Motorola just made recording 360 videos stupid easy on its latest modular phone
The Z2 Force Edition is Motorola’s 2017 flagship, which means if you’ve been waiting for a new version to clip on all of your pre-existing Moto Mod accessories, this is the phone to get when it releases on Aug. 10.
In the U.S., the phone will be available on Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular. Best Buy and Motorola.com will also sell the phone; pre-orders start today at $30 down and 30 per month for 24 months, for a total of $720.
Flagship inside and out
Motorola didn’t change too much with the Z2 Force Edition. The phone’s a little thicker than the original Z (one of the thinnest phones ever), the corners are rounder, and the aluminum’s now made of Series 7000, which is 80 percent stronger than before.
It’s solid phone that feels good in the hand, but nothing particularly special now that even budget phones come with premium metal bodies. Like its predecessor, the Z2 Force Edition is water-repellent, but not water-resistant, which means it’ll work in the rain, but submerging it is a no-no.
Motorola told me it decided against water resistance because most phone warranties don’t even cover accidental water damage, which makes the feature kinda a non-starter. I don’t agree that a lack of insurance coverage should be reason why a feature isn’t included, but I guess some water-repellence is better than none.
Inside the phone, you’ll find all the requisite 2017 flagship guts, including Android 7.1.1 Nougat, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip, 4GB of RAM (6GB on the international version), 32GB of internal storage (64GB with the 6GB RAM model), a memory card slot that supports up to 2TB, and a 2,730 mAh battery that supports the company’s speedy Turbo Charging. The phone also supports Gigabit LTE, but that won’t see much use until mobile networks flip on the faster data speeds.
Below the screen, you’ll also find a home button that doubles as a fingerprint sensor. You can also program the home button to correspond the navigation buttons swipe left to go back, swipe right to open recent apps, and tap to return home.
It would have been great to see a headphone jack return, but alas, there’s none. You’ll just have to make do with USB-C headphones, wireless headphones or use a dongle to connect standard headphones with 3.5mm jacks.
A screen that’ll never shatter
The 5.5-inch Quad HD (2,560 x 1,440) AMOLED display is as bright and vivid as any from what I could tell during my demo. The one thing that gives the Z2 Force Edition’s screen a leg up on other phone displays is its durability. Motorola’s using its third-generation ShatterShield screen technology, which the company says is “guaranteed not to crack or shatter.”
If you’ve seen other Motorola phones with ShatterShield screens hit concrete before (see video above), you’ll already know what to expect. ShatterShield technology is great, but it won’t protect it from scratches the various protective layers shielding the screen only absorb the shock from impacts.
No new phone is complete without some kind of improvement to the cameras and the Z2 Force Edition is no different. Crammed into its gargantuan camera hump are dual 12-megapixel cameras.
They work differently from the iPhone 7 Plus and OnePlus 5’s dual cameras. Instead of one regular lens and one 2x telephoto lens, the Z2 Force Edition’s has one color and one monochrome camera. When you snap a photo, the cameras suck in light through both cameras and then composites the data to create one super image with sharper details. In other words, the dual cameras work just like the ones on Huawei’s P10.
The rear camera can also do some funky software tricks. There’s a bokeh mode, which blurs out a photo’s backgrounds to make subjects pop more, and a various filters that can be applied while you’re shooting.
On the front is a 5-megapixel selfie camera withan LED flash. It’s good. It takes selfies and they look mighty decent.
360-degree capture made easy
Launching with the Z2 Force Edition is the Moto 360 Camera, a 360-degree camera module that’ll cost $300. While 360-degree cameras have come down in price and devices like Samsung’s second-gen Gear 360 are smaller and even easier to use, they haven’t exactly taken the world by storm just yet.
All of your 360 photos are saved right into Google Photos.
The Moto 360 Camera is step in the right direction for 360 cameras. First, it shoots 4K resolution 360 video and records 3D audio. And second, it’s even easier to use than the Gear 360. Clip the camera onto the Z2 Force Edition and a 360 capture button automatically pops up within the camera app. Press it and boom that’s it. There’s no extra app needed, no Bluetooth pairing, no transferring footage from a memory card, etc. All of your 360 photos are saved right into Google Photos. It’s really awesome and I wish I had more playtime with the feature outside the dimly lit hotel conference room I saw it in.
Modular phones like Google’s Project Ara, where all of its internal components are swappable, and LG’s semi-modular G5 may be dead and buried for good, but Motorola’s still pushing the boundaries of a modular system using magnetic components.
And there’s signs it’s the right move, too. Andy Rubin’s Essential Phone also has a magnetic connector for easily attaching accessories like a 360 camera, and RED’s Hydrogen phone with its so-called “holographic display” is going that route, too, with a magnetic connector for stacking on beefier camera add-ons.
So no, modular phones aren’t dead. In fact, Motorola’s leading the charge to make them a serious thing.