Moto’s Z series of smartphones and the LG G5 (review) are known for bringing the concept of semi-modularity to the mainstream. While LG seems to have given up on the idea, Moto continues in its quest… which is a good thing since the Moto Mods (the single-purpose accessories that clip on to the back of the Moto Z series phones to add functionality) actually work quite well. The Lenovo-owned company has now brought the Z series flagship, the Z2 Force to India, more than six months after it was first announced.
The timing of the launch of the Snapdragon 835-powered device is interesting, since phones utilising the new-gen Snapdragon 845 chipset have already been announced. However, Moto has priced the Z2 Force (first impressions) quite aggressively, and also made the package quite compelling by bundling the TurboPower battery mod for free with the phone. And the end result of that, along with the fact that it’s actually a very capable daily driver, has made the Moto Z2 Force a force to reckon with, so to speak. So much so that I actually think it can challenge its closest rival, the OnePlus 5T, and may even turn out to be a shade better. Read on to know why I think so.
Specs at a glance
|Resolution||1440 x 2560 pixels|
|CPU||Quad core, 2.35 GHz + Quad core, 1.9 GHz, Snapdragon 835|
|Internal memory||64 GB|
|External memory||Up to 2 TB|
|Capacity||2730 mAH, Li-ion, Non removable|
|Primary camera||12 MP|
|Secondary camera||5 MP|
|Network support||Dual SIM 4G|
|Other options||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS|
|Operating system||Android 8.0 Oreo|
Barring a few quirks, the Moto Z2 Force is a powerful, capable smartphone that doesn’t cost the earth, yet offers a compelling combination of smooth performance, good cameras, the benefit of an unbreakable screen and solid build, along with the flexibility of adding more functionality by means of the Moto Mods.
Design and display
The Moto Z2 Force doesn’t stray away from the design language use by other phones in the series. However, it’s very slim, and that’s the first thing you’d notice about it. The 6.1mm chassis is one of the slimmest I’ve seen on a phone in a long time. So slim in fact, that there’s no space to accommodate a 3.5mm headset socket. However, that’s not to say that the phone feels flimsy – quite the opposite in fact. Because up front is Moto’s ShatterShield screen that’s guaranteed not to crack or shatter. And at the back is 7000 series aluminium, with a brushed metal finish. The ShatterShield tech uses a proprietary five-layer approach to make the screen shatterproof, but I found that the topmost layer is quite prone to scratches, and I saw small scratches appearing on the screen of my review unit despite my careful usage. At the back, you’ll also notice the protruding camera bump which holds the dual cameras and flash, and the 16-pin connector below that enables the Moto Mods.
The Z2 Force misses out on a bezel-less display, and sticks to a conventional 16:9 screen, so you’ll notice wide bezels, especially on the front top and bottom. The bottom chin holds just the fingerprint scanner – the navigation keys are implemented in the software (it’s stock Android after all). Worth mentioning here that the navigation keys can be disabled altogether if you turn the One-button nav feature in the Moto app on. Then the fingerprint scanner can be used for navigation as well – tap it for home, swipe left to go back, right to access recent apps, and press and hold to lock the screen.
Worth pointing out at this point that the Moto Z2 Force doesn’t come with any IP rating, but features a coating that makes it impervious to plashes and minor liquid spills.
The 5.5-inch P-OLED display offers QHD resolution, and is plenty sharp too. The colours look vibrant, the text appears crisp… and I had no issues with sunlight legibility or viewing angles either.
With a pair of 12MP sensors handling photography duties at the back, the Z2 Force is no slouch when it comes to shooting prowess. One sensor is RGB, and the other is monochrome, allowing the Z2 Force to capture true black and white images natively.
You can also capture bokeh shots, with the level of blur being customisable. What’s more, images captured with the depth mode on can be tweaked later with the depth editor, which allows you to add some fun effects such as selective colour and replacing the background entirely. The camera app is quite minimalistic, and also offers a Pro mode, panorama, and HDR Auto. As far as the front shooter is concerned, you get a 5MP sensor with its own dual-tone selfie flash. It has a pro mode of its own, but no portrait mode for depth-laden selfies.
While the front camera isn’t too high on detail, especially as compared to those that come with higher resolution, or even multiple front sensors, it can take decent selfies. The dual cameras at the back are very capable, and produce great shots in almost all lighting conditions. You also get a Google Lens-like object recognition and landmark recognition modes that attempt to recognise objects/landmarks you’ve shot. In a nutshell, I was pleasantly surprised with the image quality I got with the Z2 Force. Here are some samples.
The platform on the Moto Z2 Force is Android Oreo in its stock avatar. So that means I don’t really have much to talk about here right? Wrong. You see, Moto is known for spicing up stock Android with its own signature tweaks, and all of those are available on the Z2 Force as well.
