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Review: Moto Z Play Takes MotoMods To The Masses

In the last twelve months, modular phones have gone from an experiment to the cornerstone of the Motorola’s efforts in the smartphone space. They’ve succeeded where competitors like LG (and even Google) failed and brought a compelling realization of a modular handset to market.

The Moto Z Play takes a lot of what was great about the original Moto Z and trims away the fat. In essence, it takes what worked and makes it more affordable. About $400 more affordable to be precise. Priced at $599, the Moto Z Play packs a crisp 5.5-inch AMOLED display, a hefty 2.0Ghz quad-core processor and 3GBs of RAM. Spec-wise, it’s not the beefiest handset around but it handles itself pretty well for the most part.

It certainly helps that the Moto Z Play features a 3510 mAh battery that stood up incredibly well. Motorola say it’s their largest yet and capable of carrying the Z Play for a solid 45 hours. While we didn’t quite get it to last that long, we often easily made it well into a second day of regular usage before we needed to top up. Further sweetening the deal, the Moto Z Play supports TurboCharge – which promises eight hours of battery life in fifteen minutes of charging. Again, we didn’t quite get that much juice out of a quick top up but the Moto Z Play impressed us regardless.

In terms of the camera, the Moto Z Play carries some similarly-serviceable specs and delivers the results to match. It’s got a 16-megapixel auto-focus shooter on the back that’s nothing to scoff at but falls short of delivering particularly impressive results. The package is rounded out by the similarly orthodox 5-megapixel selfie-shooter on the front.

Your mileage may vary here but as someone who spends a lot of time messing with phone cameras I wasn’t exactly blown away by it. For what you’re paying, the camera on the Moto Z Play is good enough but this aspect of the phone is important enough to you it might be worth looking further afield.

As with the Moto Z, the biggest feature-point here is modability. The Moto Z Play comes with a sleek faux-wood back cover but that can be swapped out for any of the other available MotoMods – allowing you a degree of customization you won’t find with any other major smartphone brand.

Unhappy with the Moto Z Play’s camera, stick on the Hasselblad MotoMod. Need better speakers, hook up the JBL Soundboost attachment. Want to buffer the battery life even further, there’s a MotoMod for that. It’s real cool stuff, even if the limitations on the potential of MotoMods here remain the same as they’ve always been.

While Motorola have been consulting the hive-mind of consumer-driven innovation for new ideas as of late, the initial MotoMod line-up is still a little small. All existing mods are subject to Motorola-approval and some are quite pricey.

The software side of things is another part of the Moto Z Play experience that feels like it could have used a little more attention. It’s as minimal on the frills as Android gets. In fact, maybe even a little too stripped down. It’s nice to not have any pre-installed bloatware clogging up the experience but it’s hard to imagine a particularly good reason why the device had to ship without a media gallery app or even voice recorder application.


Nobody could blame you if you found the $999 price-tag attached to last year’s Moto Z a bit of a gamble. In fact, it feels like that’s the kind of user Motorola are trying to win over here. The Moto Z Play doesn’t have the sharpest display or most-powerful camera around. However, as far as buying into Motorola’s MotoMods ecosystem goes – the considerabe battery life and mid-range price-tag make it close to the best handset Motorola have in the market.

4/5 stars

The Moto Z Play arrives at an RRP of $599 and is available through Harvey-Norman and JB Hi-Fi.

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