Motorola Moto Z review: The future of Modular phones?


Moto Z from Motorola is a big bet, a bet on Mods which are actually attachments that can be snapped on to the phone for added functionality. Need some more power? Just snap on the extra battery mod. Or go for the Hasselblad mod if you want 10X optical zoom on your smartphone. It’s supposed to be that simple. It is also what Lenovo and Motorola are hoping will help them make gains in the premium segment. That also explains Motorola’s ads for the Moto Z urging people to #SkipTheSevens. One seven is the iPhone 7, and the other the now-dead Galaxy Note 7.

But breaking into premium is not easy. And convincing people they need to shell out an extra four or five grand for attachments to a phone is even harder. So far, the iPhone has managed to remain the must-have premium phone, despite the not-so impressive battery life. And the Samsung’s Galaxy S7 has been the other big hit of the year in this price-bracket. But can the new Moto Z change all of that ? Is it really worth the wait? Here’s our review:

Specifications: 5.5-inch QHD AMOLED display | 2.15Ghz Snapdragon 820 processor | 4GB RAM+64GB storage (expandable to 200GB) 13MP rear camera with OIS +8MP front camera with flash | 2600 mAh battery | Android 6.0.1
Price: Rs 39,999
Moto Z
Moto Z’s design is what makes it stand out. This is an ultra-thin phone (5.2mm thick overall) and the front panel has all glass, along with the front camera and flash. At the bottom is the squarish fingerprint scanner, which you’ll keep confusing as a home button even though it doesn’t do anything else other than unlock the phone. The Type-C USB port is just under this button, on the bottom of the front of the device. The SIM slot is on the top hand left corner.

On the back, the 13MP camera juts out quite a bit and is bang in the middle. Motorola has really gone for a prominent camera unit on this one with its circular design and the flash placed below the lens. At the bottom are the 16 magnetic pins, which is where the Mods are attached to the phone. Overall, the phone has a glossy finish on the back with subtle lines and the ‘M’ of the Moto logo. The glossy finish means this device is also a fingerprint magnet. A cover is must to protect this device. I spent quite a while trying to wipe this device while I tried to take pictures of the Moto Z, and it is was dirty again in less than a second.
The ultra-thin body of the Moto Z will appeal to many. Yes, the phone is slippery but with a Moto Shell it’s actually easier to hold, especially for a longer gaming session.
Also this one doesn’t have the headphone jack. Interestingly, the headphones in the box come with the 3.5 mm jack, and Motorola has given an adapter for those who wish to use this. The sound quality is actually quite good on these as well.
We’ve had the opportunity to test out the Hasselblad Mod, which we didn’t really think was that impressive. Now we tested out the Moto Z in its entirety without any of the Mods.

So what’s good?
First up this one has a design that does stand out from the crowd. It’s light, it’s thin, and with a Moto Shell it looks like a beauty. The 5.5-inch QHD display should not disappoint any user; you can watch Netflix or YouTube, playing your graphic heavy games, the display lives up to what it should be on device with this price tag. I kept the brightness to around 50 per cent on the Moto Z which was good enough, although you can crank it up all the way if want to do that.

Moto Z comes with stock Android 6.0.1 and runs the latest Snapdragon 820 processor. While it doesn’t set any benchmark tests on fire (it didn’t break into the top 20 twenty on Antutu when I ran the test) that doesn’t mean the phone can’t handle multi-tasking. I faced no issues running multiple tabs, listening to music, browsing the web on this device. My only issue would be the heating up, which I’ll address later on.

The camera performs reasonably well under good lighting conditions. It is also pretty fast during the day, and the selfie camera should satisfy most people. The selfie flash will ensure the pictures come out quite bright even at night, unless you decide to make a face like I did. However, I find the flash to be a strong for my taste, and I’m not too fond of using this. I was also not too impressed by the low-light performance of this phone, which I’ll discuss in the next section.
What’s not good?
For a premium smartphone, the Moto Z’s camera doesn’t perform well in low-light, even when the lighting wasn’t so bad overall. I’d say the results are inconsistent, and the camera would be keep prompting me to hold the device steady. There’s a noticeable shutter lag when you’re clicking in low-light The point of smartphone photography in the premium segment is quick results, and in low-light Moto Z fails to live up to the promise. It certainly is not good enough to beat either of the Sevens, I would say.

My other big issue with this phone would be the battery life. Moto Z’s score in PCMark battery work test was around 5 hours, 12 minutes, which is not impressive at all for a device in this price range. Even the overall battery I got out of this device was inconsistent. Without heavy usage (no WhatsApp notifications included which is the bulk of pinging in my life) the battery would drain out in a day, and another day it managed to last even with under 10 per cent.

Finally the phone is prone to heating quite a bit when you’re using the camera or shooting 4k videos, or just playing a game like Asphalt 8. And yes there were two instances when game did lag on the Moto Z, again which is not expected at this price point. Hopefully Motorola can fix the heating issues with a software update.
Like I said this is Motorola’s big bet, a bet that people will spend extra to get a new feature on a smartphone. The Moto Z has a lot of points in its favour; the stylish design, a solid performance, and a good enough camera. But there are letdowns too especially the battery and I’m not sure everyone will be keen to spend another couple of grand for improved battery via a Mod.
Moto Z is telling users that they are worth the wait and this is premium at a more reasonable price in India. But it will be hard for Motorola to convince people to skip the sevens, because both the Sevens (I’m including the S7 edge and iPhone 7 Plus) have taken a big leap this year.

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