Moto Z2 Play India review: A tough balancing act
Motorola improves on the first-generation Z Play in several key areas while sacrificing battery capacity.
While the budget segment in India is overflowing with excellent options, the same cannot be said of the mid-range segment. The ₹20,000 – ₹30,000 ($ 310 – $ 460) tier is underserved, and there is opportunity for brands to make a dent in this category. With the likes of the OnePlus 5 starting at ₹32,999 ($ 515), there are just a handful of devices that are worthy of consideration: Samsung’s Galaxy C7 Pro, the Honor 8 Pro, and the Moto Z2 Play.
The Moto Z Play was one of the best mid-range phones of 2016, offering outstanding battery life and support for the Moto Mods ecosystem. The Z2 Play builds on that foundation, and while it no longer can lay claim to the title of battery champion owing to a reduced battery size, it gets a lot of things right.
The phone is available in India for ₹27,999 ($ 435), or ₹3,000 ($ 45) more than the first-generation Z Play. The added cost gives you a metal unibody design, a much better camera, and a chipset that’s 10% faster. However, you lose out on the 3510mAh battery, with the Z2 Play featuring a more modest 3000mAh battery. Is the Z2 Play a worthy successor? Let’s find out.
Moto Z2 Play Hardware
With the Moto Z2 Play, the overarching design brief was to make the phone as thin as possible. That led to a reduction in the battery size — the feature that made its predecessor stand out in this segment — but if you prefer thin phones, there’s plenty to like on the Z2 Play.
Motorola switched out the glass back for a metal unibody construction, and the brushed metal design along with the antenna lines that run along the edges at the back is a considerable improvement over last year’s design.
The other key change when it comes to the design is the overall thickness. Coming in at just 5.9mm, the Z2 Play is over a millimeter thinner than its predecessor, and that’s immediately noticeable once you start using the device. Thankfully, the phone isn’t too light at 145g (the metal body takes care of that), and as such the Z2 Play has a reassuring heft.
Of course, adding a Moto Mod significantly improves the in-hand feel, but getting your hands on a mod is harder than it should be. Right now, the only mod you can actually buy is the JBL SoundBoost speaker add-on, which costs ₹6,999. If you’re looking for a battery mod to extend the battery life, the Hasselblad True Zoom camera add-on, or the Moto Insta-Share Projector, you’re out of luck.
Moto Mods are prominently advertised on the Moto Z series landing page on Amazon India, but there aren’t any accessories up for sale on the platform. Considering the design choices made to accommodate the Moto Mods, it’s puzzling to see Motorola not actively supporting the mod ecosystem in the country.
The Z2 Play is sleek if you disregard the large camera hump at the back.
Furthermore, Motorola’s decision to cut down on the thickness of the Z2 Play has a predictable side-effect: a sizeable camera hump. The camera juts out considerably from the back of the device.
The front of the device is largely unchanged from last year, with the notable difference being the rounded fingerprint sensor that we’ve first seen on the Moto G5 Plus earlier this year. The larger surface area makes it significantly easier to use the fingerprint sensor, and it doesn’t make the front of the device look ungainly.
Like the Moto G5, the Z2 Play features One Button Nav, Motorola’s gesture-based system that relies on the home button as an all-in-one navigation tool. Using One Button Nav, you can swipe left or right on the home button to go back in an app or access the multitasking pane. It’s designed to make it easier to use the phone one-handed, and is my preferred way to use the Z2 Play.
The power and volume buttons are located on the right, and the location of the volume buttons near the top of the device makes it difficult to access them. The power button is textured, which means you won’t accidentally hit the volume keys whenever you’re trying to unlock the phone.
The Z2 Play offers two SIM card slots along with a dedicated microSD slot, and although the device is thinner than the Z2 Force, you get a 3.5mm audio jack. Talking about audio, the phone doesn’t have a loudspeaker — it instead relies on the earpiece as the default speaker. as you can imagine, the audio it produces is tinny.
