Motorola just released their latest flagship phone, the Moto Z2 Force. The 2 indicating that this is the 2nd gen of the Z Force and the Force indicating it has a shatterproof screen. The big draw to any of these Z devices is the fact that they are compatible with the MotoMod lineup, a collection of add-ons that Motorola has been partnering with other manufacturers like Hasselblad, JBL, etc. that can attach to the back of the device to further it’s functionality.
It’s because of these mods and Motorola famously stating that all of their foreseeable future devices will support all of the mod lineup going forward that you might notice the new Z2 Force looks a lot like the Z Force and the Z Play and the Z2 Play etc.
We have our flat back (since the mods need to be swappable they have to all have the same flat design) that is covered in this brushed metal that I kinda like our camera bump (which all the mods have a whole for) and the same pin connectors at the bottom for the mods to connect to.
Now, while this flatter design seems a bit outdated in this relatively new world of curved G6’s, S8’s and OnePlus’s, I don’t actually mind it and part of me even sort of likes that it stands out and has a sharp feeling to it–maybe just me though.
Flipping the phone around we have that 5.5″ P-OLED 2.5K display that is really nice. Colors pop, it’s super sharp and if it weren’t for the new aspect ratios and new found race to remove bezels, it’s a good screen.
And of course, the Force name means it’s pretty shatterproof and when it does get scratched up you can easily replace it with another Moto Lens as it’s called for about $30.
Under that screen we have the fingerprint sensor which works well but instead of it being a home button with two navigation buttons on either side like most Android devices that have a fingerprint reader home button, Motorola left the two nav buttons off and instead put all the buttons on the screen.
Now, if you’ve seen my other Android phone reviews, you’ll know I am a big fan of the on-screen buttons. Ever since Android added them into the OS, I think it’s just the smarter way to do the navigation since they can change or get out of the way depending on the screen, allow the removable of the bottom bezels, etc.
The issue here though is that with that choice most companies move the fingerprint sensor to the back of the phone so they can remove the bezels at the bottom. Motorola, with their mods needing to go on the back of the phone, obviously can’t do that, so we’re left with a fingerprint scanner, useless bezels on either side, and on-screen navigation. Don’t worry, I’ll explain why I’m ranting about this later on, I promise.
The device is also not the standard IP rated waterproof as a lot of newer flagship devices are, but has a water-resistant coating that Motorola says will save it from splashes but don’t drop it the toilet.
Next we have the audio, which considering I’m not a big audiophile, but I appreciate when a phone can get loud enough without distorting the sound. My only real test for this is if I can hear a song with the phone on the bathroom counter while I’m in the shower, which the Moto Z2 Force did just fine.
The bigger thing audio-wise I think most people will focus on about this device however, is the lack of a headphone jack. There is simply a USB-C port and, while my review unit didn’t come with it, Motorola says there will be a USB-C to headphone jack included with the device.
Motorola went with a dual 12MP camera setup on the Moto Z2 Force with one being monochrome and one being full color.
The camera is sharp and the color science is pretty good from the f2.0 aperture. Here are some sample photos below:
One unique camera factor on this phone is the front 5MP f2.2 aperture camera that has a front facing flash next to it, which I feel makes a big difference for selfie takers.
Stay tuned for the video comparison you guys asked for on YouTube though for more on how both cameras stack up to the other flagships.
One of the things Motorola just gets pretty right with their phones is the software.
The Z2 Force is no different in that it is a very close to stock Android experience, making for a much smoother overall performance than some other manufacturers that throw a ton of UI changes on top of Android which ultimately slows it down.
Motorola even goes so far as to put the changes they wanted to add to Android in their own self-contained app simply called Moto. This makes it a lot easier for them to handle upgrades to the OS and, frankly, adds some simple, yet useful features like my most used one: twisting the phone to open the camera.
The device has a Snapdragon 835 chip and 4GBs of RAM and that paired with the almost stock Android, it flies through anything just fine.
Since we all like benchmarks though, here’s Geekbend and 3DMark for you to compare to other devices if you want.
Battery life on the phone, with its decently smaller 2730mah battery vs it’s predecessor’s 3500mah, isn’t bad. The original Z Force had crazy battery life but I still have to say, thanks most likely to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 inside, it felt similar to the S8’s battery life with a bigger battery.
Which brings us to, what I believe, is the real reason you’d want this phone over another one: the MotoMods. And considering all the other things I mentioned, it’s what Motorola is betting on you to buy it for, as well.
In addition to Motorola saying they’d continue to make sure the mods work with newer models going forward, they also announced that over the next year or so they’d release at least 12 new mods–basically one a month at least. They’ve even launched an SDK and a fund to help encourage as many manufacturers to get in on the mod concept, too.
They have ones from camera attachments from Hasselblad, speakers from JBL, battery packs, wireless charging mods, a 360 degree camera, projector, etc. The thing is each of these cost between $80, for the speaker, to $300 for the camera mods and projector so they definitely aren’t cheap.
Which brings us to the cost of the phone itself which is about $720 on Motorola’s website and will be available on all US carriers (instead of the previous models being exclusive to one) starting Aug 10th. Now, for a limited time that gives you a rebate for the projector for free (saving $300) which is nice, but when you start to do the math on the phone and mods you start to see how pricey this system starts to become (and why Motorola’s promise of continuing mod support is so important, as well).
Sorry for such a lengthy review on this device, guys, but I’m just a bit conflicted by this phone. It’s a super snappy phone, the camera is good, battery lasts as well as any other flagship but the only reason I can really see you wanting to get this phone over the other amazing flagships launched this year is if you are going to invest in the MotoMods. The MotoMods are the best and worst thing about this phone in a way.
I feel bad for the engineers of the Z series of phones in a way. So much of the innovation they could be doing is being hindered by the modular concept a la the design quirks I mentioned. They’re forced to innovate within some pretty specific constraints and it’s why the phone will have a hard time in a lot of other departments keeping up with the competition.
With that said though, I like the MotoMod concept and even like some of the mods, I am just on the fence if they’re each worth it. I think in the world of a modular phone like this, if I’m investing in the phone, the mods need to come at a huge advantage/price savings over just going out and getting separate devices for what the mods do. And, right now I don’t feel like enough of them quite do that, yet. But, I’m interested to see what new ones come out over the coming months and what Motorola and their partners can innovate on that side.