I've been a huge proponent of the Moto Z Play since its unveiling and subsequent release late last summer, largely because it is such a strong example of a mid-range phone that does almost everything right while incorporating trickle-down technology from its more-expensive flagship, the Moto Z.

Right now, the unlocked Moto Z Play is a cool $399 from Motorola and Amazon alike. The phone may not have the sheer power of the OnePlus 3T, the other "near-$400" device that we love, but it's also a more versatile option, compatible with the growing (and unlike LG's, continually viable) Mods ecosystem. Here's why, at its discounted rate and with Nougat on the horizon, you should consider this phone.

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Battery life is insane

You don't have to read too many reviews (including our own) to suss out the Play's biggest selling feature: its incredible battery life. Combining a 3510mAh cell with a power-sipping Snapdragon 625 chip and an efficient 1080p display, the Moto Z Play easily lasts more than a full day on a charge, and then some.

Since its release, Motorola has teamed with Mophie to release a massive 3150mAh juicepack battery Mod, too, which for $80 extra makes the Play practically unkillable with a combined 6660mAh of energy. Of course, that comes at a thickness of over 15mm, but given that the Mod can be removed at any time, the solution is both practical and impermanent.

Performance is outstanding

For a device with "only" a Snapdragon 625, I am constantly amazed at what this thing can do. In day-to-day performance, there's little between the Play and its more expensive Moto Z counterpart, and outside of a few very minor situations — it won't be Daydream-compatible when it's updated to Nougat, for instance — I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it over any flagship today.

And while it remains to be seen whether the update to Android 7.0 will take a toll on that hardware, Nougat has proven itself to be fairly performance-neutral on devices like the Xperia X, which uses a Snapdragon 650 based on an older 28nm manufacturing process. If anything, the fact that the Snapdragon 625 is more thermally efficient is an advantage for the Moto Z Play running newer software, since there's a greater thermal runway to work with. And if Nougat proves to be a little more battery-heavy than Marshmallow, a 5-10% hit will be less noticeable on a device like the Play than it would be on, say, a Xperia X or Nexus 5X.

The camera is surprisingly good

I was astounded at some of the photos I was able to pull off with the Moto Z Play, largely because its 16MP rear sensor isn't particularly impressive on its own. But coupled with a very sharp f/2.0 lens and a massively-improved camera app over the company's last generation of phones, I have few complaints about the Moto Z Play, even in low light.

In particular, over the past few months I've found the Z Play, with its 1.3 micron pixels, to be more adroit at capturing low light photos, even without optical image stabilization, than many other devices with smaller pixels and OIS. That's because Moto's camera team has calibrated the sensor to optimize for both shutter speed and ISO, and I've found that unless the scene is completely devoid of light, the Z Play can pull off some outstanding photos.

Moto Display

I say this in every article I write about the Motorola devices, but Moto Display continues to be a game changer in the world of smartphones, even as other manufacturers have implemented so-called always-on displays. Moto Display isn't just a method of checking notifications on the lock screen; it's a form of essential triage that truly makes a difference to how I use a smartphone on a daily basis.

It's getting Nougat soon

While it would be better to say that it's getting Nougat now, or even better it ships with Nougat, alas I can only confirm that it will be arriving in March. Likely early March.

Since I've used the Moto Z on Nougat and have no complaints, I have every reason to believe the same will hold true of the Moto Z Play. And Nougat on the latest Moto devices is near-flawless.

Your thoughts

Moto Z Play isn't a perfect mid-range phone, but it's damn near close. Would you buy at its limited-time discounted rate of $399? Let us know in the comments!

Moto Z, Moto Z Force and Moto Z Play


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