On 1 June Motorola unveiled the Moto Z2 Play, the second-generation Moto Mods compatible smartphone in the mid-level Z-series lineup.

With Moto Mods - clip-on magnetic accessories, which magnetically attach as the rear plate of any Z-series phone - remaining as this phone's major selling point, is there anything standout the Z2 Play offers that the original Play lacked?

  • Z2 Play is thinner, at 5.99mm (original is 7mm thick without Mod)
  • As a result, Z2 Play has 3,000mAh battery (original has 3,510mAh)
  • All-metal shell, including rear (original has etched glass back plate)

At first glance the Z2 Play looks similar to the original Z Play. Both devices have the same 5.5-inch footprint, which is an unavoidable design trait of Moto Mods - as each accessory has to fit the exact size of the rear panel.

The biggest difference is the Z2 Play has shaved a millimetre of thickness, delivering a sub-6mm design. That means it's lighter, too.

This thinner design also means a less capacious battery, at 3,000mAh, down from the original Z Play's 3,510mAh. However, with Moto Mods battery packs, or even without, we haven't found this a big problem (see our full review, link below).

Closer inspection also reveals the rear of the Z2 Play to be metal, which makes the device less slippery than the glass-reared original Z Play.

Both models are water-resistant, although Motorola doesn't produce IP-ratings. The company says the phones are coated with a resistant coating from inside out, in a vacuum, to deliver component-level resistance to water.

  • Z2 Play adds pill-shaped fingerprint scanner (original has square shape)
  • Both feature NFC for payments and Android Beam

On the front the fingerprint scanner has also been updated: the Z2 Play now using the pill-shaped, elongated scanner, just as you'll find in the Moto G5 Plus.

This new scanner can be used for fingerprint gestures, too, (what Moto calls One-button Nav) making it far more sophisticated than the square-shape one of the original Moto Z.

Both Play handsets feature NFC (near field communication) to make the most of their scanners; for payments we find the elongated form far better than the original Z Play's square form.

  • Both have 5.5-inch AMOLED panels
  • Full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution

On the display front, it's business as usual in the Moto Z2 Play, which incorporates the same 5.5-inch Full HD AMOLED screen as found in the original Z Play.

No fancy extras like mobile HDR (high dynamic range) compatibility or ultra-high resolution, but it's par for the course for a mid-level handsets such as these.

  • Z2 Play: Qualcomm SD625 processor, octa-core, 2.2Ghz with 4GB RAM and Adreno 506 GPU
  • Z Play: Qualcomm SD625 processor, octa-core, 2.0Ghz with 3GB RAM and Adreno 506 GPU
  • Z2 Play: Android 7.1 with Google Assistant; Moto Actions/Display/Voice additions
  • Z Play: Android 7.0, no Google Assistant; Moto Actions additions

From a hardware perspective the Z2 Play and Z Play aren't radically different. The newer model has taken a marginal processor upgrade in the form of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 626 (that's 2.2Ghz up from 2.0Ghz in the Z Play's 625 chipset).

Perhaps the biggest difference, at least in the Z2 Play sample we have, is the 4GB RAM, up from the 3GB in the original Z Play. It makes the latest model run very smoothly indeed, whether for day to day tasks or even gaming.

Both models feature a microSD slot to expand the onboard memory - which is 32GB or 64GB, depending on region and purchase point.

The software is boosted by Android 7.1 in the Z2 Play, too, delivering Google Assistant voice assist which lacked in the original Z Play's Android 7.0 setup.

Both models feature the Moto app, which is pre-installed, where Actions can be accessed to make physical motions deliver outcomes, such as switching on the torch with a "karate chop". In the Z2 Play this also includes the One-button Nav gesture, plus Moto Voice and Moto Display - the former acting like Moto's own version of Google Assistant, using the "show me…" command.

  • Z2 Play: 12-megapixel sensor, 3m on-sensor AF pixels
  • Z Play: 16-megapixel sensor, on-sensor AF pixels
  • Z2 Play: f/1.7 aperture lens; Z Play: f/2.0 aperture lens
  • Both have 5MP front-facing cameras and dual tone flash

To look at the numbers, you might be wondering why the Z2 Play has the lower-resolution rear camera. Well, it's not all about pixel count, it's about the size of the pixels: and the 12 million of them on the Z2 Play's sensor mean they're far larger than the 16 million arranged over the Z Play's same sensor surface area.

Where the Z2 Play ups the ante is with improved on-sensor autofocus pixels - there are now three million of them, although the original Z Play also has this feature, just not to such high numbers - and the laser assist autofocus can function up to five metres (up from three metres).

Neither device has optical image stabilisation, despite the notable camera protrusion from the rear suggesting that they might. The Z2 Play makes up for this with the faster lens, at f/1.7, making it half an f-stop brighter than the f/2.0 lens of the Z Play. That means more light can reach the sensor.

Both models offer auto and professional shooting modes whether you want to point-and-shoot or take full control over the settings.

With no "standard" Moto Z2 model coming out, it's down to the Z2 Play to rule the roost for Moto Mods in 2017, filling a gap between the original Z Play and Z models.

That's why the newer Z2 Play is slimmer than the original. The cut to battery life hasn't been a big bother in our experience, however, with excellent performance in this regard. The whole device runs Android 7.1 very well indeed, aided by a slightly more powerful setup than the original model (it's the RAM boost that makes the biggest difference).

The Moto Z2 Play will first launch in Brazil and South America from 1 June 2017, followed by India a week later on 8 June 2017. It will arrive in the US in July, priced $499, followed by the UK and EU a littler later in the same month, with no confirmed price as yet.