Moto Z3 Play Review: Have Mods, Will Travel

Moto Z3 Play: Battery Life and Final Thoughts

Fans of the Moto Z Play were critical of the Z2 Play’s decreased battery life last year. Overall battery life was still excellent, of course, but many felt Moto was shirking onboard battery capacity as a concession to marketing’s calls for ever thinner devices. The Z3 Play’s still-3000mAh battery and higher performing processor does not lend a lot of confidence, but only testing can confirm if these reservations are valid.

To examine this we ran AnTuTu’s battery test, a high-load benchmark that aims to drain the battery in a device as quickly as possible. The test sets the display brightness to high and cranks up workloads for the processor, graphics core, and memory, and runs through many real-world scripted workloads as well, including web browsing, gaming and video playback.
moto z3 play bench antutu battery
We cannot beat around the bush, results here are not spectacular for our Z3 Play. It fails to come close to even the Z2 Play’s staying power, let alone that of the legendary first-generation Z Play. To make matters worse, modern flagships have been improving their uptime substantially to the point where the Z3 Play’s results do not even stand out. This new Moto phone has respectable battery life but it's just nothing special compared to its battery life juggernaut predecessors -- that is until you snap the Power Pack Moto Mod on its backside.

moto z3 play power pack connectors
Moto Z3 Play's Included 2200 mAh Moto Mod

Technically speaking, however, the Moto Z3 Play is still being marketing as a battery life winner, though Moto is blurring some lines. Unlike the previous two models, the Z3 Play includes a 2220mAh Power Pack mod in the box. Moto touts an impressive 40 hours of mixed usage while using this mod which sounds impressive, but eagle-eyed consumers may recall that the original Z Play was marketed with a 50-hour battery before even reaching for a Power Pack mod. Regardless, what Moto is still delivering here is another 75 percent or so of available uptime with the Power Pack mod snapped on. Unfortunately, we couldn't represent that performance in the chart above because our battery testing apps won't work, since the pack continually charges the device. However, you can extrapolate that its performance would be considerably better than what's represented here, with the Power Pack strapped on for longer uptime.

That said, as far as Power Pack mods go, the included option could be better executed. The 2220mAh capacity does offer a fair amount of juice, however the mod has no way to charge independently of the phone. It lacks its own USB-C port like we find on the Turbo Power Mod we reviewed with the Z2 Play. We love having the ability to separately charge the Turbo Power Mod, which in turn can be used to keep the phone topped-off without ever needing to be plugged in itself. This could have also been remedied by embedding Qi-wireless charging, but it does not offer that functionality either.
moto z3 play power pack angle
Instead, this is a Mod to keep on the phone at all times. It is thin, though we would have preferred a different texture for the backing. Its slight faux-woven grain can be slippery if handled carelessly. While it is convenient to have a slim battery mod most of the time, we still prefer the extra capacity and functionality the Turbo Power mod provides. At any rate, it certainly does not hurt to have two Power Packs at the ready for a stint away from a charger.

Finally, like its predecessors, the Moto Z3 Play boasts exceptionally fast 30W Turbo charging. It is able to charge to around 80% in under half an hour, while a full charge can complete in about an hour. For users on-the-go, the optional Turbopower Pack can also charge at a faster rate of 15W. The included Power Pack is limited to just 6W.

Final Thoughts On The Moto Z3 Play

This all leads into our final verdict on the Moto Z3 Play. It is incredibly easy to be disappointed with Moto for gimping battery life, and it would not be unjustified. The fact of the matter is, the new Z3 Play no longer has the same target market that embraced the Z Play series back in the day.
moto z3 play quick toggles
The Z3 Play comes across now like a more premium midrange phone. We really like the changes to the display and more capable performance. If we were reviewing this phone absent of battery life considerations, though, the performance difference is not enough to stand out. Giving up incredible battery life has given up what makes the Z Play unique.

More confusingly, Motorola has just announced the Moto Z3 which targets the same price bracket of circa $500. Many of the specifications are identical to the Z3 Play save for the SoC which trades the Snapdragon 636 for a beefier Snapdragon 835. The Moto Z3 even steps down to the exact same 1080p+ 2:1 display found on our Moto Z3 Play here. Faced with a decision where the pricing is the same and, in either case, buyers will need a battery mod to see usage span multiple days, the presumably-faster sibling may be a more attractive option.
moto z3 play power pack rear
Whatever Motorola is thinking, we hope to see a return to differentiation soon. The Moto Z family has been one of the more stand-out innovations in smartphones we have seen in years.
moto z3 play box
While many of the Moto Mods have failed to gain traction, there is something to be said for the snap on power packs. Yes, other phones can use battery cases to similar effect, but none match the integration and convenience that Moto’s solutions afford.
moto z3 play screen angle

Never-the-less, the Moto Z3 Play is an excellent, if less exciting, midrange phone. Battery abusers, such as myself, can still fallback on mods to fill the gap while more traditional users can enjoy a more fluid experience all around. It may not be the battery life champion we once knew, but it still delivers a good experience and seriously strong battery life, as long as you don't mind snapping on its Power Pack mod. 
approved hh
 hot not 
  • Stronger midrange performance
  • Ultrawide 2:1 HD OLED display
  • Great camera features
  • Fingerprint location hard to miss
  • Intuitive Moto actions
  • Power Pack mod included in box
  • Full Moto Mod compatibility
  • Decreased battery life from prior generations
  • Increased cost
  • Power Pack Mod can't charge independently

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