Just like last year's model, the Moto Z2 Force packs a 5.5-inch Super AMOLED screen running at Quad HD (2,560 x 1,440) resolution. Colors are bright and sumptuous without getting totally lurid, and image quality stays crisp no matter the viewing angle. Alas, this AMOLED panel isn't quite as bright as the screens found on the HTC U11 or iPhone 7 Plus, and it exhibits a slightly yellow cast, too. You might not notice it unless you're doing a head-to-head comparison with other phones, but it's there nonetheless. You do have another option, though: a quick trip into Settings reveals a "standard" color mode that, while more accurate, looks drab by comparison.
Normally, you'd expect a screen like this to be covered in Gorilla Glass, but this a Z Force we're talking about. That means we're working with one of Motorola's ShatterShield displays... which basically just means there's a lot of plastic covering the flexible OLED screen. Motorola's approach to protecting screens worked well in last year's Z Force, but it seems to have been the victim of compromise this time. See, the original Force had a hard, removable plastic lens while this year's model has a softer, more pliable covering that seems more scratch prone than before. The screen protector is so soft, in fact, that you can etch some gnarly grooves into it with a fingernail. Sure, the actual display panel remains unharmed — you'll just have to deal with a bunch of indelible blemishes.
Other than that, though, the ShatterShield has worked as promised. I'm normally pretty careful with my phones, but I spent the past week hurling it into pillars and trying to sink three-pointers from across the office. (Suffice to say, I'm a lousy shot.) The Z Force's screen took all that punishment and more; I even drove over the thing in my car and the screen works as well as ever. Just remember that only the screen is impervious to damage. The plastic-coated display was decently nicked after a few test drops, but it still worked fine. The same cannot be said for the phone's vibration motor, which crapped out after two drops from about five feet high.
The Z2 Force's single speaker still worked after all that abuse, pumping out surprisingly loud, clear audio without too much distortion at high volumes. This is normally where I'd lament the lack of stereo speakers, but that's a moot point here — Motorola clearly wants you to buy one of JBL's speaker Moto Mods instead. While that might be a smart investment for folks who actually give a damn about blasting music from their phones, don't feel the need to rush out for one — the built-in speaker was great for podcasts and the occasional (non-bass-heavy) Spotify playlist.
As usual, Motorola mostly just left Android alone. The interface here is as close to Google's Pixel launcher as you'll find on a non-Pixel phone, and that's a good thing. Motorola's rivals have dramatically improved their interfaces and first-party services, but the cleanliness and flexibility of near-stock Android is a strong argument for software purity. Our review unit is carrier-locked to T-Mobile and comes with a handful of easily disabled apps as a result. Other than that, this is a characteristically clean version of Android 7.1.1 with a handful of tried-and-true Moto "experiences."
Some of you have been honing your wrist-twists and karate chops for years now, and those gestures still fire up the camera and the flashlight, respectively. As with the recent G5 and G5 Plus, you can also start to use that home-button-looking fingerprint sensor as, well, a home button. This so-called one button navigation works well enough and is helpful for freeing up the minuscule amount of real estate taken up by the on-screen nav keys. Repeatedly swiping to back all the out of some nested menus gets old, though, so most people are better off sticking with the classic interface.
Google's Assistant is here too and it works as well as it always does, but it's not alone. I wouldn't exactly call it a "virtual assistant," but Motorola's updated Moto Voice lets you ask the Z2 Force to show you things — say, the weather or your next appointment. Doing so brings up a widget that takes over your screen showing you exactly what you asked for five seconds before fading away. Motorola's voice recognition works well, to the point where it recognized me even when I was sick and raspy. Also, the "show me" wake-word makes for the most natural-sounding conversations you'll have with your phone. Being able to launch apps by saying "show me Chrome" or whatever is handy too, if not exactly novel.
Here's the rub, though: Unless you really want to see your weather or your calendar, this upgraded form of Moto Voice is pointless. Want to fire up Spotify? It often takes just as much time to tap the icon as it does to enunciate your request. And since Moto's approach is fairly basic, you can't ask the Z2 Force to perform more complex, useful commands like "show me Spotify and play the playlist 'Chill Vibes.'" In fairness, Google Assistant can't always handle those multi-part queries either; if you want an assistant that does, Samsung's Bixby might be your best option. That said, Google Assistant does everything Moto Voice can but better, and I don't understand why Motorola devoted any effort to this.