Ever since Lenovo acquired Motorola, we were afraid the new parent company might adopt some new kind of manufacturer skin for future Moto phones. We are happy to see that Lenovo decided to keep Motorola's software on the same track that it's been on, since even before Google acquired it back in 2013. The Moto X's software was so minimally intrusive and well optimized with just the right amount of value-added software features.
The Moto Z2 Force's software is in the same boat. It's a minimalistic yet efficient interface that runs near-stock Android, and it has useful and unique software features that are not redundant with Google or Android's set of features. Perhaps Samsung could learn a thing or two from Motorola's software engineers.
Anyway, Moto's UI is lean and clean. Starting off with the launcher, it looks a lot like the Pixel's launcher, complete with a swipe-up app-drawer. You can tap and hold the white tab on the right of the drawer to scroll through apps by letter. The most frequently used apps are on the top row.
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.
Widgets are also a familiar deal, scroll through widgets and you tap-and-hold to place it on your home screens. There are two more options behind the Settings cog: A home screen rotation toggle (which is ON by default), and a toggle for showing your Google Feed on the leftmost screen.
Even Google Now has made it to Moto's stock launcher. Swiping past the leftmost home screen will pop you into Google Now so you can take a quick peek at Google cards.
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 right for the camera.
There are two places where you can interact with notifications: the lock screen and the Moto Display screen. We'll talk about Moto Display in the Moto Enhancements section below.
Like much of the stock-Android UI, notifications are no different. Quick Replies are accessible right from the notification, as well as the aforementioned Active Display. You'll be able to reply right from the lockscreen as well, though this feature only works without a screen lock method or when Smart Lock is enabled. Otherwise you'll need to unlock the phone before you can Quick Reply.
The Moto Z2 Force also supports multiple users out of the box. Add another user or guest account to the phone.
A double-pull of the notification shade shows you more quick toggles, while an edit button lets you rearrange and add new toggles.
Unique to the Moto Z's UI is the MotoMod toggle, which allows you to update or control the attached MotoMod's settings.
The Moto Z2'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-screen navigation buttons.
Gestures are used to navigate: swipe left to go Back, tap to go Home, or swipe right to switch between recent apps. You can even invert the Back and Recents gestures if you prefer it another way. Oh yeah, and 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.
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 screen gives you access to all the settings, or you can search for a setting.
The UI is smooth and makes sense; there's not much that bogs the system down, and we're really glad about that. Next up are all the features unique to the higher-end Moto devices.
The best part of using a Moto phone is the addition of Moto Enhancements. Motorola has included its own unique number of enhancements and has been refining their branding and functionality over the years. We enjoy 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 Force's Moto Enhancements consist of three main categories: Moto Display, Moto Voice, and Moto Actions. We'll brief over each category and the features that stand out the most. Moto Voice has gotten the most significant update, so we'll cover that as well.
We like that Motorola has placed all its major actions into single menu. This is much better than having them scattered all over different Settings menus. Most of these actions have been optimized for years so their effect on 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 for a while now, minimizing the battery draw needed and eliminating the need for dedicated chips.
While we've seen most of these features in other smartphones, the most notable to Moto 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 Moto Display so you can glance at your notifications.
Moto Display has been updated from the Moto Z with a new clock design with integrated battery ring, a new 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.
You can either type your quick reply or vocalize it. To quick reply from Active Display, tap and hold the message icon and drag it to either the reply arrow icon or the mic icon.
Also part of Moto Display is a new feature called Night Display. It's an increasingly popular feature: the phone will display warmer colors to filter out blue light to help you sleep better at night.
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.
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]".
These new "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 send a text, you'll have to use the "Okay, Google" command (which still works with the screen off). Moto Voice has reduced its footprint to give way for features that are already available from Google Assistant. Way to keep it lean, Moto!
Once under another category (Moto Assist), Talk to me is a feature that announces all your incoming notifications. You can set the Z2 Force to do this for when it detects that you're driving, or if a headset is connected.