Not too long ago the idea of a premium phone was really just a big screen, a fast CPU, and maybe a decent camera. Over the past few years, the premium phone market has really grown and with that we have seen a wide variety of different features help set these phones apart. With the new Moto Z line of phones, they have a few different phone options including the Force model that I’m going to check out today. Features like high battery life, a shatterproof screen, and a fingerprint reader will be useful to everyone, but it’s the Moto Mods that I think everyone will remember the Moto Z Force for. The phone has a back panel that lets you swap out different back plates and a few premium features like an additional battery, a speaker, or even a projector. Verizon sent along the Moto-Mods speaker along with the phone for my testing so I do get to get a feel for the hot swappable features.
Product Name: Motorola Moto Z Force Droid
Review Sample Provided by: Verizon
Written by: Wes
Pictures by: Wes
Amazon Link: HERE
|Standby Time - Up to:||20 days|
|Usage Time - Up to:||29 hrs|
|Front Camera||5 MP|
|Screen||5.5” AMOLED, 1440p Quad HD (2560 x 1440), 535 ppi; Shattershield™|
|Battery||3500 mAh (non-removable), TurboPower for up to 15 hours of power in 15 minutes of charging|
|Operating System||Android™ 6.0.1, Marshmallow|
|Storage||32 GB, 4GB RAM (Actual formatted capacity is less)|
|Expandable Memory||Supports microSD card up to 2 TB (sold separately)|
|Colors||Black/Lunar Grey or White/Fine Gold (Subject to availability)|
|SAR||0.78 W/kg (head), 1.14 W/kg (body)|
|Hearing Aid Compatibility||M3/T3|
|Network||CDMA: 850, 1900MHz;GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); UMTS/HSPA+ (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); 4G LTE (B2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 13)|
|Processor||Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 820 processor|
|HD Voice||Experience HD Voice, Video Calling and Simultaneous Voice & Data. Enable Wi-Fi Calling and make calls anywhere you have a Wi-Fi connection.|
Because Verizon sent both the Moto Z Force and the Moto Mod Speaker we have two boxes to take a look at today. The Moto Z Force comes In a unique box because it is officially a Droid phone, meaning it gets the Droid branding including the black box that stands out from all of the other phones at the store. With Lenovo picking up Motorola from Google they did also slip in their branding down in the corner as well, but beyond that the front of the box doesn’t have anything else on it. The back of the phone box has a list of everything included with the phone and then below that they mention hearing aid compatibility and then the rest of the box is covered in all of the trademarks and FCC information. The Moto Mods Soundboost speaker doesn’t keep things as simple. It has a black and orange background because orange is JBLs color. The front also has a photo of the speaker right on it. The back of the box has another photo of the speaker, but this time, it is showing off the flip out kickstand that is built in. Below that they just highlight a few key features. They also list what comes in the box and have a few technical specifications as well.
Inside the Moto Z box, the phone sits right up on top. The phone has a plastic cover on it and then below the phone is the documentation and the accessories.
The Moto Mods Soundboost speaker sits in a tray inside of the box. It comes wrapped up in a plastic bag and on top of it is the included documentation.
The Moto Z does come with a few accessories. The phone comes with a wood pattern backplate, an AC adapter for the USB Type c power connection, a sim card tool, and a small USB Type C adapter to headphone adapter. There is also a small box that has safety information and also a meet your phone guide from Verizon.
Photos and Features
When checking out the back of the Moto Z Force my first impression was just how much the back of the phone reminded me of my Nexus 4. The curved sized with a flat back being the main reason. But really though we aren’t looking at a normal part of the phone. Because of the Moto Mods functionality, this is actually part of the phone you will rarely ever see. Clues to this are the rear facing camera that sticks out more than a camera should and the 17 pin array of connections down at the bottom. The back is magnetized so the mods can stick right onto the phone and when you aren’t using one the backplate does the same thing. The rear facing camera is really nice, it is 21 MP and has just the one LED flash. Verizon did slip the Droid branding in here and considering he swappable mods and backplates it is a good call, most of the backplate options won’t have that branding.
