Moto Z3 Play handset can team up with Moto Mods

Asus' high-flying ROG Phone is probably the most interesting smartphone of the week for TR readers that like to game on the go. Motorola is hoping its Moto Z3 Play mid-range Android handset can appeal to a different audience with its large OLED screen and ability to add extra capabilities. The company's Moto Mods add-ons include auxiliary speakers, 360° and optical zoom cameras, gamepads, projectors, and more.

The Z3 Play's Gorilla Glass 3-covered 6" AMOLED display has a resolution of 2160x1080. A little bit of math reveals a pixel density of 402 PPI and what smartphone manufacturers call an 18:9 aspect ratio. The company says the screen covers 79% of the frontal area of the phone. The Z3 Play doesn't have a notch and the phone's chin is too short for a fingerprint reader, so biometric authentication sits on the side of the phone just below the volume rocker. Users can also unlock the phone using its face detection capability.

While the screen's specs give some Android flagships a run for their money, the rest of the Z3 Play's features are decidedly mid-range. The Snapdragon 636 SoC isn't even part of Qualcomm's "upper-midrange" SD700 family, and it's paired with just 4 GB of memory. Buyers get to choose between versions with a relatively meager 32 GB or 64 GB of storage, but at least they can add a microSD card up to 2 TB to make room for more cat pictures. The phone gets the 4G LTE, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, and NFC wireless connectivity one expects from a modern smartphone. 

The bulging eye section on the phone's aluminum back is home to a 12-megapixel main sensor coupled to an f/1.7 lens, and a 5-MP snapper used for depth sensing. The front camera is an 8-MP unit with an f/2.0 wide-angle lens and an 84° field of view. The front sensor can perform portrait-mode effects despite working solo. The rear camera can capture 4K video at 30 FPS and the front camera can record 1920x1080 video at the same frame rate. Motorola says the front and rear cameras can also record slow-motion footage, but the company didn't provide any specifics. Sound enters the phone through a four-microphone array set up to work with the Google Assistant.

Users can replenish the Z3 Play's 3000 mAh internal battery to "half a day's" worth of power in 30 minutes using the included USB-C Turbo Charger. The company says the internal battery has enough juice to last an entire day when topped up. Capable smartphones with easily swappable batteries are an endangered species, but the Z3 Play can do the next best thing thanks to its Moto Mods capability. The manufacturer says the combination of the internal battery and the Moto Power Pack that comes in the box can make phone can last up to 40 hours of mixed use, enough to get through most of a weekend without a visit to a wall wart. The USB-C port is the lone connector on the bottom of the handset; users will have to carry the included USB-C to 3.5-mm adapter if they want to use wired headphones with the device.

The Z3 Play measures 6.2" tall (15.7 cm), 3" wide (7.7 cm), and 0.27" thick (0.7 cm) and weighs 5.5 oz (156 g), though the thickness and weight will increase when a Moto Mod pack is added to the mix. The manufacturer says the front and back of the phone have a hydrophobic coating, but notably did not mention any sort of IP rating for dust and water intrusion resistance. Motorola installs Android 8.1 Oreo with Google Lens on the Z3 Play, but didn't make any promises about future upgrades to Android P.

Motorola is launching the Z3 Play in Brazil for R$2299 first (about $600). US customers can get their hands on the Z3 Play in black or pink for $500 when it comes here later this month. At that sum, the Z3 Play is bringing a knife to a gunfight compared to the OnePlus 6, which is ARMed with a Snapdragon 845, 6 GB of memory, and 64 GB of storage for just $30 more. Huawei's Honor 10 has similar specs to the OnePlus 6 but swaps out the SD845 for an in-house Kirin 970 SoC for under $400. The Z3 Play's capability to use Moto Mods is certainly interesting, but time will tell if that's enough for buyers to choose it over its competitors.

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