Moto Z3 Play Review: Unlocked and Loaded

Would you want a Mod to go along with that Moto? After three iterations of the Moto Z, it’s clear that Motorola nonetheless believes in its line of snap-on magnetic cellphone equipment. And it ought to. There are loads of intriguing Mods you should buy, together with a photograph printer and a elaborate Hasselblad-branded digital camera, and so they all work interchangeably with these Z telephones.

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Unfortunately, Moto Mods haven’t change into a promoting level but. According to Motorola reps, solely 40 % of Moto Z house owners are shopping for them—however the ones that do have a tendency to come back again for extra. To attempt to up these middling Mod gross sales, the cellphone maker goes to provide everybody a style. The new unlocked Moto Z3 Play comes with a Mod within the field, and it is precisely the Mod you may need.

Normally $50, the Motorola Moto Power Pack Mod (that’s a mouthful) comes with each Moto Z3 Play. It provides a 2,220mAh battery, or about one full waking work day (16 hours), of additional juice to the cellphone. It’s good and skinny too, including solely 5mm of thickness.

The neatest thing about having that further battery pack is that you just don’t normally want it. I saved mine tucked away in my laptop computer bag more often than not. On a typical day, the Moto Z3 had about 25-35 % cost round bedtime. That’s about consistent with different Android telephones this 12 months. Oddly sufficient, the BlackBerry Key2 is among the solely telephones that’s persistently carried out rather a lot higher, however with out a snap-on battery.

Take off the included battery-stuffed backpack and the usual Moto Z3 Play is nearly equivalent to final 12 months’s Moto Z2.


There’s rather a lot to love concerning the Moto Z3. It has roughly the identical general dimensions as its predecessors, but the HD AMOLED display screen is longer, stretching to six inches. It’s additionally sooner, with a Snapdragon 636 processor, 64GB of onboard storage, and 4GB of RAM (1 greater than earlier than). The further built-in far-field microphones make speaking to Alexa or Google Assistant simpler, and the MicroSD slot ensures you gained’t run out of area.

That enhance in processing energy helps its Android 8 Oreo working system velocity alongside effectively sufficient that lag isn’t as frequent as it’s on related mid-range telephones. The new OS additionally will get out of your manner, with improbable, easy options like swiping up and down on the homescreen to open your apps menu or pull down notifications. Motorola doesn’t spend its power reinventing the wheel. Unlike the heavily-skinned and modified Google OSes you may discover in competing telephones, Motorola simply provides a couple of helpful extras and lets Android be Android. I respect Moto’s movement gestures, which allow you to do issues like shortly rotate the cellphone to open the digital camera or make a chopping movement to activate the flashlight.

Improved Cameras Can’t Quite Compete

The cameras have additionally improved—ever so barely. Motorola has had the weakest cameras of a serious U.S. cellphone model for years. Even the Moto G6, which is a superb worth for its value, had a painfully laggy digital camera app that couldn’t deal with dim lighting. The 12-megapixel rear digital camera and 8-megapixel selfie cam on the Z3 Play nonetheless take a sizzling second to spin up, however can take some pretty images. I took a tour round Boston, and preferred loads of the photographs, together with most macros, although it did appear to have hassle specializing in close-up flower petals.

Night photographs are nonetheless a ache and gained’t end up effectively (not an issue distinctive to Moto, sadly), and virtually each single considered one of Motorola’s further digital camera options, just like the depth-of-field impact from the second 5-megapixel cam or the bizarre animated GIF maker, don’t work all that effectively.

Using the Moto Z3 Play isn’t one large celebration, although. For no logical purpose besides that each different cellphone maker is doing it, Motorola determined to cowl the again of the Z3 Play in glass, which makes the cellphone rather a lot extra slippery to carry, much less sturdy, and an enormous fingerprint magnet. It’s notably troubling because it’s most likely a cellphone you gained’t purchase a case for, since even the great circumstances are likely to cowl the again—blocking the flexibility to snap on a Mod. Just sitting in my bag, a couple of tiny chips got here off the blue paint on the sides, and I’ve a small scratch on the glass up entrance. Moto went with Gorilla Glass 3, which is much less sturdy than what many high-end telephones use.

To make the display screen larger, the fingerprint sensor was relocated to the precise aspect, which is a really handy location. I want it could have gone all the best way and switch that fingerprint sensor into an precise energy button, so now there may be an additional energy button on the left aspect of the cellphone. The setup is usually advantageous, and once more, that fingerprint sensor is in an amazing spot, however the further button did confuse my muscle reminiscence. I discovered myself urgent quantity buttons hoping for the ability button, and looking for that energy button greater than regular. Even after a pair weeks, I nonetheless screw it up generally, which is a small #problem.

Finally, like the opposite Z telephones, Motorola has stubbornly eradicated the headphone jack, although it does embody a USB C adapter within the field. If you aren’t prepared to purchase wi-fi headphones or use a dongle, this isn’t the cellphone for you.

Unlocked and Ready to Rock

For the worth, it’s straightforward to forgive a number of the Moto Z3 Play’s quirks. The cellphone comes with that battery mod universally unlocked for $500 and works on each main U.S. provider (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint). And when you purchase from Amazon, the bundle solely prices $450.

If you are a Verizon buyer and do not plan on switching anytime quickly, there will even be an unique Moto Z3. It’s locked to Big Red’s community and you do not get the battery Moto Mod within the field. What you get in alternate is a sooner Snapdragon 835 processor, which was the quickest Android cellphone chip in 2017 and the identical processor that was in final 12 months’s Z2.

It’ll nonetheless be a little bit of a velocity enhance over the Z3 Play when you’re a gamer, and the additional rear digital camera (used for depth results) packs a couple of extra megapixels. But, the Moto Z3 (non-Play) can also be underneath embargo till later this month, so we have not had an opportunity to provide it the complete assessment therapy simply but. If you are excited about that cellphone, relaxation assured that the Z3 Play is functionally about the identical.

There are positively telephones, just like the OnePlus 6, that supply extra energy for the cash, however with its 4-network compatibility (sure—Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile all jive with this unlocked cellphone) and an additional battery pack within the field, the Moto Z3 Play needs to be on each cellphone purchaser’s radar this 12 months.

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