Motorola Moto Z3 Play Review

A phone with massive potential

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Introduction:

I can’t lie to you all. I’ve been holding off my review on the Moto Z3 Play because this device honestly captivated me. The feel in hand, good performance, amazing battery life. All these factors spoke to me on a level that I had been looking for in a phone. However, can the phone that meets all the basics really sell. I’ll let you know my full thoughts in my review of the Moto Z3 Play!

The Device Minus the Mods:

I like to compare the Moto Z3 Play without its Moto Mods like Batman without his utility belt. Batman can do a lot without his belt. He can punch and kick and do lots of other cool stuff. However, with his utility belt he has so much more versatility. He has batberanges, and shark repellant. This is the same with the Moto Z3 Play. It can do so much even without its Moto Mods, great display, good cameras, good performance, decent battery life. With the Moto Mods you get far better results.

That’s not to say all Moto Mods are good though. I’ll be doing a featured piece on the Moto Mods in about a month but know I mainly stuck with the battery Mod. It came in the box with the device, therefore I felt it was best to review the device with it on. It also added the most useful functionality to the device. You’ll have to wait for my later piece to learn more about the other Moto Mod offerings I’ve gotten my hands on.

Style Shell, Speaker Mod, Polaroid Mod, Battery Mod and 360 Degree Camera Mod

Display:

The Moto Z3 Play has a 2160x1080p OLED display that’s 6 inches long. I personally really like this display. It has punchy colors and I personally didn’t notice the lower resolution of the display. It was vibrant and I really enjoyed reading , watching videos, and playing games on it.

I would highly suggest you try to look at the display in a Sprint store if you can though. A friend used the phone for a few minutes and asked why the display was so pixelated. He was using it after just looking at the Pixel 2 XL. I couldn’t readily tell the difference however it may be noticeable to some. The display did not look washed out to him though. He just said he could notice the pixilation.

One issue I had with the display was the glass itself. Mind you, I never drop my phones and the battery Mod on the back is grippy. During the 2 weeks I used the device the glass got incredibly scratched. The device does use Gorilla Glass 3 however my gorilla must have been the runt of the litter. Do yourself a favor and pick up a glass screen protector on Amazon.

Performance:

I’m a sucker for the Snapdragon 600 line of processors. I hadn’t used one in many years so I was ready to see how Kryo cores perform in a mid-range device. In short I’ll say, very well. Paired with 4gb of ram and that power sipping 1080p display this device wouldn’t quit. I rarely saw any lag unless I tried to perform several tasks very quickly. Playing games like Pokemon Go, and Alto’s adventure were smooth for the most part. I booted up the new Star Ocean game and it was a bit too intensive for the device. I had a lot of stuttering. Although it was disappointing it was expected.

The Snapdragon 636 did its job in the Z3 Play very well. It got a majority of the tasks I wanted done quickly and a little more. The processor did a great job with opening and closing the camera as well. Josh Tabasso, a friend and writer for the site uses the Moto Z2 Play. When comparing the cameras he said the Z3 Play opened and shot much faster. I attest that to be due to the software enhancements and the newer processor. We will hope to have a comparison of the 2 however we wanted you to know that there are noticeable improvements.

Software:

The software on the Moto Z3 Play gave me some problems. We pride Motorola on having a stock interface but it’s only great if it works well. The interface jumped and stuttered at times. Moto Display would also randomly popup even if there was no notification. This would cause my screen to turn on in my pocket. I almost send a few text messages from my pocket because of that.

Motorola’s reliable gestures of chopping to turn on the flashlight and twist to turn on the camera aren’t as reliable anymore. I found myself trying the gestures multiple times to get the feature to work. I remember on older Motorola devices it would work without a hitch. Maybe the sensitivity is off or the feature needs tweaking but it didn’t feel polished.

Motorola is also trying to jump on a new gesture train. If you go into the “Moto” application and go to features you can enable “One Button Navigation”. This feature gives you one giant oval at the bottom of your screen. This button becomes your home, back, and recent applications button. When it feels like it. I had times where I had to make the gesture several times before it would take effect. The idea is solid but it needs more polish. I hope Motorola can make the software on the Z3 Play as refined as I remember it being.

Camera:

I found the camera in this device to be impressive. Outdoors it took very crisp images without a lot of noise. You would expect this from any mid or high-end phone camera. You would not expect this level of clarity from a Motorola made device though. Depending on how much light you have in lower light situations you may have good results too.

