If you’re a fan of unconventional gadgets, then you already know about the Moto Z line from Lenovo, the super slim smartphones that sprout more features as quickly as you can say Moto Mod. The thing is, those phones are pretty expensive and Moto M India launch set they don’t have the best cameras.
The solution, a cheaper Moto Z and a brand new Moto Mod. I’m Michael Fisher, and this is the Mr. Mobile review of the Moto Z Play and the True Zoom Moto Mod from Hasselblad.
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The phone is easier to encapsulate, so let’s hit it first. In short, thicken up a Moto Z, swap out the metal back for a glass one, and take all the specs down a notch. Now, that’s par for the course when you make a mid-tier version of a flagship phone,
but here’s the twist. In everyday use, I could almost never tell I was using a mid-range device.
While Lenovo may have hobbled some of the hardware, it left the features almost completely intact. Nearly the entire Moto suite has been left alone and the day-to-day responsiveness is just as zippy as the Z and Z Force. It sounds bogus, I know, but if there was ever a product that proves the folly of focusing too closely on specs, this is it. In fact, some of those spec sacrifices make for a better smartphone. That Snapdragon 625 is less powerful than the 820 in the Moto Z,
but Qualcomm specifically calls out how power efficient it is, and this is one time that the reality absolutely matches the marketing. I can’t get any current Android phone to last me more than a day, and some, like the original Moto Z,
don’t always get me that far. Now, the Z Play, with that huge battery working together with the power-saving processor usually has about half a charge left when I go to bed. For me, that kind of endurance is totally worth the hit in processing power, especially since I can’t even notice a difference in performance. I should mention though that the lower amount of RAM does make shuffling apps a bit more pokey. Also, the screen res takes a downgrade;
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it’s only full HD. On the flip side, the glass back on the plate is very soft. It’s much more prone to scratches than the metal panel of the Z and weirdly, the style shells don’t seem to fit as snugly either. Other mods lock on just fine though. As, Lenovo promised, everything is interchangeable across the Z line. I’ve used the Tumi battery pack and JBL Sound Dock on the Play, and they work just as well as they do on the other Zs.
Let’s get to the newest of the mods, Hasselblad is a Swedish company that’s been in the camera business long enough to have literally put cameras on the moon, and it pays homage to its 75th anniversary with a little Easter egg on the face of this, its first ever smartphone accessory.
This is the True Zoom. You slap it on the back of a Moto Z and instantly, it looks more like a classic camera than any smartphone you’ve seen before.
More importantly, it feels like one. You’ve got a big grip on the right side, stippled for traction and topped by a two-stage shutter button. Push the power key alongside and you see why it’s called the True Zoom. The motor driven lens assembly is capable of 10X optical magnification, which you can control by the telephoto toggle under the shutter release.
The Moto Viewfinder is almost entirely unchanged, so there’s basically no learning curve, and you can still launch the camera with Moto’s quick gesture.
There are a few custom modes thrown in for sports and night shooting, as well as the capability to record stills in raw format. And if you wanna use the True Zoom with another app like Snapchat or Instagram, that’s no problem. Once again,
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a note on that, while the phone can shoot in 4K, you’ll be confined to HD when using the True Zoom. I took a Z Play’s onboard camera followed immediately by the True Zoom. Having this kind of range in your pocket is really fun, and it’s a very comfortable camera to shoot with too. But is it something I’d buy myself? Honestly, probably not.
I tend to find the Z Play’s onboard camera perfectly serviceable for everyday use because like most people,
I’m throwing filters on my photos and uploading them to Facebook and Instagram’s compression anyway. Also, the True Zoom is slow. First, you need to attach it. Then you wait for the optics to unfold,
And then you wait for it to focus, which can take a very long time. Now, I used the True Zoom on pre-release software so it’s likely some of this will get better as Lenovo pushes out updates. I did receive one about halfway through the review period but it didn’t seem to make much difference. And the True Zoom suffers from the same convenience issues a lot of Moto Mods do.
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It’s too cumbersome to leave on there all the time so you need to carry it separately, and so now, you’re devoting two pockets to your phone instead of just one. Now, if you’re the kind of person who carries a point and shoot camera anyway, you’re already used to that. Maybe in that case,
The True Zoom makes sense. It’s really the only way I can see to justify the suggested retail price. Check the description for that, as it wasn’t finalized by press time. And as a final quibble, I wish Hasselblad would have thrown in some extra storage or at least a small battery,
like some other Moto Mods do. The upshot, while I think the True Zoom will appeal to the niche photographer, and I’m happy to see the Moto Mod ecosystem get something so cool, I don’t see it as a must have.