usage. We would’ve appreciated if Motorola used the complete screen as a viewfinder, for a more immersive look.
For now, both sides of the display are covered by sections that provide access to camera modes, shutter button and other options. Unfortunately the camera lacks OIS (Optical Image Stabilization), a feature that has nowadays become a norm in most smartphones.
The images shot in daylight are really good. Pictures captured in artificial or low-light conditions are decent, but not sharp enough. Moto Z Play comes with numerous modes like Burst, Auto HDR, Panorama and Drag to focus. There are also other options to enhance the images. Not only can it record videos in 4K resolution, but also shoot in slow motion (120fps in 720p). You can also activate the camera app by tapping the Home button twice or by flicking your wrist while holding the smartphone.
The front-facing 5MP camera also performed well during our testing, though it’s nothing groundbreaking. There’s a front-facing LED flash as well, which comes in handy for clicking better selfies taken in dim-lit conditions. There are beautification and professional modes as well.
A modular phone is not a new idea anymore. We have already seen Google’s now-shelved Project Ara and more recently, the LG G5 with its ‘Friends’ modules. But Motorola has worked on this concept and made it better. The Mods make the Moto Z smartphones truly ‘modular’. They are essentially separate hardware which snap on to the Moto Z Play’s back and provide additional functionality. Moto Mods are easy to attach to the smartphone and are available at (almost) affordable prices.
Motorola currently offers four Mods for the Moto Z lineup – Hasselblad True Zoom , JBL SoundBoost, Moto Insta-Share Projector and the Incipio OffGrid Power Pack. Of course, the style shells are also there. The Hasselblad True Zoom mod and Moto Insta-Share Projector cost Rs 19,999 each, while the Incipio OffGrid Power Pack and JBL SoundBoost are priced at Rs 6,999 each.
Hasselblad True Zoom is for the photography enthusiasts and has a 12MP camera with 10x optical zoom. Additionally, the missing OIS feature in the Moto Z Play is added by the mod. Besides having an ISO range of 3200, the mod lets users adjust F-stop values, shutter speed and more. It can also click images in RAW format and has a Xenon flash. We used the mod and found it to be really good.
But looking at the price tag of Rs 20,000, it is difficult to say if users would buy the HasselBlad True Zoom mod unless they are truly passionate about photography.
Coming to the next mod, the JBL SoundBoost is for the music lovers. The snap-on mod is a stereo loudspeaker with two three-watt drivers. It has a 1000mAh battery and a kickstand to fire audio at an angle. During our tests the mod performed perfectly, giving detailed and loud audio output.
Moto Insta-Share Projector is for show presentations and sharing media content with a large group. The mod mirrors the smartphone display onto any surface. Like JBL SoundBoost, this mod also needs to be charged separately. it can beam images and videos up to 70-inch in size on any surface, but the resolution is quite low at 480p. There is also a built-in loudspeaker.
Lastly, the Incipio OffGrid Power Pack mod is a 2,220mAh external battery pack that, as per Motorola, adds up to 22 hours of battery life to the Moto Z Play. There’s also an ‘efficiency mode’ where the mod charges the smartphone automatically when the efficiency levels are high. Wireless charging option is supported as well.
After quite a few days of testing, we found the Moto Z Play to be among the best handsets in the price range and a complete value for money package. At Rs 24,999, you get a Super Amoled Full HD display, 16MP rear camera, lag free performance and a battery that can run for more than a day. Then of course, there’s the premium glass and metal construction, along with the customizable Moto Mods.
The OnePlus 3 is arguably the closest rival of the Moto Z Play. However, the ‘modular’ design, gesture-based features and the ability to support microSD cards are all features that give the Z Play an edge. We quite appreciate the bold approach of Motorola and the fact that it implemented an idea that was just a concept only a few years ago. The Moto Z Play is a well-rounded and affordable mid-range device that sets a benchmark for the competition. How well and how soon the said competition responds to it, is something that remains to be seen.