Moto Z Review: The Modular Phone With Customizable Mods

Kieran McEwan
on 25 April 2017

The Moto Z boasts a slick aesthetic and surprises with strong internals and a range of interesting Moto Mods that allow the user to make the device their own.

With solid core features and impressive customisation, the Moto Z’s innovative design shows how well a modular smartphone can work.

A Solid Foundation

The Moto Z is a great example of the fact that innovation need not compromise the core features that users have come to expect from flagship smartphones.

The phone’s screen is immediately impressive, with a 5.5 inch 1440p display the Moto Z competes with the best on the market. This is backed up by 4GB of RAM and a fast Snapdragon 820 processor, meaning the phone is responsive and a breeze to use. Motorola must also be applauded for the inclusion of an expandable memory slot (that can also support a second sim), a feature sorely lacking from most modern smartphones.

Somewhat disappointingly, the Moto Z does perhaps innovate too much by removing the headphone jack (which it did prior to the iPhone 7). The phone does, however, come with an adapter to get around this, and perhaps can be forgiven for this compromise as it allows the phone to feature a very slim body. While the significant camera bump somewhat puts a damper on this aesthetic, the phone comes with skins that can be placed seamlessly onto its back, smoothing out the bump and providing a large degree of customisation while still remaining as thin as most modern phones.

Photo taken using the 10x optical zoom of the Hasselblad Moto Mod

A Modular Phone

While the phone’s base features are nothing to scoff at, the phone’s biggest point of difference is its Moto Mods. Interestingly, it was Motorola, while still under the ownership of Google, who started initial development of the much anticipated Project Ara. Although Google ended up killing the project late last year, its vision of modular customisation lives on in the Moto Z in a much more practical form.

Immediately impressive about this functionality is the way in which they connect seamlessly with the Moto Z. The phone’s back is strongly magnetised and features a small pin that connects the mods to the phone in a way that feels intuitive, and makes it seamless to swap between them. Most obviously useful of the four proprietary Moto Mods that are offered is the Incipio Power Pack, which provides an extra 2220 MaH of battery. While the size of the mod left me wanting for a greater capacity, the convenience of being able to quickly attach it to the phone and top up its battery was a welcome relief from having to charge on the go from a wireless battery pack.

Another of the Moto Mods offered by Motorola is a camera attachment by Hasselblad. While the concept of being able to upgrade your Smartphone’s camera on the fly makes sense, this mod unfortunately fails to improve much on the photo quality of the on board camera, and so, while cool, is useful mostly for the 10x optical zoom it offers.

The on board Moto Z camera (left) vs the Hasselblad Moto Mod (right)

Proof of Concept

Fortunately for the Moto Z, however, the Insta-Share projector more than makes up for this. This mod takes the form of a projector with kick-stand that with the press of a button projects the screen of your phone onto any flat surface. While its brightness during the day leaves something to be desired, at night it is very impressive, able to adapt to the angle seamlessly, and project a vibrant, detailed image. Anyone I showed it to was wowed by the product, and I often found myself setting it up in my room to watch movies on the wall opposite my bed.

Photo of the Sydney Harbour Bridge taken using the colour mod on the Moto Z

Key Specs

Size and Weight: 154mm tall x 75 mm wide x 5 mm thick, 136g

Screen: 5.5 inches, 2560×1440 pixels

Battery: 2600mAh

Camera: 13MP back, 5 MP front

Charging: USB-C w/ fast charging

The Verdict

In a market where each new smartphone feels merely like a slightly faster, slightly thinner version of its predecessor, the Moto Z is a refreshingly new experience. It’s main achievement is to demonstrate that innovation need not come at the cost of creating what is a very solid, competitive flagship phone in its own right. While not all of its mods may completely hit the mark, the Insta-Share projector shows how effectively the phone’s ideas can be implemented. Available for $899, The Moto Z should strongly be considered by anyone looking for a different take on a flagship smartphone, without having to compromise the look and feel of a top end phone.

Related News

More WLT News