Motorola had two flagships in 2016 — the Moto Z and the Moto Z Force. They each had different specifications, and the Force was only available on Verizon. Thankfully, things are less confusing this year. There’s just one flagship (that we know of so far): The Moto Z2 Force, and it’s available on every major U.S. carrier. In our Moto Z2 Force hands-on review, we’ll take a look how the smartphone stacks up against the competition, and if it’s worth the high price tag.
Solid build quality, but big bezels
The Moto Z2 Force doesn’t look too different from last year’s Moto Z Force. The company says it’s 13 percent thinner, and 12 percent lighter than the 2016 device, but that means the battery capacity has taken a hit — more on that later.
On the rear, the Motorola logo is now more prominent with a border, and the 16 pogo pins for the Moto Mods are also housed in a similar cut out. There’s another border around the entire back of the smartphone, creating a two-tone appearance. But perhaps the most visible difference is the camera — it still sticks out from the back, but now it houses a dual-camera setup.
The front also has some minor design changes. The edges around the display, or bezels, are still huge, but the fingerprint sensor and the front flash are both oval. It doesn’t have a metal frame around the top speaker or the fingerprint sensor, and we’re already seeing the front speaker collect a lot of dust.
That dust isn’t great, since it’s in the only speaker on the phone. The volume rocker is on the top right edge, above a textured power button, and sadly there is no headphone jack again. You do get a 3.5mm adapter in the box, but you won’t be able to charge your device while listening to music, unless you use wireless earbuds. The phone charges via USB-C.
The build quality feels great, and we like how thin the Moto Z2 Force feels. The AMOLED screen, which is protected by Motorola’s Shattershield technology, is 5.5-inches with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixel (535 pixels-per-inch). It’s colorful, looks sharp, and can get pretty bright.
Our biggest complaint is how the Moto Z2 Force only has a water-repellant nano-coating that protects the device from splashes and rain. Almost every other manufacturer’s flagship phone has an Ingress Protection rating of IP67 or IP68, which means they are essentially waterproof. For the $800 price tag, you should be getting the same with the Moto Z2 Force.
Near stock Android, fluid performance
Our review unit is a Verizon model, but since the Moto Z2 Force is unlocked, it works on all carrier networks. We found a decent amount of bloatware installed, like NFL Mobile and VZ Navigator, and these apps cannot be uninstalled — only disabled. We recommend buying the device from Motorola to skip out on all the pre-installed Verizon apps.
The Moto Z2 Force is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor — expect great performance.
Regardless, the Android 7.1.1 software experience is excellent. Motorola’s Android skin is almost the same as the one on the Google Pixel. The Google feed is available with a swipe to the right from the home screen, and you can swipe up for apps. Apps open up incredibly fast, and overall performance seems smooth. We’ll have to do more testing, but the Moto Z2 Force is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor — expect great performance.
The 835 is paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage (a 6GB RAM and 128GB variant will be available outside the U.S.), and a MicroSD card slot lets you expand the capacity.
Motorola also has the same Moto features from previous devices, like how you can twist the phone twice to trigger the camera app, or wave your hand over the phone to check notifications with Moto Display. But there’s also the new Moto Voice function that was available on the Moto Z2 Play — you can say “Show me” to perform some hands-free actions. For example, say “Show Me Chrome,” and the device will open Google Chrome browser. Say “Show Me my day,” and it will show what’s on your agenda. It’s supposed to only recognize your voice to be more secure, but a coworker easily overrode it, and was able to open my apps with his voice.
Moto Z2 Force Compared To
The Moto Z2 Force has a much smaller battery than the original Moto Z Force — it’s now 2,730mAh instead of the original 3,500mAh capacity. It’s clear Motorola cut the battery to make a thinner and lighter phone, but why? We prefer a longer-lasting battery to a thinner phone, however nice it feels. Motorola likely expects you to buy a battery Moto Mod to extend the phone’s battery life.
We can’t offer a verdict on the battery until we do more testing.
Depth mode works better with people
Motorola is jumping on the dual-camera bandwagon, and it’s mimicking features from other smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Huawei. The Moto Z2 Play can now take “true” black and white photos directly from the camera app, so you don’t need to waste time adding a filter. There’s also a “depth” enabling feature, which works exactly like the iPhone 7 Plus’ Portrait Mode.
The dual 12-megapixel cameras have a f/2.0 aperture, and they are quite capable, so far. The black and white photos look great, though we’ll have to do more testing to see how they stack up against the Huawei P10’s Leica-branded monochrome camera. The depth effect is hit-or-miss. It works far better on people — as it’s intended — but the image quality seems to drop. We’ll compare it to the iPhone 7 Plus and OnePlus 5’s portrait modes and report back.
Availability and price
Last year’s Moto Z Force was only available on Verizon. The Z2 Force breaks that trend and is no longer a carrier-exclusive device, but it has an even more princely price. Our buying guide explains it all, but it starts at $750. From Motorola, it will cost you $800. That’s a tall order, especially when you consider purchasing a few Moto Mods — some of which cost $70 or $300.
We’re not sure the Moto Z2 Force is worth the asking price just yet; we’ll have to use it more to make a final call. There’s a lot of competition (the best smartphones out now has many competitors), and it seems as though flagship smartphones are only increasing in price. If you’re interested, pre-orders for Motorola’s latest flagship are live now and orders will ship on August 10.
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