Review: Motorola Moto Z3 Play

Dec 5, 2018

Thanks to Motorola for providing GWW with this review unit.

  • Moto Mods are underrated
  • Clean Android experience
  • Camera could be better

The Moto Z3 Play is an above-average phone at an attractive price of just $499. Sure, the OnePlus 6T starts at $549, but buyers are more likely to see the Z3 Play experience a $50-$100 price drop before the 6T does. With a strong software experience, physical modularity, and display, the Z3 Play will be hard to overlook for budget shoppers.

Specifications ($499 as tested)

  • Moto Mod support (notably extended battery, camera, and speaker)
  • Android 8.1 (Oreo)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 CPU and Adreno 509 GPU
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB storage (expandable storage via MicroSD up to 2TB)
  • 6.01″, Super AMOLED display with Full HD+, 2160 x 1080p resolution
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Far-field mic (no headphone jack)
  • Dimensions: 76.5 x 156.5 x 6.75 mm | 156g

The Good

The Z3 Play feels like no other phone I’ve held. It’s super thin and surrounded in glass. The rear of the device isn’t as slick as other glass phones, such as the OnePlus 6T and iPhone XR. The rear of the phone features a dual camera setup and the gold plated Moto Mod connection hub. The deep gold color accenting the otherwise completely black phone is a super cool look. The stock wallpaper is red - Motorola should have gone with gold.

The fingerprint reader is on the right side. As a right-hand dominant individual, resting my thumb on the thin and fast fingerprint reader was a really awesome experience every time I used it. Left-handed users can easily use the fingerprint reader with their pointer finger. The face ID is also an option.

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The front camera is 8 MP and supports a variety of software modes. While the rear offers even more modes and a total of 12 MP. The modes are:

  • Rear Camera Modes
    • Cinemagraphs
    • portrait mode
    • spot color
    • cutout mode
    • face filters
    • panorama
    • manual mode
    • YouTube Live mode
    • landmark & object recognition (powered by Google Lens)
    • 8 text scanner (powered by Google Lens)
    • 8 active photos
    • barcode & QR code scanner
    • business card reader
  • Front Camera Modes
    • Cinemagraph
    • portrait mode
    • group selfie mode
    • YouTube Live mode
    • face beauty
    • manual mode
    • face filters
    • active photos

I took several photos using both cameras and I’m quite surprised with the results. Check them out and give us your feedback in our Discord server.

The following are photos of the phone taken on a Note 9.

 

What Needs Improvement

Three things I love to have are wireless charging, dual speakers, and the comfort of a high IP water resistance rating. I can live without these things, but they’re worth calling out. The Z3 Play doesn’t have these features, but it does offer modularity, which may help solve the former two (the following descriptions come from www.motorola.com).

  • moto power pack ($49.99)
    • Instantly adds up to 16 hours of battery life
    • Super-thin, lightweight design adds power, not bulk
    • Efficiency Mode for even longer battery life
  • The moto stereo speaker ($59.99)
    • Hands-free speakerphone calls and video chats have better vocal clarity
    • The built-in kickstand adds depth and texture to audio-visual experiences
    • Your phone’s battery powers the speaker, so you never need to charge it
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The power pack has been awesome and reminds me very much of the days with my Galaxy Note 4 where I could quickly add power in a pinch by replacing the battery. The power pack is thin and light but when you attach it to the Z3 Play, the combination become quite thick. Although, you won’t need it all day.

I was not able to test the moto stereo speaker during this period, but back in 2016 I did play with it at Lenovo’s Tech World conference. I remember it was loud and powerful, which any discrete speaker should be. Moto mods are not closed-source. Motorola have allowed other developers to get involved so you can try several creative modules, such as the Soundboost Speaker by JBL and the Hasselblad True Zoom camera with 10x optical zoom.

Who is this For?

I spent a full month with the Moto Z3 Play and the moto power pack. During that time I enjoyed the thinness of the phone, the clean OS and the modular battery pack. Anyone on a budget will want to consider if they prioritize battery life over

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