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What’s new with Photos on iOS 10 – CNET

Discovering and resurfacing older photos and videos using the Photos app on an iOS device prior to iOS 10 was almost non-existent. You could narrow down images by date or albums if you took the time to manually sort your gallery. Truth be told, Google Photos was far superior to Apple’s Photos app.

With iOS 10, however, Apple added some smarts combined with new tricks to the Photos app and the end result is something that’s as fun as it is impressive to use.

New Albums

When you first open the Albums tab in the Photos app, you’ll find a new tile view displaying thumbnails for each album. Additionally, you’ll also find you now have two new albums: People and Places.

Each album contains photos and videos organized by the faces or location information contained in each item. Opening the People album allows you to do some pretty cool things.

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Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

When you first open the People album, you’ll see a grid of faces of people commonly found in your photos. You can drag and drop people to the favorites section at the top, as well as add, hide or merge photos containing the same person.

Tap on a thumbnail to view more photos of that person, add a name (at the top of the screen) and approve or deny other potential matches. Or you can play a video curated by iOS containing photos and videos of the person you’re currently looking at — all in all, this is a fun aspect of Photos that will surely get better over time and lead to discovering some old memories you all but forgot about.

Right now it seems the People section doesn’t sync between iOS devices, as any people I have merged and added a name to on my iPhone 6S have yet to sync to my iPad Pro. Hopefully that’s something that will be added before the official launch of iOS 10 this fall.

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Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

The Places album houses a map of your photos, which you can zoom in or out on to view exactly where you recorded a video or snapped a picture on your last trip.


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Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Previously, you could perform basic searches based off dates or places in the Photos app. With iOS 10, you can now search for specific items in a photo. According to Apple, each photo undergoes 11 billion computations in order to identify just what a photo contains.

For example, say you remember winning a trophy at the company holiday party and want to show it off but have no idea what party or exactly when it happened. Tap on the search icon, type “Trophy” and wait for Photos to show you what it found. (This is a real-life example, and something I didn’t think Photos would find, but it did and it was amazing.)

You can search for other items such as mountains, dogs, cats, beach, theme park. Photos indexes thousands of different times. Try it after you install iOS 10, it’s fun to test just what Photos can find in your library.


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A Memory created by Photos on iOS 10 is downloaded before being watched.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

A new tab along the bottom of the Photos app called Memories is part slideshow creator and Timehop-style memory surfacer.

Selecting the Memories tab will show you several different curated, well, memories. Each one is built around a specific time period or location.

You’re likely to find a memory created for your family vacation last summer, or another one showing you what happened “On This Day” several years ago (assuming your library is that old).

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Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Opening a memory will give you the option to play a video, automatically created on your behalf. You can also scroll through photos and videos the Photos app based the memory off of.

After watching the memory, you can tailor it to your liking. You can change the length, add or remove photos and videos, change the music, customize the title and so on.

Once you’re done, you can save it as a favorite memory (thus creating a new album in the Albums tab for quick access), and share it across social networks, Mail, Messages or wherever else you find yourself sharing things.

Subtle changes

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Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

There are small design tweaks throughout the Photos app in iOS 10. Gone is the aptly titled Edit button, having been replaced with an icon consistent of sliders. Tapping on the Details button when viewing a photo now shows a map you where the photo was taken, related Memories, and the option to view more photos from that specific day.


16 shortcuts for a better iTunes experience – CNET

iTunes 12.4 introduced a number of design tweaks that may have meant the removal of a few buttons you relied on to navigate Apple’s music-movies-and-more app. With a few keyboard shortcuts in your arsenal, however, you can become an easy and efficient iTunes navigator.

You may already use some of these shortcuts and you probably won’t remember all of them, but hopefully you’ll find a handful of the below 15 keyboard shortcuts useful.

I use a Mac, so I have listed shortcut combinations for a Mac keyboard, but an equivalent Windows shortcut exists for most if you substitute the Command key for the Ctrl key. I note where a Windows shortcut does not exist or is drastically different from the Mac shortcut.

Matt Elliott/CNET

Playback controls

1. Spacebar to play/pause

No need to reach for the touchpad or mouse to pause or play the current song. Just hit the spacebar to pause a song and hit it again to resume playing.

2. A song so nice…

If you want to play the current song from the beginning, hit Return.

3. Skip to next track

To skip to the next track in your library or playlist, hit the right-arrow key. To skip to the previous track, hit the left-arrow.

Similarly, you can use Option-right arrow to jump to the first track of the next album in your library. Option-left arrow, however, acts just like Command-left arrow and moves you to the previous track.

4. Show song that’s playing

If you have a large music library, you likely peruse its contents while listening to a song and can lose your place. Whether you using the Artists, Albums, Songs or Genres view, you can return to the place in your library that shows the currently song playing by hitting Command-L.

5. Show Up Next panel

When you get curious about what songs you have queued up to play next, hit Command-Option-U to show the Up Next panel.

6. Full stop

While hitting the spacebar pauses the current track, using Command-[period] will stop the current track, which clears the status panel at the top of iTunes.


1. Create a playlist

Hit Command-N to create a new playlist. The playlist gets added to the sidebar with the text highlighted so you can quickly give it a name.

If you have songs selected for a playlist, you can create a playlist starting with those songs by hitting Command-Shift-N.

To create a smart playlist that will select songs based on criteria you set, hit Command-Option-N.

2. Delete a playlist

With a playlist highlighted in the sidebar, you can just hit Delete to remove it. If you would like to kill a playlist without being asked for confirmation, hit Command-Delete.

And to delete a playlist and remove its songs from your library, hit Option-Delete.

Navigating iTunes

1. See your various types of content

iTunes has long been about more than just music. To jump to your various collections of various types of content, use these shortcuts:

  • Command-1 — Music
  • Command-2 — Movies
  • Command-3 — TV Shows
  • Command-4 — Podcasts
  • Command-5 — iTunes U
  • Command-6 — Audiobooks
  • Command-7 — Apps
  • Command-8 — Tones
  • Command-9 — Internet Radio

2. Show Column Browser

iTunes has a useful panel called the Column Browser when you are using the Songs view of My Music that offers quick navigation by Genres, Artists and Albums. Hit Command-B to show and hide the Column Browser.

3. Show Status bar

The Status bar sits at the bottom edge of iTunes and shows the number of items, total runtime and size of the collection of songs you are currently viewing. Hit Command-/ to show and hide the Status bar.

4. Show Sidebar

The Sidebar sits along the left edge of iTunes and primarily displays your playlists. Hit Command-Option-S to show and hide the Sidebar.

5. Show Visualizer

Want to set up a playlist for a party and then hide it behind some trippy visuals? If so, hit Command-T to start up the iTunes Visualizer.

6. Get Info

If you want to tweak the name of a song, album or artist for a song or change its genre to better suit your music library organization, hit Command-I to show the Get Info window. You can also add album art and lyrics.

7. Get small

Hit Command-Shift-M to change the big iTunes window into the compact Mini Player, a great feature when you are using other apps on your computer but want to keep an eye on the song titles as they go by.

8. Minimize, hide, quit

Hit Command-M to minimize iTunes, which removes it from your desktop but keeps an icon on the right side of the Dock.

