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Hands on with Moto Z and Moto Z Force: Not all modular smartphones are bad ideas

Florence Ion | June 13, 2016
Motorola's new flagship phones have renewed our faith in mobile modularity. It also helps that they're incredibly stylish devices.

If you’ve been hoping modular smartphones wouldn’t become a thing, well, you’re out of luck. Modular smartphones are most certainly en vogue, and Motorola is stepping up next with the Moto Z and Moto Z Force. These two flagship phones are the first Moto launches under Lenovo’s wing, and both are compatible with Moto Mods, a family of snap-on modules that give the phones better sound, extra battery life, and even a display projector.

The Moto Z and Moto Z Force not only look good, they also feel good. And their modular ecosystem appears to be more fleshed out than what LG released in its G5 Friends modules. Of course, I only spent a brief time with the Moto Zs, and I did find some annoying design quirks—including Motorola’s decision to completely do away with the headphone jack. Still, for a new take on smartphone modularity, the Moto Z approach looks like it will be easier to use than LG’s.

Almost disturbingly thin

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The Moto Z is one of the lightest, thinnest phones I’ve ever held. Credit: Florence Ion

I’m impressed by how feather-light the Moto Z feels. Dare I say, it’s almost weightless. At 5.2 mm thick yet boasting a 5.5-inch display, this is the thinnest, lightest big-screen smartphone I’ve ever held. That said, as a consequence of its thinness, it feels a bit insubstantial—and perhaps even prone to bending. This doesn’t feel like a smartphone that can withstand too much torque, so we’ll have to see just what it can handle when we get our review units.

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The Moto Z Force is a bit thicker and a bit heftier than its counterpart. Credit: Florence Ion

The Moto Z Force, on the other hand, is just as shiny and polished as its counterpart, but is also thicker and slightly denser, due in part to its shatter-proof display. It also has a bigger, 3500 mAh battery (the Moto Z’s battery is 2600 mAh).

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The Moto Z and Moto Z Force both feature 5.5-inch displays and run on a Snapdragon 820. Credit: Florence Ion

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The Moto Z (pictured here) and the Moto Z Force both feature front-facing fingerprint scanners. Credit: Florence Ion

Both phones boast a 5.5-inch QuadHD display, Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, USB Type-C, and Android 6.0.1. The two Zs also have front-facing fingerprint scanners that look like they function as Home buttons... but they don’t.

You might also notice the two dots on either side of the fingerprint scanner. These are infrared sensors that can tell when your hand is approaching the phone, and turn on the ambient display to show the time and your notifications. It’s a pretty neat feature, but I don’t like how all this clutter takes up valuable chassis space (I’d rather see a larger display or a smaller phone).

 

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