The Motorola Moto Z and Z Force are two smartphones that do modularity right. You don’t need to deal with a pull-out tray, you just need to align whatever mod it is with the phone’s rear-facing 16-pin connector. But now that the phone has been out for several months now, the question is: Where does it stand today amongst the jocks of the smartphone world? In my opinion, it still holds up extremely well and can certainly be recommended to a select set of users looking for a new smartphone. What has baffled me is how this phone isn’t more popular, though I do have a few suspicions as to why that may be.
But first, let’s recap some of the pros and cons of the Moto Z and Moto Z Force for those of you who might need a refresher.
So the fundamental difference between the Moto Z and Moto Z Force is the battery and camera performance. The Moto Z is a razor-thick phone. It is extremely thin, measuring in only at 5.2mm thick. And as a result, it packs a smaller 2,600 mAh battery. The Moto Z Force is more average in thickness, coming in at 7mm thick. But it packs a 3,500 mAh battery. All in all, the build is very much modern as it features a metal frame and has a magnetic glass back; which has proved to be an absolute fingerprint magnet.
The other difference is the cameras. The Moto Z features a 13-megapixel camera, f1.8 sensor, laser auto-focus, and Optical Image Stabilization. The Moto Z Force features a 21-megapixel camera, f1.8 sensor with laser and face detection auto-focus, and OIS. The biggest difference is on paper as both sensors are capable of taking some good photos. What I found in my daily usage is that it’s easier to work with an image with more pixels. I can crop it for social media purposes and retain more quality on the 21-megapixel image sensor compared to the 13-megapixel image sensor found in the Moto Z.
But as for overall results, I wouldn’t necessarily buy the Force over the Moto Z just for the additional megapixels. Both do have their limitations in low-light scenarios and will need HDR turned on to receive the best results.
The Force also features a ShatterShield display, which will supposedly allow it to have a higher likelihood of surviving a fall; something that I haven’t tested and I don’t want to test. But both feature a 5.5-inch QHD AMOLED display.
Those are the fundamental differences. What is neat to see is that both devices have received the Android 7.0 Nougat update and both still perform well, thanks to their high-end components. They feature the Snapdragon 820 CPU with 4GB of RAM. So not quite as up-to-date as some of the flagships packing the 821 processor, but these phones can certainly hold their own pretty well.
There’s no water-resistance rating but that kind of makes sense because the mods will probably wouldn’t be water-resistant. And chances are, you’ll have at least one mod attached to these phones at all times. The mods actually can make up for some of the shortcomings. You can add a mod to expand the battery, which also features wireless charging. There’s a projector mod that will turn your smartphone into a full-fledged home theater system, and even a speaker mod that will convert the tinny single front-facing speaker into a mini Bluetooth speaker via the JBL SoundBoost Moto mod. While there will always be more mods available, I think the selection isn’t too bad. It’s certainly better than the selection LG has with its G5 smartphone. With the Moto Z, you have a battery pack mod, a vehicle dock mod, speaker mod, projector mod, and even a camera zoom mod that will provide 10x optical zoom.
As for what went wrong and why this phone isn’t selling like hotcakes, I think it comes down to a few different things. First, the phone was launched on Verizon Wireless first. All the excitement that surrounded this phone when it was announced was essentially lost because it took several months for it to make its way to the other carriers. Most of the people with this phone are from Verizon. And while Verizon is a big carrier, it still represents only a fraction of smartphone users. Advertising, or their lack of, might have been another reason why this phone isn’t more popular. I didn’t see a whole lot of advertisements about this phone. The ones I did see were from Big Red. I don’t recall seeing any from other carriers but I imagine some other carriers were advertising this phone.
From a consumer perspective, I could see this phone being very confusing. The phone launched on Verizon under the name Moto Z Force Droid. Another name for it is the Moto Z Force. You also have the Moto Z and even the Moto Z Play, which is more of a mid-tier smartphone. There’s a lot of different names and hardware variations that ultimately confused the consumer. If Motorola were to make just one phone, say the Moto Z, and marketed that; this phone would probably be selling more. And as a result, there would be more mods on the market.
Price always plays a role in one’s decision to buy a smartphone. To this day, the price seems to be relatively high for a flagship smartphone, coming in at nearly $700. It’s $700 and change for the higher-specked Moto Z Force, which is right around the price of an iPhone 7 or Galaxy S7 edge. If the Moto Mods were cheaper and advertised better, I think the price of this phone could be justified but that’s not the case. After being on the market for several months now, the price hasn’t fluctuated much, if at all. It’s too high nowadays, with the iPhone 7 Plus being announced and the next wave of Android flagships coming out. I don’t think this phone was a total bust by any means. I’m just saying it could be selling more and it could have more of a presence in the smartphone market.
The Moto Z is still one of my favorite phones of 2016 and I hope Motorola and Lenovo continue the modular functionality in its next wave of flagships.