Moto Z2 Force vs Moto Z2 Play: Which Modular Phone Wins?

Editor in Chief
Updated

From snap-on batteries and a 360-degree camera to speakers and a projector, both the Moto Z2 Force and Moto Z2 Play stand out from other smartphones with their wide range of Moto Mods.

The Moto Z2 Force (left) is shatterproof, but the Z2 Play is cheaper.The Moto Z2 Force (left) is shatterproof, but the Z2 Play is cheaper.

But while these modular phones look nearly identical, when you look closer at the specs — and especially the price — they're actually quite different. Here's how these two Android devices compare.

TL;DR Version: The Z2 Play gives you more bang for your buck if you're willing to give up some speed.

Moto Z2 Force vs Moto Z2 Play: Specs Compared


Moto Z2 Force
Moto Z2 Play
Price
$750 or $30/month
$408 or $17/month
CPUSnapdragon 835Snapdragon 625
OS
Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Screen
5.5 inches OLED (2560 x 1440)
5.5 inches OLED (1920 x 1080)
RAM
4GB
3GB
Storage
64GB
32GB
microSD
up to 2TB
up to 2TB
Rear Camera
Dual 12 MP
12 MP
Front Camera
5 MP
5 MP
Battery
2730 mAh
3,000 mAh
Size6.13 x 3 x .24 inches
6.14 x 3 x 0.23 inches
Weight
5.04 ounces
5.1 ounces

Design

With nearly the same dimensions and weight, both the Z2 Play and Z2 Force are very slim and sturdy phones with a sleek aluminum design. You'll also find a fairly wide fingerprint sensor beneath both screens that supports various gestures for navigation.

The big difference is that the Z2 Force's screen is shatterproof, as it uses a unique 5-layer construction to prevent cracking in case of a tumble. In other words, you won't need a case with the Force. 

Another key difference is that the Z2 Play sports a headphone jack, while the Z2 Force makes due only with a USB-C port. It's worth noting that neither of these Motorola phones is water-resistant, so they can't be submerged, though both have a nano coating that repels water.

Display

Both handsets pack a 5.5-inch OLED screen, which means you can expect vivid colors, but the Z2 Force's panel has a higher resolution (2560 x 1440) compared to the Z2 Play (1920 x 1080). We're not sure how much you'll notice the difference in pixels on a display this size, though.

Specs and Performance

With its Snapdragon 625 chip and 3GB of RAM, the Moto Z2 Play offers mid-range specs, while the Snapdragon 835 processor and 4GB of RAM inside the Z2 Force provide that phone with Galaxy S8-like power. You'll notice the performance delta mostly when loading more demanding applications and playing higher-end games.

If you opt for the Moto Z2 Play, we highly recommend that you spring for a microSD card, as the 32GB of onboard storage on that phone doesn't give you a ton of room for photos, videos and apps. The Z2 Force also as a microSD card slot, but you'll probably be able to make due with its 64GB of storage for a long while.

Cameras

The Moto Z2 Force stands out in this category with its dual rear 12-megapixel cameras, which let you apply selective focus to shots, similar to the iPhone 7 Plus' portrait mode. You can also shoot in true black-and-white, which can make for pretty dramatic results.

Only the Moto Z2 Play has dual cameras.Only the Moto Z2 Play has dual cameras.

The single 12-MP shooter on the Z2 Play is no slouch, as it turned in decent results in our testing. Images looked sharp, but the Z2 Play's colors didn't look as saturated as those from the camera on the OnePlus 5, which is in the same price range.

You should expect similar selfies from these phones' front 5-MP front cameras, both of which come with an LED flash.

Battery Life

The Moto Z2 Play wins here on battery capacity, with its a 3,000 mAh battery. When we tested the Z2 Play, it lasted 9 hours, 34 minutes — about average for a smarphone these days (though a far cry from the 13:46 time turned in by the original Moto Z Play). The Moto Z2 Force has a smaller 2,730 mAh battery. Why the lower capacity? If we had to guess, it's because Motorola needed to make room for its Shattershield protective layers in the Force.

Value

Both the Moto Z2 Force and Z2 Play work with 23 Moto Mods.Both the Moto Z2 Force and Z2 Play work with 23 Moto Mods.

Those looking to save some bucks should definitely go for the Moto Z2 Play. At $408, it's almost half the price of the $750 Moto Z2 Force. Those who go the monthly installment route will be looking at $17 per month for the Z2 Play versus $30 per month for the Z2 Force. That's more than another Netflix subscription per month.

Bottom Line

A good way to approach this decision is to look at how much phone you're getting for your money, and whether the Z2 Force justifies the premium. The Z2 Play is a solid midrange phone, offering the expandability of Moto Mods and a bright and colorful 5.5-inch screen in a thin design.

The Z2 Force adds a sharper quad HD screen, a faster processor, more RAM and storage and dual cameras. Plus, its screen is shatterproof. All of those are worthwhile upgrades, but $750 is Galaxy S8 territory. The Z2 Force looks great, but for our money, we'd save the extra $342 and get the Z2 Play, as you'll have money left over to invest in more Mods.

Photos credit: Tom's Guide