The Moto Z is the first non-Google phone to be Daydream-ready

Julian Chokkattu
Digital Trends
motorola moto z news droid edition lifestyle
motorola moto z news droid edition lifestyle

The Verizon-exclusive Moto Z Droid and the Moto Z Force Droid smartphones have been out for some time, along with a handful of Moto Mods. Now, Lenovo-owned Motorola is announcing a third device under the new Z line — the Moto Z Play Droid — and this one’s got a headphone jack. There’s also a new camera mod called the Hasselblad True Zoom that turns your Moto Z phone into a point-and-shoot camera.

Now, the phones are set to get even better with a Nougat update that will make the phones the first non-Google devices to be Daydream compatible. In other words, you’ll be able to slip the phones into the Google Daydream View or other Daydream headsets to enjoy the best mobile virtual reality experience to date.

More: The Moto Z Play will reportedly ditch a sleeker profile in favor of a headphone jack

As far as the phones themselves go, here’s everything you need to know.

All three devices are available in the U.S., but the Moto Z Force Droid will not be sold outside the country. The international names of the Moto Z Droid and the Moto Z Play Droid are the Moto Z and the Moto Z Play, respectively. Pre-orders for the GSM unlocked Moto Z and the Moto Z Play have begun through Motorola’s website, Best Buy, and Amazon. The devices are available as of October.

Per a recent statement from a Motorola spokesperson, customers should “expect to see Android N on the Moto Z family beginning in Q4.” And with Q4 around the corner, you will have Android Nougat on your Z family phone soon.

You can check out our review of the Moto Z Droid and the Moto Z Force Droid here, and you can expect one soon for the Moto Z Play.

Moto Z Play

The Moto Z Play aesthetically isn’t too different from its older brothers. The Moto logo on the bottom has now moved to the top, the flash and the camera on the front seem to have switched places, and the rear doesn’t have any lines at the top or the bottom — there’s a rounded-line pattern emanating from the camera, which sticks out just as much as before.

Of course, the 16-pin magnet connector that brings the Moto Mods to life is present, along with the front fingerprint sensor, and the volume and power buttons that sit on the right side of the device. But you’ll be happy to know that the 3.5mm headphone jack is present on the bottom of the device — Motorola controversially removed it for the Moto Z and Moto Z Force, forcing people to use the included converter, or buy USB Type-C headphones or Bluetooth earbuds.

The Play is slightly heavier and bigger than the other two Moto Z devices, but only marginally. It has the same Adreno 530 GPU, but it’s powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 625 and has 3GB of RAM. That’s a downgrade from the Snapdragon 820, which powers most flagships, and 4GB RAM on the Moto Z and the Moto Z Force. You’ll only get a 32GB storage option, but China will get a 64GB variant as well. Thankfully, there’s MicroSD support so you can add 2TB of additional storage.

The 5.5-inch Super AMOLED Moto Z Play also goes a step lower in resolution — it has 1920 x 1080 pixels, rather than the Quad HD screen for the other two. The rear camera has 16 megapixels, but the front has the same 5-megapixel-wide field of view as the Moto Z and Moto Z Force.

Interestingly, the Moto Z Play actually has a bigger battery than the other two devices, though it’s hardly an improvement. The Moto Z Force has a 3,500mAh battery, and the Moto Z Play offers 3,510mAh. You probably won’t notice a difference with the additional 10mAh.

The device runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow.

Moto Z

Design-wise, the Moto Z shifts from the Moto X form and opts for a more rectangular, but rounded device. On the back, you’ll find a large camera in the top-center, and 16 dots on the bottom. The dots come into play when you have a Moto Mod to attach.

The volume rocker buttons have been separated, and both, including the power button rest on the right side of the device. The front side features a fingerprint sensor on the bottom. Naturally, the device is running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, and luckily, it’s the near-stock Android experience we’ve seen in previous Motorola devices.

The Z is powered by the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor that’s in devices like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and the LG G5. It’s got a 5.5-inch, Quad HD AMOLED screen (2,560 x 1,440 pixels), 4GB of RAM, and comes with either 32GB or 64GB of storage. Thankfully, there’s MicroSD card support, and you can add up to a whopping 2 terabytes of additional storage.

The camera on the back is packed with 13 megapixels, and there’s optical-image stabilization to keep your shots and videos steady. You can film in 4K at 30 frames per second, and there’s a whole list of other functions such as the ability to scan QR codes and bar codes. The front camera only has 5 megapixels, but features a wide-angle lens to capture more content.

The Moto Z only has a 2,600mAh battery, but it features Motorola’s TurboPower technology, and a USB Type-C charging port that makes it charge faster — the company claims you can get up to 8 hours of power in 15 minutes of charging.

Moto Z Force

The Moto Z Force shares many of the same attributes as the standard Moto Z, but the camera packs 21 megapixels rather than 13, the battery is upgraded to 3,500mAh, and it boasts a shatterproof display — it uses the same ShatterShield technology behind the Droid Turbo 2.

Everything else is more or less the same on the Force, from the fingerprint sensor on the front, to the colors that the devices will be available in: Black with a grey trim and black front lens; black with rose gold trim and black front lens; and “fine gold” and a while front lens.

You can read our review of the Moto Z and Moto Z Force here.

Moto Mods info and pricing

Moto Mods embrace the concept of modular phones, but rather than tampering with the phone’s internals like LG does, Motorola is making things simple by just having people “snap” the mods on the back of the phone with magnets. Motorola is betting big on the snap feature, as evident in its new motto: “Snapping is the new flipping.”

Now that the phones are available for purchase, Motorola is also selling the Moto Mod developer kit that would allow developers to begin designing mods for the modular smartphone. The kit is $125, and includes a reference Moto Mod, an 80-pin connector on a perforated board, and a cover. You can learn more at Motorola’s developer portal.

