Last year, Motorola unveiled a new line of smartphones that replaces the Moto X as their flagship line, called the Moto Z, of which its trademark feature was its Moto Mods modular accessory system, which allowed the phone to interface with a couple of magnetic backplates which add new functionality to the device. While the device did have questions surrounding its deficiencies and feasibility of its modular ecosystem, the phone, while never a true success, did manage to sell quite a lot of units for a Motorola flagship device.
This year, Motorola unveiled the successors to the line; the Z2 Play, which replaces the Z Play and the Z2 Force, which replaces both the regular Moto Z and the Verizon-exclusive Moto Z Force Droid. While these phones do pack many predictable upgrades over their predecessors, they also have some odd regressions which make me confused over the strategy being used for this year’s line of Z phones.
Let’s get the good out of the way first. The Z2 Play and Force predictably have hardware bumps over their predecessors, with the Snapdragon 626 replacing the 625 in the Play while also getting a bump to 4GB of LPDDR3 and 64GB of storage in unlocked form while the Force receives a bigger bump with the 10nm Snapdragon 835 replacing the 14nm Snapdragon 820, and supplemented with 6GB of LPDDR4 memory and 128GB of UFS storage in markets outside the United States.
The Play’s 16MP OmniVision sensor has been replaced by a 12MP Sony IMX362 with features a lower resolution but compensates with larger pixels and faster autofocus, while both the Z’s 13MP Sony IMX214 and the Z Force Droid’s 21MP IMX333 have been replaced by 2 Sony IMX386 sensors, one having a Bayer RGB filter for color info while the other not featuring said filter for significantly better light sensitivity. Unlike its predecessor, however, the Z2 Force lacks optical stabilization, presumably because the monochrome sensor helps compensate in terms of the amount of light it can gather, in a manner that’s very similar to Huawei’s P9, Honor 8 and Honor 8 Pro, although that’s early to tell.
The phones also run a near-stock build of Android Nougat, with the usual Moto features suite, while the Force retains the shatterproof display used in its predecessor and Droid Turbo 2/Moto X Force.
If you caught the part about the RAM and storage, you would’ve already gotten the first glimpse of an oddity. Like LG and HTC (until now in the case of HTC), Motorola is using a strange strategy of tailoring different specs for different markets. While LG certainly takes the cake for the most absurd, Motorola’s decision to not offer the American market a variant with more storage is odd.
But certainly the most confusing part is the battery. While the Force’s 2730mAh battery is considered a small upgrade from the 2600mAh pack used in the Z, this represents a 22% regression in capacity from the Z Force Droid’s 3500mAh pack. The Play also saw its battery capacity being reduced to 3000mAh from 3510mAh, which certainly didn’t go well with its community, being that the phone was famous for its crazy endurance. Motorola’s strategy seems to be trying to cater to 2 types of customers; those who want a thin and sleek device and another who wants nothing but endurance though the use of Motomods.
However, while I applaud that there is a solution to the battery, the 2 Moto Z2s are more expensive than their predecessor, with the Z2 Force creeping over the $800 from certain carriers and even unlocked. Given that massive price, coughing up another $80 for a battery mod of a large capacity is pretty hard pill to swallow and it really begs the question on how viable is this strategy, even that these phones aren’t exactly cheap.
I like the idea and the implementation of Motomods, but their current strategy in regressing battery capacity in the hopes that people will pick up a Motomod (and adding to the cost of the device) is one that has me asking on whether it will work out.
I like Motorola phones and I wish for them to succeed after so many years of decline and a troubled acquisition by Lenovo from Google, but it seems that Motorola may have taken on a very big gamble, especially since the Z2 Force is priced very deeply in a territory where phones like the Samsung Galaxy S8 or HTC U11 can be had for the same price or less depending on carrier and deals. The Motorola phones would have to seriously impress to make a splash, and while the Motomods ecosystem looks compelling and has more potential to expand, I’m concerned that their current strategy of a higher price and making it almost a requirement to get a Motomod if you need battery for what’s already not a cheap phone might not go down well with people.
Time will tell.