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Moto Z Review: More In a Snap

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The year was 2007. I was in my third year in high school, and by that time, mobile phones were becoming a necessity. That time, the Motorola Razr was the ‘it’ phone. It was thin, sleek, metallic and looked light years ahead of every other mobile phone on the market. Everybody wanted one, myself included, but it was too expensive. Fast forward to 2016, in a world dominated by the Apples and the Samsungs, Motorola, the once coveted brand, disappeared. Until towards the end of the year, they surprised us with a big comeback, one that seemed like they prepared for for years. It was timely as the market was thirsty for something brand new. This is the review of the new and ‘snapping’ Moto Z and Moto Mods.

Moto Z Specifications:

  • Quad Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
  • Adreno 530 graphics
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32/64GB internal storage expandable via MicroSD up to 256GB
  • 5.5-inch Quad HD AMOLED display (1440 x 2560 pixels)
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 4
  • 13 megapixel rear facing camera with autofocus, OIS, dual LED flash (f/1.8 aperture)
  • 5 megapixel front facing camera with LED flash (f/2.2 aperture)
  • 4G/LTE, WiFi, Bluetooth, USB Type C, NFC, USB OTG, Fingerprint Sensor
  • GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS
  • 2,600 mAh battery with QuickCharge 3.0
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • Price: P34,990
  • Status: Available in Silicon Valley and MemoXpress stores

DESIGN

Damn, that design. It’s the thinnest phone I’ve ever held. Think of the Moto Razr, reincarnated into a smartphone with a 5.5-inch 2K display. The Moto Z is as badass, as head turning and as much an accessory as the Razr. I’m still in awe when I try to remember how the phone feels in the hand. It was as if you weren’t holding a phone, but a delicate piece of jewelry. It looked the part, too. The fron and the back are covered in Gorilla Glass, which also makes the phone super prone to fingerprints. The frame is metallic, and so are the accents.

The power and volume rockers are all found on the right side of the phone. Unfortunately, they’re placed too high for my small hand to reach. In front, you’ll see one awkward little square, which you might mistake for a home button, but is actually just a fingerprint scanner + a secondary lock and unlock key in one. Pressing the button while the phone is turned off will trigger the scanner and unlock the phone, while doing so while the phone is turned on will turn off the display and lock it. Clever, but sometimes problematic when accidentally pressed.

Here’s the thing – because the phone is too thin for your life, it has no… wait for it… headphone jack. Yep, Motorola pulled an Apple even before Apple pulled an Apple. Instead, you’ll be forced to either use Bluetooth earphones or use the 3.5mm to USB Type C adapter that generously comes with the package. It’s a nice touch. However, in my time with the device, I always find myself grabbing my earphones to watch something interesting I find on my Facebook feed or YouTube, but then I suddenly remember the phone doesn’t have a jack I can plug it in. Bummer. I guess even I’m not ready for a wireless life.

That thinness also creates another problem: that camera bump. It’s too big and it’s hard not to notice. Fortunately, Motorola really did focus on the design of this phone. The camera bump may be big, but since it looks nice, I really didn’t mind. I was only constantly scared of scathing the lens when I lie it flat on a table, but gladly, that didn’t happen.

PERFORMANCE AND SOFTWARE

I’ll cut to the chase. It’s a flagship, so you would only expect the best performance. It’s powered by a Snapdragon 821 and has 4GB of RAM. That’s plenty of power in a phone this thin. It handles most of my daily tasks effortlessly.

The great thing about the phone being a Moto is that the interface is as close to pure Android as it can get, and with Android Marshmallow, you’re sure that you’re getting (almost) the latest Android experience you can possibly get.

CAMERA

The camera department isn’t really Motorola phones, past and present, are strong at, and the Moto Z isn’t an exception. Yes, the photos look nice on the phone itself, but when viewed on another display, they’re not as sharp as they seem. Colors also tend to be on the cool side, with a very bad exposure auto-compensation. Some parts of the photos I took looked washed out with some of the details lost. it’s a nice attempt at getting the camera right, but Moto still doesn’t have it this time around. The camera software experience is nice enough, but with the number of controls it offers, sometimes it gets confusing.