Like the Moto G5 Plus, the Z2 Play is available in two color options — Lunar Grey and Fine Gold. The grey option comes with a black front, whereas the gold variant has a white front plate.
Display and performance
The 5.5-inch Full HD display is unchanged from last year, which isn’t a bad thing. The Z2 Play continues to offer saturated colors and deep blacks, and you have the option to tweak the color temperature of the screen to either Standard or Vivid. The only issue when it comes to the display is the overall brightness — it just doesn’t get bright enough for usage under harsh sunlight. And in a country like India — where the heat is relentless — that’s a major issue.
The Z2 Play is powered by the Snapdragon 626, an iterative update over last year’s Snapdragon 625 that offers a 10% uptick in clock speeds. The uptick in speeds comes at no detriment to energy efficiency, and overall I didn’t notice any slowdowns or issues with the Z2 Play over the review period. Motorola is selling a single variant of the Z2 Play in India, which has 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage.
One of the defining features of the Moto Z Play was outstanding battery life, and while the battery on the Z2 Play is 17% smaller, the phone manages to last all day without breaking a sweat. The battery situation isn’t so dire that you have to monitor usage throughout the day, but the phone no longer lasts two days like its predecessor.
Thankfully, you still get Motorola’s TurboPower fast charging, which charges up the phone in just over and a half.
Moto Z2 Play Software
An uncluttered software experience is what sets Motorola’s phones apart, and the Z2 play is no exception. The device picked up two updates following its release, and is currently running Android 7.1.1 Nougat with the July 01, 2017 security patch. With the Google Now Launcher being depreciated, Motorola has switched to an implementation that’s similar to the Pixel Launcher — you’ll have to swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access the app drawer.
While the interface itself hasn’t been customized in any way, Motorola offers several useful features that differentiate its phones. In broad strokes, that includes Moto Display, Moto Voice, and Moto Actions. Moto Display lets you preview incoming notifications without waking the screen, and with the Z2 Play, you can use quick replies.
Clean software continues to be Motorola’s tenet.
Moto Actions offer a series of gestures, including a double twist gesture for launching the camera, double chop for toggling the flashlight, swiping across the nav keys to launch one-handed mode, and more. With Moto Voice, Motorola is introducing “Show Me” commands, a list of actions that can be triggered when the screen is off. For instance, you can say “Show me the weather” to see an overlay showing the weather forecast for your city, and so on.
Motorola has an excellent track record when it comes to delivering updates in India, and the Z2 Play will be one of the first phones outside of the Nexus and Pixel devices to pick up the update to Android O.
Moto Z2 Play Camera
The camera on the Z2 Play is a significant upgrade from last year’s model. The 12MP ƒ/1.7 shooter is similar to what we’ve seen in the Moto G5 Plus, which offers the best camera in the budget segment. Like the G5 Plus, the Z2 Play is great at taking images in bright conditions. The resulting shots are full of detail, and HDR makes a lot of difference.
And like the G5 Plus, the Z2 Play struggles when it comes to indoor shots — there’s either too much noise in the images or the exposure is inconsistent.
Moto Z2 Play Bottom line
The Z2 Play offers several upgrades from last year’s model — the camera is much better, the aluminum unibody design feels much more premium, and the user interface has also picked up a couple of useful additions.
However, with a Style Shell thrown in (if you can get your hands on one), the cost of the phone approaches the ₹30,000 figure, and that’s dangerously close to OnePlus 5 territory. The OnePlus 5 has vastly superior hardware, and offers a similar software experience.
In a market where value for money is the driving factor behind a majority of purchasing decisions, the Z2 Play doesn’t really make a compelling case for itself. Then there’s the Moto Mod situation in India, which doesn’t make it easy to recommend any device in the Moto Z series.
On its own, the Z2 Play is a decent phone — it certainly is one of the better options available in this segment. But when you compare it to the likes of the OnePlus 5, it’s easy to see that being good just isn’t good enough anymore.