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Two reasons the Moto Z Play is far from perfect

AndroidPIT lenovo moto z play 9625
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After three weeks with the Moto Z Play, I can say that although it is a decent device, there are two major flaws that make Motorola’s modular device far from perfect.

The Moto Z Play is pretty chunky compared to other smartphones with 5.5-inch displays: it measures in at 156.4 x 76.4 x 6.99 mm. Though let's not kid ourselves, compared to the iPhone 7 Plus (158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm), with the same screen size, it doesn’t seem that big.

The Moto Z Play has some great features, the best one, without a doubt, is the battery. It’s an absolute beast. Before switching to the Moto Z Play, I was testing out the Galaxy S8 and, like chalk and cheese, the battery power of the Z Play offers hours more of use compared to Samsung’s flagship device. To give you an idea, I used it for almost two days without having to charge it. Out of all my experiences with Android phones, this is certainly a new record.

AndroidPIT lenovo moto z play 9623
The Moto Z Play comes with a customized cover to smooth out the camera lump and to protect the Mods' connection magnet. / © NextPit

The software is also quite nice. It’s clean, up-to-date and it offers a user experience close to Android stock. You can already use the Google Assistant and I didn't encounter aren’t any issues with system bottle-necking or freezing. The fingerprint sensor is quick, and the speaker on the front gives the user a great experience when watching videos or listening to audio. This, plus the quality of the display makes it a solid smartphone for gaming as well, despite weighing in at 165 grams.

However, there are two features that would cause me to pass on this device: the camera and the lack of competition for Moto Mods.

The camera on the Moto Z Play is awful, especially in low-light situations despite having a low-light mode. Another problem is the lens stabilizer. Taking moving photos is near impossible. If you’re in a car or on a bus, don’t even bother trying - the images will be blurry. Unfortunately, this makes the quick access to the camera using gestures trivial. So, taking photos with the Moto Z Play demands a lot of effort and good lighting.

Perhaps you think that the quality of photos taken with the camera isn’t that good because Motorola offers the camera module Hasselblad True Zoom? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Using the Moto Z Play with the Moto Mod leaves a lot to be desired, which brings me to the second major issue.

There isn’t any actual competition among module designers for the Moto Z line, and this is heartbreaking. Motorola is a company that came really close (it still could) to continuing the idea of modular smartphones. LG gave up on LG Friends and, even today, it’s not clear what’ll become of LG G5 and LG G5 SE users, who had adopted the idea of a modular device right from the start.

If today a Moto Z Play user doesn’t like image quality provided by the Hasselblad True Zoom, they don’t have anything else to turn to, since this is the only Mod in the whole category (for now). And that’s what I’m talking about: the lack of competition in the (difficult) module market. One solution could be to standardize the module connection systems, but so far, that’s where everyone’s fallen short, especially Google and Project ARA.

Ultimately, after these past three weeks where I’ve been trying out the Moto Z Play, I can say that despite some excellent properties, I couldn’t live with a camera that doesn’t meet my needs and I also can’t see any competition in Mod development. However, these are two features that can (and should) be changed and improved in the second generation of the Moto Z series.

Do you own a Moto Z Play? What do you think of it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Camila Rinaldi

Camila Rinaldi
Head of Editorial

With over 10 years of reviewing smartphones and wearables, I recently became addicted to smart home gadgets. Even though I dove into the Apple ecosystem two years back, Android remains as one of my passions. Previously editor-in-chief of AndroidPIT and Canaltech in Brazil, I now write for the US market. I love my records and I believe that the best way to get to know a place is through its food.

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  • Randy McLaughlin 1
    Randy McLaughlin May 30, 2017 Link to comment

    I really like the Moto z play. Decent camera, a mod that shoots raw with 10x zoom, snappy performance and great battery life.

  • 3
    Troy Vance May 30, 2017 Link to comment

    I love my Z Play! I have had zero issues with my camera, low-light or otherwise. If you don't spaz out while taking your moving pics, like you spazzed out in your review, your pics might not be blurry. You were absolutely correct about the battery, and for that I will give you credit. Other than the battery comments, it seems that you maybe weren't reviewing the same phone I am writing this reply on. Moto Z Play......right? Mods are few and far between....for now. I'm sure they'll come with time. But hey, at least they have a couple of things that actually connect to those neat little shiney pins on the back of my phone. The Z Play could've​ been like the Nexus 7 and it's 4 pin....all show and no action. All in all......I would highly recommend the Z Play to anyone, and not just because I can go two or three days between charges. This phone is BADASS!!

    Randy McLaughlinGraham AlexanderNikshat

  • Zuhair Rao 2
    Zuhair Rao May 30, 2017 Link to comment

    I don't think it's fair that you only mention the camera mod as a downfall for the phone. While neither the stock camera or mod camera are great, for the price you get, it's fine. There are also other mods (projector or speaker) and many more in development. This is only your opinion, as stated above, and that is ok, but I just wanted to point that out

    Randy McLaughlin

  • 2
    Reggie VanNess May 29, 2017 Link to comment

    The moto z play is just a better phone than all of the high dollar flag ship phones! Battery life stills the show man!

