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Moto Z review: Motorola proves modular smartphones are the future of mobility

Florence Ion | July 22, 2016
Completely unadorned, Motorola's new flagship phone is a solid performer. But once you add in swappable modules, you can configure the smartphone of your dreams.

Just as I was getting settled into the idea that Motorola had found a winning formula for its flagship line, Lenovo had to swoop in, buy the company, and rile things up. Indeed, last year’s Moto X Pure Edition was a great phone, but now under Lenovo’s corporate banner, Motorola gives us the Moto Z—and it’s the most sophisticated smartphone I’ve seen from Motorola since the first Android-powered Droid landed in 2009.

Gone are the campy, plasticky Moto X models of the past. This is Motorola with a renewed sense of self.

The Moto Z is as futuristic-looking as it is future-facing. It has much the same level of high-end specs and components as it competitors, but it packs an extra punch. Those Moto Mods you might have heard about? They snap into the back of the Moto Z, and extend the phone’s capabilities with extra battery life, name-brand fashion aesthetics, better sound, and even a portable projector that can display a 70-inch image. In a word: It’s impressive. And the Moto Mods’ mere existence is a great indicator that Motorola can thrive under Lenovo’s wing.

Motorola’s best looking phone

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Florence Ion

The Moto Z is a seriously stunning phone. 

The Moto Z is one of the thinnest smartphones available—and this is both a blessing and a curse. The phone is 5.2mm thick, which out-slims both the Nexus 6P and OnePlus 3’s 7.3mm chassis. That said, you might find the Moto Z a bit too slim. However beautiful the design may be, the phone feels a bit flimsy without a Moto Mod snapped on, and it becomes almost scalding hot if it’s charging when you’re playing a game. Sans Moto Mods, it’s not the easiest phone to gab with either, since it isn’t thick enough to comfortably cradle with your shoulder, and it can easily slip out of your hand.

All that said, the Moto Z comes with a free, snap-in Style Shell that adds a bit more girth to the phone, and also helps reduce the amount of heat that reaches your skin.

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Florence Ion

The Moto Z completely unadorned. Notice how the glass over the display curves down into the edges. 

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Florence Ion

Again, completely sans Moto Mods. The Moto Z’s rear-facing camera lens pops out a bit, but it doesn’t protrude as much with the Style Shell snapped on.

Sure, we have a few quibbles, but this by far the most sophisticated Motorola smartphone we’ve seen. I really like how the glass on top of the display cascades down into the phone’s edges. It’s as if there’s no bezel whatsoever, though that feeling quickly dissipates once you turn on the display.


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