Motorola is in no mood to rock the boat. Motos are moving off shelves at a respectable pace in North America where phone buyers (especially those buying unlocked phones), are starting to recognize the company’s affordable, but very usable Android phones. The sixth Moto G was shown off earlier this spring, and now its time for the main attraction: the Moto Z3 Play.
The Z3 Play has a few new notable features, but it’s mostly the exact kind of upgrade you’d expect from last year’s Z2 Play. For you spec hounds, it has a Snapdragon 636 processor that Motorola says is about 30 percent faster than the Z2’s 626, an extra gigabyte of RAM (giving it a grand total of 4 GB), and the new Android Oreo (8.1). Battery life should remain around a day and file storage is still 32GB, though you can still upgrade it with a MicroSD card.
Can You Spot the Differences?
Spotting the design in phones is sometimes like examining a Where’s Waldo book, but there are some visible differences between the Z2 and Z3 Play. Motorola has added more microphones, two of which you’ll notice on the bottom of the phone’s face. They’ll let you talk to Google Assistant and Alexa from far away, and help cancel noise out when you’re talking on the phone. The rear of the phone is also covered in Gorilla Glass, though aluminum still adorns the edges.
It also did away with its front-facing fingerprint sensor in favor of new positioning on the right side. I haven’t held the phone yet, but this side positioning worked decently well on older Sony Xperia phones that used it.
The reason that fingerprint sensor had to move is simple: Motorola wanted more screen space, but didn’t want to make its phone bigger. The display now stretches 6 full inches diagonal, with slightly more pixels than before (2,160 x 1,080). Competing phones pack more pixels these days, but the HD AMOLED screen on last year’s Z2 looked plenty beautiful and clear. It’s a good bet that the Z3 Play will, too.
To appease fans of its handy fingerprint sensor gestures on previous Z phones, Moto has crafted an on-screen gesture slider on the bottom of the screen that will let pro users save some real estate. There’s also an odd feature that lets you animate parts of your photos and save them as .gif files for maximum meme-ability. In the demo we saw, the feature wasn’t enthralling, but we’re hoping it will work better in the real world. Regardless, the 12-megapixel rear camera does have some minor upgrades from last year and the selfie cam has gotten a boost from 5 to 8 megapixels. Google Lens also replaces some of Moto’s similar image-recognition features in the camera app.
There’s still no headphone jack on the Z3, though Motorola will include an adapter in the box. It’s also not waterproof, just splashproof, but Moto reps assured me it should be able to handle an accidental toilet drop, if that’s your chief worry.
A Mod Monopoly
Motorola isn’t giving up on its Moto Mods. The useful modular magnetic snap-on accessories that previous Z phones have built their names around are still supported and may be pushed harder than ever with new bundles. You can browse the Moto Mods here, but to give you an idea, there are Mods that add a zoom camera, a projector, let you talk to Alexa, or even print pictures. Most helpful of all are the extra battery packs, which can boost your battery capacity when you slap them on.
The Moto Z3 Play will start with a $500 price tag and come with a Moto Power Pack Mod included. It’ll be available unlocked, ready to work on any of the four major U.S. wireless carriers when it ships later in the summer.