Moto Z review

The world's thinnest smartphone is also the best modular phone

Moto Z review
Moto Z review

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Moto Z takes the modular accessory idea we liked so much about the LG G5 and actually makes it work with better add-ons and an easier-to-use snap-on design.

It's an Android phone that performs well right now and the potential behind its future accessories hold a lot of promise down the road. Usually when we talk about mid-cycle upgrades, we're strictly talking about new software. Moto Z could take on new form at any time.

Moto Z review

We liked

MotoMods really make this smartphone desireable. Right now, there are textured shells, fashionable battery cases, a powerful-enough JBL speaker and a bright-enough mini projector, and they're all great ideas that take advantage of the magnetic back pins.

The design is already incredibly thin, so the extra thickness isn't an impractical trade-off. The accessories, sensor-filled Moto Active display and fingerprint sensor that wakes and puts the phone to sleep are what make this phone stand out from the other half-dozen flagships with a Snapdragon 820 processor.

moto z review

We disliked

There is such a thing as being too thin in the smartphone world, and the Moto Z is at that point. Without a 3.5mm headphone jack, it requires an aux to USB cable that's included, but a pain to remember to bring everywhere. We will likely lose it before we finishing typing up this review. Then there's the less than stellar 2,600mAh battery capacity that is so small and giant camera bump that anything but flush with the phone – both a result of Moto Z's ultra-thin size.

The phone design is likeable at the base level and its mods and shells give us some flair of your choosing, but it's a fingerprint magnet no matter what. It's fingerprint sensor and front logo also take up way too much space on the front of the chin of the device. While there's no Verizon logo on there too, the carrier's time-exclusivity and uninstallable app can't be missed in the US right now.

moto z review

Final verdict

Moto Z isn't the first or last modular phone, but it's the first time we liked the idea on an Android device and see the potential behind building out our smartphone with new accessories. Options like a pico projector and attachable boom box are creative enough at launch that they could inspire a new way of thinking about how we use phones. Moto Z is more than just an unchanging sheet glass and metal.

The more boring LG G5 didn't live up to that promise and Google's Project Ara, while more ambitious, isn't ready for mainstream consumers just yet. The Moto Z falls somewhere in between, and delivers on everyone's standard smartphone needs too: a fast processor, enough memory and internal storage, and a solid performing camera except in low light. Its battery life and audio delivered via USB-C are major hurdles, but as long as you know about them going in, or find (or create) a future mod to correct the issues, there's no reason to automatically bypass Motorola as an also-ran in your best phone buying decision.

Matt Swider