Motorola brought us one of the first cool-kid phones with its Razr. But that was way back in the halcyon days of the early 2000’s when bleaching your spiked tips and oversize bell bottoms were all the rage. Today, Motorola and its parent company, Lenovo, are fighting to remain relevant in the high-end smartphone market.
The manufacturer’s latest effort, the Moto Z2 Force, takes many of its features found in the original Z Force, such as its Moto Mods add-ons and unbreakable screen, and further builds on them. But a slimmed-down body and smaller battery, coupled with the added cost of those Moto Mods, makes the $720 Z2 Force a tough sell.
Old-ish school design
The Moto Z2 Force hews closely to the design of last year’s Moto Z Force, and by extension, the much older Moto X. That’s a letdown for a flagship device, especially when companies like Samsung, LG and HTC have made significant changes to the looks their marquee phones.
That’s not to say Motorola hasn’t tweaked the Z2 Force’s styling. The biggest, and most obvious, change to the phone’s body is how much thinner it is than its predecessor. Motorola trimmed 0.04 inches from the Z2 Force’s thickness, which might not sound like much, but makes quite a difference when holding the handsets side by side.
And when it comes to smartphones, thinner is usually better. Until, that is, you realize that cutting down on the phone’s size also meant that Motorola had to trim the Z2 Force’s battery size, as well.
The battery was cut from 3,500 mAh to 2,730 mAh. And while the Z2 Force still lasted most of the day, I can’t help but think how long the phone would have lasted if it had that larger battery. I get that Motorola wanted to make its phone slim and sleek, but I’d take a bit more bulk and a larger battery over a thinner handset any day.
Users’ top reactions:
It’s a flippin’ PHONE, not a fashion statement. I’ve had a Turbo2 for a while. It does everything a phone should, and does it well. It’s every bit as good as any Samsung I’ve had or seen. I can’t speak about Apple because I would never own anything they make. I’m sure their fans love their overpriced gadgets with all the proprietary strings attached though.
Unbreakable – without the twist
Perhaps the Moto Z2 Force’s biggest selling point is the fact that its screen is practically unbreakable. Seriously, Motorola says it guarantees its ShatterShield display won’t crack or, well, shatter, for four years. If it does, the company will replace it. I threw my review unit around the office a number of times to see if it stood up to Motorola’s claims and it survived without issue.
Still, the ShatterShield screen isn’t perfect. It’s surprisingly prone to scratches, even in your pocket. And unfortunately, those aren’t covered under the company’s warrantee.
As far as the display’s image quality goes, though, the Moto Z2 Force’s 5.5-inch, 2560 x 1440 resolution Super AMOLED panel is beautiful, with gorgeous colors and deep blacks.
Users’ top reactions:
I’m in the market for a new phone, and was thinking if this new Moto were even as much as $400 I might get one. $720? I gotta admit, the phone manufactures have done a great job at brainwashing most of the public that they need to spend $700+ on a phone every 2 years.
Modding your phone
The dream of a modular smartphone, one that you can add and remove parts from, is all but dead. Just look at Google’s Project Ara. But Motorola isn’t giving up. Instead, the company is doubling down on the concept by offering even more of its Moto Mods for the Moto Z2 Force than it did for the original Moto Z Force.
In addition to improved versions of Motorola’s existing JBL SoundBoost speaker mod and battery pack, the company has released its new Moto Gamepad mod, which eliminates the need for you to use a Bluetooth controller when playing games by turning your phone into one big controller, and the Moto 360 camera.
The 360 camera is clearly the standout of the group and lets you capture 360 images and video with ease. But unlike other solutions, like Samsung’s Gear 360 camera, which is independent of your phone, the Moto 360 connects directly to your device, and doesn’t require any secondary apps, as it uses the handset’s existing camera software.
Still, the camera mod will cost you a whopping $299. And how often do you really think you’re going to want to carry around a smartphone with a bulging orb stuck to its top?
Out of the 12 available Moto Mods, the battery pack and the new JBL SoundBoost 2 are the most useful. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the mods do add a significant amount of bulk to the Z2 Force’s slender frame.
