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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.

We’ll dig into all the mods in detail in future reviews. For now, we can say that Lenovo, or Motorola, or whoever developed this modular methodology, deserves serious accolades. This is definitely the right way to add modular components to a smartphone (sorry, LG), and by promising “forward compatibility” with future Moto phones, it’s clear that Motorola sees Moto Modding as the next evolution in mobility.

13 capable megapixels

My first few months with the first-gen Moto X were awful. That device was my primary camera phone, and produced some of the worst photos I’ve ever shot. It wasn’t until last year’s Moto X Pure Edition, which boasted a whopping 21-megapixel camera, that we started to see substantially better image quality from Motorola.

motoz testshot2

The Moto Z’s photos are sharp and heavily contrasted. You might notice some overexposure when shooting on bright days.

motoz testshot

The picture is clear, though the background colors could have been more vibrant and life-like.

Enter the Moto Z, which vastly improves upon the Pure Edition despite having a rear-facing camera with “only” 13 megapixels. The new camera’s aperture is f/1.8, which puts it on par with the G5’s, and helps when shooting in low-light situations. The Moto Z’s camera also boasts laser autofocus and optical image stabilization (OIS), which have become key features for any marquee smartphone.

I wasn’t expecting photo quality this good given my past experiences with Motorola’s cameras, but I’m glad to have been proven wrong. To be sure, the Moto Z’s low-light abilities are substantially better than its predecessor’s. There are still a few issues with overexposure when shooting in bright sunlight, however, and I’m still curious to see how the Moto Z’s camera stacks up to its just-released sibling, the Moto Z Force, which boasts a 21-megapixel camera.

motox vs motoz lowlight

The Moto Z’s low light performance (right) is substantially better than what last year’s Moto X Pure Edition could muster, despite its 21-megapixel camera.

motoz zoomin

Unfortunately, the Moto Z’s 13-megapixel camera shows its limitations when you zoom in. 

The Moto Z’s 5-megapixel front-facing camera is pretty capable, too, and I enjoyed shooting self-reflecting vignettes for Snapchat with the phone. I can see Lenovo’s influence with the automatic beautify feature that’s been added to the camera app, and it’s nice that my phone smooths out my face so I don’t have to. We should all appreciate a little help from the computer once in a while. 


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