Hit Command-H to hide iTunes, which removes it from your desktop and keeps its icon out of the right side of the Dock.

Hit Command-Option-H to hide all windows except iTunes.

Hit Command-Q to quit iTunes.


Alcatel Idol 4S Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET

Haven’t considered buying an Alcatel phone before? The unlocked Idol 4S — made of metal, glass and moxie — will work its butt off to change your mind. The phone boasts a large screen and excellent audio quality; a 16-megapixel camera and an 8-megapixel camera with front-facing flash; a convenience key to quickly launch apps; a fingerprint scanner; and a screen layout that orients itself as “up” no matter which way you pick up the phone. With competitive pricing (see below) and a list of impressive specs (full list also below), the Idol 4S is aggressively taking on the excellent OnePlus 3, a CNET editor’s choice phone. (Note that there’s an Idol 4, too. See those specs, you know, below.)

Let’s just make one thing absolutely crystal clear. I’ve been playing around with hardware and software on a prefinal Idol 4S meant for the US, which means there could be slight changes between this model and the completely finished, boxed-up unit. Since this version of the phone isn’t identical to one you’d be able to buy yourself, I’m holding off on a rated review for now and focus on my general impressions here. When I get the final version, the full court press — with my recommendations on whether or not you should buy the phone — is on.

In the US, the Idol 4S goes on sale July 15 for $350 presale or $400 outright. It comes bundled with a case, glass screen protector and Alcatel’s VR headset.

Flagship Alcatels bring the boom key
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The most important thing you need to know is that the Idol 4S is all about throwing you everything that Alcatel thinks a buyer wants in a phone, plus extras like a case, screen protector and possibly VR headset — for the same price of a midrange flagship phone (that doesn’t come with those extras). You may not want the VR headset that Alcatel will bundle in the box for US buyers, but the tempered glass screen protector and Incipio case do come in handy.

The second most-important thing to know is that it’s an unlocked phone that runs on the GSM network. In the US, that means you’ll have to buy a SIM card that works on AT&T, T-Mobile, Cricket Wireless or MetroPCS.

Using the Idol 4S


These dual speakers can crank out sound.

Josh Miller/CNET

Here’s what I noticed about the phone’s biggest features during this week — remember, this is prefinal-everything, so my impressions are subject to change when I get the real thing.

Boom key (convenience key): You can program this to open apps, like the camera, which is a shortcut. I love this in theory, but in practice, I kept accidentally taking unintended photos. Either it needs some finessing handling it, or I do.

Cameras: Overall, photos looked bright and colorful — so far I’ve mostly taken them of food, friends and flowers. Focus on the 16-megapixel camera seems a little relaxed, but a last-minute software update could very well enhance and sharpen the focus. We’ve seen this happen many times before. The flash on the 8-megapixel front-facing camera can be extremely useful, and harsh at times. Generally, I like having this as an option.

Fingerprint scanner: Located on the back beneath the camera lens, the fingerprint reader is small and not terrifically accurate. It helps to register multiple fingers, so if you don’t have a case on you can kind of drag them along the back. If you do, you’ll have to hit your target, but in a way that the case also helps position your finger. There is NFC, so you can use Android Pay for mobile payments as well as for unlocking your phone.


The fingerprint reader feels smaller than some.

Josh Miller/CNET

Reversible layout design: There’s technically an “up”, and the Reversible OS, which is entirely optional, is meant to help you use the phone right away no matter if you pick it up rightside up or upside down. What I noticed is that if you have the fingerprint reader turned on, it very much matters which way is “up” — you can only unlock the phone from a single orientation. And it’s confusing to think about the location of the Boom key if you want to use it.

Built-in JBL speakers: Audio is loud and rich for a smartphone. This is a great little extra if you play videos and music for others.

Worth watching

So yes, with its hardware and software so far, the Idol 4S is one to keep an eye on when our final review unit comes in. Alcatel’s huge value play is also unignorable for people who are interested in a high-performing midprice phone, one that could be a true contender against the OnePlus 3.

Idol 4S versus Idol 4: What’s the difference?

Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
Reversible OS Reversible OS
5.5-inch 2,560×1,440-pixel AMOLED screen 5.2-inch, 1,920×1,080-pixel IPS
16-megapixel camera 13-megapixel camera
8-megapixel camera with flash 8-megapixel camera with flash
1.8GHz + 1.4GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 1.7GHz + 1.2GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617
3.6 watt JBL dual speakers for front and back 3.6 watt JBL dual speakers for front and back
32GB storage, 3GB RAM, up to 512GB Micro-SD card slot 16GB and 2GB RAM, up to 512GB Micro-SD card slot
3,000mAh battery (quick charge) 2,610mAh battery with quick charge
Standard Micro-USB port Standard Micro-USB port
Yes Yes
$400 (or $350 presale). ~450 euros, converts to £385, AU$780 ~280 euros, converts to $310, £215, AU$435

Hopsy HomeTap Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET



In pursuit of beer nirvana, the Hopsy HomeTap lets you pour a pint of your favorite microbrew, fresh from the tap on your kitchen counter. A Bay Area product only for now, the HomeTap is the newest piece of the Hopsy beer delivery service. Order a growler of your favorite local brew, and if you have the HomeTap, Hopsy will deliver it in a specialized canister you can plug in and pour.

Beer gadgets
  • Synek Counter Top Beer Dispenser
  • Fizzics
  • PicoBrew Zymatic

The containers hold a little more than a growler, actually — 2 full liters (around 68 ounces) vs 1.9 liters (64 ounces). Slide one into the cylindrical HomeTap, connect the tube to the tap, and close the door on the front. Then pull the tap handle and HomeTap will pour you a frothy glass of beer while keeping the contents of the container cool and fresh. Hopsy claims that the beer will last up to two weeks after you plug it into HomeTap.

If you’re in the Bay Area, you can preorder HomeTap now. Expect delivery starting at the end of this month. On its own, HomeTap costs $150, but you can also get it as part of various subscription plans to Hopsy’s delivery service. Since the HomeTap only works with proprietary bottles, you’ll need to use Hopsy’s service to use HomeTap. Later this year, Hopsy will expand to San Diego, and the growing business will hopefully reach markets outside of California before too long.


Krups, makers of the popular Nespresso, made the HomeTap for Hopsy. Handily, it cools and pours your beer without forcing you to hassle with a carbon dioxide canister. HomeTap bottles keep your beer pressurized in a bag inside of the hard exterior of the container. HomeTap pours your beer by using oxygen to squeeze the bag. That’s an interesting way to get around the need for carbon dioxide, but you can’t switch out bottles once you’ve plugged them into HomeTap without losing pressurization.


Since Hopsy works directly with breweries, even once the company expands, you’ll likely be limited to using HomeTap with local beers. I like the idea of fresh beer delivered straight from the brewery, and Hopsy promises to deliver varieties you won’t be able to get in bottles. But $150 is a lot to spend on a device that keeps the selection so local. That said, if I lived in Hopsy’s service area, I’d be excited to give HomeTap a try.


Motorola Moto Z review – CNET

The Good The Motorola Moto Z is thin, fast and (literally) snappy. Those magnetic Mods accessories are practical and easy to use.

