If you've used the Moto Z or Z Force you know what to expect here: a slab of aluminum with a big 5.5-inch display. Solid and Dependable.
The phone feels incredibly well made, easily on par with the OnePlus 3 or Honor 8. Buttons are properly calibrated and clicky, and there's a headphone jack too.
Like the Moto Z, the Play has a USB-C port to charge with — a TurboPower adapter is in the box, because you're not an animal — and there's a squarish fingerprint sensor on the front, just below the 1080p AMOLED screen. It does the job anyway.
The 1080p display is fine. It's certainly on par with the OnePlus 3, with which the Play shares a number of philosophical similarities, and it's not much of a downgrade from the higher density AMOLED screen on the Moto Z. Of course, the Play has something important over the OnePlus 3, and any other phone: Moto Display. Also, Motorola's screen-off implementation is the best there is.
When comparing the phone to the OnePlus 3 or ZTE Axon 7, the Play's Snapdragon 625 processor is likely to be compared negatively to their Snapdragon 820, but don't let the numbers fool you: unless your intention is to spend your days playing graphics-intensive games, you won't likely notice a difference. Qualcomm hit a home run with this chip, the successor to the ubiquitous Snapdragon 615 from a couple of years ago, except that this one is actually good.
It's also much more efficient, which gives the Play its two-day battery life. You'll be incredibly impressed with the longevity of this phone, and if battery life is a priority, it is by far the best mid-range option on the market right now.
To say a few words about the combination of Moto Z Play and Incipio OffGrid power pack: with a combined 5,720mAh capacity, the two add up to so much more than their individual parts. Not only does the OffGrid add wireless charging capabilities to the Z Play, but it intelligently charges the phone using the customizable Moto Mod software.
Motorola's take on Android is great. But for the Nexus (and now Pixel) line, I don't think any company interprets Google's original vision for Android — taking the core code and improving upon it without adulterating its emphasis on speed and simplicity — better than the Chicago-based company. Of course, it helps that this ethos was born while Motorola was a Google company, and has thankfully not been ruined under Lenovo, but I just think the Moto Z Play's software advantage is worth far more than the perceived (or lack thereof) performance differences between a Snapdragon 820 and a 625.
Of course, some will point out that you get most of what I'm talking about, plus a Snapdragon 820, on the OnePlus 3, and those people will be right. The difference, to me, is Moto Display, which no other Android maker, not even Google with its Ambient Mode, successfully emulates. It's not even close. I just hope that Motorola brings Nougat to the Moto Z Play as quickly as possible.
Moto Display brings me back to Motorola phones in a way no other software feature lures; it has workflow advantages, battery advantages, and aesthetic advantages. It's the original smartwatch. Being able quickly check notifications by bringing a hand close to the screen or picking up the phone is incredibly useful.
Elsewhere, the various gestures embedded as Moto Actions — double-twist to open the camera; double-chop to turn on a flashlight — are just as useful as ever, but no longer unique, as they're much more easily to recreate than Moto Display.
The real advantage to Motorola's adherence to what we know as "stock" Android — albeit with a fairly sizeable delay in updates; the Play is on currently on Android 6.0.1 with September 1st security update — is that it generally feels fluid, even months or years after its release.
The 16MP camera on the Moto Z Play is quite nice for its price.
Motorola should be commended for vastly improving its camera app; it has doubled down on simplicity, but added the manual settings and easy-access controls.
The shutter isn't quite as instant as the OnePlus 3, and the 4K video capture isn't as smooth. Still, it's an imperceptible difference in most cases, and the fact that the sequel to the maligned Snapdragon 615 produces footage this good.
The phone also has a pretty great selfie camera, along with a front-facing flash for those times you need to be well-lit indoors. The only real knock against the camera is that it defaults to a 16:9 aspect ratio, which lowers the overall resolution to 11.9 megapixels in exchange for a fuller viewfinder. Motorola makes so many smart decisions elsewhere in its software except this.
Moto Mods are some of the most interesting and unique add-ons you can buy for your Moto Z Play. From a projector to a speaker to a battery add-on, there are so many interesting things you can do.
The bottom line
Moto Z Play Buy it
You'll love this phone. It does everything right, and sacrifices little on the way. Moto Mods are terrific additions to the Moto Z ecosystem, but are not necessary to enjoy this phone and let's not forget; great battery life.
see motorola phones rundown for more great products from motorola.