Motorola promised all Moto Mods to be compatible with three generation of Moto Z phones. That's an admirable approach in this ever-changing Android market. But it also means all phones from this 3-year cycle to look rather identical, as the Mods specs won't allow for much design and even camera innovations.
That's why the new Moto Z3 Play looks like all the Moto Z to come before it. The phone is very thin, with flat Gorilla Glass 3 pieces shielding its screen and back. A thin frame made of Series 6000 aluminum glue the said glasses together - and that's pretty much it.
The Super AMOLED screen at the front has grown from 5.5" to 6.01" in diagonal since the Z2 Play. It's of the new tall kind with 18:9 aspect ratio, which means the resolution is now 1,080 x 2,160 px. The extra 240 rows of pixels didn't increase the Z3 Play footprint (which is limited by the Mods), Motorola just trimmed the bezels.
We are fans of the thin bezels, but we also like the front fingerprint scanner which is now gone on the Moto Z3 Play. Now the Moto Z3 Play relies on a single virtual key for complete Android navigation, while the fingerprint sensor has been placed only place it could fit - the right side. Sony has a long history with putting the sensors there and we liked how those worked on those Xperia phones, and we found it pretty neat on the Moto Z3 Play, too.
And in case you were wondering why the sensor wasn't moved on the back, we once again would like to point the Moto Mods compatibility issue.
The Moto Z3 Play has upgrade the selfie camera with an 8MP sensor and new f/2.0 lens, but the front LED flash is gone. You can use the screen as flash, and the Z3 Play seems to be having a rather bright one, but we have yet to confirm that with our review tests.
Unfortunately, the audio jack is gone on the Moto Z3 Play. Lenovo provides a proper USB-C-to-3.5mm adapter in the box, but we all know it's not as convenient.
The back is all glass, as we said, and the camera hump is where it has always been - centered at the back - the Moto Mods compatibility demands it there.
The Z2 Play's 12MP main sensor is here to stay with its 1.4Ám big pixel, bright f/1.7 lens and dual-pixel autofocus. But it also got a secondary 5MP helper for depth information - read portrait mode.
The dual-tone LED flash has made it to the Z3 Play intact.
Just like on the Moto G6, the Moto Z3 Play supports native Portrait shots with the option to adjust the blur strength in real time.
Spot color is available - it lets you capture only a certain color from the spectrum, leaving the rest of the photo black and white.
There is also the cutout mode, which isolates a subject based on the depth detection and superimpose it on a different photo.
The numerous contact pins on the back are quite disruptive but unavoidable. That's why it's probably a good idea to opt for a Mod, maybe even one that's just a cover - like the Nylon or Wooden ones.
Motorola has a very rich Moto Mods portfolio with plenty of options - 360-degree camera, battery, gamepad, JBL speaker, Polaroid printer, Hasselbad camera, among others including decorative panels.
The Moto Z3 Play is compatible with all those Mods released so far, so if you are migrating from a first or second-generation Moto Z - you will be able to use all of those.
Amazon Alexa Mod is here to stay, too. If you are keen on using Amazon's voice assistant, you can spare yourself a new device and just grab this Mod.
The Moto Z3 Play seems like a nice modern smartphone. It will be sold at $499 in the US bundled with the battery Moto Mod.
We are just not sure if it's a smart move to invest in new Mods now that they've been around for three generations of phones and they may not be compatible with phones coming out next year.