A Force to Be Reckoned with: Moto Z Force Droid Edition Review

I have had my Nexus 6 for over a year, and while it was still good, I really like the fingerprint reader on my work’s iPhone and wanted a MicroSD card. So I upgraded to a Moto Z Force Droid Edition  from Verizon. Is it a worthy replacement to my trusty Nexus 6? So far, it has exceeded my expectations!

GearDiary A Force to Be Reckoned with: Moto Z Force Droid Edition Review

First I am going to address the hardware, which seems VERY similar (with the exception of a few things) to the Samsung phones and many other Android devices. The Moto Z and Z force both use a Qualcomm 820 SOC, which is the same chip as the Galaxy S7, S7 Edge and Note 7 here in the US. Motorola’s phones both have 4GB of RAM like Samsung. Most of the specs are nearly identical between the Samsung phones and Motorola’s new flagship phones. However, Motorola did do something unique to differentiate their phones from the others, and they have done that in spades with the new Moto Mods which I will talk about later.

The screen is also promised to be shatter proof, being made of Gorilla Glass 4. So it should take a beating. I am not going to test it like many other sites, though.

Will USB-C be a good headphone/cable replacement?

GearDiary A Force to Be Reckoned with: Moto Z Force Droid Edition Review

They also beat Apple at eliminating the 3.5 mm headphone jack. Yes, the Moto Z phones do not include a headphone jack and provide an adapter that plugs into the USB-C port on the bottom of the phone. While I do not like the idea of eliminating an essential port like the 3.5mm jack with the included dongle, I don’t miss it as much, but of course, I watch that dongle like a hawk to make sure I don’t lose it!  Eventually, I will pick up a spare.

If this becomes a trend, I see many different USB-C peripherals being released to account for this. While I haven’t tried any of the USB hubs available for the Macbook which has only USB-C, I bet you they will work as the phone supports USB on the go. I see both USB-C hubs and some sound devices possibly working with the Moto Z and Z Force. I also think that many headset manufacturers will eventually make USB-C headphones, and we will never miss the 3.5mm jack. Why? Higher quality audio and a more durable connection.

The USB-C plug on both the adapter and this dongle seem VERY durable, plus, like the 3.5mm plug and Lightning cable, it does not matter which direction you plug it in. In 20-30 years (if it lasts that long), I see this port being eliminated in favor of wireless only connections for charging, data transfer, and more. Of course, my son’s generation will be just like mine, complaining about the lack of a USB-C port when that happens. Every generation has a gripe.

Mods for the Win

GearDiary A Force to Be Reckoned with: Moto Z Force Droid Edition Review

To go back to the mods for a moment, this is the biggest differentiation between the Moto Z series and Samsung. They include a phone back in the box, it has a faux wood look to it that feels nice. These are called Style Shells and you can get them in other colors of faux wood, leather, and some other textures which make personalizing the look of the phone a snap. This is the most basic mod.

Then you have the JBL Sound Boost, which places stereo speakers on the back of the phone and includes a kickstand for those who don’t want to lug a Bluetooth speaker. Next is a series of battery cases from Incipio that even includes Kate Spade or Tumi look variants. These range from $59.99 to $99. Finally, there is the projector that instantly lets you project your screen on any wall. Don’t get too excited, though, as the projector is only 480p and will cost you about $300; it’s not worth it in my opinion.

The important thing with the mods is that it seems that Moto and others will be exploring other phone backs, extending the functionality even further. At IFA, Hasselblad announced a Moto Mod which adds a camera with a full 10x optical zoom to the back of the Moto Z Force. This was once rumored to be shipping when the Moto Z and Z Force were released, but it is now a reality. While the built in camera on my Z Force is pretty awesome for a phone camera, having true optical zoom as an option will be great! I can’t wait to see what else they come up with.

