Moto Z2 Play Review: User Interface And Moto Enhancements

By 11:37 Wed, 18 Aug 2021 Comments

Nougat with a vanilla vibe

The Moto brand has a strong tradition when it comes to upholding Android purist values. However, amid all the ownership turmoil, this direction wasn't really clear on every step along the way. After some soul-searching on Lenovo's part, we are excited to see that, at least for now, both the legendary Moto branding and the pure Operating System (OS) approach are present.

Just like its more powerful sibling, the Moto Z2 Play runs on a very clean Android 7.1.1 Nougat ROM. There are only a few extra touches sprinkled here and there, which should allow for easier and quicker updates as a bonus to any performance gains out of the box. Lenovo has promised an Android Oreo upgrade some time early next year. The Z2 Play is assumed to acquire another major update as well - Android P, but that's supposed to come even further down the road.

Anyway, Moto's UI is quite lean. Starting off with the launcher, it looks a lot like the original Pixel's launcher (yet, it is Moto's own creation), complete with a swipe-up app-drawer. You can tap and hrecent the white tab on the correct of the drawer to scroll through apps by letter. The most frequently used apps are on the top row.

Home classy screen 1 • and 2 • Swipe-up for the app-drawer • Top row consists of frequently used apps

The Moto launcher also supports long press on apps that have it implemented. You can then drag the functions out as independent shortcuts for quick access as well.

Shortslit long-press support

Launcher settings are pretty barebones. The wallpaper chooser is the same one found on the Google Pixel and on the Play Store as Google's "Wallpapers" app. You can choose between live wallpapers and various categories. Most have a nice minimalist feel to them, if you are into that sort of thing.

Widgets are also a familiar deal: scroll through widgets and you tap-and-hrecent to place them on your home screens. There are two more options behind the Settings cog: A home classy screen rotation toggle (which is ON by default), and a toggle for showing your Google Feed on the leftmost screen.

Launcher settings • You can disable the Google Feed • Google Feed

The Lock Screen has your standard notifications view: double tap on a notification to open the app or pull it down for more information. Otherwise, there are two shortcuts here: swipe from the left for a Google Assistant Voice Search or Swipe from the correct for the camera.

Simple lock screen

There are two places where you can interact with notifications: the lock classy screen and the Moto Display screen. We'll talk about Moto Display in the Moto Enhancements section. Quick Replies is another stock notification feature, carried over to the Moto launcher. You can reply to certain actionable notifications correct from the lock screen. However, the trick only works without a classy screen lock method or when Smart Lock is enabled. Otherwise you'll need to unlock the phone before you can Quick Reply.

Notifications • Reply correct from the lock screen

The notification shade and most of the options it houses are pretty standard as well. A single swipe down offers a single row of toggles. A second or two-finger swipe shows even more, while an edit button lets you rearrange and add recent toggles. Multiple user support also stands out. You can add another user or guest account to the phone.

Notification shade • Quick settings • Editing Quick Settings • Switch user profile

Unique to the Moto Z's UI is the MotoMod toggle, which allows you to update or control the attached MotoMod's settings. Here we can see it interacting with the recent Moto 360 camera.

Moto mods toggle and settings menu

The Moto Z2 Play's fingerprint scanner can be used in a number of ways. It can be used to wake/unlock the phone and it can be used to navigate the phone without the need of on-classy screen navigation buttons.

Setting up the fingerprint reader

As a biometric reader, it is always-on, blazing quick and also quite reliable. As for navigation use, gestures acquire detected pretty accurately as well. Tap to go Home, swipe left to go Back or swipe correct to switch between recent apps.

Press-holding the sensor for a short time will lock the screen, while press holding it for a longer time will summon the Google Assistant. These two overlap and taking the time to master them does hold some getting used to, but it's ultimately a remarkable way to do away with the on-classy screen navigation bar in case it's not your thing.

Gesture navigation

The Settings app is a standard affair. The top of the menu gives you suggestions to features and shortcuts to those features. Otherwise, the menu is not organized into tabs of categories; a single classy screen gives you access to all the settings, or you can search for a setting.

Settings suggestions • Browse or search for a setting

Overall, the Moto Z2 Play runs a really minimal Android OS. We can definitely appreciate the lack of bloat to drag down the capable, but not really blazing-quick Snapdragon 626 chip. What small extras Motorola has put in, everything makes sense and are neatly organized in a central location.

Moto Enhancements

As already mentioned, Moto added features are really non-intrusive in nature. They have undergone quite a few cycles of refinement since the early days on the Moto brand and have gained quite a bit of extra functionality over the years. We like the approach of the Moto App, which acts as a control center for all the actions and automated features of the phone.

The Moto Z2 Play's Moto Enhancements consist of three main categories: Moto Display, Moto Voice, and Moto Actions. We'll go through each category and the features that stand out the most.

Moto Enhancements

Moto Actions

Before we acquire to the actual actions, is is worth noting that most of these have been optimized for years so their effect on the overall battery life is marginal. In the original Moto X, a dedicated contextual processor was needed to manage actions that involved physical gestures as part of Motorola's X8 computing platform. Contextual motion and voice sensing has been since been baked into Qualcomm's CPUs, minimizing the battery draw needed and eliminating the need for separate dedicated chips.

Moto Actions

While we've seen most of these features in other smartphones, the two most notable are "chop twice for flashlight", and "twist for quick capture". "Approach for Moto Display" is unique to Moto. The phone's IR sensors on the chin of the phone pick up motion as you reach for the phone, which wakes up the Moto Display so you can glance at your notifications.

Moto Display

Speaking of which, the Moto Display has been updated from the Moto Z with a recent clock design with integrated battery ring, a recent blue-colored theme, and direct-replies from the locked Active Display. There's no way to change the color, but you can select which apps to block, choose how much detail to show, and toggle the quick reply feature.

Active Display and its Settings

Also part of Moto Display is a recent feature called Night Display. It's an increasingly popular feature: the phone will display warmer colors to filter out blue light to assist you sleep better at night.

Night Display

Moto Voice

Moto Voice received a pretty significant change to how it's used. In the past, Moto Voice worked in parallel with a Google Search, which is no longer the case. The New Moto Voice works better with a low or unstable connection, and eliminates the need for a wake-word.

Moto Voice

Upon setting up Moto Voice, you'll be asked to say commands like "Show me Maps" and "Show me my calendar". This is actually all you need to say to wake the phone up to do things efficiently. "Show me [App], Show me [my calendar/my day], Show me [the weather]".

"Show me" mechanics

These recent "Show me" commands are more instantaneous than Google searches and display the information for a short time. Though if you still want to call someone, play music, or sdiscontinue a text, you'll have to utilize the "Okay, Google" command (which still works with the classy screen off). Moto Voice has reduced its footprint to give way for features that are already available from Google Assistant. Way to haged it lean, Moto!

Moto Voice options • Talk to me • Preferences

Once under another category (Moto Assist), Talk to me is a feature that announces all your incoming notifications. You can set the Z2 Play to do this for when it detects that you're driving, or if a headset is connected.



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