The Motorola name is finally back. Well, not exactly the whole Motorola name, more like the brand is back in Malaysia. After years of hiatus and anticipation, the now Lenovo owned manufacturer is in the Malaysian smartphone market with the modular Moto Z. The Moto Z is in fact, not the world’s first modular smartphone. Before it was the LG G5 which never actually saw light in Malaysia. But it is a spiritual homage to the original concept of modular smartphone and a shout-out to the now ‘put-on-a-back-burner’ (I was going to say ‘now defunct’, but that is not entirely true is it?) Project ARA. It is not the original Project ARA though so it bears very little resemblance to the concept. In fact it is a very different device that was developed under the noses of Lenovo.
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 (4 Cores)|
Dual-core @1.8 GHz
Expandable with MicroSD (Max. 2TB)
|Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)||Adreno 530|
5.5-inch (~535 ppi)
1440p Quad HD (1,440 x 2,560 pixels)
Corning Gorilla Glass 4
|Operating System||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow Vanilla|
|Battery||Removeable 2,600mAh Li-Ion|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi IEEE802.11 a/b/g/n/ac|
Bluetooth 4.1 LE
Optical Image Stabilisation
Dual LED Flash
4K Video recording (30fps)
1080p video recoring (30fps)
Keep in mind that our review unit did not come in a box, so we could convey the experience of its unboxing. We did however notice how incredibly thin the device was when we first laid our eyes on it. Measuring a mere 5.2mm at its thinner point, we could safely say that it is in fact the thinnest device we have held in our hands thus far. It is so thin that a 3.5mm jack will just ruin its lines, so it does not have one. It is the first modern smartphone without the 3.5mm jack, if you must know (sorry Apple fans, it is a fact; your iPhone 7 is not the first smartphone without the 3.5mm jack). You still get a 3.5mm jack somewhere in the box though, specifically an adapter to the USB Type-C port found on the bottom of the device.
The wafer thin device is made of aluminium, or some metallic substance which feels cold to the touch. It does feel very sturdy though. Despite the solid feel of the device, we are still worried that the device might buckle under high tension due to its thickness, or lack of. The finishing to the edges toward the back of the device is smooth and sharp, giving the feel of precision machining to the unmistakable metal body. The laser-engraved back panel flanked with reflective glass finish at the top and bottom end gives it that edgy, dramatic look that has always been a signature of Motorola. It looks expensive, aggressive, and classy at the same time; it looks good. Its only downfall, the sharp edge going around the back.
The sharp edge does not hurt anyone per se, but is rather annoying to the touch. It looks dramatic, sure; but it lacks comfort. The razor-thin phone (not a throwback to the original RAZR) feels like it sort of resists the touch of your palms. It feels like it rather sit in the basking sun, or spotlight to be admired rather than held; sort of like art, you look at it rather than touch it or use it. It feels incomplete, yet perfectly makes sense.
But as keen readers and eagle-eyed viewers might ask, “then what is the gold pins at the bottom part at the back of the device do? Those looks like some electronic pins that connect to some sort of magnetic, electronic thingamaji.” You are not wrong. That is probably the Moto Z’s best-selling point; the Moto ModsTM. So that explains the sharp edges then, the device is meant to be used with a variety of accessories which are supposed to latch on the back of the device via magnets. There are, in fact some back plate attachments that would change the feel and the look of the phone. In a sense, the attachments and back plate of the device are meant to complete the device. In our case, the device came with a faux, textured leather back plate which makes it soft to the touch and a little less slippery than the bare metal back.
24 Hours of Moto Z
The first time you power up the device is just like any other device. You click the textured power button that is on the right side of the Moto Z (display facing you) and the display meets you with the Moto logo. A little after that Lenovo’s iconic rectangular, red back, white worded logo appears to greet you. Wait a minute, that is not right. This is happening, Motorola is really owned by Lenovo. There is no need for panicking though as you continue to set up your device, you are in good hands.
The first screen that meets you after that would be the infamous Android set up screen like any other Android devices. It ends with a fingerprint set up; the fingerprint sensor is right below the display just after the Moto logo. It is a little odd finding out the fingerprint sensor does not act as a home button, rather it is a secondary on/off button. It takes a little getting used to but it does not prove a liability.