    

BATTERY

Apart from the camera, the battery on the Moto Z also ins’t the best. It doesn’t last a whole day with mobile data turned on, but it comes with quick charging features which tops up the phone in a jiffy. Two things that can be ‘blamed’ for this: the thinness and that 2K display. Yes, the Snapdragon processor is supposed to be power efficient, but that 2K display is just too much to drive for a phone with a small battery, which is also mainly due to its thin frame. If you have a power bank, bringing it along with you is a must. If you don’t you should bring you charger or be fairly close to a power outlet just in case there’s a need to recharge.

MOTO MODS

Here’s what makes the Moto Z special. This smartphone, first and foremost, is a modular phone. This means you can attach accessories to it that will allow it to have different functionalities and in a way, give it a new purpose. Our review unit came with the Style Shell Case, a mod that gives the back of the phone a different look, the Hasselblad TrueZoom Mod, an accessory that gives the Moto Z true 10x optical zoom and the JBL SoundBoost Mod that turns the phone into a pretty impressive speaker.

Attaching the mods is easy. Just slide them onto the phone’s back and the powerful magnets on the phone and the mods will do the rest. Once attached properly, you’ll hear a sound notification confirming that your mod is attached and is ready to use, which is almost instantaneous. Remember that big camera bump I told you about? Now, that plays an important role in keeping the mods in place while they’re attached to the phone. The bump offers support so the mods won’t just slide left or right.

Style Shell

This is the only Mod that comes with the Moto Z package. You’ll get this faux wood finish of a case which you attach on the phone to hide that camera bump and give the phone a little more heft and thickness. It’s helpful especially if you don’t like fingerprints on your Moto Z, but it also gives the phone a whole new look, and one that other people actually find nice, too.

Hasselblad TrueZoom

This Hasselblad partnership is a pretty big deal. Huawei got Leica to say yes, Moto got Hasselblad. Both of them are experts in cameras and technology and innovations that come with it, not to mention both brands have been around for a long time. So that Hasselblad name plastered on the Mod already makes it something to check out. The Mod is well-built and thoughtfully designed. It looks as awesome as any actual Hasselblad camera does. There’s a physical shutter button to take photos with, and a zoom dial to move the lens further or closer.

However, when attached to the Moto Z, it delivers only what is expected. It gives the phone true 10x optical zoom, yes, which means details aren’t lost even if you zoom in, but the quality of the photo remains the same. It’s still using the Moto Z’s camera sensor and image processing, which means images will look as underwhelming as they would without the Mod. A big part of me actually expected the Mod to turn the phone into an awesome camera, but it didn’t.

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10x Zoom
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10x Zoom

 

 

 

 

 

JBL SoundBoost

Here’s a Mod I would actually buy. It’s JBL, so a great sound quality is already to be expected, and it delivers. And this Mod is badly needed, too, with that really bad single front-firing speaker the Moto Z has. It’s not too loud that it breaks and crackles the song, and it’s not tinny at all. Great depths to the bass and great highs to the trebles make this Mod a really great wireless speaker alternative. It even looks simple and cool, too, with that kickstand that, I think, was placed so as to not scratch the phone’s display when used with the display face down. It only gets weird when I’m watching a movie or a video. The speakers fire opposite my direction, so I really can’t appreciate the sound much when I’m watching. But that’s just me.

Other Mods like the Moto Projector and the Incipio Power Grid are also available to cater to your other needs. I would have loved to try the other Mods, too, but you can’t have it all, unless you buy them all.

VERDICT

The entire Moto Z + Moto Mods concepts is definitely something new and something that people have been looking for, but I personally think Moto took it too far to something that people aren’t really ready for yet. Mods are the future, there’s no denying, and it’s a pretty cool one if you consider it. Swapping phone parts to give them new functions sounded like a science fiction plot 10 years ago, but it’s happening now. It’s just that people aren’t ready to give up the conventions of a really nice, thin and sleek iPhone or Galaxy phone yet. Maybe if the Mods aren’t as clunky as they are anymore, of there’s an easier way to make them more accessible for all in terms of price and having them work for not just Motorola smartphones, is something that people might be willing to embrace. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s into crazy, new tech, but I’m sticking to my old, un-innovative iPhone for now, until Moto surprises us again with another trick up their sleeves.