The Moto Z is the Latest Phone to Suffer the Dwindling Hype of Far-Off Releases

The Moto Z is the Latest Phone to Suffer the Dwindling Hype of Far-Off Releases

When we talk flagships, we mean just that: devices that are top of the line, competing with the best of the best. OEMs try and put the best set of features that they believe would put their device on the top, sneaking in a compromise or two in areas where the normal consumer would not notice.

The spec sheet is meant to stand out, with flashy marketing terms and big numbers. And the price often matches this flashiness, charging a nice sum for all the bells and whistles that the consumer may or may not necessarily need.

But there was one smartphone that stood out from this trend of big and flashy. A smartphone that was a flagship in its own right, but with a spec sheet that did not try to impress you with numbers. This was the Moto X, launched amidst the intense spec wars with the HTC One M7 and the Samsung Galaxy S4, but with specs that placed it firmly in the middle segment. Motorola’s approach to the flagship game was different — instead of focusing on flashy numbers, they tried to create a favorable UX *gasp*.

The Moto X was widely hailed as being a good experience overall, an area where the top phones struggled after a while. There were no flashy animations or blurriness, no brightly colored panels in the UI, no changes to stock Android that would make it unrecognizable from AOSP. Instead, Motorola resorted to adding a few sprinkles to stock Android such as Active Display (a feature that OEMs are just now embracing as a standard), Always-On Voice Controls that worked well, and an option to customize your device via MotoMaker. It was an unusual approach to putting the user experience first and hardware second, but it worked surprisingly well in Moto’s favor.

MotoMaker allowed you to imagine your own smartphone

MotoMaker allowed you to imagine your own smartphone

Looking back at what made the Moto X great, you see stark contrasts with the approach the new Moto flagship is taking. Moto is back into the number crunching game, featuring some top of the line specs to compete with the rest. You get flashy numbers for the display, for the SoC, for the internals and for most things (except the battery, perhaps). The phone was hyped well before its release, and then hyped some more. The MotoMod additions made sure that the device got a very good share of the headlines for its “modular” accessories. But after the launch event was done and dusted, we’ve heard very little of the Moto Z…

With its delayed release, the Moto Z is pitting itself against many of the year’s juggernauts 

Part of the blame would fall on how the Moto Z can still be considered a work-in-progress. The device was announced in early June 2016, but you can’t purchase the device until a good 3 months later. Seeing how the Moto Z is on top of the number game, it would be no surprise that the device would also cost as much as other top tier flagships for the main phone.

But since the Moto Z is based on modular accessories, you would also be expected to splurge some more to get the MotoMod of your choice, just to get the complete smartphone experience. The cost of the Moto Z and an accompanying MotoMod would likely put it at par with the cost of other flagships (and possibly even beyond), at which point, you will notice the spec sheet and the experience of the competition before making your purchase.

Now, you can get the Moto Z earlier than September but it comes with a bit of a catch. During the launch, Lenovo referred to the release timeline in weather seasons, which gives them an arguably bigger room to maneuver. The Moto Z makes an appearance in “summer” in the USA (June to August), but it will be a Verizon exclusive and rebranded as the Moto Z Droid Edition. Of course, bloatware is an added extra on the device, in case you were happy about this. And if the past record for Verizon Droid’s is anything to go by, the Moto Z Droid Editions will not be developer friendly and will likely sport locked bootloaders that will be difficult (nay, impossible) to unlock.

moto z line for verizon

If you don’t want to ride a Verizon-exclusive (and we recommend on voting with your wallet with what you do want), you can wait until the “fall” (September to November) for the Verizon exclusivity to end. September is also when the rest of the world will be able to pick up a Moto Z. And September is also around the time period when the world will witness newer devices like the new Nexus, or if you are high on modularity, the developer edition of Ara. Not to mention that there will also be bigwigs like the new iPhone 7 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 waiting to become the choice of mainstream consumers even before that.

This is the problem with the Moto Z. By the time most of the world can lay their hands on the device, there will be newer iterations of popular and arguably better devices. The Moto Z will be loosing out on most of its selling points: other flagships already sport top-notch specs and more will improve on these specs, pricing is already a hotbed with the OnePlus 3 stealing all the limelight in the affordable flagship category. And if you are looking from the “modularity” end of things, Google’s Ara will be a stronger contender on the modular accessories front as it would allow for mixing and matching smaller modules together (unlike MotoMods, where only one Mod can be used at a time). Granted, Ara will be a developer-oriented device in 2016, but modularity by itself is a young area for smartphones and normal consumers often show resistance towards the bleeding edge.

It is unknown how far Lenovo has meddled into the UX side of things, but props to them if they can recreate the original Moto X magic on the Moto Z. Seeing that they did fire the people who worked on things like Moto Voice and Moto Display, we would not hold our breaths back on this. But they do get the benefit of doubt, till final consumers get their hands on the Moto Z.

All in all, the Moto Z’s biggest losing point is the cost of keeping the consumers waiting. There is no dearth of alternatives against the Moto Z right now, but there will be even more of these in the future when consumers actually get to buy the device. The Moto X created a fan following of sorts, and these are the very people who would be the most disappointed with the Moto Z.

Are you interested in purchasing the Moto Z? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

About author

Aamir Siddiqui
Aamir Siddiqui

I am a tech journalist with XDA since 2015, while being a qualified business-litigation lawyer with experience in the field. A low-end smartphone purchase in 2011 brought me to the forums, and it's been a journey filled with custom ROMs ever since. When not fully dipped in smartphone news, I love traveling to places just to capture pictures of the sun setting. You can reach out to me at [email protected]