The Moto Z2 Force stands out in a world of status quo Android phones in 2017. It successfully taps into the exciting world of MotoMod accessories that can instantly upgrade your phone in several ways, and marks the return of the Motorola’s shatterproof screen in a refined form factor. It’s a combination of last year’s ultra-thin Moto Z and the shatter-resistant Moto Z Force with fresh specs. The result is a thin and light phone, but one that retains that hard-to-break screen. All MotoMods; new and old; are compatible with the Moto Z2 Force, so if you have any that you used on a previous device they will work with this one as well. For this reason, the look and feel is consistent 12 months later, but the differences are noticeable upon closer inspection. It’s 13% thinner and 12% lighter than last year’s Z Force, yet Motorola was able to squeeze in a dual-lens camera for superior photos.
To get there, the new Force makes sacrifices in other areas, namely battery life. It moves from a sizable 3,500mAh power pack to a 2,730mAh unit that, unlike its predecessor definitely can’t stretch into two days. There’s also still no headphone jack. The Moto Z2 Force is faster, thinner and takes better photos than Motorola’s first attempt at a modular phone a year ago. But this is also a pricey phone that’s designed to get you to spend even more money once you’ve got it.
Before I really dig into the review, I’d like to say a very big THANK YOU to VerizonWireless for sending over the Moto Z2 Force as well as the previous Moto Z2 Play devices. They keep TechDissected stocked with the latest and greatest devices to review on a very regular basis and for that I can’t say thank you enough. So please make sure to check them out if you’re in the market for a new device and to check out all of our other device reviews as well as the next one that will be coming up soon, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, which the great folks at Verizon Wireless have already got sitting on the desk here at the TeD HQ.
Screen And Display
The Moto Z2 Force screen is superb for three reasons. First, its 5.5-inch OLED display looks sharp and saturated with a Quad HD resolution. For me personally the 5.5-inch – 5.8-inch display seems just about the perfect size when it comes to a mobile phone. It’s comparable to Samsung’s best-in-class AMOLED displays, minus the curves. And while LG with the LG V30 and maybe Apple with the iPhone 8 are moving to OLED, Motorola’s screens have been far ahead of this trend for several years which is one of the reasons why I stuck with them for so long until just recently. Better yet, its Moto ShatterShield could save you from a cracked phone thanks to five-layer protection. Motorola guarantees it won’t crack for up to four years; however it’s not scratch-proof, which is a key concern due to the plastic top layer. It’s also not shock-proof. If you’re in the market for something more durable, then waiting for the Galaxy S8 Active is something you might want to think about.
The third reason I like the Z2 Force display is the return of the Moto Active Display, which turns on every time it senses motion via its infrared sensors. It lights up a limited portion of the screen to display the time, date and interactive notification icons. New this year is the ability to quick-reply and take other actions by tapping on these notification icons; before you could only open the relevant app by flicking the icon up or dismiss it by flicking it down. You can do a lot more without ever lighting up the screen. This is Motorola’s unique, interactive spin on an always-on display, and it’s just like the phone itself. There’s nothing out there like it. Again, this is something that I really got used to when I got my first Motorola device that had this featured baked in and now several years later it’s hard to live without it.
The Moto Z2 Force has a new dual-lens camera on the back that takes excellent photos with its own twist to things; a theme for this modular smartphone. It pairs two 12MP cameras, both identical with an f/2.0 aperture and larger 1.25 micron pixels, and uses laser and phase detection auto focus to capture photos faster than last year’s phone, though the focus is not always accurate.
One camera is dedicated to monochrome photos, following the Huawei P10 concept of capturing true black-and-white photos without the need for a filter. Most users probably won’t notice the differences between it and simulated software black-and-white filters, however. What is unmissable is the depth of field capabilities of the Moto Z2 Force camera. Depth photos can apply bokeh (blurring) to the background, like iPhone 7 Plus portrait photos. Motorola goes one step further and lets you use selective black-and-white here, too, for a really unique effect. But, one step forward and two steps back: Neither camera has optical zoom capabilities like the iPhone and there’s no optical image stabilization. That affects both photo and video shakiness. Moto Z2 Force can record 4K video, yet OIS is sorely missing.
The front 5MP camera has a standout feature of its own: a front-facing flash that’s better than a simulated display flash. You can also get a wide-angle 85-degree selfie on this camera with a f/2.2 aperture, which is helpful for group shots. All in all this ends up being a decent to good camera on this Moto Z2 Force. There are better phone cameras out there, but there are also many that are much worse.
The Moto Z2 Force really took a huge step backwards when it comes to the battery that’s included. In this years model is a 2,730mAh battery unlike last year where the Z Force sported a 3,500mAh battery. This means that all day battery life just isn’t a think any longer and to me and most people, that’s a huge let down. My question is, why are we moving backwards with battery life instead of forward here in 2017.
The one good thing about the Moto Z2 Force is that there is an extended battery Moto Mod available for the device, but then that means you’re adding a bit of unwanted bulk to the device which most of us certainly don’t want to do. I really hope Motorola realizes what they did here where the battery is concerned and fix it in next years model, but that’s hard to tell if it’ll happen.
Moto Mods(Wireless Charging Battery)
Adding a sense of style and extra battery life to your Moto Z2 Force is a snap with the TUMI Wireless Charging Power Pack Moto Mod. The Moto Mod, which supports wireless charging+, gives your device up to an extra day’s worth of battery life without bulking it up too much. The power pack mod is an additional 2,200mAh battery to get you through the entire day when your phone runs low on juice. The catch here is that this Moto Mod will set you back $89.99 which is a bit expensive to some, but if you’re one that burns through battery life on your Z2 Force, then this might be worth it.
Moto Mods(JBL Sound Boost 2)
If you’re one who loves to listen to music or watch movies on your device on a regular basis and you’re looking for some extra boost in the sound, then the JBL Sound Boost 2 Moto Mod is definitely something for you. It comes with its own 10-hour battery pack so you can use it while not draining the battery of your phone itself. This is very helpful for those that listen to music while on the go on the bus or something similar and don’t always have an available way to re-charge your phone. It also has a built-in kickstand so that you can stand it up in landscape mode to watch your favorite movie or videos while enjoying the massive sound boost.
Personally for me while I enjoyed playing around with the Motorola Moto Z2 Force while I had it for 3 weeks, it’s just not a device that I would own personally. Mainly because of battery life and camera quality. While neither are horribly bad, they aren’t nearly as good as other devices that cost around the same price. The Z2 Force will set you back about $750+ though you can probably get it cheaper now via a deal of some kind through your carrier or Amazon or whatever and therefore it might make it a bit more worth it.
To me Motorola has really slipped up since Lenovo bought them and took over. They aren’t near as quick with updates like they used to be and this doesn’t seem to be changing any time in the near future and that’s a big let down for me as I’m one who really needs updates to be current on my device. For you however, that might not be the case and you might be ok with the Z2 Force and all the Moto Mods that it’s capable of handling.