Motorola has “reinvented itself” this year, that’s Motorola’s words and not ours. The company has slightly revamped its Moto Z series, instead of going with three devices, there are just two. And thankfully, the higher-end model is not exclusive to just one carrier, in one country like it was last year. And yes, we mean the Moto Z Force from 2016. The Moto Z2 Force is available at basically every carrier in the US and is also being sold at Best Buy. That’s a huge deal for Motorola, since it hasn’t been able to sell its devices across all four carriers in quite some time – speaking speculatively, that was likely due to the Verizon partnership it had. Now Motorola is back with the Moto Z2 Force. It does look fairly familiar, and doesn’t really offer any true upgrades, so is it worth the upgrade? Let’s talk about our first impressions.
Now of course, we need to preface this by saying that this is not a review. We have not had the device in hand long enough to do a full review, these are just impressions from the first few days of using the device. The Moto Z2 Force is the first smartphone from Motorola to use a dual-camera setup, so that will also need some more time before we have a definitive conclusion on whether it’s great, good or just bad. Although, early impressions are looking pretty good. It does appear to let down in a few areas, but it does take some good shots. The camera UI is still quite simple, adding in a couple of new features like black and white, as well as depth for getting that great bokeh effect that is usually only done with DSLR cameras.
Build quality is really what you’d expect from Motorola. A tough smartphone that also looks fairly good. The Super Black color that we have here is one of the new colors that Motorola is doing with the Moto Z2 Force, and it looks really good, perhaps better in person than it does on camera. But it looks mighty stealthy, and it’s really just Motorola jumping on the bandwagon of adding a matte black color to its lineup. Something that plenty of other manufacturers have done in 2017 (and even in 2016 if you count the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus). The Moto Z2 Force is built very similar to the Moto Z2 Play and last years Moto Z Force. This should come as no surprise considering the fact that these are all compatible with Motorola’s Moto Mods. So the design isn’t going to change that much, but this year all of the Moto Z2 devices have a matte finish instead of a glass finish, which makes them slightly less fingerprint-prone. That’s a good move by Motorola.
Speaking of Moto Mods, the company did announce a couple of new Moto Mods earlier this year – which were actually successors to the original crop of Moto Mods. That was the JBL SoundBoost 2 and the Moto Turbo Power Pack. Now, Motorola has announced the Moto 360 Camera – not to be confused with the Moto 360 smartwatch. This Moto Mod snaps onto the back of your Moto Z2 Force (or the Moto Z2 Play, Moto Z, Moto Z Force or Moto Z Play) and gives you a 360-degree camera. The Moto Mod adds a bit of thickness to the phone, which is usually much appreciated. Now there are plenty of options for Moto Mods on these new smartphones, which is going to be great for those that do spend the $800 for the Moto Z2 Force.
Now we can’t talk about the Moto Z2 Force without talking about the display. It does have ShatterShield once again, as you’d expect. That means that the display is unbreakable. So that you can drop it as many times as you want and it won’t shatter. This is something that Motorola began doing about 3 years ago, and has continued to innovate on. It’s also a feature that no other smartphone on the market has, surprisingly. The display is still a 5.5-inch Quad HD panel, which looks a bit weird in 2017, with many smartphones going with larger screen sizes and smaller bezels. Motorola has stuck to the 16:9 aspect ratio here, which will make plenty of people happy, but seeing a taller display would have been nicer too.
On the software front, we’re looking at Android 7.1.1 Nougat, which is indeed the latest version of Android. Of course, there are plenty of Motorola’s own tweaks included here like Moto Voice, Moto Actions and Moto Display. Which makes the experience better without adding a ton of unneeded fluff to the operating system, like some other skins tend to do. With this somewhat lightweight operating system on the Snapdragon 835, the Moto Z2 Force just flies, there’s nothing to dispute there. It’s mighty fast, which is what you’d expect from something in 2017 that has a price tag of $799. Motorola has also stepped up the storage game to 64GB, which is also a big deal. That should definitely be the entry storage model these days, and so far only Motorola and Samsung are doing that on the Android side of things.
Since we have only had the Moto Z2 Force for a limited time, it’s very tough to talk about the battery life, seeing as we haven’t even done a full cycle on the battery yet. But we aren’t expecting it to beat the Moto Z2 Play. However, with the Snapdragon 835 inside, it should still offer some great battery life. It does have Quick Charge 3.0 functionality, so you are able to recharge that 2730mAh battery fairly quickly, and that’s always a good thing.
Now while this part isn’t really an “impression”, it is a big deal for Motorola. And that’s Motorola’s launch plans. The Moto Z2 Force isn’t launching exclusive to Verizon, in fact it’s not exclusive to anyone. It’s going to be available from AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, US Cellular and Best Buy here in the US, and it will be coming to other key markets. Motorola is also going to be running a ton of TV commercials, at least according to what they said during the launch event in New York City. Of course, that is something that we’ll have to wait and see if it actually happens.
Motorola has a good smartphone here in the Moto Z2 Force, so far. Now we’ll have to wait and see if that changes as we write the full review. But right now, it is a contender for smartphone of the year, but keep in mind that there will be plenty of competition coming in the next few weeks for that crown, like the Galaxy Note 8 that’s being announced on August 23rd.