After setting up your fingerprint, you meet the Vanilla Android 6.0 Marshmallow; Vanilla as in stock. Stock Android also means that you are not getting any sort of bloatware from Lenovo and you are experiencing Android at its rawest form; which is good. You get everything that is familiar to you from and Android; you get multi homescreens, you have the irremovable app drawer, you can add widgets to your homescreens, there are the array of Google suite apps that comes with the device, and for the lack of physical buttons, you will see the on-screen button bar for ‘back’, ‘home’, and ‘recent apps’. If you come from a Samsung sort of TouchWiz UI background, the app drawer is a refreshing scroll up/down type instead of the side to side swipe. The only downside to the app drawer is that you now cannot create folders in the app drawer itself unlike HTC’s Sense and Samsung’s TouchWiz UI. That is not necessarily too much of an issue though as you still can create a folder for your apps on any of your homescreens.
Obviously with stock Android, the Operating System is very light on its feet and very kind to the RAM and processor of the Moto Z. The Qualcomm sourced Snapdragon 820, clocked at 1.8GHz and 1.6GHz on each two cores does a great job of keeping up at most tasks, it is a high-end sort of processor after all. Combined with 4GB of RAM, multitasking is a breeze. Our test unit comes with 64GB of storage so it is ample of space for us to download all our essential apps. We did slot in a MicroSD card of 64GB capacity though, sacrificing one of the two Nano-SIM slots.
While using the Android on the device is very smooth and snappy, the Snapdragon is a little bit of a let down while playing games. The only game I have tried playing so far in the 24 hours is Sky Force Reloaded, mind you. While the initial boot of the game with the initial animations are smooth, the in-game performance is a let down with noticeable frame rate drops and stutters. Then again, there are similar SoC with the Adreno 530 facing similar issues so this is not an isolated case. The display is nothing short of amazing though.
It measures at 5.5-inch and has a QHD 1,440 x 2,560 resolution. Combined with AMOLED technology, it is breathtaking. While we have not had the time to load too many videos with the device, YouTube came to the rescue. Full HD videos are plenty so we stuck to those sort of videos instead of the 4K or QHD types, not many of those anyway. Watching videos on the AMOLED screen is more than satisfying; colours pop, details are bright and clear, blacks are deep, and whites are blinding. Even a mundane wallpaper on the homescreen looks interesting with the AMOLED display.
The camera module comes in the form of a 13-Megapixel f/1.8 main shooter with 5-Megapixel f/2.2 front-facer. It is also capable of 4K video recording at 30fps, and HDR shooting. The video recording is defaulted at 1080p though. While the 13-Megapixel camera, in theory, should produce high-quality detailed shot, Android’s implementation of their camera software has always been their Achilles heel. In the Moto Z though it works well and shots look good on initial inspections even in the lower lighting conditions. It comes with forward and backward LED flashes as well so it is not like you have to worry that much in low-light conditions too.
So far, so good then with the Moto Z. It performs well in everyday situations. It works well as a daily driver so far in the 24 hour test. And then; disaster.
As we approach 6.00 p.m. (the phone was unplugged from its USB Type-C charger at about 9.00 a.m.) the device tells me I have about 10% of battery left. I had a powerbank with me but no USB Type-C cable lying around so I could not charge it. It is worth mentioning at this point that the device’s WiFi, GPS, and Data was left on, Bluetooth was not. I used it as normally as I would with a daily driver on this 24 hour test. So I made a few phone calls, WhatsApp a little, a few very light browsing, snap some photos, looked at Facebook and Twitter a little, and then uploaded on Instagram. On modern smartphones, we would expect the notice to come later than sooner. The battery though is a measly 2,600mAh (“that’s why” moment). It comes as no surprise though to keep the thin lines, they do have to sacrifice the battery size a little bit.
(A friend came to the rescue with a Micro USB to USB Type-C adapter just in time before the device dies. The rest of the day, as they say; is history.)
So the Moto Z. How do we sum up our first day with it? In short, I liked it. I would actually like to say I ‘loved it’, but realised that I might not be able to live with its short battery life and its jittery gaming performance after a while. Of course there is the highly anticipated MotoMods that we have yet to try very much within the first 24 hours of the device, but that is all to come soon in the full review ahead so be patient. In all honesty, it looked good as a standalone device. However, it leaves you with more to be desired out of it. Like I said earlier, it feels incomplete. To make it complete, you really need to have the MotoMods. Then again, it defeats the purpose of buying a smartphone as your daily driver. Or is it?