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Opinion 5 min read 13 comments

Moto Mods: a smartphone failure in three acts

To go along with the Moto Z series, Motorola launched Moto Mods in 2016. The idea is that the smartphone can be expanded with whatever modules you choose. The manufacturer promised that at least three generations of the Z series would support these modules from the very beginning. The Z3 Play marks the third generation and it has just recently been released. So where is the journey headed?

A good idea with endless possibilities

After LG, Motorola was the second manufacturer to take the idea of mods really seriously (excluding Google’s Project Ara). Motorola’s implementation of mods was also much more interesting than the competition’s. Instead of inserting the modules into the bottom of the phone, which significantly limits its versatility, they are simply placed on the back of the smartphone. There are few limits to the possibilities.

Need more battery power? That’s no problem, since thanks to the Power Pack you’ll have 2220 mAh of extra battery on board. The sound of your smartphone isn’t enough for you? Thank to the JBL audio mod, the Motorola smartphone will sound much better. Even a real optical zoom can become reality with the help of the Hasselblad True Zoom, although the results are somewhat disappointing. The pictures you take can now also be printed out directly from your smartphone. After two years there are a few mods, but that’s not really enough.

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The Gamepad Mod makes gaming on your smartphone more fun. / © AndroidPIT

Price has always been a problem

The purchase costs are so high that the idea of getting a smartphone along with the mods quickly becomes interesting. Here’s an example: the most interesting smartphone of the Z series, the Moto Z2 Force, cost $720 without any mods. That’s a hefty price in itself. But if you add one or two mods, that's well over $1,000. Even despite all the mods, these are prices that maybe Samsung and Apple can handle, but a manufacturer like Motorola can’t. The brand just doesn’t have enough fans.

As many people noticed quite early on, the mods were never really worth their price. The audio modem costs just under 100 dollars, but you can get much better Bluetooth speakers, and usually for much less money. Or there’s the Insta-Share Projector: with a small projector module you can project videos directly from your smartphone onto a wall. That’s a great idea, but unfortunately it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of quality, and it still costs around 200 dollars. You can get significantly better projectors at similar prices, even if they’re not so easy to transport. But they’ll work with any other phone.

There hasn't been much enthusiasm so far

Motorola has been intensely promoting Moto Mods for the past two years. Understandably, they have invested a lot of time and money. In 2016 everything looked like it could develop into a real success. And the manufacturer actually did everything it could to make that happen. There were even competitions where resourceful participants could submit their own ideas for new mods. Some of these ideas later found their way onto the market, but you never had the feeling that all the effort really led to more customers. I’ve only really came across them very rarely outside of AndroidPit, and I think my colleagues feel the same way.

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The Moto Z3 Play is bringing in the third Z generation. / © AndroidPIT

Good and sensible ideas are always being copied. So far, LG and Motorola are still the only manufacturers to have implemented these kinds of modules. Essential’s attempt fell apart right after it got started. Even relevant small manufacturers that copy practically everything that has had any kind of success, have kept their hands off of modules. Yes, the modes aren’t that easy to produce, at least in comparison to coming out with a red version of the device.

The third generation is here, what now Motorola?

With the Moto Z3 Play, the third generation of the Z Series is now on the market, which leads to the question as to how Motorola will proceed. Will they hold on to the Moto Mods? Or are they going to trash the idea?

In my opinion the disadvantages of the Moto Mods outweigh the disadvantages. The fact that they are compatible with all the different models of the Z series is, of course, laudable and also absolutely necessary. At the same time, however, this also means that the Z series can only develop extremely tentatively in terms of design. The shape, the camera module and other aspects on the back can’t be changed, since otherwise the modules wouldn’t fit anymore. At least the screen on the front panel can be changed, and that’s exactly what Motorola did. But will that be enough for the next few years? I’m of the opinion that it won’t. The competition doesn’t sleep in the meantime, and is constantly developing. Of course, smartphone design is becoming more and more uniform, but keeping to the existing elements in the coming years certainly won’t inspire any new customers.