The included backplate does, however, have a Motorola logo on it. It is a little thicker than you would expect a backplate to be, especially if you have ever used an older Galaxy phone with their thin plastic backplates. This one has a nice dark wood finish on the back and a hole cutout for the rear-facing camera. On the inside, it came with protective plastic inside that you need to remove before using it. This just has a warning on it to make sure you know to remove the backplate before installing any of the other Moto Mod options or they won’t work. There aren’t any connections on the backplate but it does have a tiny pin in the middle to help center it on the phone in combination with the round camera that fits in the camera hole. Beyond that, it is held on with magnets and it is very hard to pull off.
The camera fits flush with the backplate installed and the wood backplate gives the phone a little style.
The front of the Moto Z has two of the most useful features of the whole phone in my opinion. For starters, the 5.5 inch AMOLED screen has a 1440p resolution giving it a PPI of 535. This has been the go to standard resolution for a while now, any more than this and it requires a lot of power to push it and you don’t see as much of a return. Anyhow, that screen is covered in what they are calling a Shattershield 2.0 glass. Shattershield 2.0 just means it is going to be very hard to crack your screen. In fact, Android Central put it to the test and managed to have the display stop working after multiple drops but had no screen damage. I wouldn’t use it as a reason to toss your phone around, it still isn’t designed to take the shock, but at least the screen won’t break and it seems that is what breaks first for a lot of people.
The front of the Moto Z Force has two microphone holes down at the bottom and below the Moto logo is a square button that is your home button and also has a fingerprint reader built in. Up top, there is a light sensor, the headset speaker, and then the front facing camera. At 5MP they didn’t really go crazy with it, but it is in line with the rest of the market. The bezel around the screen is really thin on the sides with most of the space at the bottom and top where the features I just went over are.
The Moto Z Force is a little thicker than the regular Moto Z due to its increased battery capacity but the phone isn’t overly thick. The entire outer ring is an aluminum frame with a bevel on the bottom half making the phone feel a little thinner in hand. The left side of the phone has nothing at all going on. The top of the phone has a microphone hole, the sim card slot, and a strip where the frame meets. It's only on the right side of the phone that we find any buttons. You have the volume up and down buttons with a smooth finish and then the power/lock button is down below with a rough finish on it to make it easier to find.
Down on the bottom edge of the phone we have the USB Type C data and charging port. Given all the recent drama I should point out that with this being the only plug on the phone there is no headphone jack on the Moto Z Force. They do include a Type C to headphone adapter with the phone, but you won’t be able to charge the phone while listening to music and who wants to bring an adapter along with them. At least it is included, though.
To go with that USB Type C connection Motorola does include a charger cable for the Moto Z. For a lot of Android fans, the Micro-USB connections have become so commonplace that it is going to take a little time to adjust to the new connection. But remember it can be plugged in either way and still work and it seems to be a more solid connector as well that shouldn’t break as easily. The included charger drops the USB to Ac adapter for an all in one charger, this helps them get the turbo charging speeds but it does mean if you want to get data off the Moto Z you will need another cable to hook it up to your PC. The cable is extremely thick and heavy duty and the right angled connection has a small brick and will most likely cause issues covering up ports if you try to hook up in the middle of a power strip.
That 1440p 5.5-inch screen does look good when the phone is powered up. Even under our bright lights, it was very visible, especially with that bright blue background on the Moto screen.
I couldn’t look at the Moto Z Force without at least considering the Moto Mods functionality as well right. Verizon sent along the JBL Soundboost speaker along with the phone and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I’ve used a few different portable speakers but this one attaches right to the phone. The speaker has an orange flip out kickstand so when you are listening to music you don’t have the phone sitting on its back covering up the speakers. On the inside of the Soundboost, we do get a better look at how the Moto Mods work. Down at the bottom, there is a 16 pin array along with a row of other pins. These connect on the back of the Moto Z and transfer data, in this case, they bring the audio out and also let the phone know how much battery the SoundBoost has. That’s right, the Soundboost has its own built in battery and runs completely independent of the phone's battery. You can charge it while charging the phone or you can pull it off and plug into the USB Type C connection here on the back of the phone. There is also a small rubber button that when pressed will let you know if the Soundboost has enough battery charge.
While the Moto Z, even with the Forces larger battery is still thin. The JBL Soundboost is far from being the same. Even on its own, it is noticeably thicker than the phone itself, but when you combine the two you will be carrying around a brick. This is a lot easier than bringing a phone and a big portable speaker with you all of the time, but take a look at the phones below. If you need a speaker every day, maybe for work or because you play music all of the time on your phone the thickness will most likely be worth it. But I doubt a lot of people will want to carry this around just in case they want to turn up their music. That said, it is only held on to the phone with magnets so you can pop it off at any point and just switch back when you need it.