The Bad The phone looks naked without the Mods, and its fingerprint reader can be easily mistaken for a home button.

The Bottom Line Ambitious, quirky and ultimately useful, the Motorola Moto Z is the most polished customizable, modular phone yet.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

With the Moto Z (or Moto Z Droid Edition as it’s called by US carrier Verizon), customization isn’t about what your phone looks like. It’s about what it does. Snap-on “Moto Mods” give your phone a meatier battery, turn it into a boombox for your weekend cookout and transform it into a video projector for an impromptu movie night.

These Mods aren’t perfect. They add a layer of bulk when they snap onto the phone’s back and you’ll need to cough up extra dough to buy them. On top of that, the phone ain’t cheap. Motorola hasn’t said how much it costs worldwide, but it will sell with US carrier Verizon for $624. International prices aren’t available but it converts to about £475 or AU$835.

That said, the whole modular ecosystem is simpler and more approachable than Google’s intricate (and still developing) Project Ara. It’s also easier to use than LG’s clunky G5, which forces you to remove the battery, thereby turning off the phone, if you want to swap parts.

Lastly, the Moto Z is a reliable and powerful device that can stand up to most of the top-of-the-line phones — and that’s even if you strip away the compelling modular factor. But you wouldn’t do that, would you, because those modules are half the fun.

If you’re not interested in snapping on an extra battery, or case, or speaker, then skip the Moto Z and buy something else. But if you can’t wait to be on the cutting edge of smartphone design, the Z here is actually useful while still being different and cool. (And if you’re from the US, you might also want to check out the Moto Z’s meatier counterpart, the Moto Z Force Droid Edition.)

Motorola’s Moto Z and Z Force: Customization…
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Moto Mods: Useful, easy and brimming with potential

Without a doubt, the Moto Z’s biggest draw is its Moto Mods, hot-swappable accessories that can decorate the back or, better yet, add extra functionality — such as a battery pack or audio speaker.

Motorola’s take is polished and well-executed because attaching the Mods is as easy as lining up magnetic parts — science does the rest. You can change Mods in seconds and won’t have to power off the phone to do so. There’s a decent variety of starter Mods, and Motorola’s parent company Lenovo says it’s lining up more partners.

Companies such as Incipio, Tumi and Kate Spade make battery packs that can wirelessly charge the phone while also extending battery life. JBL’s snap-on speaker rests on a kickstand while it cranks out tunes louder than the phone’s built-in speaker. Perhaps the quirkiest Mod, however, is from Motorola itself: the Insta-Share Projector beams images, videos and the Moto Z’s display onto any surface. Check out Moto Mods pricing and availability here.

By and large, the Mods stay put. Slimmer “Style Shells” (think of this as a customized back plate) hugged the Moto Z when we dropped it from every angle onto carpet. The bulkier speakers sometimes popped off (which we expected), but otherwise, you’ll pull them off when you want to.

Moto’s magnetic Mod accessories just click
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Design: Thin, but awkward when bare

The Moto Z is a thin phone, but sturdy and well built. But the more I admire its svelte design, the more awkward it looks without any accessories. The camera bulges out brazenly, the magnetic pins on the back cry out for a mate, and the phone’s sharp sides dig into my hand. A backplate, however, can round out the rough edges.

And then there’s the no-headphone jack thing. Instead, there is just the USB-C port and a headphone jack adaptor dongle, which makes wired headphones work. But you won’t be able to charge the phone while listening to music this way, and if you lose the adaptor, you’re toast. The industry seems to be going this way, but it’s still annoying if you don’t have any Bluetooth headphones.

Still, the Moto Z’s most maddening detail is the bulbous fingerprint reader on the front. It looks like a home button, but does nothing other than read your fingerprint. You know how many times I pressed it instinctively expecting it to take me to the home screen? A lot. If Motorola can’t turn it into a home button, it should move it to the power/lock button or the back.


Without a Mod, the camera’s bulge is too big to ignore.

Josh Miller/CNET

Software: Nothing we haven’t seen before

The handset runs Google Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. You’ll still get the usual lineup of Google apps, deeper integration with Google’s digital assistant known as Now on Tap, a battery saving mode called Doze and Android Pay. We don’t know the timeline for an update to Android Nougat, so you’ll have to wait for Google’s savvier assistant and multiple windows.

Motorola does include some of its signature software features too, like twisting your wrist to launch the camera and a wave gesture to show your missed notifications, even when the device is sleeping.


Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition review – CNET

The Good The long-lasting Motorola Moto Z Force Droid has a durable display and its modular accessories are useful and easy to attach.

The Bad You can only buy the Force in the US. On Verizon. It feels hefty with the Moto Mods snapped on, and its fingerprint reader confusingly looks like a home button.

The Bottom Line The Moto Z Force Droid sounds better on paper, but the thinner, cheaper Moto Z is the one we actually want to use.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

With its swappable Moto Mod accessories that connect through magnets, and its premium hardware, the Motorola Moto Z Force Droid Edition is a powerful handset (with an overly long name) that’s available only to US customers. On Verizon. For $720. Ick.

You have to really, really want this phone, and in my opinion, you’d be better off with the standard Moto Z, which is also available on Verizon (as the Moto Z Droid Edition), cheaper at $624 and thinner, which makes it generally better to use.

At this point you’re going to say something about the Droid Force’s higher-megapixel camera and longer battery life, or maybe its heartier display. On paper, these add up to a “better,” more capable phone. But in testing, the negatives — the thicker design and higher price — outweigh its minimal real-life performance gains. Instead, you’re just left with…an excessive use of Force. (Yeah, I went there.)

P.S.: If Verizon isn’t your carrier, read my full Moto Z review for a full rundown. You can also check out pricing and sale dates for Moto Mod accessories here.

Motorola’s Moto Z and Z Force: Customization…
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Wait, what’s with this phone again?

The Moto Z Force is a fully functioning phone, but it has these little magnetic bumps on the back that allow you to attach and swap out accessories called Moto Mods. They’re really cool, actually, and they either act as a customizable back cover or can enhance the phone by increasing battery life or pumping out music through a speaker. There’s even a snap-on projector.

They’re also incredibly user-friendly. With the audio speaker, music automatically starts playing when attached, and the projector hardly required any setup.

What’s the difference between this and the Moto Z?

The Moto Z Force has a bigger battery — 3,500 mAh compared to the Moto Z’s 2,600 mAh — that lasted longer: 15 hours 45 minutes for the Force, while the Moto Z lasted 12 hours 27 minutes.

It’s thicker too, and gets even heftier when you attach even the thinnest Moto Mod. The Moto Z’s slimmer frame doesn’t get as bulky.

The Moto Z Force also has an extra-tough display to protect itself from rough drops and falls. We first saw ShatterShield in the Droid Turbo 2 and — spoiler alert — it really is durable. I also noticed that its screen is notably brighter and whiter than the Moto Z when viewed side by side (though it’s not exactly clear why).

Finally, there’s the Moto Z Force’s 21-megapixel camera versus the Moyo Z’s 13-megapixel shooter. The extra megapixels get you higher resolution photos and images appeared a tad sharper on the Moto Z Force. Similar to the Moto Z, however, the wonky white balance can turn objects too yellow or too blue. For more about photo quality, check out the images below and click on them to view them at their full resolution.


