Mobility

Moto Z and Moto Z Force: The smart person's guide

Motorola's newest smartphones offer innovative, snap-on magnetic Moto Mod accessories such as a boom box speaker and a projector that make it fun to play with your phone.

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The Moto Z Force is part of the new Moto Z family of smartphones from Motorola.

Image: Teena Maddox/TechRepublic

The latest smartphones from Motorola come with an array of cool accessories, from a boom box speaker to a movie projector, for the ultimate in customizable options.

The Moto Z and the Moto Z Force are two different versions of the newest smartphone family from Motorola, with the key difference being that the Moto Z is razor-thin, at 5.2mm, and the Moto Z Force is thicker, at 6.99mm, and guaranteed to be shatterproof. The phones went on sale Thursday, and they're being sold through US carrier Verizon, which has added Droid to the name: Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid. Unlocked versions will be available this fall.

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The Moto Mod accessories offer options to anyone wanting a new way to listen to their music collection while poolside, or easily project videos through their phone. Uploaded a new video of your kid on YouTube and want to show it to a group of friends? No problem. The magnetized Moto Mod Insta-Share Projector snaps onto the back of the phone and instantly turns it into a 70-inch projector. Want to play music without bothering with a separate speaker? Snap on the JBL SoundBoost Speaker, complete with its own kickstand, and you'll have a mini boom box.

I tested both versions to see how they compared to my iPhone 6 Plus. I was pleasantly surprised at the ease of use and the brilliant color display, and I fell in deep like over the Moto Mod accessories. I'm not yet ready to break up with my iPhone, but I could be lured away if the Moto Z continues to impress.

SEE: Check out all of TechRepublic's smart person's guides

Executive summary

  • What they are: The Moto Z and Moto Z Force smartphones are the newest devices in Motorola's lineup, replacing the Moto X family of flagship devices.
  • Why they matter: They're brand new and went on sale Thursday. The Moto Z is razor-thin, at 5.2mm, and the thicker Moto Z Force is 6.99mm and has a shatterproof screen. Motorola's parent company, Lenovo, has added its branding to the packaging.
  • Who they are for: Android users who want something different, and iPhone owners wanting to switch to something more unique.
  • Why you should get one: Customization is key, with the Moto Mods adding easy ways to produce high-quality sound and project movies from your phone.
  • Why you shouldn't get one: There's no headphone jack, and the battery is small on the Moto Z. Photo quality is not the best, particularly in low light situations.
  • How to get one: The Moto Z smartphones and accessories can be purchased from Verizon, Motorola, or Best Buy.
  • What they look like: See TechRepublic's photo gallery of the Moto Z and Moto Z Force.
  • The style quotient: These phones get a solid 8 on a scale of 1-10. The Kate Spade and Tumi powerpacks are attractive, without being tacky, and the pure functionality of the Moto Mod accessories makes them tech that you want to be seen using.

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What they are

Moto Z and Moto Z Force are the two newest smartphones from Lenovo, Motorola's parent company. Each phone has a 5.5-inch screen. All accessories and cases are called Moto Mods and are magnetized to easily snap onto the phone. A high-quality speaker is available, as well as a projector, and they're both magnetized and snap onto the phone and immediately begin playing content without any syncing necessary.

Moto Z, without a shell or powerpack, is amazingly thin, at 5.2mm. Compare that to an iPhone 6s Plus, which is 7.3mm. The Moto Z Force is thicker than its non-shatterproof Moto Z cousin, at 6.99mm, but it's still relatively light and easy to handle. Each phone comes with a basic shell that weighs in at about 30 grams and attaches magnetically to the phone.

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Why they matter

The $79.99 speaker is so good you'll want to channel John Cusack in "Say Anything" and put your phone on your shoulder and pretend it's a boom box. Teena Maddox/TechRepublic

Motorola's parent company, Lenovo, has added its name to the product boxes and given the newest phones a more streamlined look. The phones replace the Moto X family as Motorola's flagship devices. It bills the Moto Z as the world's thinnest smartphone and, at 5.2mm without a case, it is razor thin. The modular additions are one of the newer features in the smartphone arena, and they make it easy to customize a device.

A $125 developer's kit has been released for the creation of magnetic, modular accessories.

Motorola and Verizon have a partnership dating to 2009, with the original Motorola Droid smartphone. So it's common for new phones, or versions of new phones, to only be available from Verizon initially, as is true for the Moto Z and Moto Z Force. An unlocked version will be available in the fall.

