Motorola Moto Mods Review: Making the most of your phone, at a price
Motorola’s mobile strategy rests on the quality of the "Moto Mods" you can add to the Motorola Moto Z and Moto Z Play, but are they worth the investment?
Motorola (which itself not that long ago was part of the Google empire) is the latest manufacturer to go down the mobile-phones-with-modular-bits track with its Moto Mods, which affix magnetically to the Motorola Moto Z and Motorola Moto Z Play. Motorola’s promise is that future Motorola phones will feature Mod compatibility, so if you buy a mod for one of this year’s phones, it should last you through future handsets.
Modularity is quite a cool concept, especially if it will apply to the majority of Motorola’s phones going forward, but the mods themselves can add significant cost to the overall price of the new phones. This raises the question as to whether they’re worth your time and money. We’ve taken the new Mods for a spin with during both our Moto Z review and Moto Z Play review, to assess their overall value proposition, excluding the Style Cap cases, because that’s totally a style call you should make yourself.
Here’s what you’ll pay for each of the new Moto Mods in Australia:
|JBL® SoundBoost Speaker||$159|
|Hasselblad True Zoom Camera||$399|
|Incipio off GRID Power Pack: Espresso Black or White||$119|
|Incipio off GRID Power Pack: Espresso Wireless Black or White||$139|
|Style caps: Black Leather||$39|
|Style caps: Herringbone Fabric, Charcoal Ash, Crimson Ballistic Nylon Fabric, Silver Oak and Washed Oak||$29|
JBL® SoundBoost Speaker
The SoundBoost speaker really is one of those accessories that does what it says on the tin. The sound output from the Moto Z and Moto Z Play isn’t woeful by mobile standards, but if you need a bit more clarity and especially a bit more volume it works well enough, with an integrated stand to easily prop it up on a desk for whole of room sound.
Our only reservation with the SoundBoost Speaker is that it’s priced at a very similar price point to many competing Bluetooth speakers. You could pick up one of those, pair to it from the Moto Z (or any other smartphone) and get much the same effect, with possibly better stereo separation thanks to a larger speaker body. That wouldn’t be as compact though.
Worth buying? If you want an all-in speaker system for your smartphone frequently it could be worthwhile.
Hasselblad True Zoom Camera
The cameras on the Moto Z and Moto Z play are decent, but like every other current smartphone, there’s no true optical zoom. No, the iPhone 7 Plus doesn’t count, because while you can jump to its 2x Optical lens, that’s a separate lens, not a gradual zoom as you’d want on a real camera. Dropping the Hasselblad True Zoom Camera onto the Moto Z or Moto Z Play is a satisfying affair, with the body taking over all photographic functions. Zoom is the real story here, though it’s a mixed blessing.
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It’s great to get in closer to your subject, but the lens itself lacks proper inbuilt optical stabilisation, which means that you need to have a surface to keep it stable on. We struggled heavily with shaky and blurry images, and to make matters worse there’s no inbuilt tripod screw mount on the camera body, so you’d have to use a phone holder with one on top of the Hasselblad True Zoom Camera to make the most of it.
Worth buying? There’s a cool factor with optical zoom on the phone, but the price is high and for most mobile shooting scenarios you’ll struggle.
The Insta-Share Projector is easily the Moto Mod with the most "wow" factor behind it, because there’s nothing quite like whipping your phone out of your pocket to share a quick YouTube video on a nearby wall, or for that matter streaming Netflix while in bed onto your bedroom ceiling. The inbuilt keystone and focus controls are easy to manage, although predictably for a projector you’ve ideally got to have a mostly dark environment to make the colours work properly.
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The one downside here is that the pictures can be great, but you’re limited to the audio output of the phone, which is a downer. Sadly you can’t stack the Insta-Share Projector and JBL® SoundBoost Speaker onto a single phone, although being magnetic, they will stick to each other.
Worth buying? The coolest of the currently available Moto Mods, but at a steep asking price.
Incipio off GRID Power Pack: Espresso Black or White
Incipio offers two different Moto Mod Power Packs, with the Wireless variant selling for a $20 premium over the regular version. We tested with the 2220 mAh regular variant, and it acted pretty much like any other battery case you might have used with an existing smartphone to date. You do get the choice of constant charging or "efficiency" mode, where it only kicks in if your Motorola phone drops below 80% charge, which should give you even more extended battery life.
If you’re always in search of a power point a battery pack makes a lot of sense, and Incipio’s off GRID Power Pack adds only a little bulk to the already pretty slender Moto Z, so it could be a very good purchase option. The flipside of that is that $119 could buy you a standalone battery pack with a little more inbuilt power.
Worth buying? It’s very convenient and works well, so if you want a simple multi-day charging solution for your phone it’s going to pay off, but consider your wider battery needs at this price.