2017 Chrysler Pacifica review – Roadshow

Jul 2016

The Good Svelte looks encase a well-designed, quiet minivan with loads of thoughtful touches, including tops-in-class convenience features and advanced safety tech.

The Bad The transmission lacks manual downshift capability, while infotainment goes without Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Bottom Line Chrysler’s clever Pacifica charges to the head of the carpool lane with the nicest interior and smart, family-minded technology.

I am not myself these days.

Ever since my Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA National Championship in improbable and spectacular fashion last month, I find I’m more optimistic and increasingly willing to give people and situations the benefit of the doubt. I want to believe again.

It’s even true with cars. Take this all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, for example. Before the Cavs’ historic win, I probably would’ve told you that this Pentastar is perhaps the nicest minivan I’ve yet driven. The best appointed. The quietest. The sharpest looking. The smartest in terms of safety and in-cabin tech.

It is, after all, all these things.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus

Chrysler’s new Pacifica is sexier than your average minivan.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

But I likely would’ve ended my review with a downer caveat about Chrysler’s quality problems, of its history of producing vehicles that ultimately aren’t as reliable as competitors. Blame years of boundless optimism, only to be beaten down repeatedly by the cold hand of futility in The Big Game. Rooting your entire life for Cleveland sports teams and enduring a 52-year championship drought will do that to a man.

In the face of such odds, it’s often easier to encourage the more conservative, safer choice to avoid heartbreak — in the Pacifica’s case, that would mean recommending a model from Honda, Toyota or perhaps Kia.


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2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus

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But I’m not going to do that here. Because in many ways, the Pacifica is substantially and demonstrably smarter than today’s Odyssey, Sienna or Sedona. Instead, I’m going to mention Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ quality question mark as a small footnote instead of a conclusion. Why? Because I genuinely believe the Pacifica is worth pinning to the top of your family hauler consideration list.

It all starts with a new generation that’s around 250 pounds lighter than its predecessor, yet its chassis is markedly stiffer than its Town & Country forebears. The good points continue with curvy bodywork that borders on sexy — at least for a minivan. And they’re furthered by an evolution of the company’s well-liked 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine giving 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque — enough chutzpah to make this 4,300-pound minivan one of the quickest in its class. Even the standard nine-speed automatic that I’ve found undisciplined in vehicles such as the

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus

Roof rack crossbars stow neatly to reduce wind noise when not in use.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

Take a trip

With a multi-purpose vehicle like a minivan, it takes a higher-than-normal number of miles to uncover all of its hidden triumphs and foibles, so I signed up this Pacifica Touring L Plus tester for a proper road trip. I got my family together, piled a mess of vacation gear inside, and motored from metro Detroit all the way to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. It’s a 1,700-mile round trip that’s in my blood. I’ve been making this yearly migration every year of my life, like clockwork, and I’ve completed this trek in countless big SUVs, crossovers and minivans.

In other words, when it comes to assessing these big ol’ kinschleppers, I know what works.

My secret OBX route is a great way to get the measure of the Pacifica and vehicles like it, not only because it tests cargo space, fuel economy and long-distance seat comfort, but also because it has ton of driving scenarios. The route runs through the flat, dull turnpike slog in Ohio to the mountains of Pennsylvania, the meandering backroad hills of West Virginia and on to the heat-soaked, bumper-to-bumper grind of summer beach traffic.

So what did I learn? The Pacifica is pretty much good at everything, and it’s often great.

With a minivan, it’s all about the interior, and thankfully, the Pacifica’s exterior sleekness carries over to its cabin. Gobs of storage space and sensible ergonomics make nice with good-quality materials and unexpectedly premium flourishes such as a flush-mount, bezel-less center screen and cognac and toffee-colored trim.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus

The Pacifica’s cabin is both surprisingly stylish and feature-packed.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

A cabin built for cruising

Chrysler’s old Town & Country was always a leader in terms of seating flexibility, and the new Pacifica handily carries the torch, with a second row that’s now easier to stow in the floor wells thanks to a button that motors the front seats forward for clearance. The seats themselves have thicker padding for improved comfort, and all flipping and folding motions are counterbalanced and spring-loaded for easy maneuvering, even by young people. Those with baby seats will appreciate that Latch points are easy to locate.

Chrysler’s well-regarded UConnect infotainment system returns with some updates, and its 8.4-inch touchscreen is nicely responsive, with a good selection of apps including things like Yelp and iHeartRadio. It may not have the Google Earth overlays found in some premium cars, but it does have neat features including a phone-like drag-and-drop menu bar and Siri Eyes Free. Niggles? While there’s an optional Wi-Fi hotspot, it’s oddly only 3G, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not yet available. I could grouse about these issues more, but no other vehicle in the minivan segment includes these features anyhow.


Don’t miss out on this VR headset for just $16 at Amazon

Habor is offering the newest version of its virtual reality headset for just $16 at Amazon with coupon code W8RM5N8C. Whether you are looking to try out VR for the first time or grab a headset for your kids, this deal is the perfect opportunity to do so without breaking the bank. The headset is compatible with a wide range of phones with screen sizes between 4 and 6-inches.


It will work with iPhone, Windows Phone and Android, so no one has to miss out on the fun here. Remember, you will need to use coupon code W8RM5N8C for the full savings. We don’t know how long this deal will last, so if you are interested be sure to place your order soon!

See at Amazon


Moto Z and Moto Z Force review


The quick take

The Moto Z first comes to us as Verizon’s “Droid” models. And ignoring things like Verizon’s bloatware and a ridiculous proper name of “Moto Z Droid Edition” and “Moto Z Force Droid Edition,” there’s a lot to like here. Powerful internals pair with innovative “Moto Mods” — optional accessories that add functionality and are a snap to use, if you’ll pardon the pun. All in all in a solid semi-stock experience, though it definitely has less expensive competition.

The Good

  • About time Moto has a fingerprint sensor
  • Moto Mods implementation is excellent
  • Customizable look and feel
  • Two options for price, with similar features

The Bad

  • Headphone adapter is one more thing to lose
  • Fingerprint button scheme takes a little getting used to
  • 13MP camera isn’t great in low light
  • Force model starts to get fairly thick

Moto Z and Moto Z Force Full Review

A couple of intriguing phones — one an exclusive for Verizon — bring optional modules that actually work in a mobile world that’s getting tougher and tougher to stand out in.

If there’s one thing that Motorola (sorry, but we’re going to call it that every now and then — it just rolls off the tongue) has proven over the years, it’s that it can build one hell of a phone. In fact, you probably wouldn’t be reading this if it weren’t for the success of the original Droid smartphone way back in 2009-10.

We’ve pretty much written that same paragraph in every Motorola review since. But for good reason. Android wouldn’t be where it is today with out that first phone.

And the Moto Z of today — which hits Verizon first on July 28 before an larger, unlocked release in a couple more months — very much wouldn’t be here without that original phone. And despite all the changes Moto has undergone as a company, one thing remains true: it can make one hell of a smartphone.

So let’s get into it. This is our comprehensive review of the Moto Z and Moto Z Force.


