Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it has been discontinued. You can still read our original review below, but Top Ten Reviews is no longer updating this product’s information.
Modularity isn’t a new idea in the smartphone arena. LG let you switch out the G5’s chin to varying degrees of success, while Google famously tried – and failed – to bring a build-your-own smartphone to market with Project Ara. Motorola is the latest company to give it a shot. Its Moto Z lineup of phones all share a similar size and design and can all pair with one of four Moto Mods – devices that augment the phones’ abilities in various ways.
Modular phones are fun in concept, but nobody’s managed to nail the execution. Motorola’s take lets you choose the Moto Z variant that works for you, whether it’s a device with tons of processing power, great shock resistance or a really big battery. The Moto Z Play falls into the latter category: It doesn’t have the greatest internal specs, but its battery life is phenomenal, easily the best we’ve seen in our reviews of the past year’s smartphones. We clocked it at 13 hours 46 minutes in our web browsing battery test – compare that to the Google Pixel XL’s 11 hours 11 minutes or the iPhone 7 Plus’ 10 hours 38 minutes and you’ll understand why we got excited. Those extra hours translate into a lot more idle time and make it significantly easier to get through a day of heavy phone use.
From a usability standpoint, the Moto Z Play is a little on the clunky side. It has a rather dull, pedestrian design with wide bezels, an eyesore of a camera bump and sharp edges that don’t feel particularly great in your hand. Those edges are useful for snapping on the phone’s modular add-ons, which interface with the processor via a series of prominent gold pins on its rear cover. It’s a lot to sacrifice for the sake of the Moto Mods, though, which you may or may not find appealing.
There are four Moto Mods to pick from: a camera unit, a projector unit, a speaker system and a battery case. The projector is probably the most intriguing option, but it costs quite a bit on its own. There’s also a 10x optical zoom Hasselblad camera augmentation, which costs as much as the projector but can seriously up your photography game. Significantly cheaper is the JBL Soundboost speaker, and you can spring for the power pack for even less if the Play’s built-in battery isn’t enough for you.
Without the Moto Mods, the Play is a pretty straightforward mid-tier device that has trouble competing with top smartphones like the OnePlus 3 – devices that match its price point but far exceed its specs. The Play’s rather unimpressive Snapdragon 625 processor meandered its way through our benchmarks, managing just under half the average performance of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. On a positive note, its camera is quite impressive, offering both phase-detect and laser autofocus, features normally reserved for flagship smartphones.
The Moto Z Play isn’t the best smartphone you can buy, but its battery is outstanding, and its camera is surprisingly solid. Whether you’re into the idea of Moto Mods or simply want a phone with a particularly long-lasting battery, it could serve you well, but know that you’ll sacrifice a lot of processing power along the way.