Hidden among this modular hype was one of the best smartphones made last year: the midrange Moto Z Play. It wasn’t the flashiest phone, didn’t have the fastest processor or best camera, and didn’t have the highest-resolution display. It did have the best battery life you could get in any smartphone, and the rest of its components were good enough that the overall package was greater than the sum of its parts. The Z Play was easily the sleeper hit of 2016 (and one of my favorite phones of all time), even if you didn’t care one bit about its modular capabilities.
This year’s version, the $499 Moto Z2 Play, available unlocked and through Verizon this summer, attempts to improve upon the first version’s weaknesses without losing the charm that made the original so appealing. It’s much thinner, much lighter, has a better camera, and comes with a refined design and a handful of new software features. It also works with all of the Mods Motorola has released — battery packs, projectors, cameras, speakers, and so on — and will release this year. The new phone basically a blend of the 2016 Z Play and the higher end Moto Z, with a price that sits between them.
s a regular user of last year’s phone, the first thing that I noticed with the Z2 Play is how thin and light it is. This is not a small phone — it has a traditional 5.5-inch, 16:9 display, which definitely puts it on the larger side of the scale — but it measures a scant 5.99mm thick and only weighs 145g. That’s almost as thin as the higher-end Moto Z, but the extra 0.7mm in the Z2 Play affords room for a headphone jack that the Z lacked last year. More importantly, it’s a lot thinner-feeling than last year’s brick-like Z Play, and it’s much nicer to hold for long periods. Of course, the reason the Z2 Play is so thin and light is because its battery is almost 15 percent smaller than the cell in last year’s model. There’s reasonable cause for concern here; after all, the best feature in the Z Play was its battery life. And my experience with the Z2 is not as good as the prior model: it’s not the zero-worry, multi-day monster its predecessor was.
That said, the Z2’s battery life is still excellent. I’m able to use it for a full day of heavy use — up to five or six hours of screen on time — without having to plug in for a charge in the middle of the day. Most phones typically kick the bucket after just three or four hours of screen time, so the Z2 Play is notably above average here. When I’m not constantly using my phone, such as over a quiet weekend, I can stretch the battery across two days pretty easily.