For my testing, I have spent weeks with the Moto Z Force as my main phone, but before jumping into that experience I did want to check out the benchmark performance. I started off by testing the phone with a few browser based benchmarks. These focus on Java performance and also give us a good idea of what to expect in everyday browsing and the browser-based apps as well. In Googles Octane v2 benchmark the Moto Z Force jumped right to the top of the charts with a significant lead over the rest of the phones tested. In SunSpider the result was the same except with the older Nokia Icon still outperforming and the aged Nvidia Shield as well.
Next, I tested using a few different gaming focused tests like 3DMark for the Ice Storm and the new Sling Shot benchmarks and I also tested using BaseMark X. In Ice Storm and Sling Shot the Moto Z Force once again pulled way ahead of the other phones tested. In the Sling Shot benchmark, it had over double the score even. In BaseMark X the Force came in closer to the other phones tested in both Medium and High settings but it was still at the top of the charts. I’m extremely impressed with the overall gaming performance of the Snapdragon 820 SoC with its four 64 bit Kryo CPU cores and the Adreno 530 GPU.
Next, I tested the storage performance using Androbench. This is one of those benchmarks that a lot of people don’t even consider. Most phones have similar CPUs and GPUs to other phones in their price range so they perform similarly, but the onboard storage can end up being the reason a phone feels slow or fast. In this case, the Moto Z Force has great read performance but the write speeds were a lot lower than I expected.
Next, I wanted to test out that Snapdragon CPU and to do this I use Vellamo to test single core performance as well as multicore performance. Also just because the benchmark includes it I also test the browser performance again here. No shockers on the Moto Z Force browser performance being up there but what about the CPU tests. Well in both CPU benchmarks it did top the charts, especially in single core performance. Given how many apps still only use one core this is really important for day to day performance.
Speaking of the day to day performance, I test using two different overall benchmarks to take a look at how everything I have already performs together. I use Basemark OS II and PCMarks Work Performance benchmark to get a look at overall performance compared to everything else I have tested in the past. In PCMark, the Moto Z Force really kicked but with over 2000 higher of a score compared to the next closest phone. The result was similar in Basemark OS II as well but with a little less than 1000 points gap. Overall it is clear than the Snapdragon 820 SoC performs great and it was a good pick to go with the Moto Z and the Moto Z Force.
Normally I would also test battery performance and I was really excited to see how the Moto Z Force compared with its extended battery capacity but sadly PCMark’s battery benchmark wouldn’t let me complete the test without locking up on our test phone. That said we do know the Moto Z Force does have a 3500 mAH battery and this puts it up with just a few phones for overall battery life. In my testing, I can also confirm that battery life isn’t an issue with the phone, plus the quick charging time helped me keep it charged all of the time as well.
So beyond that what was my experience with the Moto Z Force? Well being a premium smartphone it does have just about everything you can ask for features. It might seem trivial to some but I really love that they included the thumbprint reader and it was faster as reading my thumbprint and unlocking the phone than most other phones I’ve tested. With it being on the front of the phone you can unlock the phone quickly even if you have it on the table as well, unlike the LG phones with their back power button. I spent some time with the included Soundboost Moto Mod accessory but quickly put it up when I didn’t find myself needing the extra speakers each day. It is just too thick to carry around when you don’t need it. Beyond that, it was small stuff like the shake to turn on the flashlight that made life easier. The overall build quality was nice as well and the style backplate seemed to be a little heavier duty than normal so I was less worried about damaging the phone, especially with the shatterproof 2.0 screen.
That is really what you are getting when going with a premium phone like the Moto Z Force. You pay for the best possible performance and battery life to match. But you get a quality product and a little more protection from damage as well. This is the market that the iPhone has always been in with its various aluminum and glass designs and I’m glad to see that Android phones are getting similar designs. The Moto Mods idea is a good one, especially with the extended life battery. For someone who buys an extended life battery on all of their phones or carrys around an extra charger, you could pick up one or two extra batteries. They snap on in seconds, so you could swap between two if you really needed to never worry about battery life. That said even the Force’s normal battery life is good, I doubt you will need much more.
