Songs such as David Guetta’s Titanium are the kind that inspire you. The track speaks of being invincible and bulletproof, and is sure to give you strength on the kind of days when you need it. Unfortunately when it comes to smartphones, most are anything but indestructible. The smallest drop can put a crack in your screen that will cost a lot of money to fix. Simply put, you have everything to lose. Unfortunately, dropping phones has become a part of our lives now. It’s impossible to be that careful with an object you use for many hours a day and pull out of your pocket numerous times.
However, iconic smartphone maker Motorola offered just that when it launched the Moto X Force two years ago in India. It came with a guarantee that its screen would not break, thanks to Moto’s ShatterShield technology for smartphone screens. Naturally, the phone was a success, and it’s still available to buy even today despite its dated hardware. Soon after, Moto moved on to its modular approach, starting with the Moto Z and Moto Z Play, and the shatterproof concept was seemingly left behind.
Today, we’re reviewing the new Moto Z2 Force. Priced at Rs 34,999, we see Lenovo-owned Motorola bringing back a premium product to India after 2016’s flagship modular Moto Z. The Moto Z2 Force comes with the same ShatterShield display and guarantee of screen durability as the Moto X Force and The Moto Z Force before it, and also brings flagship specifications and the benefits of Moto’s modular functionality. We review this flagship device that hopes to challenge the dominance of OnePlus, Apple and Samsung over the premium market in India.
Moto Z2 Force Design
Motorola has invested considerable time and effort on its modular functionality for its Z-series phones and is indeed the only major manufacturer pushing the idea of attachable modules. While LG tried it with the G5, the Korean company’s approach was panned and abandoned entirely a year later. In comparison, Moto’s concept and approach are far more sound, and the company has backed the idea with regular Mod launches. Being a Z-series device, the Moto Z2 Force adheres to the Mod-friendly design that Moto has pushed since 2016.
What’s worth mentioning here is that Motorola doesn’t build its Mods for individual devices; the Mods are designed to work on any Moto Z-series phone available. This means that Mods designed for the Moto Z and Z Play back in 2016 will work even with the Moto Z2 Force, while any new modules work with old devices as well. What this also means is that the Moto Z2 Force needs to adhere to the same rear design as the other Z-series phones, and is thus the same size as every other Z-series phone.
While the Moto Z Force strangely had glass at the back (users complained that the screen wouldn’t shatter on drops but the same couldn’t be said for the back), the Z2 Force switches to metal. The magnetic clamping remains in place for the Mods to securely snap on, while the camera module is also the same shape as before. However, the circular module on the Z2 Force comes with a horizontally-positioned dual-camera setup and dual-tone LED flash. At the bottom are the contact points that connect the Mods to the phone, and at the front you’ll find the fingerprint sensor below the screen. You’ll also notice the dual-tone LED flash at the top next to the earpiece.
The phone is quite slim, with the power and volume keys on the right, the hybrid SIM slot at the top and the USB Type-C port at the bottom. It’s important to point out that the phone does not have a 3.5mm jack, but comes with a USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box. Thanks to its sharp edges, bulging camera module and large footprint, it does occasionally feel unwieldy. While most flagship phones today are sporting the new taller 18:9 aspect ratio for their screens, the Moto Z2 Force still sports the now antiquated 16:9 ratio. This is perhaps the only upsetting part of the phone’s design, and I did struggle to adapt to the smaller screen now that I’m used to having a large tall screen on my smartphone.
Moto Z2 Force Specifications, Software and Performance
Make no mistake; the Moto Z2 Force is a flagship smartphone with specifications that underline its credentials. The phone features a 5.5-inch QHD AMOLED screen, Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC, 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. The device sold in India comes with dual-SIM connectivity, with a hybrid slot that lets you choose between a second SIM or expandable storage. The device also comes with a 2730mAh battery, which might sound a bit small and inadequate at first. More on that later though.
For the devices sold in India, the Moto Z2 Force comes with Android Oreo out-of-the-box. The UI overlay is Motorola’s typical iteration of near-stock Android, with minimal tweaks and customization. It does indeed feel close to what you’d expect on the Pixel, but does have some meaningful changes that add some character to the device as one built by Motorola. In the interest of keeping things light and efficient, you’ll find the Z2 Force using Google-built apps such as Photos, Calendar and Messages as the default apps instead of adding to the factory-installed app list.
