First impressions of the Moto Z2 Force Edition: Internal updates and dual cameras with ShatterShield for all

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The Moto Z Force Droid was one of my favorite devices from last year, offering a stock Android experience with Motorola enhancements for improved utility. The new Moto Z2 Force adds a dual camera on the back and the latest internal specs, but also comes with a smaller battery and last year’s design elements.

I have only spent a day with the new Moto Z2 Force Edition and will have a full review soon, but wanted to offer up some first impressions since the phone is available for pre-order now from Motorola and all the major US wireless carriers. It is priced at $720 from Motorola with varying prices from the carriers. There are also some enticing launch specials, such as the free Moto Insta-Share Projector Mod ($299.99 value).

Likes and dislikes

There are currently many more things I like than dislike on the new Moto Z2 Force Edition, including:

  • Moto Mods support: Unlike LG’s failed modular experiment with the LG G5, Motorola is committed to the Moto Mods program and continues to release phones that support the first generation Mods, along with new Mods like the 360 camera.
  • Moto Actions: The Moto Actions are key to the success of these Motorola phones and once again are my favorite feature on the Moto Z2 Force. At first I hated the new fingerprint scanner as it appeared to only serve to unlock and lock the phone. Simply flip the switch to enable one button navigation and then you can use the fingerprint scanner to unlock, go home, swipe to go back, swipe for recent apps, and press hold to launch Google Assistant. It is excellent for efficient navigation and the flush mount with wider oval design is nearly perfect. Chopping twice for the flashlight, twisting to launch the camera, pickup to stop ringing, approach for Moto Display, and flip for do not disturb are all present and available in the Moto Actions settings.
  • Moto Display: Motorola was one of the first to launch a useful active lock screen and Moto Display continues to be one of the most useful as it shows you more detailed information than any other always-on display feature on other phones.
  • Shatterproof display: Last year, only Verizon customers in the US were given an option to buy a Moto phone with a shatterproof display, aka ShatterShield. This year, Motorola is rolling out the same Z2 Force to all carriers. Field workers will appreciate the use of this advanced plastic display that is designed to survive drops in the one area that nearly always fails on modern big screen glass phones. I understand the shatterproof display may be more susceptible to scratches though so you still may want to apply a screen protector if scratches on the display when your phone is off bother you.
  • Android 7.1.1 and stock Android experience: Motorola does an excellent job of offering a nearly stock Android experience with regular security and software updates. The Z2 Force launches with the latest version of Android and the test unit I have also has the July Android monthly security update.
  • Dual camera options: Motorola’s camera was fine last year so it is nice to see an innovation here with a dual camera design.

At first I thought the fingerprint scanner was only for unlocking and locking so was ready to add that to my dislike column, but after discovering the one button navigation option I think it may be one of my favorite things now.

While Samsung and LG offers the latest display technology with 18:9 displays and minimal bezels, the Z2 Force has rather wide top, bottom, and side bezels like the HTC U11. It isn’t a design element that kills the device at all, but it takes away a bit from the modern designs of the latest and greatest phones.

Specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 octa-core
  • Display: 5.5 inch 2560×1440 pixels resolution POLED ShatterShield
  • Operating system: Android 7.1.1 Nougat
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 64GB internal with microSD expansion card slot
  • Water and dust resistance: Water repellent nano-coating
  • Cameras: Dual rear 12 megapixel IMX 386 sensors, 1.25µm pixel, f/2.0 aperture cameras. Front 5 megapixel with f/2.2 aperture
  • Battery: 2730 mAh with Turbo Charge charging technology
  • Wireless connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2 (5.0 after Android O update), NFC
  • Sensors: Fingerprint, G-Sensor, Gyroscope, Compass, Ambient Light, Proximity, Edge Sensor
  • Dimensions: 155.8 x 76 x 6.1 mm and 143 grams

Looking ahead to the full review

Given that I have several other dual camera phones on hand, I plan to spend lots of time taking photos with the new Z2 Force and comparing it to the Apple iPhone 7 Plus, Huawei Mate 9, and LG G6. I am particularly interested in the new monochrome and depth effect modes on the Z2 Force Droid.

Given that the battery capacity is smaller than last year’s Z Force Droid, it will be interesting to see if the new Snapdragon 835 offers enough efficiency to offer similar performance. Last year’s massive 3500 mAh battery was good for a couple of days and this one is 770 mAh less. I cannot imagine the processor alone can make up for this reduced capacity, but we’ll see what happens in further testing.

The new Moto 360 Mod was also sent along for a few weeks so I will be testing this out and comparing it to the Samsung Gear 360 camera I also have on hand for evaluation. I will also be testing out last year’s Moto Mods to check compatibility.

Please let me know if there is anything in particular you want tested in the full review.

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