It is hard not to have mixed feelings for the Moto Z Play. On the one hand, we're talking the legendary manufacturer (albeit now under Lenovo management) that many people still tend to trust for quality and reliability. Moto products are still among the go-to choices for nice vanilla Android experience with a fast-track upgrade program. Yet on the other hand, after experiencing the Moto Z Play for ourselves, we can't help but think it is a far from a perfect package.
There are a lot of things Lenovo and Moto got right with this phone. For one, the build quality and the software approach are still as solid as they've always been in recent years. The Super AMOLED panel is also a nice touch and we can definitely appreciate the efficient nature of the Snapdragon 625 chipset, which provides excellent battery life numbers.
However, in our opinion, they should have kept the Moto Mods to the higher end and they should have tried to give the Moto Z Play a more competitive pricing instead. As things stand right now, the Moto Z Play ambitious price might make this one a tough sale.
The relatively high price of the Moto Z Play brings it at the forefront of the market invasion of the online brands hailing from China. These provide tremendous value and high end specs in roughly the same price bracket of 400-450 euros.
The OnePlus 3 and its refresh in the OnePlus 3T are prime examples. With price tags of around EUR 400 and EUR 439, respectively, they get you a Snapdragon 820/821 chipset, 6GB of RAM, a beautiful Optic AMOLED panel and superior 16MP, OIS-enabled camera. Not to mention the all-metal body. However, there is no splash-resistance or memory card slot. The lack of MotoMods goes without saying.
Of course, OnePlus is not alone in this expanding market niche. ZTE, for one, has been mounting some stiff competition, with devices like the Axon 7. In some aspects, it looks even more appealing than the OnePlus 3, like the QHD AMOLED panel and incredible Dolby Atmos certified stereo speakers. This is all, somehow achieved without breaking the EUR 400 barrier.
There is a worthy mention within ZTE's Nubia sub-brand as well - the Z11. It also comes well equipped in the specs department, with a Snapdragon 820 SoC, 4GB to 6GB of RAM and a hefty 16MP snapper. The display has a dual-curved panel design and some interesting software features to complement it.
We also can't fail to mention Xiaomi. The price of 400 euros can easily buy you the Mi 5s Plus. It's a visually stunning phone with Snapdragon 821 chipset. It also comes well stocked up in the camera department with its dual-shooter setup.
Of course, these online brands lack the physical presence so you might have to order one without being able to see it first. Also any warranty claims down the road, might turn out to be a hassle.
So in this case, you might turn your attention to the Huawei Mate 8. Huawei is a Chinese manufacturer as well it has focused on the high-end spectrum in recent years and has the brick-and-mortar presence to challenge well established brands. The Mate 8 might be a year old, but is still an excellent choice.
Speaking of better established brands, the Samsung Galaxy C7, which we have already mentioned on several occasions is a prime competitor. For around EUR 400, it offers a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED panel and the Snapdragon 625 SoC, all wrapped in a neat metal unibody package. And if you feel like saving a few extra bucks, the Galaxy J7 (2016) is still a great pick. You mostly sacrifice some premium materials and a bit of resolution, but then again, it is nearly half the price. Just be sure to get the Exynos 7870 version, to enjoy a similar battery efficiency as the Moto Z Play.
Last, but not least, we can't go without mentioning the Lenovo P2. It shares an almost airy similarity to the Moto Z Play, including things like the 5.5-inch Super AMOLED panel, Snapdragon 625 chipset and up to 4GB of RAM. All that and an enormous 5100 mAh battery, for a good EUR 50 less than the Moto Z Play, certainly make it a phone to consider.
Sure, you can argue that the Moto Mods functionality is well worth the premium and that might very well be the case for you. If you find yourself a bit bored by the sea of plain "slabs" ruling the mid-range market, then the Z Play and its intriguing Moto Mods might be right up you alley.
But, if value is what you hunger, then the admittedly plainer Lenovo P2 will easily set you up with the same horsepower and overall package, while keeping the lights on a lot longer. Of course, it all comes down to personal preference and the Lenovo P2 might not appeal quite so much to your taste.
With all said and done, the Moto Z Play is clearly a polarizing offer. And standing out, one way or the other, is always better than just slipping into obscurity. If the Z Play managed to capture your interest, it will surely keep you happy. But if its unique expandability doesn't strike your fancy, there is a lot more traditional performance to be had for your money elsewhere among the up-and-coming market disruptors. As we already told you, the Moto Z Play pricing puts it in a tough position with flak coming from all sides.