About This Review

We’ve spent one week with the Verizon Moto Z Droid Edition and Moto Z Force Droid Edition — both review units provided by Verizon and Motorola — which we’ll simply refer to as Moto Z and Moto Z Force, because those full names are awful. While reviewing two phones (and in this case their accessories) in the span of a single week is a bit much, the two models share a number of traits. Software, for one. And the Moto Mods, for another. The underlying hardware is mostly the same, as are most physical characteristics. Using one phone isn’t largely any different than the other.

The differences show themselves in the details. The phones feel a little different in the hand, with the Force being thicker, though both have the same overall characteristics. The Moto Z Force has a higher-resolution camera, and so we’ll be taking a close look at that. Same for battery life.

So with that said: the Moto Z Force was running Android 6.0.1, build MCL24.203-22, with the May 1, 2016 security patch. The only discernible difference in software on the About screen was that the Moto Z baseband was listed as AVS, and the Force was on GVS.

When reading this review, it’s helpful to remember that a good bit of what we have here is specific to the Moto Z itself, and not just Verizon’s version. The Moto Z Force, with its larger battery and better camera, is a Verizon-exclusive.

Watch this!

Moto Z and Moto Z Force Video Review

By the numbers

Moto Z Specs

The Moto Z and Moto Z Force largely have the same specs. Size, weight and camera resolution are the only real differences. In this specs chart, we’re listing the Moto Z first and the Z Force second in places where the specs diverge.

And note that the dimensions are without any of the Moto Mods attached — including the Style Shell, which is the sort of default back that you’ll almost certainly be using.

moto-z-back.png 155.3mm155.9mm moto-z-side.png
75.3mm75.8mm 5.9mm6.99mm
  • Display:

    • 5.5-inch AMOLED display
    • Quad HD (2560×1440)
    • Moto Z Force: extra “ShatterShield” layer
  • Camera:
    • Moto Z: 13MP camera
    • Moto Z Force: 21MP camera
    • ƒ/1.8 lens, OIS, laser AF
    • Front camera: 5MP, ƒ/1.8 lens, LED flash
  • Battery:
    • Moto Z: 2600 mAh battery
    • Moto Z Force: 3500 mAh battery
    • TurboPower fast charger
  • Chips:
    • Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
    • Quad-core 2.2GHz
    • 4GB RAM
    • 32 or 64GB internal storage
    • microSD slot with adoptable storage

Moto Z and Moto Z Force Hardware

The rebirth of Motorola began in 2013 with the Moto X. And while things got a little rocky with its purchase by Google and subsequent sale to Lenovo, this much is clear: Moto (which is how we now refer to the company) is still here. And, in fact, you get the sense with the Moto Z that it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. That was a real concern given that that Lenovo is a mostly unknown entity when it comes to smartphones in the United States.

And, in fact, we have two Moto Z phones to worry about. There’s the regular Z, and the Moto Z Force. They’re essentially the same phone. Same internals, with nearly identical designs. The Force has a larger battery, higher-resolution camera, ShatterShield display and a higher price tag. So you’ve got options.


But it’s the Moto Mods — the optional accessories that snap to the back of the Moto Z with some seriously strong and useful magnets — that really make this phone something to talk about.

The phones themselves, well, they mostly look like phones, albeit big black slabs with a few distinctive features. The circular camera stack that juts out the back. (Turns out that difference in depth isn’t really a big deal, though.) There’s the square fingerprint sensor on the front, which actually isn’t quite as simple as you might think. And then there’s the flat back of the phone itself, with a series of gold contacts that let the Moto Mods do their thing.

The Moto Z is a thin, capable phone. But the Moto Mods are what make it special.

You’ll be hearing a lot about how thin these phones are. The Moto Z lists an almost ridiculous depth of 5.19 mm. The Z Force isn’t much thicker, at 6.99 mm. But both of those numbers are the phone without any of the backs attached. And to be clear, you can use the Moto Z without so much as a Style Shell — that’s the basic removable back that comes in the box with the phone — attached. But I wouldn’t do it.

For one, it makes the Moto Z too thin. Or, rather, too thin and too flat. The back of that phone isn’t comfortable without some sort of back on it. The Moto Z Force, at just under 7 mm thick naked, feels better in the hand. (It’s just a smidge thinner than the Nexus 6P.) But even then I’d use a Style Shell with it at the very least, and for this reason:

The cameras stick out a bit. That’s actually not a big deal for me at all in terms of look and feel. Doesn’t bother me in the slightest. But things that stick out tend to get beat up, at least when I’m using them.

Need another reason? Fingerprints.

And how about one more: Because these phones are so thin, there’s not as much room to dissipate the heat coming off the processor. (Particularly on the Moto Z.) While a Style Shell won’t eliminate that, it does help a little. And it’s not that the heat is intolerable, it’s just noticeable.

So I’m not going to be using the Moto Z in its thinnest form. It’s probably either going to be a Style Shell, or one of the battery backs.

Moto Z and Moto Z Force displays

Let’s start with the display, since it’s the first thing you’ll see. It comes in at 5.5 inches diagonal on both models of the phone, and both use AMOLED panels. It’s maybe not 1:1 as good as what Samsung has on the Galaxy phones (and some of that could well just be software tuning), but it’s still really good, both indoors and out. There’s an adaptive brightness option that does a decent job of adjusting things, or you can just opt for the manual slider that’s standard in the Android quick settings. (I think I prefer the latter, actually.)

There’s also the “Color mode” option, which lets you switch between a “realistic color” palette, or the “Vibrant” option for “enhanced color and saturation,” which is on by default. I was fine with the vibrant option and didn’t think twice about leaving it there.


Because this is Moto we’re talking about, we’ve still got the Moto Display options, which will flash notifications on the dark screen while the phone’s at rest. It still senses when your hand is coming at the screen and will wake up for that, and you can still set dark hours where the screen won’t show a thing. That’s standard stuff for Moto these days, and Moto still does it better than anyone.

One setting I would recommend keeping an eye on, however, is the display timeout, or “Sleep” option. By default it’s set to two minutes, which is a long time to have the screen fired up after you’ve quit actually doing anything with the phone. Lower it. Your battery life will thank you.

The Moto Z Force sports Moto’s awfully named “ShatterShield” tech. That is, it’s got some extra protection over the glass to help keep things from breaking should you drop it. (Do try not to drop your phone, though.) This is the second Moto phone to sport ShatterShield. The first — the Droid Turbo 2 — sported a thick (but replaceable) screen protector that didn’t do the display itself any favors. On the Moto Z Force, however, I probably wouldn’t have known it’s got an extra layer unless someone told me. Occasionally, when the phone gets extra grimy with dust and smudges, I can tell that the display isn’t as shallow as most normal phones. But it’s obviously been improved in any event.


Fingerprint sensor

Finally, we’ve got a top-end Moto phone with a fingerprint sensor. The Moto Z is using a small squarish sensor below the display and Moto logo. It works quite well, doing all the fingerprinty things you’d expect it to do at this point.