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Who they are for

The Moto Mod projector would make the phone particularly useful for anyone who needs to be able to easily project videos to clients. Sure, you can do that with a laptop, or other components, but it's so easy to snap on the projector module for instant use.

The phones are ideal for Android users who want the newest phone, or for iPhone users who want to try something different.

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Why you should get one

The main reason? The Moto Mods. The $79.99 speaker is so good you'll want to channel John Cusack in "Say Anything" and put your phone on your shoulder and pretend it's a boom box. There's no need to ever buy any other external speaker when you have this in your music arsenal. And the projector is just as cool, if a bit pricey at $299.99. Imagine having a snap-on projector for your phone that immediately turns it into a 70-inch screen. I tested this mod on the home theater wall in my own house, and the resolution was fantastic. Within minutes, my family had piled onto the couch to watch the movie trailer I was sampling, in awe that it was coming from my phone and not our home projector system.

As an added bonus, the color resolution on the phones is stunning, with an AMOLED display with a Quad HD resolution. This results in a pixel density of 535 ppi. It's easy to read text on the phone, and games look particularly brilliant. The Moto Z uses Corning Gorilla Glass, and the Moto Z Force use Motorola's second-generation Moto ShatterShield, which is a five-layer system with an aluminum panel base.

The shatterproof quality is a strong sell. I haven't ever shattered my own phone's screen, but it's nice to know that it simply won't happen if you opt for the Moto Z Force.The phones have a slightly eerie quality. If you wave your hand over the screen, it will wake up the phone, and the ambient display will appear to show any notifications. It's almost as if your phone is watching you.

The phones include the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor and the Adreno 530 GPU, so the performance is fast.

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Why you shouldn't get one

It's hard to find things to not like about the phones. There is no headphone jack on either phone. So that can be a problem. And the battery on the Moto Z is small, at only 2600 mAh, but the Moto Z Force has a larger 3500 mAh battery.

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How to get one

The phones are available at Motorola, Verizon, and Best Buy, but are only available with Verizon as the carrier. An unlocked version will be available this fall.

Moto Z Droid, 32 GB storage, $624

Moto Z Droid, 64 GB storage, $674

Moto Z Force Droid, 32 GB storage, $720

Moto Z Force Droid, 64 GB storage, $770

Moto Z Droid

  • Operating system: Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
  • Screen size: 5.5 inch screen
  • Camera resolution: 13 MP
  • Front-facing camera: 5 MP with wide-angle lens & flash
  • Battery: 2600 mAh
  • Storage capacity: 32 GB or 64 GB
  • Colors: Black with Lunar Grey Trim or White with Fine Gold Trim. Black with Rose Gold Trim is said to be coming soon

Moto Z Droid Force

  • Operating system: Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
  • Screen size: 5.5 inch screen
  • Camera resolution: 21 MP
  • Front-facing camera: 5 MP with wide-angle lens & flash
  • Battery: 3500 mAh
  • Storage capacity: 32 GB or 64 GB
  • Colors: Black with Lunar Grey Trim or White with Fine Gold Trim. Black with Rose Gold Trim is said to be coming soon.

Interchangeable on both phones:

Swappable backs in fabric-style shells or wood-style shells, $19.99; in leather-style shells, $24.99

Power pack battery shells, $59.99 for basic black or white; $79.99 for Kate Spade or Tumi-branded versions. A power pack version with wireless charging is available for an extra $10 on each model.

Moto Mods

JBL SoundBoost Speaker, $79.99

  • High-quality JBL stereo sound
  • Snap on and play instantly—no pairing, no hassle
  • Built-in kickstand

Moto Insta-Share Projector, $299.99

  • Instantly turns any flat surface into a 70" big screen for your videos, photos, etc.
  • Integrated kickstand so you can project at any angle
  • Integrated battery

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What they look like

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Users of the Moto Z and Moto Z Force can opt for a stylish Kate Spade power pack case for an additional $79.99.

Image: Teena Maddox/TechRepublic


SEE: TechRepublic's photo gallery of the Moto Z and Moto Z Force.

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Three takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. The newest phones from Lenovo are the Moto Z and Moto Z Force, with retail prices beginning at $624 and $720, respectively.
  2. Moto Mod accessories such as a speaker and a projector snap easily onto each phone, turning them into a boom box or a movie projector.
  3. The Moto Z is razor-thin at 5.2mm, and the Moto Z Force is thicker, at 6.99mm, but it has a shatterproof screen.

Also see

About Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including Peo...

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