Moto Mods

There’s a new mod in the Moto Mod family — the Hasselblad True Zoom. It’s not unlike LG’s Cam Plus mod, but the main difference is that Motorola’s offering 10x optical zoom lens. So the mod acts as a camera grip, with dedicated camera launch and shutter buttons. It doesn’t have an additional battery like LG’s, but the zoom toggle lets you capture close-up images at a distance.

The Hasselblad mod has 12-megapixels and can only shoot 1080p video at 30 frames-per-second. The BSI CMOS sensor size is 1/2.3 inches, and the aperture sits at f/3.5- 6.5. It features optical image stabilization for stills, and electronic image stablization for videos. It costs $250 when you buy it from Verizon, but Motorola is selling the mod for $300. As incentive, Verizon is offering 50 percent off another mod that’s priced the same or less. Pre-orders are open now, and it will be available on Sept. 15.

Moto Maker still exists, and you’ll be able to customize the phone’s base color (white or black) and metal frame. But the options to change the back material and color will come through the Style Shell Mod. Motorola is giving away a Style Shell with each device, so you’ll be able to attach a leather or wood back, or any other option that you choose.

Moto Mods attach to the back of the Moto Z and Z Force via the 16 dots on the back of the device, and they stay on thanks to four magnets. The company debuted the following alongside the Moto Z and the Moto Z Force: the JBL SoundBoost, Moto Insta-Share Projector, and Incipio OffGrid Power Pack. More will be trickling in, such as the Hasselblad True Zoom.

  • The JBL SoundBoost has two speakers built-in, and the audio technology is powered by JBL. In layman terms, it makes your music sound a lot better, and louder. There’s also an additional 1,000mAh battery, and the mod will use that battery first before tapping into the phone. It costs $80.
  • The Moto Insta-Share Projector lets you turn any wall into a 70-inch screen — too bad the resolution is a measly 854 x 480 pixels. There are some physical buttons on the mod that lets you control the power, settings, and adjust the focus. There’s also an additional 1,100mAh battery, which adds an additional hour of projection time. The projector runs $300.
  • There’s a Kate Spade Style Shell Moto Mod that will give your Moto Z a fashionable look, but there are also options to get the same design with a Power Pack or with Wireless Charging. The Kate Spade Style Shell Mod retails for  $80.
  • A basic Wireless Charging Power Pack from Tumi costs $90, and that will bring you an additional 2,220mAh battery to keep your phone alive for longer. Motorola also has a Wireless Charging Power Pack from Incipio listed for the same battery capacity.
  • The basic Power Pack from Tumi on Verizon has the same battery capacity of 2,220mAh, and it could cost $90.
  • The Hasselblad True Zoom turns you into a professional photographer thanks to optical image stabilization and a 10x optical zoom. It costs $250 from Verizon and $300 from Motorola. Pre-orders are now available on Motorola.com and Verizon, and the mod will officially be available on Sept. 15.

For the most part, the prices are a little steep for what you get, though Motorola’s likely hoping the simplicity of attaching these mods to your phone will win people over. More mods are on the way as the company opened up the process via a $125 developer kit. Lenovo will awarding $1 million in equity funding for whoever — an individual or company — creates the best Moto Mods by March 31, 2017.

The mods will be compatible with future Z-line phones, and the size and shape of the Z Mods will be the same for the next two generations.

The Moto Z is being touted as the “world’s thinnest premium smartphones” at 5.2mm. It’s not the thinnest; there’s the Vivo X5 Max and the Oppo R5 that have gone below the 5mm mark, but for a flagship device, it’s still remarkable. How did Motorola shave off a few layers? By removing the headphone jack.

That sounds controversial and wrong, but it’s something even Apple is rumored to do for the next iPhone. That doesn’t mean you have to get a pair of Bluetooth headphones though — you simply play music via the USB Type-C port. The only problem is you won’t be able to charge your phone while listening to music. Motorola isn’t the first company to do this — LeEco removed the headphone jack for most of its flagship devices, opting to force users to switch to using the USB Type-C port.

Don’t worry, you’ll still get an adapter in the box that allows you to continue using your current earbuds or headphones. Or you can opt for the Moto Z Play, which has a headphone jack.

Availability and pricing

The Moto Z Force Droid, the Moto Z Droid, and the Moto Z Play Droid are exclusive to Verizon. The former two have been available on Big Red’s network for a little over a month, and the Moto Z Play Droid got a head start over its unlocked variant. The Moto Z Play Droid is now available in the U.S. at Motorola.com and Verizon for $408. You can opt to use the network’s payment plan, which costs $17 per month for 24 months.

You can buy the Moto Z Droid and the Moto Z Force Droid, as the Verizon variants are known, at Best Buy or through Verizon. The Moto Z Droid starts at $624 or $26 a month on Verizon’s device payment plan, while the Moto Z Force Droid starts at a heftier $720 or $30 a month.

The Verizon versions feature the familiar “Droid” branding — the word is etched on the glass of the rear camera.

Unfortunately if you’re not on Verizon’s network, you’ll have to wait until October for the GSM unlocked variants of the Moto Z and the Moto Z Play. Pre-orders are open, but availability will only begin in October. The unlocked Moto Z costs $700, and the unlocked Moto Z Play will be priced at $450.

Sprint customers are left in the dust, as GSM compatibility means the devices will only work on T-Mobile and AT&T’s networks.

You can read all about the Mods here, the Moto Z here, and the Moto Z Force here on the company’s website.

Updated on 11-21-2016 by Christian de Looper: Added news that the Moto Z and Moto Z Play will be Daydream Ready.