Moto Z Review: Meet the thinnest and the most innovative phone ever.

Motorola has been away from the Kenyan market for a while. Since it’s parent company, Lenovo, has a presence in the country, it was only a matter of time before they brought back Moto phones. The brand is now back with a bang touting an innovative device that makes the bold claim of being the thinnest premium device in the world. Is this phone enough to get people back on the Moto wagon? Find out in this in-depth review.

Design 

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The design of the Moto Z is by far it’s biggest appeal. The claim of the thinnest premium phone in the world is not just marketing buzz. This phone is truly slim. The rear and the camera ring glitter when light falls on them. You are sure to turn a lot of heads while using the Moto Z.

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The front is all glass and the back is a combination of glass and a material that looks like metal with subtle lines. The lines resemble those of solar panels. Still on the back, there is a protruding camera bump. For those who hate such bumps, there is a Moto shell mod cover that nicely levels the bump with the rest of the body.
Below the display are 4 circular components. The 2 big circles are sensors for aiding with Moto Display feature. The other 2 pin sized circles are mics for the Moto Voice feature that will be discussed later in this review. This components are completely invisible in the black model in case they don’t sit well with you.

Display

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The display is a 5.5 inch AMOLED panel with a QHD (2560*1440) resolution. That works out to an amazing 535 pixels per inch . With that kind of resolution, texts and all small details are very vivid and sharp.
The AMOLED has toned down colors unlike the screens from Samsung. Despite that, the colors still pop much more than a typical LCD. There is a setting to turn the  color to be a little more realistic if you want. I wouldn’t recommend it though, once you feast your eyes to the “vibrant”  mode, you wouldn’t wanna go back.

Performance

A snapdragon 820 chipset coupled with 4GB RAM powers the phone. This is the exact same configuration found in the Samsung Galaxy S7. The performance is really off the charts. I never experienced even one stutter during my time with the phone. However, the phone gets hot when playing intensive games. The hardware is well complimented by the stock software that is pre-installed.

Software

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Moto Z being a former child of Google, the company being Android, comes in a stock software package. At launch, the phone comes with Android 6.0 but the new version, 7.0 Nougat,  has already been released as an Over-The-Air (OTA) update.
Only one app is non-stock, the Moto App. This is the hub of all the magic that makes the Moto Z’s software special. It hosts moto voice which lets you use your own custom phrase to wake the phone and give oral commands. The phone has 4 mics so you can rest assured that it will hear your command. I even tried it in a noisy room and it responded. No worrying about your African accent, chances are the Moto Z will understand your command clearly.

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The Moto Display feature uses the two proximity sensors below the screen.  When you wave your hand above the display or take the phone out of your pocket, the display automatically turns on to show you your notifications.
The remaining sections of moto app is called Moto Actions, it helps to set up gestures for doing various things such as muting the phone, opening the camera app and so forth. My favorite gesture is double pressing the power key to open the Camera app, it works every time.

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Since a 5.5 inch is too big for most people to operate with one hand, Moto Z comes with a thoughtful one handed mode. To activate it, you just swipe your finger up from the on screen keys. It is part of the options in the Moto Actions suite. Tapping on the black screen area deactivates it.

Telephony and multimedia
This is the section that has the most surprises. First of all, the Moto Z has its loud speaker at the earpiece above the display. It is loud enough to listen to music and do hands free calls. Normal calls are also very audible and sufficiently loud.
In the multimedia department. Watching  movies in this screen is a pleasure. The AMOLED reality does justice to videos. Couple that with a loudspeaker Moto Mod and you are in for quite an experience.
The other surprise comes in the music listening department. The Moto Z has no 3.5mm head phone jack instead it outputs audio via the USB-C port. Fortunately, there is a adapter in the box that coverts the USB port into a head phone jack so now you can still use your favorite earphones, just make sure not to lose the adapter. In case you do, you can stream music via Bluetooth as you look for USB-type C earphones.
The music produced via the earphones is loud and clear, the bass is decent and the vocals are very articulate. You will find yourself discovering new beats in your favorite songs.

Camera 

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The rear camera is 13 MP with optical image stabilization for shooting blur free pics and shake free videos. There is a laser auto focus that ensures quick focus speeds. The camera can record upto 4k resolution  videos. Pictures on the camera look great especially under bright light. There is auto HDR which really works perfectly making sure there are no overexposed pictures at any given time . Professional mode is also onboard, this mode helps the pros gets creative with photography. Low light pics are okay if you use the dual LED flash. Not using the flash results in dull pictures that can only be savaged with the professional mode. In overall images produced have lots of detail and great dynamic range. The colors are saturated which really breaths life into the photos.

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A 5MP selfie graces the front of the device. This is a unique camera that houses an arsenal of features to make your selfie great. It has beautification mode which can either be manual or automatic. There is a flash for bright low light selfies. A professional mode also exists too, this feature is usually rare on front facing cameras. In addition, HDR selfies are also at your disposal. The quality is the selfies is really amazing. The camera is wide angle so your can easily fit many people in it. The pictures have saturated color rendering and details are well captured.

Battery

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Motorola insists that the device can give a whole day of battery life. Looking at the battery capacity of only 2600mAh powering a 5.5 inch QHD screen I was skeptical of that claim. I have seen phones with such small batteries struggling at pushing half this resolution. Well I was pleasantly surprised by the Moto Z. If you use the phone sparingly, it can achieve that kind of longevity. During standby, the phone almost doesn’t consume any battery life at all,  it seems Motorola really optimized the device. The only thing that’s seems to take a toll on the battery is activating Internet connection. If you go easy on the Internet surfing, the battery will last you a whole day. I once lasted 2 days without charging the device while using it to take photos, notes and some gaming.
When it comes to charging, the Moto Z is a champ. The Turbo Power charger that comes with the device is the fastest I have ever used. It only takes slightly over an hour to charge from 0-100%.

Moto Mods

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This is the headline feature of the Moto Z. Moto Mods are basically hardware attachments that are magnetically connected to the device to extend its functionality. The back of the Moto Z has pics that integrate seamless with other pins on the mods.
The good people at Lenovo have us a JBL Sound Boost Mod for testing. It’s a two speaker unit with a built in kickstand. The unit attaches easily to the device and instantly outputs the audio from the phone. It is super loud and crisp. Even at the highest volume level it doesn’t distort. I found myself using it a lot when showing videos to a group of friends or playing a game.
Other mods are available such as a power pack mod for extra battery, an insta-share mod which serves as a portable projector, and moto shell for personalizing the back cover. You get one moto shell in the box.
There is a lot of potential in this mods and we are happy to see that other manufacturers are adopting them such as the keyboard mod being crowd funded at Indiegogo.

Conclusion 

The Moto Z is an amazing phone that I would recommend to anyone looking for a unique high end device. It has slimmest dimensions in the world, a beautiful AMOLED display, great pictures, decent battery life coupled with super fast charging, chart topping performance, and lastly, the advanced Moto Mods.
Its competitors include the class leading Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, the HTC 10 which is very rare in Kenya, the one plus 3 such has the same screen size and internals but for a lower price tag, and the LG G5 which comes has its own solution for moto mods. None of this however gives you a powerful package in such a thin head turning form factor.

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About the Author: Dennis Mathu