One thing it is not, however, is a home button. In the week that I’ve been using the Moto Z I’ve had to retrain my brain to that — mostly due to my having used the the Galaxy S7, HTC 10 and OnePlus 3 a lot in recent weeks. (All three of those phones use front-facing fingerprint sensors that double as home buttons.) Would I prefer to have the fingerprint sensor also serve as a home button, flanked by a couple of capacitive buttons? Maybe. It’s not a deal-breaker, though. It’s just a little different.

And to add just a little bit more functionality, Moto lets you use the fingerprint sensor to turn the phone off, as well. So you don’t have to reach up to the power button (which, while textured, is the same size and shape as the volume buttons and also takes a little retraining of the brain) to turn the phone on and off. In fact, except for the fact that you have to have a proper power button on phones, you actually can get by without ever really using it on the Moto Z.

No headphone jack, no problem (until it’s a problem)

Much ink has been spilled over the fact that the Moto Z doesn’t have a 3.5 headphone jack. Instead you’re left with two options for piping sound directly into your ear holes: Bluetooth, or the included USB-C adapter.

I haven’t come to a full conclusion on this one. I’ve used the adapter. It works fine. I haven’t lost the adapter yet, though. And figure the first time I do I’ll be dog-cussing this scheme pretty loudly.

But I really think this one is going to come down to personal use case. I’ve been using the Bose QC35 wireless noise-cancelling cans while traveling with the Moto Z, and I haven’t once wanted to plug them in. But I’ve also used wired earbuds while mowing the lawn. (Because I have some that do passive noise-cancellation pretty well and don’t have to worry about whether they’re charged.)

At some point I’ll have a problem with not having a 3.5mm headphone jack. I’m sure I will. But it just hasn’t happened yet. Beginning of the end? May well be.

One question that remains to be answered: How much will spare adapters cost? And how quickly will they be available?

Performance and battery life

At this point, more than halfway through 2016 and through a good number of phones powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 processor, we have a pretty good point of reference for how the Moto Z should perform. And in a week’s worth of us using the phones (which, again, is our minimum for getting a feel for things) we haven’t had anything surprising happen.

Performance is as you’d expect in a top-shelf phone these days. Apps load smoothly and don’t seem to dump out of memory too quickly, thanks to the 4GB of RAM. (That’s never been a problem for me on phones that others have complained about, though.)

Fast charging and a slick battery mod make up for the Moto Z’s smaller battery capacity.

Battery life is always the real question mark. We all use our phones in different ways. And the recent popularity of Snapchat and now Pokémon Go mean we’re using these things more than ever, and often without thinking about it.

As a refresher: The Moto Z has a 2600 mAh battery. The Moto Z Force has a 3500 mAh battery, or about a 34% larger capacity.

On the Moto Z I found myself wanting to recharge at some point in the afternoon, usually before I left the office for home. For me that’s around 12 hours or so of off-charge use before hitting around 25% battery remaining.

On the Moto Z Force, with its greater capacity, I’ve gone about 15 hours before hitting my 25% limit for recharging.

But like other phones of its ilk, quicker charging means having to top up at some point isn’t the chore it used to be. The Moto Z uses Motorola’s “TurboPower” system, which is a horribly named version of quick charging. The Moto Z uses a “TurboPower 15” charger and the Moto Z Force ups things to “TurboPower 30” model — those correspond to offering 15W and 30W of power output, respectively.

How fast a phone charges depends on how much it can suck in at once, and how much it actually has to charge. The Moto Z Force, with its higher charge rate and higher capacity, got me 35 percentage points in 15 minutes, from 20% to 55% charged. Another 15 minutes took things up to about 75% charged. The Moto Z saw 22 percentage points gained in 15 minutes (starting at 22 percent remaining), and another 15 minutes took things up to 65 percent charged. (That’s about 43 percentage points in 30 minutes, if you don’t like doing math.)

So, yeah. I don’t mind having to plug in for a few anymore.

What I do continue to mind is the lack of standardization and overbranding of charging these days. A spare TurboPower 15 charger runs $34 from Motorola’s website. If you have a current Quick Charge-compatible charger you’re probably OK. (I’ve had a few here that show up as “TurboPower.”) Maybe one day this will all sort itself out. But for now, there’s TurboPower™!!!


Options that work

Moto Mods

Now for the exciting part of the Moto Z — the Moto Mods. These are the accessories that magnetically attach themselves to the back of the Moto Z. It’s a simple matter of letting them snap together (thanks, magnets!), then letting the software do its thing for a couple seconds. That’s really all there is to it.

command.gifAnd these aren’t just dumb accessories. They talk back and forth to the phone. The main Moto widget on the home screen is called the Command Center, and it’ll show you the battery status of whatever mod is attached. A persistent notification also gives access to more options and information.

At launch, there are three Moto Mods. (Well, four if you count the Moto Style Shell — the customizable backs that you can get starting at $14.99.) There may well be more. We hesitate to say there will be more Moto Mods because we’ve already had one manufacturer try that line on us this year, with nothing to be seen for it. But we’ve got more faith in Moto’s implementation at this point.

A look at the basic Style Shell that comes in the box with the Moto Z.

JBL SoundBoost speaker

If you’re looking for a way to carry around an external speaker without really carrying around an external speaker, this one’s pretty darn good. It snaps on the back of the Moto Z, does a quick software dance, and then — it just works.

This thing’s got 6W total (three per speaker). It’s surprisingly loud, and good enough in quality for the sort of casual listening you’ll be doing with this kind of accessory.

It’s not small, however. It adds 13mm of thickness to the phone. It’s got that sort of extended battery shape to it, so it’s still pocketable. But it’s also heavy at 145g — basically double the Moto Z in the first place — due in no small part thanks to the 1000 mAh battery that’s tucked inside there. This Mod can be charged separate from the phone.

It also isn’t terribly expensive at $79. Basically I’d look at this like a Bluetooth speaker that’s easier to use (there’s virtually no connection process), and easier to carry around. It’s plenty loud — I actually had to turn it down while sitting outside in Herald Square in New York City.

Moto Insta-Share Projector

This isn’t an inexpensive MotoMod, at $299. And this sort of accessory generally isn’t cheap. But It’s very easy to use in this case. Just attach it to the phone, approve a couple permissions, and you’re good to go. There’s a power button for the projector itself, and a focus wheel to make sure things are in focus. And that’s pretty much it. Find yourself a level spot to rest the phone, do a little tweaking to the angle — do a little more tweaking to the angle, because it’s pretty damn sensitive, even with the keystone correction — and you’re good to go.

This is not the world’s greatest cinema experience. Your choice of wall or screen or whatever makes a big difference. The 480p resolution is, well, 480p. The 400:1 contrast ratio isn’t going to pique much interest. You’re probably going to want to use a Bluetooth speaker if audio is of any real importance. (Especially if you’re also going to want to have things charging during playback, because of that whole headphone jack thing. And the internal fan is noticeable.)

This is a novelty for kids. Mine got a kick out of watching Harry Potter on the wall. (Pro tip: Purple walls make for purple-tinted Potters.) But it’s not going to take over for a similarly priced television anytime soon.

Where I could see this making inroads is with the business set. I could see road warriors expensing this in a heartbeat. Need to give a presentation any time, anywhere? This Mod has you covered.