The Moto app on the phone is your one-stop shop to access all these in one place, and the options include the One-button nav I touched upon earlier – the feature that lets you disable the navigation bar and use the fingerprint scanner to navigate. This is categorised under Moto Actions, which also includes options for motion-based tasks such as performing a double karate chop action with your wrist (with the phone in your hand of course) to toggle the flashlight, and a double twist action to launch the camera. It also includes “Approach for Moto Actions”, which turns on Moto Display when you reach for the phone. Moto Display is the souped-up version of ambient screen, which not only awakens the screen when you get notifications or pull out the device from your pocket or bag, it also lets you interact with said notifications by giving you previews when you touch the icons and opening the corresponding apps by dragging them.
Then there’s Moto Voice, which lets you use your voice to launch apps, check you schedule or see the weather. The hot word for this is “show me”, followed by the command, and this works when the phone is offline as well. For example, you can utter “Show me Chrome” or “Show me WhatsApp” to launch these apps, or say “Show me the weather” to check the forecast. The feature can be set to bypass the lockscreen, and can be quite useful too. However, while it’s supposed to work only with the trained voice model, I noticed it sometimes worked with a colleague’s voice as well – so you need to be a tad careful with the feature if you’re concerned about privacy.
Snapdragon 835 may be a generation old now, or getting there, but it’s certainly no slouch. Paired with 6 gigs of RAM (Moto hasn’t launched the 4GB RAM variant of the phone in India) on the Z2 Force, it makes for a very smooth usage experience, with no lags or stutter whatsoever. The phone seems to manage thermals well too, despite its slim chassis and metal construction.
However, one of the downsides of the slim body is that the engineers at Moto were only able to pack in a 2,730mAh battery, and as you can imagine, that really doesn’t cut it these days, especially considering there’s a QHD display on offer here. Suffice it to say, you can’t expect the Moto Z2 Force to last you a full working day, especially if your usage is anything more than moderate. The phone ran our video loop test for almost 16 hours before the battery drained out, but real-life usage wasn’t so good. That’s where the bundled TurboPower mod comes in.
Before I get into the details of this particular mod, you should know that Moto Mods, as they’re called, are single-purpose accessories designed to add features and capabilities to the Moto Z series of phones, and are available as optional purchases. The best thing about these mods is that they snap on magnetically to the back of the phone, and require no setup or configuration. Some of the available Moto Mods include a game controller (pictured above), a speaker from JBL, a pico projector and even a camera attachment from Hasselblad that converts your Moto Z-series phone into a full fledged camera with 10X optical zoom. There are a few Style covers as well – slim back panels that allow you to customise the look of your phone.
Coming back to the TurboPower mod, this is essentially a power bank that can juice up the phone on the go. Moto has done a swell job by including this mod for free with the Z2 Force – it addresses any battery-related concerns prospective buyers might have, and also gives users a taste of the phone’s semi-modular capability by letting them experience a mod without incurring any additional cost. When purchased separately, the accessory will set you back by Rs 5,999. The TurboPower mod adds an extra 3,490mAh worth of battery power, bringing the total battery capacity of the device to a whopping 6,220mAh when attached to the phone. That should be enough to see you through a couple of days easily. What’s more, the TurboPower mod charges the phone at the same rate as the bundled Turbo charger. Also, the mod comes with its own Type-C port, so it can be charged separately as well. While the TurboPower mod does add significant bulk to the phone when attached, it’s definitely more convenient than using a regular power bank. Secondly, depending on your usage, you can use it in different ways – leave it attached permanently to your phone or use it only when your phone needs juicing up. However, if you choose the second scenario, the mod is one more thing you need to remember to carry.
And when it comes to things you need to remember to carry, now would be a good time to remind you about the Type-C to 3.5mm adapter that’s included in the retail box. You’d need that not just to use your own wired earphones or headphones with the phone, but the adapter is required even with the bundled headset, as strangely, the latter comes with a 3.5mm plug as well.
With the kind of specs the Moto Z2 Force comes with, smooth performance was a given. The battery life could easily have been a point of contention, but Moto has smoothly taken care of that by bundling the TurboPower mod, and converted that into a strong point. Add the high-resolution shatterproof display, capable dual cameras, support for Moto Mods and useful software features atop stock Android Oreo, and you have a winner on your hands. Moto has aggressively priced the phone at Rs 34,999 in India, which makes it go head on with the venerable OnePlus 5T. Each of these devices have their own strong points. The OnePlus 5T (review) brings a powerful selfie camera and an 18:9 display to the table, but the Moto Z2 Force is able to counter those with strong points of its own… the ones I mentioned earlier. In sum, I think the Z2 Force is a surprise package, and thanks to everything that it brings with it, its aggressive pricing, and the bundled TurboPower mod, is a smartphone you should consider very very seriously when looking for a mid-range flagship.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Solid build and shatterproof screen
- Smooth performance and capable dual cameras
- Long battery life thanks to the bundled TurboPower mod
- Useful software features
- Lacks 3.5mm headset socket
- Screen is prone to scratches
- Selfie camera may not match rivals