Moto Z2 Force Edition Hands On: Still Shatterproof, With New Moto Mods

Lenovo is keeping their modular smartphone line going with new Mods and a refreshed flagship.

Last year, Lenovo and Motorola tried to shake things up in the smartphone world by finally popularizing what has often seemed impossible to popularize — modularity. Their Moto Z phones have connectors on the back that pair with Moto Mods — full back cover accessories that run the gamut from battery packs to external cameras to external speakers. The first generation Moto Z phones ended up being pretty solid despite little annoyances like the lack of a headphone port, and Lenovo saw good sales as a result. You know what that means — more phones and more Mods!

Motorola and Lenovo officially introduced the Moto Z2 Force Edition today, not too long after the midrange Moto Z2 Play model started shipping out. We saw three models last year, but it looks like Lenovo has decided to cut the regular Moto Z model. They’ve combined the Moto Z and Moto Z Force from last year, taking the thinness of the Moto Z and combining it with the reinforced, shatter-proof display on the Moto Z Force. But, while the strengths are now shared, the same goes for the weaknesses.

To get last year’s Moto Z as thin as it was, the headphone port was left off — and that’s the case with the Moto Z2 Force, too. The other big problem with the original Moto Z was battery capacity — as it turned out, the phone needed those external battery Mods just to have as good of battery life as every other premium phone on the market. Last year’s Moto Z Force had terrific battery life on its own, but with the Z2 Force getting the thin treatment, there’s been a big dip to 2,730 mAh. Considering the specs, you’ll likely need a battery Mod to get through the day.

Speaking of specs, like last year’s model, this phone has the best of the best. The Moto Z2 Force Edition runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset — not only is that powerful, its modem makes Gigabit LTE speeds possible (as long as your carrier has rolled that out in your area!). That’s been paired with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage.

But, it’s the display that will impress the most. It’s got a 5.5″ 1440p AMOLED display protected by Motorola’s ShatterShield technology. That puts a heavy protective layer over the display — historically, it’s been excellent at preventing cracks, but more prone to scratches. It used to make colors look a little duller, but Motorola has been improving the transparency of ShatterShield over the years.

The toughness isn’t just on the display, either — they used reinforced aluminum all around to make the Moto Z2 Force a little tougher than the average aluminum phone. No waterproofing is a big miss for a phone that’s supposed to be more rugged than most, but it does have a hydrophobic coating that can protect against rain.

The most important competition among premium smartphones these days is the camera. The Moto Z2 Force still has the large camera bump in the top center of the back (as it needs to be — to work with previous Moto Mods, the shape of the phone can’t change), but there are now two cameras in there. Both are 12 MP sensors with f/2.0 lenses, allowing for bokeh shots. Lenovo has gone the Huawei route with this dual camera setup, using one monochrome camera and one black and white camera (the latter is better at picking up light levels). That means you can also take some excellent black and white photos by just using the monochrome sensor, too.

There’s even more camera fun to be had with Moto Mods. The Mods are accessories that fit flush onto the backs of Moto Z phones, and Lenovo and Motorola have done a terrific job of releasing new ones at a steady clip — even if they don’t always turn out that great. With the Moto Z2 Force, they’re introducing the 360 Camera Moto Mod, which adds a 360-degree camera to the top of the phone. That can take 360-degree video in 4K with 3D audio — it’s the sort of video that’s fun to watch using VR headsets. This Mod makes it easy to take those videos, and Motorola and Lenovo are even supplying an editing app to help make those videos look their best. The 360 Camera joins a host of existing mods, with a gamepad and a reinforced speaker with extra battery power most recently getting added.

Like last year, this Moto Z phone is pricey. There is good news, though — they’re no longer being released as Verizon exclusives! The Moto Z2 Force will be available through AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular, and can also be purchased from Best Buy or through Motorola directly. If you go the carrier route, the phone will start at $30 per month, but expect the full price to be in the $700 to $800 range. That’s a huge ask considering the Moto Mods, while cool, aren’t cheap — the 360 Camera Moto Mod alone is $300. Both that Mod and the Moto Z2 Force will be available on August 10.

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