Moto Z hands-on review – Motorola’s latest flagship is the modular smartphone that the LG G5 should’ve been
While waiting for the full modular experience from Google’s Project Ara and while the disappointment with LG G5’s promised “friends” lingers at the back of our mind, Motorola drops a bomb with its new Moto Z high-end smartphone that packs tons of new and interesting features but more importantly, it brings the modular design one step close to what its should be.
During Lenovo’s TechWorld, the company unveiled the Moto Z and Moto Z Force. Both handsets are essentially the same but the latter offers a bit more but, of course, for a higher price as well. The Moto Z packs an all-aluminum body with interesting back glossy texture making fingerprints and smudges stick very easily. Also, the company brags about the smartphone being the thinnest premium smartphone up to date and it’s hard not to be with the ridiculous 5.2 mm thickness. While packing a 5.5-inch AMOLED display, the handset feels a bit slippery to hold with one hand and the sharp edges don’t help either. However, the back of the device features 16 “magic dots” that make the connection between the smartphone and the modules, which Lenovo calls Moto Mods so snapping one of those mods make the device thicker and much easier to hold. We were able to try out only the additional battery pack and we found it very easy to attach and hard to detach as the magnets on this thing are strong. It is really well designed but how the module will hold if the device is dropped is rather questionable.
Anyway, the device offers top-notch specs including a 13MP rear camera with optical image stabilization and f/1.8 lens, which, by the way, is protruding by a few millimeters but looks just awesome. It’s largely similar to the Moto 360 smartwatch appearance – it’s cool that the company is sticking to the same design language. The list continues with Snapdragon 820, QHD 5.5-inch AMOLED display, 4GB of RAM, 32 or 64GB of internal storage and an SD card expansion. The built-in battery on this thing is 2600 mAh – quite modest for a flagship but it’s only logical given the dimensions of the smartphone – and also has a fingerprint sensor placed at the front home button. Do you notice anything missing, though? If you think of the 3.5 mm audio jack, you are right. The Moto Z gets rid of the standard 3.5 mm jack – probably the main reason for this is the design limitation – so you can only use the USB-C port for listening to music. If you don’t have USB Type-C headphones, don’t worry because Motorola has included a USB-C to 3.5 mm standard audio jack adapter. However, if you are listening to music while the phone is charging, you’re in bad luck. You are either forced to use a Bluetooth headset or you have to buy a USB-C splitter to be able to charge and listen to music with your old headphones. Or maybe it’s time to upgrade those to a USB-C-enabled headphones, which will guarantee excellent sound quality.
Moving on to the Z Force, this configuration includes mostly the same specs with bumped up camera specs – 21MP rear-facing shooter, shatterproof front panel (like the Moto X Force) and a considerably larger battery – 3500 mAh. Of course, this adds to the overall thickness and makes the Z with a more doable 7 mm profile. This way the smartphone will feel a bit larger with the Moto Mods as well. Speaking of which, Lenovo showcased a few concepts and some mods that are ready for sale like JBL-branded SoundBoost Mod speakers, which also add another 1000 mAh in the mix. The Power Pack (additional battery snap) we talked about earlier, provides additional 2200 mAh while the Insta-Share Mod adds a pico projector capable of playing 70-inch wide screen at 480p resolution. More mods are expected to come in the near future as Lenovo is giving away some of its resources, dev kits and all what’s needed for a third party company to develop a module of its own. So the mods aren’t limited to in-house production only.
It will be interesting how well will those mods spread to customers and this will rely mostly on pricing. If the crowd doesn’t pick up the idea fast, the Moto Z won’t be such a big success, unfortunately. Also, the Moto Z and Z Force will be available in the US this summer through Verizon and this autumn for the rest of the world with unlocked devices. And pricing is not available yet.