Ever since the launch of the original Moto X, Motorola (now owned by Lenovo) has been on a roll with great design choices both in their hardware and software. Their software tends to tweak a stock version of Android at the very minimum by adding a couple of extra useful features. On the other hand, their hardware does not get left behind. After all, the Moto X marked a new era of not-so-expensive smartphones that all ranked high in the quality department. Fast-forward to 2016 and Motorola is back at it again, trying new ideas with their Moto Mods, but just how well did they do this time around? Are Moto Mods the future of their smartphones?
In terms of design, the Moto Z is extremely well built. The slim back and sides of the device are both metal, giving it a very sturdy and premium feel. The back (for the Lunar Grey model) is an absolute fingerprint magnet, however. The power and volume buttons are also well-built, but might seem too small for people with large hands. They both are equally distanced from each other and do look the same, but the power button is textured to better distinguish them.
Moving to the front of the device is the crazy-fast fingerprint reader which can also function as a sleep/wake by simply resting your finger on it. Home button lovers, however, will be disappointed because these are the only two functions of the fingerprint reader. The Moto Z still relies on on-screen buttons for navigation. Another addition in front of the device is the front-facing flash which sits on the opposite side of the camera.
One of the most controversial things yet to come is the lack of a headphone jack because of the USB-C connector on the bottom of the Moto Z. Motorola, however, is happy to provide a USB-C to headphone adapter in the box, but this comes with a tradeoff. While they do include a USB-C to headphone for music listening, they only provide a USB-C power adapter, and anyone who wants to plug in the Moto Z to a computer has to buy another cable.
Motorola did not skimp out in the spec department either, and it shows as it performs extremely smoothly. They are as follows:
- 5” AMOLED Quad HD Gorilla Glass Display (535 ppi)
- Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 820 processor (2.2 GHz Quad-core CPU) & Adreno 530 GPU
- 4GB LPDDR4 RAM
- 32GB/64GB Storage (Expandable up to 2TB via MicroSD)
- 2600 mAh Battery
- 13MP Rear Camera & 5MP Front Camera
- USB-C Port
Motorola has never been afraid to try on new things (as long as they serve a purpose), like their Moto Display and Moto Voice, and this is the same mentality behind Moto Mods. Jumping in on the “modular” smartphone craze, Motorola has opted to separately sell magnetic attachments that are supposed to turn your phone into almost anything you might need. The execution is brilliant. Simply snap on and go. There are no knobs, clunky buttons or anything of that sort. Someone finally nailed it. As of now there are 4 major Moto Mods available to purchase. These include the JBL SoundBoost Speaker ($80), Incipio OffGRID Power Back ($60) and Motorola’s own Insta-Share Projector ($300) and Style Shells ($20). While the idea behind the Moto Mods is great, it all depends on third-party manufacturers to actually create an ecosystem for the Moto Z. While these initial Mods are great, none can be considered must-haves.
Unfortunately for the Moto Z, the camera appears to be the area that takes the most hits in exchange for all the quality and premium looks and feels. While the auto focus is fast, it usually takes a second to figure out the subject on frame. In broad daylight, pictures out of the Moto Z feature plenty of detail. On the other hand, in low light, pictures tend to look grainy and over-processed by the camera’s software.
While the Moto Z nails almost every aspect in the quality department, the battery life and camera are something to keep in mind of when buying this phone. Both tend to perform averagely when compared to other Android smartphones. If the camera could be good enough as to offer the simple point-and-shoot mentality the iPhone 5s popularized in its introduction, the Moto Z would be a no-brainer buy. Moto Mods are a brilliant way to add extra functionality to an already great smartphone, but it still depends on third-party manufacturers for it to really take off. While the battery issue can be solved (simply buy the Moto Z Force), the camera still holds this otherwise great smartphone back.