One of the noteworthy Motorola additions is of course the Moto app, which controls the specialized Moto experiences that the company has developed and pushed on its devices. Some of these may feel gimmicky, but others are genuinely useful, and I truly found myself depending on these as I got used to the Moto Z2 Force. Of these, the Moto Actions set is likely to be the one users use the most. The twist for camera and chop for flashlight gestures may sound gimmicky, but I did use them a lot. Additionally, the fingerprint sensor gestures are also useful, as they let you get rid of the on-screen navigation keys and maximize your available screen space.
Moto Display may have been unique to Motorola when it was new, but it’s something we see on many smartphones today. Moto’s implementation of the technology is intelligent, and it usually activates when you approach the phone with your hand or lift it up. This lets you quickly check for notifications, read into them or respond, all without unlocking the phone. While a lot of people criticize Motorola for not having a notification light on its newer phones, this is a much more useful implementation that effectively does away with the need for a notification light at all.
Moto Voice is perhaps the gimmickiest of the experiences and the one I used the least, but its ability to work offline and effectively does have some utility. It works effectively to open apps, show you the weather or your schedule, and the like. All of this is, of course, assuming you’re comfortable with talking to your phone or have a lot of cases where your hands may not be free to control these functions.
When it comes to performance, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 under the hood keeps things running smoothly. You’re assured flagship-grade performance with the Moto Z2 Force, helped along by 6GB of RAM that helps with both multi-tasking and handling of high-intensity tasks. In my personal experience, I’ve found the OnePlus 5T to be just marginally better when it comes to performance, being just slightly faster thanks to the quality of Oxygen OS and 8GB of RAM. However, the Moto Z2 Force isn’t too far behind, and offers a smooth, stable, power-packed experience in its own right. The fingerprint sensor is also quick, accurate and won’t give you any trouble.
Moto Z2 Force Mods and Battery Life
Motorola first introduced its modular concept with the Moto Z back in 2016, and continues to actively support the idea. The Moto Z2 Force is the fifth phone in the series to function with Moto Mods, the range of modular accessories for the Moto Z-series. As mentioned, all Mods and Moto Z devices are designed to a standard specification, which enables the universal compatibility of the phones.
The range of Mods is steadily growing, and Moto has recently introduced a gamepad Mod that improves the handheld gaming experience on the Moto Z series. Other newly introduced Mods are the JBL Soundboost 2 speaker, and Turbo Power battery pack. In India, Motorola is bundling the Turbo Power Mod with the phone at no additional cost, which adds value to the deal and gives buyers a start into the Mod ecosystem from the purchase itself.
The Turbo Power Mod isn’t quite as flashy as the JBL Soundboost 2 or Hasselblad Zoom Mod, but it’s incredibly useful. During my time with the Moto Z2 Force, I only charged the phone once directly using the Turbo Power charger, and that too only to get an idea of how long the phone takes to charge. It’s worth pointing out here that battery life on the Moto Z2 Force is below average, thanks to the battery being just 2,730mAh.
However, the Turbo Power Mod changed the way I charged and used the phone. The Mod has a 3,490mAh battery of its own, which can charge the Moto Z2 Force up to about 80 percent from zero. Without getting into the nitty gritty of battery capacity numbers, the practical implication of this is that you have 180 percent of battery at the start of the day if you’ve charged both the phone and mod to capacity. This effectively means that you get well over a full day of battery, which can get close to two full days if your usage is moderate. This is made possible by simply adding a bit of bulk to your phone for about an hour every day, which is a completely reasonable concession for what you’re getting.
The Turbo Power Mod charges your phone at Turbo Power speed, ensuring that you get that 80 percent boost in about one hour. Even off the charger, the phone and Mod will completely charge up in a little over an hour each, so you get the benefits of fast charging on both. This also meant that at no point in time during my use of the Moto Z2 Force did I need to be away from it while it was plugged into the charger.
I would simply charge the Turbo Power Mod (which I didn’t necessarily need with me always) and connect that to the phone when the battery was running low. On occasions when I was out and didn’t have access to my charger, I had the convenience of the securely attached Mod that could quickly charge the phone when the battery ran low. While I haven’t used any of the other Mods during this review, my positive experience with the Turbo Power Mod makes me very optimistic about the usefulness of the ecosystem on a practical and everyday basis.
Moto Z2 Force Shattershield Display
The ‘Force’ in the name of the phone indicates the device’s biggest feature; the Shattershield display. Using specially developed Motorola technology, the phone has been designed so that its screen is reinforced to protect from damage during drops. This is something I’ve tested even with the Moto X Force, which was the first phone from Motorola to feature Shattershield technology. On the Moto Z2 Force, the technology has been improved and continues to be guaranteed against a reasonable level of abuse.
