Once owned by Google, the Motorola brand now falls under the Lenovo umbrella, and it just unleashed a pair of surprising new headliners at Lenovo’s Tech World event in San Francisco. The Moto Z and the Moto Z Force not only put the pedal to the metal with top-shelf processors, they support a new modular ecosystem that lets you augment your phone with anything from a speaker to a projector. But can these phones execute the concept better than LG’s flawed “Friends” for the G5? We went hands on to find out.
At only 5.2mm thick, the Moto Z is a super thin, sleek, and lightweight phone. Of course, that measurement excludes the camera bump, and boy is there a camera bump. It stands out like an eyesore on what is otherwise a beautiful phone.
The shiny back of the device also seriously attracts fingerprints. As you can probably see in some of the images we took, after a few seconds of use, you’re going to notice those fingerprints. Unless, of course, you use Moto Mods, which will snap on and shield the surface from your sticky mitts.
One thing you won’t find on the Moto Z: a headphone jack. That’s right, for all the rumors about the next iPhone getting rid of the headphone jack, it looks like Motorola has beat Apple to the punch. To use headphones, you’ll either need an adapter, which will work through the USB-C port, or Bluetooth headphones.
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The Moto Z Force generally offers the same design as the standard Moto Z in a slightly thicker 7mm form factor. You get the same size display, but this one is shatterproof. Unfortunately, the camera bump remains intact, too.
Moto Mods are accessory modules that snap onto the back of Moto devices with a 16-pin connector, similar to the Smart Connector on new iPads. Initially, you’ll be able to buy a speaker module, a battery module, a projector module, or an aesthetic module which does nothing but add some color. That last one sounds silly, but the thin module gives the device some personalized flare, covers up the fingerprint-y back, and eliminates the camera bump.
Sure, it makes the device a little thicker, but for a phone that Lenovo is proclaiming the “thinnest premium phone,” that’s not necessarily such a big deal.
Unlike with LG’s modular G5, you don’t need to partially disassemble your phone to add or swap Mods. Simply snap one on the back of the device, and you’re good to go. I tried shaking the module off, and it wouldn’t budge, yet they’re also relatively easy to snap off with the small slot at the bottom, which allows you to simply pull it off with your fingernail.
The Moto Z’s 5.5-inch quad-HD display uses OLED technology, and it shows – colors are bright and vibrant. Beyond that there isn’t too much to say: Nothing blew us away, but we certainly weren’t disappointed.
The base Moto Z features a 13-megapixel camera, while the Z Force takes things to the next level with 21 megapixels. Both cameras let you tweak settings like ISO and shutter speed, and include features like optical image stabilization and laser autofocus. While I couldn’t really tell whether images from the 21-megapixel cam looked better on the tiny display, the difference should be more pronounced on a larger display or in print.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor in the Moto Z is Qualcomm’s fastest processor for the moment, and it shows. The device was very responsive and quick to open apps, producing a very smooth overall experience, something which is, of course, aided by the hefty 4GB of RAM.
When it comes to storage, the device offers either 32GB or 64GB – it’s nice to see that the lowest amount isn’t the tiny 8GB still embarrassingly offered on some devices. With cloud storage, most people won’t even get through the 32GB of storage. Still, for those that like to store lots of music or apps, the 64GB should be plenty.
The battery is a middle of the road 2,600mAh, which Lenovo claims that this will power the phone through 30 hours of use. If true, that’s pretty darn great for battery life, but weren’t able to put it to the test during our brief hands-on time. The Moto Z Force brings a chunkier 3600mAh battery and claimed 40-hour battery life. Again, that figure remains to be seen, but it will obviously outlast the standard Moto Z.
The Lenovo Moto Z is a beautifully design device that stands toe-to-toe with other phone flagships of 2016. Sure, there’s a significant camera bump, and the utility of Moto Mods remains to be seen, but it’s a neat idea nonetheless. Verizon will sell the Moto Z and Z force exclusively this summer, and other carriers will pick them up in the fall. Pricing for the device has yet to be announced, but it shouldn’t be much more than other flagship phones on the market.