The nice thing is you can install these on the fly without the need for a reboot. So you can keep the battery pack in your bag until you need to top the phone off, or you can be like Judie and just keep the Kate Spade pack on your phone all the time (She’s got the Moto Z). 😉

Thin is In

GearDiary A Force to Be Reckoned with: Moto Z Force Droid Edition Review

Both of Moto’s new Z series phones are pretty thin, with the Z being the thinnest phone currently at 5 mm thick. The Z Force is slightly thicker at 7 mm, but you get an excellent 21 MP rear camera with a sensor made by Sony instead of a 12 MP Sony sensor on the Z. The Z Force also gets a 3500 mAh battery which will easily give you all day usage…unless you are playing Pokemon Go. 🙂

Adding the included style shell to my Z Force makes it still thinner and lighter than my old Nexus 6, which is something I really appreciate! Plus the Z Force is much smaller and overall is a more comfortable phone to use than my old Nexus 6, which I miss.

Nice Touches in the Bloatware

GearDiary A Force to Be Reckoned with: Moto Z Force Droid Edition Review

Yeah I said it. Normally bloatware is something I detest, and the Z and Z Force have plenty of it thanks to Verizon. Most of them I can hide, like VZ Navigator, VZ Cloud, and Slacker. Others I can’t. For example, the Verizon Visual Voicemail app you cannot hide. Fortunately, the base level of visual voicemail is free so I switched to it from Google Voice. Not that I get many calls mind you. 🙂

Now there are a few apps that some would consider bloatware that I absolutely love. Verizon’s Messaging app, which is the built-in SMS app, is actually pretty great! I like that you can actually purchase a gift card via the app and send it via text message. You can bill it to your Verizon account or pay for it with your credit card. It’s a nice touch that I never thought I’d like in a SMS app.

Plus, they also have an app for your tablet, which lets you send messages via the tablet. Very handy if you have a full-sized keyboard on your tablet and I do on my Jide Ultra, and my soon to be shipped Kickstarted Hybrx laptop. You can also backup your messages to the SD card, which is really handy when you are getting ready to wipe your phone and start fresh (something I like to do on occasion).

It also has a Driving Mode which will start automatically based on if you have paired with a bluetooth device in your car. So when I drive, I can now have it auto reply when I am driving. I can also have it read my messages aloud when they come in and respond to them, thanks to Moto’s software that works nicely in conjunction with the built in SMS app. I never thought I’d see the day where I’d praise a bit of bloatware, but this is a great SMS app and I will continue to use it. They also include Google’s Messenger SMS app in the ROM if you prefer a plain jane SMS app. Of course, this all depends on the upcoming Allo application. If Allo can replace SMS for me, then I may switch over to it but for now I am sticking with the built in SMS app.

Conclusion

In the ever similar phone market where it’s hard to differentiate between similar slabs of glass, metal, silicon, and plastic you have to make a device that either looks unique or has unique functions. The Moto Z and Z Force have both done that thanks to the Moto Mods. While I am not totally convinced about Moto Mods continuing much beyond these two phones (and the just announced Moto Z Play), I am excited to see what other companies can come up with. Although I am not convinced that there will be enough volume of sales of this device to expand the line of available Mods, if there’s enough interest, I see a lot of promise in the way the mods are implemented.

The rest of the hardware is top notch and the Z Force with its 21 Megapixel Sony sensor makes the Moto Z Force Motorola’s flagship phone. Under Google’s ownership, Motorola didn’t do much to make me excited, but this phone is one of the best Motorola devices I have ever used.

It is now available on Verizon for $730 or $30 dollars a month.

MSRP: $720

What I Liked: It’s a big phone without being super huge. Moto Mods are cool too.

What I Didn’t Care For: While the SMS app is nice, I could do without the rest of Verizon’s bloat.

Source: Personal Purchase


About the Author

Joel McLaughlin
Joel is a consultant in the IT field and is located in Columbus, OH. While he loves Linux and tends to use it more than anything else, he will stoop to running closed source if it is the best tool for the job. His techno passions are Linux, Android, netbooks, GPS, podcasting and Amateur Radio.