And one thing is certain: the Moto Mods and their smartphones weren’t particularly successful. The smartphones were undoubtedly good, but they’ve been unable to win over fans. As we all know, the design of a smartphone plays a big role for most customers, since most smartphones have enough power. And as I said, if Motorola sticks to Moto Mods, the design can’t fundamentally change. So what are the chances that the new smartphones will be more successful than the previous ones? The manufacturer primarily earns money with the G series, which isn’t compatible with the mods.

So how do you feel about the Moto Mods? Should Motorola continue to pursue the idea and stick to it? Or have they always been quite uninteresting?

13 comments

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  • I am using this phone from 18 months. Most mods are expensive. For half the price, you get same accessories that can be used with other phones as well rather than these mods that have to stick only to Moto Z family.

    IMO if Motorola adds this mod functionality in all their G and C series phones or release more Z series phones in other budgets or make mods compatible for other brands as well, then there will be more demand and get cheaper.

    Sticking this modularity with only couple of phones in Z family is going to cost them a lot as not much people will buy a particular phone.

    Also Motorola should release various variants of mods. Instead of only one camera mod with 10x optical zoom, they could have released more with 18X 20MP, 30X 24MP etc that would attract a lot.


  • 500.00 banana's, plus the mods are very pricey. But at least they include a 2200mamp battery pack! That's very nice, but your paying for it. I like how they say FREE battery mod!


  • I own a Z Play and the first generation JBL speaker add on. Fun to demo, but it quickly got consigned to a drawer. The main reason I almost never drag it out and slap it on the Z Play is I'd have to take off the phone case first. I hate phone cases. I think having to use one means the designers failed you. But the Z Play sides are so slippery I needed something to grip. JBL speaker add-on? Better than the built in, but not as nice as my JAM2 external portable Bluetooth speaker. The Moto mods are interesting in concept, but for general consumption they not worth the money or the design restrictions. Sorry. Extending the phone capability wirelessly wins all around.


  • I love the mods. I have them all for my Z2 Play. I started with the first Z Play. Motorola should continue with them, they are really useful. I keep the ones I use most in my car to have them all the time. I think that for the next gen they might be able to make an adapter and sell it separately if we want to use the old mods on newer models. That would be really cool. I'm going to buy this year's Moto Z3 Force wich should last me around 2 years, maybe even 3.


  • I dig the s**t out of my Mods and my Z Play. So I don't care anyone else's opinion. The Z3 Play will be my next phone and it guarantees 3 more years of mods.


  • My whole family loves these phones. The moto z play is the first phone we've had whose battery life will keep it running all day. Add a battery mod and it will last 2 days. And turbo charging is super fast. The issues raised in this article are non-issues. Design? A phone is rectangle with rounded corners. What's left to design that can't be fit into that constraint?Cost? Buy a used one on ebay if that's a problem. Poor adoption? Who gives a f**k what other people are buying? Few mods to date? There are plenty and they all work great. Better bluetooth speakers? Yeah but they're not nearly as convenient. I leave my speaker mod attached all the time as my default mod. It's great for tunes and a hands-free speaker when I'm busy out in the shop. The car attachment mod is literally a life saver. Just pop the phone on and it automatically goes into android auto mode, hooks into audio and starts charging. No fumbling with cables, fewer driving distratctions. My son who's a Marine officer especially loves his z play. With a couple of charged battery packs, the projector, speaker and camera, he's got everything he needs in a compact package for a week in the field. I'm still looking forward to getting the keyboard mod "any day now". I really wish motorola would release a desktop dock to turn the phone into desktop replacement. The possibilities are endless.


