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Moto Z2 Force Hands-on: Cool Mods, Dual Cameras, Weaker Battery

Motorola is relaunching itself as a smartphone brand, and it's starting with a new Moto Z2 Force.

Starting at $30 per month (or about $799 unlocked), the modular handset is thinner, lighter and packs Snapdragon 835 power as well as dual cameras. And it retains the shatterproof design and support for swappable Moto Mods that set this series apart.

Those Motos Mods will include a new 360 camera for $299 that Motorola unveiled alongside the Moto Z2 Force. And unlike last year's Moto Z Force, the Z2 Force will be available through all major carriers. We just wish Motorola included less bezels and more battery capacity on its phone.

There are 26 Moto Mods available, and there are more coming on board, such as the $79 Moto Gamepad, which includes physical controls and its own battery. The new 360 camera shoots fully immersive videos in 4K with 3D sound. There's four directional mics built in. You can also live stream 360 video.

According to Motorola, Moto Mods are the number one driver for purchase intent for the Moto Z series, and there's 80 to 95 positive sentiment around them.

Moto Z2 Force Key Specs

CPU
Snapdragon 835
OS
Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Screen
5.5 inches OLED (2560 x 1440)
RAM
4GB
Storage
64GB
microSD
up to 2TB
Rear Camera
Dual 12 MP
Front Camera
5 MP
Battery
2730 mAh
Size6.13 x 3 x .24 inches
Weight
5.04 ounces

Meet the Moto Z2 Force

In terms of design, the Moto Z2 Force is 13 percent thinner and 12 percent lighter than its predecessor. It's crafted from a single piece of 7000 series aluminum and comes in three colors, including grey, black and gold. There's also a hydrophobic nano-coating for repelling spills, splashes and rain, but you don't get full IP68 water water resistance as you do with the Galaxy S8.

The phone offers a 5.5-inch Super AMOLED screen with quad HD resolution (1440p). A 2.35-GHz Snapdragon 835 processor powers the device, and it has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of memory. The storage is expandable via microSD up to 2TB. The phone will support Gigabit LTE as well.

Motorola says the phone has a patented five-layer design that makes the screen shatterproof. That means you won't need a case for the Moto Z2 Force. Motorola reinforced the phone's frame with aluminum.

Unfortunately, the screen isn't as sexy as what you'll find on the LG G5 and Galaxy S8, as the top and bottom bezels here are more pronounced. Motorola likely kept a similar design to the last Moto Z Force to continue to support the same mods.

About That Battery...

Although it's just 6mm thin, Motorola promises all-day battery life from the Moto Z2 Force, and its 15W TurboPower is rated to deliver 8 hours of power with a single 15-minute charge. Still, the 2,730 mAh capacity on this phone is a lot less than what the last Moto Z Force offered (3,500 mAh), which makes us wonder how long the device will last on our battery test.

Last year's Moto Z Play remains the second longest-lasting phone we've ever tested, but Motorola shrunk the battery size in the name of thinness on the Moto Z2 Play, and that phone turned in a more pedestrian battery life in our testing.

The Moto Z2 Force has dual 12-megapixel cameras on the back with rapid phase detection auto focus and laser focus up to 5 meters. One of the rear cameras is a color lens while the other shoots in monochrome; the dual shooters work together to capture images in true black and white without conversion, and there's selective focus to blur out the background. 

Also on board is a new fingerprint sensor that promises to unlock the device in just 750 milliseconds. The elongated button supports gestures, too, such as swiping right for recent apps, long pressing for locking the display and tapping to go home.

The Moto Display feature now offers quick reply so you can respond to messages without unlocking the phone. And with the new Moto Voice controls, you can say things like "Show me the weather" or "Show me my calendar." It sounds like an interesting feature, though when we tested it on the Moto Z2 Play, it felt pretty superfluous on a phone that also offers Google Assistant.

Outlook

Last year's Moto Z Force was a Verizon exclusive, but all four major carriers and US Cellular are offering the Z2 Force, which is also available directly through Motorola. Preorder the $799 phone, and you can get a free Moto Insta-Share Projector mod. The phone ships August 10.

Overall, we like that someone is continuing to carry the modular phone torch now that LG has backed out, but we'll have to wait and see how well this phone performs.