Moto Z3 Play Review: Unlocked and Loaded

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

Unfortunately, Moto Mods haven’t turn out to be a promoting level but. According to Motorola reps, solely 40 p.c of Moto Z homeowners are shopping for them—however the ones that do have a tendency to come back again for extra. To try to up these middling Mod gross sales, the telephone maker goes to present 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 telephone. It’s good and skinny too, including solely 5mm of thickness.

The neatest thing about having that additional 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 p.c cost round bedtime. That’s about in step with different Android telephones this 12 months. Oddly sufficient, the BlackBerry Key2 is among the solely telephones that’s constantly carried out lots higher, however with out a snap-on battery.

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


There’s lots to love concerning the Moto Z3. It has roughly the identical total 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 additional 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 widespread as it’s on comparable mid-range telephones. The new OS additionally will get out of your method, 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 vitality reinventing the wheel. Unlike the heavily-skinned and modified Google OSes you may discover in competing telephones, Motorola simply provides a number of helpful extras and lets Android be Android. I recognize Moto’s movement gestures, which allow you to do issues like shortly rotate the telephone 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 significant U.S. telephone 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 beautiful photographs. I took a tour round Boston, and appreciated lots of the pictures, together with most macros, although it did appear to have bother specializing in close-up flower petals.

Night pictures are nonetheless a ache and gained’t prove effectively (not an issue distinctive to Moto, sadly), and virtually each single certainly one of Motorola’s additional 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 huge celebration, although. For no logical purpose besides that each different telephone maker is doing it, Motorola determined to cowl the again of the Z3 Play in glass, which makes the telephone lots extra slippery to carry, much less sturdy, and an enormous fingerprint magnet. It’s significantly troubling because it’s in all probability a telephone you gained’t purchase a case for, since even the great instances are likely to cowl the again—blocking the flexibility to snap on a Mod. Just sitting in my bag, a number 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 way in which 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 telephone. The setup is generally wonderful, and once more, that fingerprint sensor is in an excellent spot, however the additional 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 standard. Even after a pair weeks, I nonetheless screw it up typically, which is a small #trouble.

Finally, like the opposite Z telephones, Motorola has stubbornly eradicated the headphone jack, although it does embrace 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 telephone for you.

Unlocked and Ready to Rock

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

If you are a Verizon buyer and do not plan on switching anytime quickly, there may 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 telephone 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 should you’re a gamer, and the additional rear digital camera (used for depth results) packs a number of extra megapixels. But, the Moto Z3 (non-Play) can be underneath embargo till later this month, so we have not had an opportunity to present it the total overview remedy simply but. If you are eager about that telephone, relaxation assured that the Z3 Play is functionally about the identical.

There are undoubtedly 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 telephone) and an additional battery pack within the field, the Moto Z3 Play needs to be on each telephone purchaser’s radar this 12 months.

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