There will be no second-generation Moto Z2 in 2017. Instead it's a choice between the battery-heavy Z2 Play or all-powerful Z2 Force (which isn't a Verizon exclusive in the States like the original Z Droid model, hence name change).
At first glance both phones look much the same - no surprise, given their Moto Mods compatibility, requiring the 5.5-inch screen and same footprint for connectivity with the clip-on accessories - but under the hood the Z2 Force has a whole lot more going on than the Z2 Play.
So which, if either, should you go for: the bigger battery of the Play or the greater power of the Force?
Moto Z2 Force vs Moto Z2 Play: Moto Mods design
- Both models measure 155.8 x 76 x 5.99mm (1mm thinner than predecessors)
- Moto Z2 Force has 7000 series aluminium unibody, 80 per cent stronger than predecessor
- Moto Z2 Force has no 3.5mm headphone jack, the Z2 Play does
- Both models weather-resistant (no IP rating provided)
Design-wise the Z2 Force and Z2 Play don't look dramatically different. The main give-away is the Force's dual camera arrangement to the rear - which we'll come to later.
Both Z2 models are thinner than their respective predecessors by over a millimetre, which is an important design choice to help prevent the devices becoming too thick with various Moto Mods options attached (for more info about Mods and what's available, follow the feature link below).
Both models also feature metal rears - not the glass of the earlier models - which makes them less slippery and easier to handle. That's particularly useful for easy swapping of Moto Mods.
Both models will be available in Fine Gold (with a white front), with the Z2 Play also available in Lunar Grey, while the Z2 Force offers a Super Black finish.
Moto Z2 Force vs Moto Z2 Play: Display
- Moto Z2 Force: 5.5-inch 2560 x 1440 pixel AMOLED panel
- Moto Z2 Play: 5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 pixel AMOLED panel
- Moto Z2 Force features next-gen ShatterShield non-shatter glass
A prominent difference with the Force is that it's designed to be the tough nut of the two. While both models are water-resistant, the Force is forged from 7000 series aluminium, which is 80 per cent tougher than its predecessor's build. The Force also features ShatterShield glass, which is designed to never shatter - so it's a "drop-proof" phone.
In terms of screen real-estate, both feature the standard 5.5-inch display size that any Z-series phone will have to feature, on account of the Moto Mods design. The Z2 Play opts for a Full HD panel, while the Z2 Force goes higher resolution with a Quad HD panel for a more flagship result.
Both use AMOLED technology, which is better for deeper blacks, more vibrant colours and more lenient battery consumption. There's no ultra-bright option for HDR (high dynamic range) or expanded colour gamut, like you can find in flagship devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6 devices.
Moto Z2 Force vs Moto Z2 Play: Fingerprint scanner
- Both models feature updated pill-shaped front-facing scanner
- One-button Nav gesture control available for both models
Lenovo updated the fingerprint scanner used in its Motorola phones with the G5 and G5 Plus models, opting to replace the squarer format with a pill-shaped sensor. It was a far better improvement then - and so is welcome on both Z2 Play and Z2 Force devices.
The fingerprint scanner sits in the same front-and-centre bottom position on both devices, but sits slightly more recessed in the Z2 Force on account of its thicker glass.
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. That means swipe-based gestures rather than using the on-screen trio of Android soft keys, which frees up screen real estate.
Both handsets feature NFC (near field communication) to make the most of their scanners, too, which is useful for payments and data transfer.
Moto Z2 Force vs Moto Z2 Play: Battery, hardware and software
- Moto Z2 Force: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 octa-core processor (2.45GHz), 4/6GB RAM
- Moto Z2 Play: Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 octa-core processor (2.2GHz), 3/4GB RAM
- Moto Z2 Force: 2750mAh battery; Moto Z2 Play: 3000mAh battery
- Android 7.1 with Google Assistant for both models
- Moto Actions, Display and Voice for both models; Moto Key smart unlock for Z2 Force only (initially)
Making both Z2 models slimmer this year has come at the expense of battery capacity, with both models shedding in excess of 500mAh compared to their respective predecessors. That might sound like a terrible thing, but we've found the Z2 Play to perform commendably. Plus, being Moto Mods phones, it's easy to magnetically attach a battery pack to the rear to enhance life.
The Z2 Play has a 3000mAh cell, while the Z2 Force goes a little less with a 2750mAh cell. We've seen the latter phone, but haven't tested it extensively - so can't comment on whether its more powerful hardware and higher screen resolution will cause poor longevity or not.
Speaking of nuts and bolts hardware, the Z2 Force is the more powerful device of the two, with the top-end Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and 4GB or 6GB RAM (depending on region). That's a flagship spec compared to the middling Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 processor and 3GB or 4GB RAM found in the Z2 Play (although we've found this phone to run very well indeed, after weeks of testing).
The better chipset also means the Z2 Force offers the fastest possible data speeds: 1Gbps LTE 4G and Wi-Fi 802.11 a/c.
Both models feature a microSD slot to expand the onboard memory - which is 32GB or 64GB, depending on region and purchase point.
Software-wise, both models come with Android 7.1 in the background, delivering Google Assistant voice assist which lacked in the original models' Android 7.0 setup. Both models also 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". This includes Moto Voice and Moto Display - the former acting like Moto's own version of Google Assistant, using the "show me…" command.
The Z2 Force will be the first device to roll out with the new Moto Key addition to this Moto app: a security and password manager, which can even manage remote access of your other devices, such as Windows PC, direct from the phone via a fingerprint to simplify device access.
Moto Z2 Force vs Moto Z2 Play: Cameras
- Moto Z2 Force: dual rear cameras at 12MP, one colour, one monochrome; f/1.7 aperture lenses
- Moto Z2 Play: single rear colour camera at 12MP; f/1.7 aperture lens
- 5MP front-facing camera with flash for both models
Last up - despite being one of the very first things we mentioned! - is the camera arrangement, which is rather different between the two devices.
The Z2 Play features a single 12-megapixel colour rear sensor, paired with an f/1.7 aperture lens, which we found to produce pretty decent images when we reviewed the device.
The Z2 Force, on the other hand, opts for a dual camera arrangement - much like the Huawei P10 Plus. This means one colour and one monochrome sensor mounted side-by-side in the Moto's circular camera arrangement, each offering 12-megapixel resolutions. Selective focus, selective black and white, post-shot depth control and background replacement features are possible, which lack from the Z2 Play.
Moto Z2 Force vs Moto Z2 Play: Conclusion
So there we have it: with no Moto Z2 this year, it's a choice of either bigger-battery Z2 Play at the mid-level, or beefier-processor Z2 Force at the flagship level.
Size, scale and Moto Mod compatibility is one and the same whichever model you choose. In the Force, however, you'll get the benefit of a super-tough design, dual rear cameras and a far more powerful processor. The downside? Less battery life and more expense.
Right now, however, we don't know how much the Moto Z2 Force will cost when it launches (date is TBC, we've only been told "summer"). The Z2 Play, however, has been on sale in Brazil since 1 June, with a price of $499 (USD), making it a relatively affordable device… albeit one that has obvious competition from the OnePlus 5.