Moto Z2 Force Review: Shatterproof, Modular Android
Moto Z2 Force Review: Battery, Moto Mods and Final Thoughts
Battery life is one of the most important tests for smartphones. We ran Moto Z2 Force through PCMark for Android’s Work 2.0 Battery Life to get an idea of how it performs in moderately demanding situations.
Futuremark’s PCMark for Android Work 2.0 Battery test uses workloads from the benchmark, which includes image and video editing, email and web browsing, and loops them until the battery level drops below 20%. We calibrate the screen brightness to 200 nits and the benchmark locks the display brightness for the entire duration of the benchmark. Only Wi-Fi and the cell radio (connected to T-Mobile LTE) were enabled, while Bluetooth and NFC were disabled. The phone was also put into DND mode so the test completed uninterrupted.
Motorola did a remarkable job optimizing the battery life of the Moto Z2 Force. It has a smaller 2730 mAh battery, but outlasts the Samsung Galaxy S8 with its 3000 mAh battery by nearly an hour. Sure the Galaxy S8+ has over an hour and a half longer battery life, but it has a much larger 3500 mAh battery. The test leaves us wondering how much longer the battery would last if Motorola hadn’t downsized the battery for a slimmer form factor. Regardless, all told, these are very respectable results.
A Note On Moto Mods
Motorola is banking on Moto Mod compatibility as a big selling point for the Moto Z2 Force. And there are some cool mods, like the 360 camera and insta-share projector mods, but the rest are battery packs and speakers. There’s the nifty Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod that adds a point and shoot camera with 10x optical zoom and optical image stabilization to compatible phones, but it still relies on a tiny 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, so it won't really replace a dedicated camera for serious shooters.
A quick-charge compatible USB power bank can also quickly charge the Moto Z2 Force and come in various shapes and sizes. Theoretically, the battery Moto Mods would be great to keep around as hot-swappable batteries, but they don’t charge independently from the phone itself. Samsung’s Galaxy Gear 360 (2017) operates with or without a phone, and lets you use a tripod and take photos that aren’t selfies, so paying more for the 360 camera Moto Mod to only take 360 selfies is a tough sell. While we applaud the innovation of Moto Mods, the overall value of most of them is questionable in light of alternative solutions.
That leads us to our final thoughts on the Motorola Moto Z2 Force itself. The technical specs and performance are everything you expect from a flagship phone, but the design requires some compromises to accommodate accessories. The Moto Mods are nifty, but also expensive, and though they add some cool functionality, they may not be enough to make most users dismiss the phone's compromises. If the phone didn’t have the Moto Mod connector, Motorola could have sealed it and made it waterproof like the Samsung Galaxy S8 family, iPhone 7 and LG G6. It could have also retained the previous generation’s 3500 mAh battery instead of sacrificing capacity for thinness so it doesn’t become too thick with a Moto Mod attached.
The shatterproof screen sounds awesome as well, in theory, but the screen makes clicking noises when you type, feels hollow to type on, and scratches easily. These issues can be mitigated by adding a glass screen protector, but that's not an ideal solution. Of course, there are also many good things about the Moto Z2 Force.
Motorola’s restraint in making too many tweaks to Android is great. The OS is snappy and isn’t loaded with a ton of bloated apps that only serve to replicate official Google alternatives. Most of the carrier-installed apps can be quickly disabled, too. The tweaks Motorola did make to the OS are extremely useful, especially the one-button nav. We love the fast and accurate fingerprint reader and navigating the OS with a single button made it a lot easier to hand-off the phone to someone without accidentally pushing any unintended soft keys or capacitive touch buttons. After owning a Samsung Galaxy S7 for over a year and its common failures when reading my thumb, the success rate of the Moto Z2 Force's fingerprint reader is downright excellent.
Overall, if you like the aesthetics and design, the Moto Z2 Force is a nice phone. It has the hardware specs, performance and price of a flagship, but simply lacks the refined feel of some other devices due to the materials used in the shatterproof screen and physical accommodations for Moto Mods. At $720, its priced higher than the Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+ or LG G6, however, which is tough to justify. The availability of Moto Mods, good battery life, shatterproof screen, and strong performance somewhat justify a price premium, but not necessarily enough to overshadow other flagship devices, unless some of the available Moto Mods are particularly appealing to your specific use case.