It’s also a hefty accessory, adding 11mm of thickness and 125g of weight, with a built-in 1100 mAh battery. (It also can be charged separate from the phone.)

This projector is fun. But I can think of other ways I’d like to spend $300.

Incipio Power Pack

This one’s almost a must-buy. And you’ve got options. Motorola and Verizon gave us a 2200 mAh TUMI-branded battery to check out. There also are Kate Spate options, and others that will allow for wireless charging. They start at $59 and run up to $89.

Again, it just pops on, and it starts working. By default the external battery charges the phone all the way, and keeps it there, then the phone battery kicks in once that’s depleted. But there’s also a “Battery efficiency mode” that keeps the phone charged to 80% and “improves Moto Mod battery performance.” Pick your poison.

This battery Mod adds about 6 mm of thickness to the phone — making it feel like something with a fairly standard extended battery, if you’ve ever used one before. The TUMI battery I have here weighs about 84g. Moto says the wireless charging Mods will weigh 85g. (But some of these specs have been off a bit.)

In any event, I’d buy one of these on Day 1. On the trip home from the Verizon-Moto event where I picked up these review units I realized I’d forgotten to bring an external battery. No matter. This TUMI battery got me about six hours of hard road use before being depleted. And when it was, I just popped it off and stashed it in my bag, returning the phone to its more svelte status. That’s well worth the extra cash.

My only wish here? That like the projector and speaker you could charge the battery back separately. The TUMI we’ve reviewed here has to be attached to the phone to charge.

Or make your own Moto Mod

Where things get really interesting is that anyone can make their own Moto Mod through the Moto Mods Development Kit, or MDK.

The gist is that a developer will get a special back that accepts a perforated board — or a HAT adapter board that works with the Raspberry Pi. And Moto has “Personality Cards” that serve as a bit of a starter project, showing devs how to work with audio, or batteries, or displays (using the Moto 360 display, of course), or sensor hubs.

It’s very cool. It’s very nerdy.

I have absolutely no idea if we’ll ever see a commercial release of something born in someone’s garage.

More on the MotoMod Developer Kit

The future of Moto Mods

The big question we had earlier in 2016 when LG unleashed its own modular scheme was what this sort of investment meant for the future. Phone manufacturers tend to shift course fairly frequently, and without warning. (LG in particular does that.)

But from initial announcement of the Moto Z and Moto Mods, we’ve been told that a Moto Mod you buy today will work on the next Moto Z. So as long as that remains true, you’re not spending extra money on something you’d have to throw away should you buy the next Moto Z. (That obviously goes out the window if you buy any other phone.)

That also give us some clue as to the direction a future phone would take, design-wise. But it’s a smart and important statement from Moto when you’re considering purchasing any of this.

Actions speak louder than words, of course. We’ll be watching this one right along with everyone else.

How to update a Moto Mod

These Moto Mods are smart accessories. They talk to a co-processor on the Moto Z itself, and they work together to get things done. It’s impressive as hell just how seamless the process of using one is. There’s nearly no work on the user’s part.

And these Mods can get smarter. Moto has an in-place update system at the ready. If you can update an app, you can update a Moto Mod.

Here’s how you update a Moto Mod


Moto Z and Moto Z Force Software

The Moto Z and Moto Z Force essentially run the same software. It’s not identical (figure at the code level something’s changed for the higher resolution camera on the Force) but, there’s no noticeable difference between the two.

So we’ve got a relatively stock build of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, even with customizations from Moto and Verizon. Google’s apps are front and center, including Google Keyboard and the Google Launcher.

On the Moto front, the most obvious addition is the Command Center widget. It first and foremost is a clock and weather widget, plus (somewhat redundant) battery indicator. Attach a Moto Mod, and you’ll see both the phone’s battery level, and the battery on the Moto Mod. If you have an alarm set, that’ll show there, too. That’s handy.


The standard Moto customizations we’ve long enjoyed are all here, of course. Moto Voice lets you bark commands at your phone all day long. Moto Display gives you some seriously useful info on your screen, when you want it. And Moto Actions let you use gestures as shortcuts.

But for as good as Moto’s custom actions are, none of them is terribly revolutionary anymore. And it works so well that there’s really not that much to say at this point. Take some time and explore the Moto app on the Moto Z if it’s your first time with a recent Moto phone. There’s a whole lot there that can make using a phone easier and more enjoyable. But they just don’t have that “Wow!” factor that they did a couple years ago. That doesn’t mean they’re not good, though. They are. Very good.

Unfortunately, Verizon’s software load on these Droid phones (remember that what you’re about to read won’t be included on the unlocked Moto Z later this year) is completely predictable as well. There’s plenty of bloatware, from Amazon Kindle to Audible and and NFL Mobile, as well as Slacker Radio. Plus there’s VZ Protect, and VZ Navigator, and Voice Mail, and My Verizon, and Message+, and Verizon Cloud, and Caller Name ID. The Verizon apps can be disabled. Some of the other bloatware can be completely uninstalled. (And I had even more bloatware games installed on the Moto Z, than on the Force. Go figure.)

Moto did good on the software. Verizon did what Verizon could to clunk it up. Same as it ever was.


Shoot it real good

Moto Z and Moto Z Force Cameras

Two phones, two sets of cameras. The standard Moto Z sports a 13-megapixel rear camera with OIS and an f/1.8 aperture. The Moto Z Force (and, again as of this writing it’s a Verizon exclusive) takes things up to 21 megapixels. Both phones from 5-megapixel front-facing cameras.

These cameras will do just fine during daylight hours. At night? It’s dicey.

My favorite part of Motorola’s cameras continues to be how you launch them. That double-wrist twist thing remains excellent and saves me a 1×1 space on my home screen. (Moto and Samsung are the only manufacturers that actually get me to remove an app from my home screen.) Once the app is open, you’ll notice how it’s pretty sparse. There’s not a lot of chrome to get in the way, and that’s a good thing. Options are just a swipe away, and the mode selector is the bottom corner.

One thing to note is that the cameras by default aren’t shooting at their highest resolution. Instead, Moto (as many manufacturers do) has opted for a lower-resolution 16×9 aspect ratio. It’s your call as to whether you want to change that up.

Regardless, the cameras are plenty capable in daylight. They’re not the best out there. Samsung still rules that roost. But when the sun’s up and you’re just sharing to the usual social places, it should serve you just fine. At night? Well, I ran into trouble anytime there was artificial lighting and I was shooting in Auto mode. Hitting up the full-manual Pro mode can help with that if you’re so inclined. (I, generally, don’t bother.)

Proof’s in the pudding, of course. Let’s take a look.


The bottom line

Should you buy the Moto Z? Yes, but …

These are really good phones. The question is whether the mods are worth it for you.

On its own, the Moto Z (and the Moto Z Force as well) is a very capable phone. But it’s a capable phone in a sea of capable phones these days. The question you’re going to have to ask yourself is how much the Moto Mods mean to you.

