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2017年07月24日

Moto Z2 Play review: All the mod cons

Modular phones are in a rather interesting spot. At the end of 2016 Google canned Project Ara, its open-source modular mobile project. In 2017, the latest LG G-series unceremoniously ditched the company's lacklustre "Friends" modules. Motorola, on the other hand, is forging onward with Moto Mods (Moto Snaps in some regions) - its magnetic clip-on back panel accessories with differing functions that connect with its Z-series smartphones.


The latest device to support Mods is the Moto Z2 Play: a 5.5-inch cell phone battery wholesale with mid-power specification and oodles of battery life wrapped into a slender metal frame, which updates last year's original battery-heavy Z Play.



As the apparent last bastion of the modular mobile movement, the Z2 Play is not only the flag-bearer for Moto Mods, but for modular phones as a whole in 2017 and beyond. And with a UK price of £379 - which is far more competitive than the $499 price tag in the USA - it's on the right side of affordable to make it an attractive idea.


That said, the Z2 Play is invariably pitched against the likes of the more powerful Honor 9 and OnePlus 5. So, is Moto's modular quirk a useful enough feature to warrant its purchase? We've been using the Z2 Play day in, day out for a full month to find out.


Moto Z2 Play review: Design


If you've ever seen the original Moto Z Play then, well, the Z2 Play looks like business as usual at first glance. It's taken the 5.5-inch footprint of the original - an unavoidable and non-negotiable size, given the Mods need to match the rear panel exactly to fit - and trimmed a full millimetre of thickness from it, making for a lighter, more pocket-friendly device at sub-6mm. Why slimmer? There will be no "standard" Moto Z2, so the Play is left to rule the roost... for now.


Look closer, however, and there are notable differences between first- and second-gen models. The Z2 Play has an all-metal frame, including the exposed rear plate (when no Mod is attached - there's a basic wooden one included in the box), rather than the etched glass rear of the original device. That makes it less slippery to handle, which is an obvious benefit when switching between Mods and not lobbing the phone on the floor. At least, we've managed to not let slip just yet.


The other obvious point - which we'll come to in more detail later - is the new fingerprint scanner to the front. It's out with the old square format and in with the new elongated form, just as you'll find on Moto G5 Plus and Moto G5 models (plus, presumably, all future Moto handsets). It looks, feels and functions far better.


When we saw the original Moto Z, we found its appearance more pock-marked than a hormonal teenager. The Z2 Play keeps things neater: there aren't excessive openings for microphones to the front, instead a simple aperture for the speaker sits top and centre, between the discreet front-facing camera and flash. It's not a design that'll stop people in their tracks, like the Samsung Galaxy S8, but it's a tidy looking wholesale phone parts nonetheless.


Moto Z2 Play review: Moto Mods


For this review we received three Mods: a wooden Moto Style Shell with wireless charge (note, no wireless charging panel is included with either phone or Mod, it's a separate purchase); the JBL SoundBoost 2, which is the second-gen fabric-covered version of the attachable speaker with kickstand; and the Moto TurboPower Pack, an additional 3490mAh capacity for the battery.


Whichever way we look at it, we think Mods are divisive. If you're on board with the idea then we suspect these accessories will be the in-point and very reason to purchase a Z series device. If you're non-plussed about them then, well, there are plenty of other handsets on the market from which to take your pick - and it's easy to buy a separate universal battery pack or speaker at similar prices for any given device.


On the upside, however, Moto Mods are the best implementation of modular accessories for any device that we've seen. Pull a Mod from the rear of the Z2 Play, sling a new one into place and - boom - that's it. No buttons, release switches or complicated fitting at all - the phone knows what's connected right off the bat. There's even a dedicated Mods section within the software, available via a swipe down in the notifications shade, to keep a closer eye on things.


The future potential of Mods makes for interesting reading, too. We've seen the GamePad, a control-laden cradle for the Z series, which is perfect for gaming fans. This will join the existing 10x zoom Hasselblad True Zoom camera and Moto Insta-Share Projector. There's scope for plenty of interesting additions beyond just yet another battery pack - although, right now, various battery forms seem to be Moto's bread and butter releases.


It's also worth keeping in mind that you'll pretty much have to buy a Mod when purchasing a Z2, as there isn't one included. Fail to connect one to the rear and, while the phone will function as normal, it looks downright bizarre.


Which Mod or Mods you choose needs careful consideration too: the TurboPower Pack is huge, for example, and thus transforms the Z2 Play into a brickphone. Sure, it'll last seemingly forever, which might be the most important thing for your use, but it makes the phone abnormally massive and heavy to be considered as a current flagship contender.


Of all the Mods we've tried, the most simple ones are our favourites, such as the Moto Style Shell. In the UK this will be released as a textured fabric-covered option. Our early sample version is a wood finish, which we've found bends due to heat and moisture - hence, we presume, why this one won't be making its way for UK release.



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