Users’ top reactions:
The gigantic battery in the Droid Turbo/Droid Turbo 2/Moto Z Force “lineage” is one of the major selling points, at least for me and the other folks I know who have them. I was all geared up to upgrade from the Z Force to the Z2 Force until I saw the battery specs.
Motorola’s biggest addition to the Z2 Force is its new dual-lens camera. Similar to Apple’s (AAPL) dual-lens iPhone 7 Plus, the Z2 Force’s camera allows you to add bokeh effects (that look where your subject is in focus and the background is blurry) to your images.
But unlike the iPhone 7 Plus, which uses one of its lenses to add an optical zoom to your photos, the Z2 Force uses one lens to capture color images, while the other captures black-and-white shots.
The idea is to help improve low-light performance. But next to the iPhone 7 Plus’ low-light shots, the Z2 Force’s contained more artifacting and made my skin look sun burned. Photos taken in bright sunlight, meanwhile, looked beautiful.
The Moto Z2 Force’s bokeh effect was also inconsistent at best. A shot of my Lego Boost robot’s head looked excellent, with the majority of its head in focus and the background blurred, but a picture of a flower against a backdrop of billboards in Times Square was a mess. Parts of the stem were blurred, while others were in focus.
Users’ top reactions:
I have had the Droid Z Force for 2 months now. I have no issues with the design, it is a solid phone and the case is made of good metal with no plastic. I carry it in my pocket with no screen protector (they all get really poor reviews). There are scratches on it but not any more than my S6 and S7 had. I had an S5, S6, and S7 before giving up on Samsung over their curved screens. I could not find a screen protector that would work because of the curved screens. I traded in the S7 early for the Moto Z Droid. I use an Otterbox commuter case or no case with the battery mod on. With the battery mod the phone lasts longer than any phone I have ever had. I also have a 256GB storage card which allows the phone do everything I want including camera, music player, and video player with no worries about storage. There are trade offs, but overall, I give the Moto Z Force a better rating than the S7 or S8 anyday. Disappointed that the Moto Z2 Force has a smaller battery. The case was already thin enough.
Power, performance and bloat
As you’d expect of a flagship device, the Z2 Force comes packed with top-of-the-line specs including an 8-core Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM (the rest of the world gets 6GB, which is a bummer), and 64GB of storage, which can be expanded via a microSD card.
The Moto Z2 Force runs on Google’s Android 7.1 operating system, and as with most of the company’s recent smartphones, Motorola keeps Android relatively free of any unnecessary interface changes.
But my Verizon version of the Moto Z2 Force did come with a number of unwanted Verizon apps including Verizon Cloud, Verizon Message+ and VZ Navigator. Why are those apps annoying? Because they’re duplicates of apps you’ve already got on your phone and simply taking up space.
Users’ top reactions:
I have had the phone for two weeks now and love it. My only gripe would be that it is slippery to hold. A case will fix that though. I’m getting great battery usage, partly because the entire screen does not go on when I want to see the time. I save my hand over the screen and a circle with the time, weather and battery percents comes up for a few seconds. It also shows notifications that you can tap and are given a couple of options on what to do with the notification. It really is a battery saver and we’ll thought out. I take very good care of my phone’s but I did accidentally drop this phone face down on the cement garage floor and it survived with no scratches or cracks. I consider this to be as good or better than the other flagships out there. I also love the pure Android OS because there are not redundant apps for no reason. Love the phone – camera is great, call quality is great. It rocks!
Should you get it?
The Moto Z2 Force is a decent device, especially if you’re looking for a handset that runs a largely unmodified version of Google’s Android and believe in the idea of adding mods to your phone. But with the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus already on the market, the case for buying the Z2 Force is a bit thin.
I’m a fan of the handset’s “unbreakable display” and its JBL speaker add-on, but the fact that its design is showing its age, coupled with its easily scratched screen, makes the handset a hard sell. Still, if you’re looking for a new smartphone and want to avoid the iPhone or one of Samsung’s offerings, then the Z2 Force might be right for you.