It’s not easy being an Android phone maker in 2018. Even if you throw everything you’ve got at a phone (paging LG G7 and HTC U12 Plus), success is not guaranteed. Even if you come up with a legitimately great phone, good luck convincing customers to choose it over a million other options.
In this hard knock life, Lenovo-owned Motorola has one serious advantage – it’s doing its own thing. Motorola’s modular platform may not be a runaway success, but at least it offers a unique selling point and a clear differentiator. Enter the Moto Z3 Play, an iterative update to a template that hasn’t changed much since its launch.
Motorola’s modular platform may not be a runaway success, but at least it offers a unique selling point
Here’s everything you need to know about the Moto Z3 Play.
Moto pulls a Sony
This may have been the impetus to relocate the front fingerprint scanner. Yep, much like Sony’s older phones, Lenovo has added a side-mounted fingerprint scanner to the Moto Z3 Play. After all, a rear scanner isn’t exactly feasible due to the phone’s support for Moto Mods, while in-display scanners a la Vivo X21 are reserved for flagship devices, at least for now.
Motorola’s approach differs from Sony’s in that the company hasn’t integrated the scanner into the power button. Combining the two makes for a slower fingerprint scanner, the company claims.
Motorola remains faithful to the Mods concept it launched two years ago. It’s no surprise therefore that the Moto Z3 Play remains compatible with more than a dozen Mods, giving you everything from a larger battery, to bigger sound, or even a pico-projector.
The company says about 35 percent of its customers use a Mod with their phones, up from 20 to 25 percent when the concept was launched. In the US, the Moto Z3 Play will be bundled with a battery Mod, while in other markets the company will offer a speaker.
Thin form factor, Gorilla Glass 3
The Moto Z3 Play is 6.75 millimeters thin, which is pretty great, but actually a little thicker than the 6-millimeter Z2 Play. And it’s not because of a larger battery – the Z3 Play keeps the same 3,000 mAh unit as its predecessor. Moto’s Turbo Charging feature should alleviate any pains though, offering seven hours of charge with 15 minutes of charge.
The Moto Z3 Play is covered with Gorilla Glass 3, front and back. The manufacturer told us it chose this older Gorilla Glass variant because it provides the same scratch resistance as the current gen.
Gestures instead of keys
Aside from the fingerprint scanner and tall screen, the Moto Z3 Play also features an Android P-like gesture navigation system. It’s unclear whether this can be disabled in favor of traditional capacitive keys, but we’d be very surprised if the new navigation system was the only option.
Moto Z3 Play features an Android P-like gesture navigation system
On the Z2 Play, you could swipe on the fingerprint scanner. On the Z3 Play, you swipe instead on a bar at the bottom of the homescreen. Swipe left to go back, swipe right to open the recent apps, tap once to go home. Simple!
With iOS and Android P moving towards full gesture-based interfaces, it’s likely that the trend will catch on most new phones. Motorola was ahead of the trend here, so there’s that.
Moto’s Play series is known for offering a nice mix of features at a relatively affordable price. To make that possible, Motorola saved some money on components like the processor and memory. That’s the case with the Moto Z3 Play too – you get a Snapdragon 636 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage (in the unlocked version that will be sold in the U.S.), while other markets will also get a version with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
Check out our Moto Z3 Play specs post for a full specs and features rundown.
Dual cameras are par for the course in 2018, even on budget devices, and the Moto Z3 Play is not left behind.
The latest Moto phone gets a 12MP f/1.7 main camera and 5MP secondary camera. Of course, this enables depth-of-field tricks and a portrait mode.
Moto is also touting a few more camera-related tricks, as previously leaked. These features include cinemagraphs, spot color effects (turning an image monochrome, save for a selected area/color), and the ability to cut out and replace backgrounds.
Camera features include cinemagraphs, spot color effects, and the ability to cut out and replace backgrounds.
Switch to the front-facing camera and we see an 8MP f/2.0 snapper, which makes for a solid resolution boost over the older phones. The company has slapped portrait mode on the front too, using software processing instead of depth information from two cameras.
All in all, the Moto Z3 Play ticks the boxes for a mid-range smartphone camera experience in 2018. But if all you care about is a no-frills photography experience, you’re looking at what seems to be the same main camera as the Z2 Play (down to aperture, pixel size and lack of OIS). Here’s hoping Lenovo has tuned the image processing, then.
Software and updates
Like other Moto devices, the Z3 Play packs relatively few customizations to the stock Android foundation. Staples like shake to take a picture are present, but the biggest change is probably the gesture-based navigation system, which stock Android will only get with Android P.
The Moto Z3 Play runs Android 8.1. Company representatives said the phone will receive updates to Android P and Android Q, and the latter update will arrive “not too long” after Google officially releases it this summer.
Moto Z3 Play price and availability
In the U.S., the Moto Z3 Play will be sold for $499 unlocked, bundled with a battery Moto Mod. The phone will work on all major carriers in North America.
In other regions, the phone will be bundled with a speaker Mod.
We’ll update this post as more Moto Z3 Play price, release date, and availability details emerge.
More Moto Z3 Play coverage
Interested in the Moto Z3 Play? Here’s our other in-depth coverage:
What do you think about the Moto Z3 Play? Let us know in the comments!