    Randy McLaughlin

  • Tim Drinnon 3
    Tim Drinnon May 29, 2017 Link to comment

    Hey! Here's a radical idea. Buy this phone, enjoy it as an exceptional PHONE with outstanding battery life. Don't worry about the mods, they are neither necessary nor mandatory. Use your savings to buy an actual camera that will give you much better pictures than ANY phone, including the high dollar flagship phones. Problems solved!

    Nickname303Randy McLaughlinGraham AlexanderZuhair RaoPaul V.

  • Ann-marie Humphries 1
    Ann-marie Humphries May 29, 2017 Link to comment

    First of all I find that my Moto z tends to run slower than my Samsung Galaxy 5 did and yes it takes horrible pictures, again something my Samsung has over the Moto z. I do like the extra battery time and the external speaker. Although these are not enough to make me want to get another Moto Z. I probably will go back to Samsung.

  • 1
    amy farrey May 29, 2017 Link to comment

    I wouldn't care if they drop the Moto mods. I would like to see them improve the camera, but they need to maintain the great battery life on the Play2.

  • 1
    HowardWalker May 29, 2017 Link to comment

    I had motozPlay until I lost it yesterday. It's far better than an iPhone, with a battery life that I could not believe. The suppid camera app is not the best so I downloaded another. Is its fine. The phone is very fast and has a massive memory. The loud speaker that and with it makes my Paasonic TV sound like an old tin can in comparison. Now looking for another to replace it.

  • Jesse Huff 3
    Jesse Huff May 29, 2017 Link to comment

    I've taken some great photos with the phone. Yeah it's not a fantastic camera, but in good conditions I get great shots and in less desirable conditions I still get serviceable shots. Saying it's "awful" is a little dramatic.

    Nickname303Randy McLaughlinPaul V.Phil Volkers

  • Steven Rhods 8
    Steven Rhods May 29, 2017 Link to comment

    I would still buy it solely for the outstanding battery life. Personally, not a fan of Moto mods.

    amy farreyPhil Volkers

  • Justin Fields 2
    Justin Fields May 29, 2017 Link to comment

    Camera isn't amazing, but everything else is. Who cares if Moto mods aren't? This phone does everything so right unless you're a gamer. Snappy performance, 2 day battery life, great Bluetooth, great Android software and gesture controls. Please keep it up Moto. Fix the camera and no one has anything to complain about.

    Graham AlexanderPaul V.

  • Kenneth Schlatter 1
    Kenneth Schlatter May 29, 2017 Link to comment

    The Moto Z Play's camera (which is the same sensor as the Moto G Plus) is just as good as the iPhone 6S. This is not opinion. The Moto G Plus and the iPhone 6S both have a score of 84 on Dxomark.

    But yeah, the lack of Moto Mods is something that needs to be changed.

  • Gary Hewitt 3
    Gary Hewitt May 29, 2017 Link to comment

    Seriously it doesn't have to be perfect. But I am writing this in the late afternoon and my Z Play battery is at 85%. Is that more than perfect? My Nexus battery would be at 30% by now.

    Randy McLaughlinPaul V.amy farreyPhil VolkersBastian Siewers

    • 4
      Donald frump May 29, 2017 Link to comment

      Exactly. What's the point have the best camera in the world when the phone battery is dead.

      Paul V.amy farreyBastian Siewers

  • Jeff Turley 4
    Jeff Turley May 29, 2017 Link to comment

    Yeah the lack of mods out there is a concern. Lenovo shouldn't have to rely on crowdfunding to put out mods.

    Zuhair Rao

  • Graham Alexander 2
    Graham Alexander May 29, 2017 Link to comment

    Your right it is "far from perfect" but I have never seen anyone claim it was a perfect phone, what has always been its main selling points are its battery life, brilliantly optimised performance and near stock android software coupled with the ability to use the Moto Mods. Ok the camera won't win any awards, however it does take perfectly acceptable photos but if you want to hang out of a window doing 90mph down a motorway taking snaps - yeah go elsewhere, but for £369.00 with a sound mod included it is an exceptional phone with only real competition coming from the slightly more expensive OnePlus 3T. Lenovo have confirmed the mods will be supported for at least three generations.

    Nickname303Zuhair Rao

    • 4
      Donald frump May 29, 2017 Link to comment

      Exactly. One plus doesn't support ok goggle so no good for me. I drive for a living so won't buy any phone without it. The moto is my main go-to phone because the battery and great software.

  • Manoel Heleno Rodrigues 1
    Manoel Heleno Rodrigues May 29, 2017 Link to comment

    Yes, I've one moto z play for almost 6 months and I would say that camera is so disappointing feature, it's very sad, this is a lack of respect from motorola/Lenovo making us be always unsatisfied with their products. Please do it right for once!!

    • 4
      Donald frump May 29, 2017 Link to comment

      I reviewed the phone before and knew the camera wasn't the best. Go and buy a real camera. With the saving I made on this I bought a used Sony rx100 compact. Better than any phone camera in the world.

      Randy McLaughlin

    • Zuhair Rao 2
      Zuhair Rao May 30, 2017 Link to comment

      I think you are asking too much for a $400 phone

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