And to be clear: Moto has nailed Moto Mods. The implementation is brilliant. They’re as simple as they could be, and I’ve yet to run into an instance where they didn’t work as advertised. Style Shells are a relatively inexpensive way to customize the look and feel of your phone. (At the expense of MotoMaker, though. RIP.) The JBL SoundBoost speaker sounds pretty good and is easy to carry around. The Incipio Power Packs add a good bit of juice to your phone, without the hideousness of most external batteries. The Insta-Share Projector is fun and useful, albeit not cheap.

moto-z-droid-3.jpg?itok=9t-b9UidBut one thing I keep coming back to with the speaker and extended battery is that instead of a Bluetooth speaker and external battery with a charging cable, you’ve got two accessories that only work with the Moto Z, and not with virtually every other device out there.

The phone’s are priced on Verizon about how you’d expect — $624 for the Moto Z, and $720 for the Moto Z Force. (We don’t yet know unlocked pricing.) But that total cost starts to go up significantly when you start adding in Moto Mods. (Though monthly payments do lessen that blow.)

And there’s the rub. How badly do you want these Moto Mods? If you’re not already madly in love with the Moto Z and have your mind set on it, are the Mods enough to sway you — and to get you to open your wallet? If so, congrats. You’ll be buying yourself a very good Android smartphone.


Verizon’s Moto Z and Moto Z Force Droid Editions available July 28

The phones cost $624 and $720 outright, with preorders starting today.

The biggest question surrounding the Moto Z and Moto Z Force? The release date and price, of course. And we can finally share those things — at least, when it comes to the Verizon launch.


Verizon will make the Droid Editions of those phones available starting July 28. Preorders start today (July 21), and Verizon is offering up to $300 if you trade-in a current phone. And so that we’re perfectly clear, these are Verizon phones. And while Verizon’s phones are SIM-unlocked, this Moto Z is not the globally available unlocked Moto Z coming later — and the Moto Z Force is entirely exclusive to Verizon.

Price is $26 a month for the Moto Z Droid, or $624 outright. The Moto Z Force Droid will cost $30 a month, or $720 outright.

Moto Z and Moto Z Force

  • Our Moto Z review!
  • Moto Z specs
  • Moto Mods custom backs
  • Moto Z and Moto Z Force will be Verizon exclusives until the fall of 2016
  • The latest Moto Z news
  • Discuss in our Moto Z forums

Best Buy

Press release:

Moto Z Droids and Moto Mods are now available for preorder exclusively on Verizon

This new breed of smartphones is powered by Verizon’s better network

NEW YORK – The Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid, powered by the Verizon network, and new Moto Mods are available for pre-order online beginning today. Customers using these groundbreaking smartphones will experience smooth video viewing and streaming, fast social sharing and crystal clear calling on the nation’s most reliable 4G LTE network. The smartphones will be available in Verizon stores beginning July 28.

“Together with Motorola, we’re fueling the smartphone revolution, and fostering the development of new ideas that are not only changing the wireless world we know today, but redefining the future of technology,” said Jeff Dietel, vice president of Wireless Devices at Verizon. “There’s truly nothing else out there like the Moto Z Droids. While these phones are powerful on their own, when you combine them with the new Moto Mods you transform them into powerful devices that take you way beyond a phone.”

Moto Z Droid — A platform for the future

Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid work with the Moto Mod ecosystem, yet offer distinct design features that can be tailored for your lifestyle. The Moto Z Droid is the thinnest premium smartphone and was designed so you can add powerful capabilities to your phone without adding a ton of bulk to your pocket.

The new Moto Z Force is the world’s fastest charging smartphone, delivering up to 15 hours of use in 15 minutes. In addition, the Moto Z Force Droid has the same great innovations from previous Droids, like a guaranteed shatterproof display. Moto ShatterShield set the standard as the world’s first smartphone display guaranteed not to crack or shatter. The new second-generation ShatterShield features narrower edges and a thinner design, yet it’s still as strong as ever.

Both Droids also support Verizon’s Advanced Calling, meaning when you call another compatible smartphone, you get calls that sound like you’re having a conversation with someone in the same room instead of across the country. You can also start a video call right from the calling screen with just a tap. The Moto Z Droid is available for $26 per month on the Verizon device payment plan or $624 full price. The Moto Z Force is available for $30 per month on device payment or $720 full price. Beginning July 28, visit any Verizon store to trade in your current smartphone for the Moto Z Droid or Moto Z Force Droid on device payment plan and apply up to $300 in trade-in value immediately toward your purchase. Don’t have the time to trade in at a store? You can also trade-in your phone at

Moto Mods

Moto Mods instantly transform your Moto Z Droids into entirely new devices, like a portable theater, a wireless speaker or a chic fashion accessory with built-in power and wireless charging capabilities. Moto Mods magnetically snap onto your phone, seamlessly become one with it and are easy to swap out.

The following Moto Mods will be available beginning July 28:

  • JBL SoundBoost Speaker — Instantly get powerful stereo sound that’s perfect for the beach, the backyard and everywhere in between. The speaker features a kickstand, built-in battery for 10 extra hours of playtime and speakerphone capabilities. $79.99
  • Moto Insta-Share Projector — Snap the Insta-Share Projector onto your phone to share vacation photos from a recent trip or to play that movie everyone’s talking about. The projector includes an integrated kickstand, up to 70″ projection and a built-in battery for up to an extra hour of projection time. $299.99
  • TUMI and kate spade new york Power Packs — Add up to 22 hours of battery life to your phone without adding bulk. The Power Pack snaps on so you can recharge on the run. Forget about fumbling with batteries or searching for open wall outlets…and get it done in style. Prices range from $59.99 to $89.99.
  • Incipio Back Plates — Personalize your Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid with Incipio Back Plates. Magnetic covers are available in Soft Touch, Iridescent, and Brushed Metallic. $14.99.

Transforming Your Wireless Experience

In addition to an exceptional mobile experience you get on the Verizon network, the new Verizon Plan and My Verizon app give you an awesome mobile experience that you can control like never before. The new My Verizon app and Verizon Plan give you choice, just like the Moto Z Droids give you choice to turn your mobile phone into a stereo, projector and more, in a snap.

To pre-order the Moto Z Droids or Moto Mods, visit

*Trade in a phone in good, working condition for an account credit or gift card. Eligible phones for $300 trade-in value: Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+, Note 5, LG G4 or V10, HTC One M9 and iPhone 6. Eligible phones for $200 trade-in value: Samsung Galaxy S5 or Note 4, LG G3, HTC One M8, iPhone 5, 5C or 5S, Droid Maxx 2 and Droid Turbo 2. Eligible phones for $100 trade-in value: Samsung Galaxy S4, LG G2, HTC One M7, Apple iPhone 4 or 4S, Droid Maxx and Droid Turbo. Limited time offer.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, Nasdaq: VZ) employs a diverse workforce of 177,700 and generated nearly $132 billion in 2015 revenues. Verizon operates America’s most reliable wireless network, with more than 112 million retail connections nationwide. Headquartered in New York, the company also provides communications and entertainment services over America’s most advanced fiber-optic network, and delivers integrated business solutions to customers worldwide.

Moto Z and Moto Z Force

  • Our Moto Z review!
  • Moto Z specs
  • Moto Mods custom backs
  • Moto Z and Moto Z Force will be Verizon exclusives until the fall of 2016
  • The latest Moto Z news
  • Discuss in our Moto Z forums

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