Motorola Mobility is one of several first-wave mobile phone manufacturers that have blinked out of independent existence over the past few years; unable to compete in a cut-throat, oversaturated, highly commoditised market. Unlike some of its less fortunate former rivals though, its brand and legacy are living on under Lenovo’s leadership. The Moto product portfolio became something of a showcase for pure, unmodified Android when the company was directly under Google’s leadership, and sensing a good thing, Lenovo has largely left things as they were and continued down the same path.
A few things have changed in terms of branding and segmentation, which shows that sticking to your roots doesn’t mean stagnating. The much-loved premium Moto X series is now called Moto Z, and has a whole new identity based around snap-on accessories. LG tried a similar approach with itsG5 (Review) flagship earlier this year, but inelegant implementation and a limited number of accessories haven’t helped make this a must-have feature, so let’s hope that Lenovo and Motorola’s combined design expertise has done better.
Moto Z look and feel
The new Moto Z is a slab of metal and glass, and we wouldn’t have accepted anything less at this price point. That said, it doesn’t have the wow factor of some of its contemporaries, such as Samsung’s Galaxy S7 (Review) or even the current crop of iPhones, with their curved glass and ultra-minimalist lines. That’s partly because of the prominent earpiece, front camera and flash, Moto branding, and fingerprint sensor on the front face.
The Moto Z seems a bit taller than necessary, with a lot of chin-space below the screen. There’s a square-shaped fingerprint sensor here with a Moto logo above it, leaving a lot of blank space on either side. The sensor looks and seems like a Home button, but in fact it isn’t – you have the standard on-screen Android controls for navigation, and the sensor doesn’t do anything but lock and unlock the screen. Throughout our time with the Moto Z, we kept reaching for it thinking it was a Home button, only to unintentionally lock the phone when we least wanted to.
The sides of the phone are formed into a continuous metal frame. The left is blank, the top has only the hybrid SIM tray, the bottom has a USB Type-C port, and there’s no 3.5mm audio socket. The power and volume buttons are on the right and are all very small, stubby and hard to tell apart, other than a slight texture on the power button.
Unlike most phones, the most interesting part of the Moto Z is its rear. This is where all the modular magic happens. On its own, the phone is pretty thin with a protruding disc near the top that houses the camera lens and dual-LED flash. Lower down, you’ll see a wide strip of metallic contact points for the assorted “Motomods”, which snap onto the phone’s rear magnetically. When you aren’t using a mod, you can pop on a functionless “style shell” that covers the contacts and adds some thickness to the phone, coming up flush with the camera bump.