We’re usually careful with review units here at BGR India, and we’re proud to say we’ve never seriously damaged a phone that we’ve reviewed. Naturally, it was hard for us to deliberately drop the Moto Z2 Force to test the Shattershield display, but we did put it through some basic level of abuse onto the carpeted floors of our office during our review. However, the true test of the technology happened completely by accident, and I’m happy to report that the Moto Z2 Force came through in that test.
During my time with the phone, one evening, I had the phone placed on my lap. As I got up, the phone accidentally flew off and landed with a clattering sound a few feet away onto the hard floor. This is the kind of crash that would have destroyed most smartphone screens, with the phone having landed perfectly on its corner. Had I been using any other smartphone, I’d have been worried sick. But that day, I blinked sleepily, got up unconcerned, picked up the Moto Z2 Force and went back to whatever I was doing. Sure enough, the phone and screen worked fine. There is a small ding on the metal frame to serve as a souvenir of that day though.
Moto Z2 Force Camera
The Moto Z2 Force sticks to the fashion of having a dual-camera setup, and uses a combination of two 12-megapixel sensors at the back. The primary sensor is an RGB one, while the secondary sensor is monochrome. You also get dual-tone LED flash at both the front and the back, with a 5-megapixel front camera. It’s possible to shoot video at up to 4K resolution at 30fps, full-HD video at 60fps or 120fps for slow-motion, and 720p video at 240fps slow-motion. The camera setup enables depth-effect shots with the rear camera, better light and information capture thanks to the monochrome sensor, and true monochrome shooting.
While we’ve criticized Motorola’s dual-camera setups in the past, it seems that the company has finally got things in order with the Moto Z2 Force. Good pictures in portrait mode have typically been a struggle for Moto devices, but the Moto Z2 Force takes surprisingly good portrait shots. This works with both people and objects, with the camera accurately and effectively capturing depth information to detect the foreground and background. Pictures taken have a strong character, and objects or people in the foreground tend to pop out, as is expected from a good portrait shot.
The use of an RGB plus monochrome setup also assists in low-light photography, as the monochrome sensor enables capture of more light information, with the RGB concentrating on getting color information. This shows on the Moto Z2 Force, and low-light pictures are noticeably good. There’s plenty of detail visible, with only minimal washing out of bright zones in the photos. The tuning of the camera is set to take advantage of the dual-camera setup, and you see a great combination of detail and color in the pictures.
In regular lighting conditions as well, the images are excellent. While you will likely get sharper and more detailed pictures from the top camera phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and Apple iPhone X, the Moto Z2 Force produces pictures that pop. The pictures are refreshingly vibrant, capturing bright colors particularly well and enhancing their visibility ever so slightly in the image to make them more defined. The colors in images shot by the Moto Z2 Force are arguably better than anything else you can find today.
I also particularly enjoyed having the option to shoot in true monochrome. While other devices such as the Honor View10 also have the ability to shoot in true black-and-white, the Moto Z2 Force’s true monochrome is particularly good. Switching to true black-and-white lets you capture much more detail, which is useful in low-light conditions. Images tend to have the same level of impact as color pictures, and it’s a useful feature to have on the phone. Take a look at our sample images to get an idea of what you can expect from the camera of the Moto Z2 Force.
The Moto Z2 Force sits in an awkward position as far as its credentials as a flagship smartphone are concerned. There’s no doubt that it’s a flagship device. It’s just that Motorola has a tough task ahead of it to establish itself as a flagship to take seriously. This is because between Samsung, Apple and OnePlus, the premium smartphone space is covered. While buyers with no budget restrictions may prefer options such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, Apple iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone X, or even the Google Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL, customers looking for more value and affordability will consider the Rs 32,999 6GB/64GB variant of the OnePlus 5T or Honor View10. The Moto Z2 Force sits smack in the middle of these segments.
However, if I may opine on this, the Moto Z2 Force deserves to be help in comparison to the excellent OnePlus 5T. Sure, it’s slightly more expensive, but it also offers serious value for that slight premium in the form of its shatterproof screen and modular capability. The sheer peace of mind that an unbreakable screen affords you, as well as the simple elegance of the modular functionality on the Moto Z-series phones are well worth those few extra thousand rupees. However, the screen size and dimensions, as well as the fact that the OnePlus 5T does have that slight edge over the Moto Z2 Force in performance, may make it a better option if that’s what you want.
The Moto Z2 Force is a superb phone on the whole, and the feature set helps it stand out among the other flagship phones available today. In the shatterproof screen and modular capability, you’re getting something that no other phone today can offer you. If you’re looking for something different, the Moto Z2 Force is a premium smartphone we’re happy to recommend.