Introducing the Moto Z MotoMods

MotoModsI’m a Motorola Droid fan. It’s no secret. Not all Android phones are the same, and I am attached to the Droid feature set. I have been lucky enough to receive several for review purposes, but these are the phones I buy for myself, too. But when I was recently asked if I wanted to check out the Moto Z Play Droid phone from Verizon Wireless, I found myself to be excited, but skeptical. Why? There were a few reasons (all unfounded in the end), but the biggest of which was the MotoMods. MotoMods are accessories that snap onto the Moto Z and give it additional features and/or capabilities. In truth, I didn’t think they would work as advertised. I’m a cynic that way. And I was wrong.

There are currently a handful of MotoMods available including a camera, a projector, a speaker, a car mount, and some batteries. They all snap onto the back of the Moto Z phones by way of a powerful magnet. And they work. Quite well, actually. I received two MotoMods with my phone to try them out and then got another two on loan so I could share them with you. I put together a video to show you each of them and how they work. Please note that there are now additional mods available, which I didn’t realize when I recorded the video. That’s what I get for not doing all of my homework before hitting “record!”

You can easily search out specs for each of the mods if you’re into that sort of thing, so I’m not going to go crazy with all of the fine details, but I do want to share a bit more about each of them to help you decide if they are right for you. The info below contains affiliate links.

JBL Soundboost Speaker

I stream a lot of music, so the JBL Soundboost Speaker MotoMod is a nice way to be able to stream on the go without draining my phone battery for a Bluetooth connection. It’s 7.4 ounces and 1.8-inches thick. It feels hefty, so I wouldn’t want to carry this in my purse on a regular basis. The JBL Soundboost Speaker does pack quite a sound-punch, though, and it’s useful to pull out when we’re eating on the deck or when traveling. It has a small kick-stand to stand it up, but the result is that the speaker is still pointed toward the surface it’s sitting on. I wish the kick-stand wrapped around the phone somehow so that the speaker could point up and out. Much like the rest of the devices, the Soundboost speaker charges via USB-C. It’s unfortunately located on the back of the speaker (i.e., where it attaches to the phone), so you can’t actively charge it while it’s in use. That said, if you charge the phone, it will charge the speaker as well. You’ll also get a second battery display (corresponding to the battery life left in the speaker) on your phone display.

This one retails at $79.99. It also comes in white, which is nice if you have a white Moto Z.

TUMI Wireless Charging Battery Pack

The TUMI Wireless Charging Battery Pack is definitely one of the more practical MotoMods. While all of the Moto Z phones have pretty good battery life, there are always those times when you just need a bit more juice. The TUMI battery snaps on to your device as other mods do, and provides 2200mAh (up to 20 hours) to keep you up and running. It’s just 0.27 inches thick and 5 ounces. It’s not terribly heavy for a battery, but it’s big enough that it could impact your desire to tote it around with you.

As suggested by the name, this battery pack is wireless. You have two options for charging it. You can charge it solo via a Qi charger (not included). Alternatively, you can attach it to your phone and charge them both together, either via USB-C or or Qi. I found the Qi charging to be fickle. It wouldn’t always recognize our charging pad. Still, having wireless charging is handy, especially since USB-C isn’t widely adopted yet and it may be difficult to find a charger if you’re running low away from home. Qi charging is more commonly available. On the other hand, wireless charging is significantly slower than wired charging, especially with the turbo speed of the Moto Z charging experience. It’s a handy mod, but at $89.99, I’d like to be able to plug it in as well as use wireless.

Moto Insta-Share Projector

As I state in the video, the Moto Insta-Share Projector is my favorite of the bunch. It’s 0.4 inches thick and weighs just under 4.5 ounces, including the projector and its built-in battery. Come on. I just didn’t think it would provide decent picture quality. And then I snapped it on and shined it on the wall and was blown away.

The Insta-Share projector sports 50 lumens which seems pretty standard for a pico projector. When projected to its full size (70″ diagonal, although you can technically get a bigger picture), it requires a reasonably dark environment, but for smaller spaces (like an airplane or the back of a car), lighting is less of an issue. You can see how nice it looks in daylight in the video.

The Moto Insta-Share Projector doesn’t have a built-in speaker, so you’re relying on the phone speaker or Blu-tooth. You can also use the headphone jack on the Moto Z Play or the USB-C on other Moto Z devices to plug it into headphones or a speaker. The projector has a 1100mAh battery, which will buy you about an hour of projection time before it starts drawing power from the phone.  If there’s any real drawback, it’s the price. At $299.99, it’s a hefty investment, especially considering that it only works with a small subset of phones. But who cares? It’s a projector that attaches to your phone!

When I turned on the Insta-Share Projector in the kitchen to show my kids, they immediately camped out on the floor with their dinner and blankets for a movie on the ceiling.

Watching a movie on the ceiling

 

Hasselblad True Zoom Camera

The Hasselblad True Zoom Camera MotoMod is mod I was most interested in trying. As a blogger, and a parent, I don’t always want to carry my main camera with me, but I need to be able to capture great images on the go. The Hasselblad True Zoom Camera is just under 4.5 ounces and is 0.43 thick. It adds a good amount of bulk to your phone, but it’s trivial compared to most cameras out there. When attached, the Hasselblad bypasses your phone’s camera while adding 10X optical zoom and a flash. You’ll use it just like any other camera, with a dedicated shutter button and a zoom dial, but you can still focus by dragging your finger on the screen to point at your focus area.

I have been happy with the pictures it has taken, especially in low light and using the optical zoom. The image below was taken in a low-light situation from the mezzanine during a (Straight No Chaser) concert. I didn’t edit at all, other than a crop for Instagram. My only real issue with the Hasselblad MotoMod is that the software has a habit of crashing now and again, making it easy to miss a crucial moment. This may not matter if you’re out hiking with friends, but if you’re at your daughter’s soccer game and miss her winning goal, that stinks. I’m hoping they work out the kinks with the software but for now, proceed with caution. And, much like the Insta-Share projector, this mod will run you about $299.99 which potentially locks you into the Moto Z line for the foreseeable future. But if you want to capture great shots from afar or at night, and don’t want to tote around a DSLR, this does the trick. And it’s swanky, so that’s a bonus. People ask about it. People ooh and ahh over it. I wouldn’t buy it for this reason alone, but it sure is a conversation starter.

Straight No Chaser in Boston

MotoMods, Yes or No?

I was impressed by the functionality of the MotoMods and have enjoyed trying them out. It will be interesting to see if Motorola continues to develop the Moto Z line, or makes new phone lines compatible with the mods. That would make the higher priced accessories more appealing, especially for those of us who have some brand loyalty in this area. I’m also hoping to see other innovative MotoMods hit the shelves. A night-vision camera? A VR viewer? What would you want to see for your phone?

Disclosure: We received a Moto Z Play Droid and two MotoMods as review items, as well as two loan units. There was no additional compensation provided and all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. I am also a member of the Lenovo Insider’s group.

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