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Moto Z Play review: Hands-on with Motorola's latest modular flagship and the Hasselblad True Zoom

Katharine Byrne
1 Sep 2016
Moto Z Play
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We go hands on with Motorola's new Moto Z handset and its all-new Moto Mod, the Hasselblad True Zoom

LG's modular G5 was one of the highlights of MWC 2016, but after poor sales and no more news on any new module attachments, it's probably fair to say that the highly lauded "do anything" phone hasn't quite taken off.

It paints a grim picture for Motorola's new modular Moto Z family, which is due to launch this September in the UK. There's even a new member added to the fold, too, as Lenovo's just announced the Moto Z Play at its IFA press conference. And yet, I have faith in Motorola, as its new crop of Z handsets (which replace last year's Moto X Force, Moto X Style and Moto X Play) show the G5 just how modular phones should be done.

Take its new Moto Mod – also announced this evening at IFA. Built in collaboration with legendary optics manufacturer Hasselblad, the Hasselblad True Zoom harks back the good old days of Samsung's K Zoom smartphone, adding a huge 10x optical zoom onto the back of the phone with a proper textured camera grip and physical zoom button.

And yet the beauty of the Moto Z and the Moto Mods is that you can just snap each individual module onto the back of the phone and remove it again just as simply, leaving you with a beautifully slim smartphone without any added bulk.

Yes, you have to pay extra for the privilege (the True Zoom will cost £200 in addition to the smartphone itself), but it's still an extremely elegant solution to beefing up your smartphone. Admittedly, the Hasselblad True Zoom requires you to dig your nails in a bit in order to take it off again, but it's definitely much more useful than LG's rather measly and poorly conceived £80 Cam Plus attachment.

For instance, it has a 12-megapixel sensor built in, as well as a 10x optical zoom and xenon flash. It adds a sizable amount onto the phone – particularly the Moto Z Play, which is thicker than the regular Moto Z – but it uses the same grip material as Hasselblad's own X1D camera, so it feels incredibly comfortable to hold one-handed.

The shutter button and zoom ring are incredibly quick, too, so it feels fast and responsive when you're trying to capture a moment. You also get the ability to capture in RAW and JPEG using Hasselblad's integrated Phocus software. You only have the option to capture pictures at 12 megapixels, however, as the True Zoom automatically disables the phone's own camera sensor.

With the Hasselblad True Zoom mod, you can shoot in RAW and JPEG, and black and white

That might sound like a bit of a downgrade, but remember, megapixels aren’t everything. The increased size of the True Zoom's sensor will allow more light to hit the lens, so it should, theoretically, produce superior pictures.

The 12-megapixel sensor also has 1.55um pixels inside it, which is pretty large compared to your typical smartphone. The S7, for instance, only has 1.4um pixels inside its 12-megapixel snapper, so it should perform better in low light. Of course, we'll have to wait and see how they all fare once we get them in for review.

The Moto Z Play itself, on the other hand, should definitely be on your radar, as Motorola claims it has the company's best ever battery life. Touting an astonishing claim of 50 hours on a single charge, the Moto Z Play's 3,510mAh battery looks as though it will have a serious amount of stamina, potentially rivalling even Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 when it comes to overall longevity.

Even better, Motorola says its TurboPower technology can give it an incredible nine hours of charge in just 15 minutes, giving you a full working day's battery in no time at all. That's pretty impressive stuff, and a claim I'll be putting to the test once review samples are available.

The Moto Z (left) is considerably thinner than the Moto Z Play (right)

In a way, it's a shame Motorola hasn't married this kind of battery power with the regular Moto Z's stunning looks. The Moto Z Play isn't only considerably fatter than the Moto Z, but it's also much less powerful, with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chip inside it rather than a flagship Snapdragon 820.

Its 5.5in Super AMOLED display has only a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution rather than 2,560 x 1,440, but it does have a 16-megapixel camera with laser and phase-detect autofocus (up from the Z's 13-megapixel snapper) and it still has the Z's fingerprint reader and water-repellent case design. It's compatible with all the same Moto Mods as the regular Moto Z, too.

The Moto Z Play will launch globally this September, and you'll be able to pick one up SIM-free for £360 in the UK. That's a significant saving on the regular Moto Z, which costs £530 SIM-free and will also launch next month. At the moment, there's no word on when or if the shatterproof Moto Z Force will be coming to the UK, but I'll update this article with more information as soon as I get confirmation from Motorola.