  • I also love the mods!
    I bought my Moto Z2 Force at the end of last year. I was excited because Verizon had a deal for $200 off the list price, so I got the phone for around $550 only 3 months after release.
    Because I'm a stickler for battery life, I also got the battery mod. The battery mod adds little bulk or weight to the phone, feels good in my hand, & I NEVER have to worry about charging it, even after using my phone to watch videos all day.
    Motorola also had a promotion at the end of 2017 to get the projector mod for free by mail, which took almost 2 months, but IMO was worth it. I love using the projector on my bedroom wall to watch movies. I realize it's only 50 lumens, but it's perfect for my dark bedroom. The picture is surprisingly crisp & bright- good enough to sometimes forget I'm not watching a huge television, even.
    I haven't tried any of the other mods yet, but I'm so glad I have the 2 that I own. They're one of the main reasons I bought the phone. This is the best phone I've ever owned, in large part because of the mods (the only complaint I have about my phone is its apparent inability to record me playing guitar without the sound being terrible, even though it records everything else just fine).
    Finally, it's also nice to know that if I decide to upgrade, the next-gen phone models will support my existing Moto mods. I'm so happy I have them, & I would buy them again in a heartbeat.


  • I personally own the first generation motor play and it's a phone I loved from day one!!! I paid only $100 for the phone threw Verizon and every other nice phone that would be considered a high end phone like Samsung or apple was at least 300-400 or more so this was definitely cheaper then the competition also I think this phone at the time when it came out ran just as well if not better then the Samsung did at the time that they released the Moto z play there were very few octa-core phones on the market and having 8 cores definitely makes a huge difference in both battery life and performance!!! Also it has a good amount of RAM and memory. For the price the tech specs of this phone couldn't be beat at the time it was launched which is what originally made me buy the phone. Then I purchased the insta-share projector mod because at the time I had the funds too and said why not, now I'll say this I love the mod and all that it's capable of doing as well as I love awwing people with it but aside from that the author of this article hit it right on the head when he said that there are other comparable projectors to be had for either just as much money or cheaper which are either better or can be used with other phones and had I done some research and not been so eager to try out the latest tech I think I probably would of opted for a Bluetooth wireless projector for the fact that when I upgrade phones if it doesn't happen to be a Moto z series I could still use the projector and also the Motorola projector doesn't have very much lumens but I find it to be sufficient in dark rooms but if you have any lights on then it sucks and for the price u can get a wireless projector with quadruple the lumen output. Their are few Moto mods I think would make someone purchase this phone just for the mods, for example the battery mods I think are the best mods and idea thus far since most phones these days don't allow you to switch out batteries and a battery mods can extend the life of the phone in these instance's. But I wouldn't buy this phone just for the use of the mods like I said earlier I bought this phone because of it's performance and it's value at such a cheap price u couldn't go wrong with it. I think Motorola should continue with the Moto mods and they should make the future generations of phones to still be compatible with the older mods there is no guarantee that they won't be but they only said that statement as a gurantee that the next three generations would for sure be compatible to give current users and future customers some peace of mind. As the survey shows most would agree with me that they would like to see Motorola continue to develope the Moto mods platform and further the platform. What happened to the Moto mods they we're supposed to make that would turn ur phone into a tablet that was the mod I was really looking forward too and something that they're was always new rumors about it coming soon in the future but never happened.


  • I could not disagree more. Moto has a great differentiator in the fact that they run pretty well stock Android, and have a solution for extra battery life. No other phone on the market does this. If they "buried" Moto Mods their lineup would run the risk of being even less distinct. According to the authors own argument, the brand doesn't have enough fans, so Moto needs to keep doing stuff that makes their phones distinct from Samsung, etc.


  • I personally love the Moto mods, and love using them. Every where I go, people ask what type of phone I have when I change mods. Most people I talk to think Samsung is the only Android phone company and apple is the better option(ha good joke). The size of the mods do not bother me as I generally only carry the mods I know I will need in a pack I always have anyways. My only two complaints with the phones are terrible screen burn in and the plastic screen peeled off my phone Moto Z2 force. So overall, Motorola should continue the Moto mods idea as it is a great idea.


    • Me and you both brotha personally I didn't buy the phone for the mods but rather for it's performance and value as it was priced cheaply and had a octa-core processor that most phones hadn't come with yet especially for the price range I got my Moto z play for (I paid $100)


  • And the mods are quite large


  • Too expensive and, who wants to carry around a sack full of "mods" all the time?

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