I don’t want you all to think this device is the most amazing camera ever. It has its problems as every smarphone camera does. Images lose a lot of detail when you zoom in and dynamic range isn’t amazing. You can get some good shots if you’re patient, but you may have to take a couple. I had to take a picture of the sunset several times before I got a good one. There were times I wished I had my Pixel’s superior image processing, however if you’re coming to this device from a high-end device expect some issues. However, if you are coming from a lower priced phone or an older device of the same price range you’ll be very pleased.

Camera Features

One feature I didn’t really test was the portrait mode camera. I never found a time where it felt right to test the secondary shooter. Taking portrait photos never came up when I was reviewing the device. I forgot the feature was there most times. I would end up flipping the phone over to change mods and think “oh, there’s another camera”.

Front Camera

The front camera on this device is good for taking selfies. Pictures come out crisp, with a wide range of focus. Unfortunately, Motorola decided to ditch the front flash for this device. It was never really integrated into any applications besides Moto’s camera app, however it is would come in handy. You could obviously do better with a several hundred dollar more device however you’re getting about 80% of the quality. Whatever you do though, don’t judge the performance of this camera through Snapchat. Use the stock camera application if you want to get a good feel for what it has to offer.

Battery Life:

The Moto Z3 Play comes with a seemingly mediocre 3000 mah battery, however that’s not the whole case. In the box you get, what we’ve all wanted inside a Moto Z box for 2 years. A battery mod. This is the basic mod with 2000 mah, however, that’s still a phenomenal boost to the already tried and true 3000 mah. The 1080p display and Snapdragon 636 make this device last for ages. There were times where I’d have 38% battery remaining of the Z3’s battery after 14 hours or so and playing Pokemon Go for a while.

The Moto Z3 Play has a trick to keep its 3000 mah main battery safe while it’s continuously charged by the Mod. The mod will only charge when the main battery is below 80% capacity. Keeping it there to the best of its ability. I saw that because when the weather becomes too hot or too cold the battery slips to 78%. This is because the Mod can’t charge at the Z3 Play’s high rate of 15 watts. If you want faster charging you’ll have to get the turbo power pack or plug into the turbo charger that comes in the box.

Fingerprint Sensor:

Wait, the fingerprint sensor gets its own section? Yes, it does, and that’s because it’s a little bit different. This fingerprint sensor is where you’d expect the power button should be. The strange thing is, it’s not the power button. There’s one of those on the opposite side of the phone. This is a good place for a fingerprint senor, but the power button is in a terrible spot. Motorola should have kept the feature that lets the user turn the screen on and off. That would have made sense. What they did, didn’t make sense.

The fingerprint sensor itself works very well on its own. Readers will know that fingerprint sensors don’t work well with my fingers. Due to my type one diabetes and pricking my fingers my fingerprints are damaged. With this comes more inaccuracy when reading my fingerprint. The Moto Z3 Play had little issues though. It read my print with about 90% accuracy. That’s better than I can say for many sensors. The sensor itself is also very fast. You’ll grow accustom to its placement quickly. The power button, now that’s a different story.

Connectivity:

If you’re buying an unlocked Motorola phone, expect the device to have good connectivity. The Z3 Play will have compatibility with all 4 major US carriers. We’ve grown to expect this from Motorola which is very nice. The odd thing is the lack of Verizon partnership. This device will only be launching on Sprint and US Cellular as carrier partners. We’re still waiting to see what Motorola has coming up but the lack of Verizon partnership is concerning.

As for how this device holds onto a connection, it does a great job. Both Wifi and cellular connectivity have been stellar. If you want a device that will maintain a call or internet connection just a little bit farther than you’re used to then I think this phone will work. This is all based on my unscientific testing but I did find connectivity to be stronger.

Conclusion:

I really don’t want to make a conclusion. I say that because despite all this phone’s problems I still adore it. The device has a lot of character and that’s something I can’t say about many phones now a days. The device has some faults and stumbles but I really think you’ll enjoy this phone the whole time you use it. This is partially because of the Moto Mods but also just because of what this device provides. With the good internals, and potential it’s an awesome phone. However, for $500 I can’t recommend a phone based on potential alone. I think this phone needs some TLC from Motorola, however if you can get it on sale I say pick it up.

The Moto Z3 Play is currently available from several retailers. You can, of course get it from Motorola’s own website, Sprint and US Cellular. You can also get it as an Amazon Prime Exclusive with a $50 discount (I encourage you to take that). B&H Video and Best Buy are other places you can get the device as well. Moral is, you won’t have trouble getting this device but the question is whether you want this device. Let me know in the comments below what you think!

We wanted to thank our friends at Motorola for loaning us the Moto Z3 Play and Moto Mods. Motorola is not paying us for this review and all feelings regarding the device are our own.

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