For a lot of people, including me, their mobile phone camera has replaced carrying around an expensive camera in a lot of situations. I still take my DSLR with me on some trips, but it is important for me to have a good camera in any situation on my phone. To put the 21-megapixel rear-facing camera on the Moto Z Force to the test I took a few of our standard photos. The first is taken outside in the middle of the day. Almost any phone should get a good picture in outside lighting situations, but here I’m checking to make sure things don’t end up being to washed out and we have good colors. As you can see the grass may be full of weeds but it is very green.
My next photo is a photo taken of a cat in an unlit room with the sunlight from outside coming in the windows. Here having the light behind the subject, in this case a lazy cat, will make for a dark subject. The Moto Z did a good job of adjusting and the cat is very visible and clear.
The last two photos are of a small quadcopter on a white background. The first is without any lighting or flash and the second is with our photo lighting turned on. In the low light photo, I’m looking to see how well the camera was able to focus with the bright LEDS causing issues and the full light photo is just a comparison shot. The Moto Z did a good job here as well. Overall I was really happy with the photo performance of the phone, especially the default best photo feature that will sometimes take multiple photos if you are moving around a little to make sure at least one is in focus.
The included camera app makes things really simple. You have quick access to a timer, the flash, and HDR settings. Then on the other side, you have the shutter button, the camera flip button to flip to the front-facing camera, and a button to switch to video from photos. Sliding from the right to the left lets you see your last picture and left to the right opens up more detailed settings options. The phone defaults to 1080p30FPS for the video and 13mp for the photos so if you want the highest possible resolutions you can turn video up to 4k30FPS or 1080p60FPS and the camera up to the 21MP setting.
Overall and Final Verdict
If I’m being honest, normally when I get a phone in I am excited. But even a quick look at some of the features of the Moto Z Force had me especially excited about the phone even before it came in. I love the higher build quality with a shatterproof 2.0 glass screen and the aluminum frame. But at the time it was the Moto Mods that really caught my eye. I love being able to hot swap features, so I was curious how that would work out. As it turns out, I didn’t use the Moto Mods very much. The JBL Soundboost that Verizon included with the phone sounded amazing, but was just much larger than I thought it would be. I will say, for those who take portable sound bars with them often it would be a better option, but for me I just didn’t like having what felt like three phones stacked in my pocket. The projector option was really interesting as was the extended life battery.
It ended up being all of the other features of the Moto Z Force that I really enjoyed. Like I mentioned before, I love the shatterproof screen. A lot of people drop their phones and normally the screen is the first to go, even with a case on the phone, so it’s nice to know there is a little extra protection there. Things like the USB Type C connection and the quick thumbprint reader on the home button also made life a little easier even though they didn’t make it into the top four things I liked about the phone. The 21MP rear-facing camera performed extremely well in my testing and throughout the entire time I used the phone, I especially liked the auto best photo setting that would take multiple pictures when you move the phone to make sure one is in focus. Then of course in my performance testing the Snapdragon 820 SoC dominated the charts, proving that the Moto Z Force can handle anything you throw at it, especially with gaming.
Then, of course, was the additional battery capacity of the Moto Z Force edition. They made the phone a little thicker but upped the battery capacity. Sadly, I wasn’t able to get our battery test to work out, but in my real world testing, it was up there with phones like the Droid Turbo that also focused on battery life. Battery life is something a lot of people forget about, but unless you are at a desk all day or in a car most of the time you have to rely on your phone to not die and the Moto Z Force can do that, not to mention the Moto Mods extended life battery that you can add to it.
The Moto Z Force I tested was on the Verizon network and it takes advantage of the new LTE Advanced network. I didn’t have the chance to test out LTE Advanced myself because it isn’t available in our market, but Verizon is suggesting people will see 50% higher peak speeds (From what I understand it is capable of up to 225Mbps) it is a feature you want to have.
So is this the phone to get? Well with the new iPhone being introduced and the issues with the Note 7 being very public there are still a lot of questions to be answered before I could call this the best option. But It is one of the best Android phones on the market currently and it runs basically a pure version of Android as well other than a few apps that Verizon includes. The Moto Z Droid and the Moto Z Force Droid are good go-to phones for people looking for premium options in the Android market.
Live Pricing: HERE