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The Alexa-powered Moto Mod is really cool, but you don’t need it

Alexa is everywhere. Google and Apple released their digital assistants well before Amazon, but Alexa has grown to become the most dominant in just three years. That’s because of how seamlessly it works on different devices and with different platforms. Rather than choosing to favor Android or iOS, Amazon’s opted to respect both and have Alexa behave the same no matter what ecosystems you’re tied into.

Amazon put its digital assistant on the Echo first, and since then it’s greatly expanded. You can find Alexa on or compatible with many phones, tablets, home security cameras, thermostats, and more. Now there’s a new implementation thought of by Motorola.

The Moto Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa makes it possible to attach powerful, connected stereo speakers to your phone. It’s an accessory built specifically for Motorola’s Moto Mods platform, which allows owners of its high-end phones to enable new capabilities simply by aligning magnets. Where Motorola and Amazon run into a problem is pricing. Most of the existing Moto Mods are expensive, and this one is priced against not just Moto Mods but also other Alexa-powered devices.

Is Amazon’s new Moto Mod worth $149? You probably know the answer to that already. The Moto Smart Speaker may be very expensive, but the brains of Alexa make it a great product.

This Moto Mod blends in with the appearance of Motorola’s phones. It’s industrial-looking but remains clean and somewhat sleek. The size is really the only thing that indicates it’s more than a case. Instead of hard plastic with holes cut into it, the Alexa-powered Moto Mod is made of fabric. So it also stays comfortable to hold. And, honestly, I liked the way the Moto Z2 Force felt in my hands more with the Moto Smart Speaker than without.

Sadly you won’t be able to use your phone’s rear camera while the accessory is attached. But you can take advantage of its design for entertainment purposes. It has a dock-like design where, when rested on a flat surface, your phone’s display will be angled toward you. That’s handy if you’re watching video or playing music.

Although it’s not heavy solo, the Moto Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa weighs down the phone it’s paired with. The official weight? A whopping 168 grams, which is heavier than every member of the Moto Z family dating back to last year. Fortunately the weight is distributed evenly to prevent the phone from feeling top- or bottom-heavy.

If you own any Moto Z phone from 2016 or 2017, you’ll be able to use Amazon’s Moto Mod. Motorola made sure accessories past and present work with the two generations of devices. That means the Moto Smart Speaker is compatible with the Moto Z2 Force, Moto Z2 Play, Moto Z, Moto Z Force, and Moto Z Play.

Chances are the third generation of the Moto Z family will be embrace previous Moto Mods, too.

As a portable speaker, it’s undeniably impressive. The stereo speakers can get really loud and, when they do, they’re not sacrificing quality. Sound continues to be deep, rich, and clear as you turn up the volume. JBL makes a Moto Mod as well, and that should definitely provide premium audio as the brand itself is well-respected. Expectations were low for the Moto Smart Speaker, but it definitely delivered.

It reminded me of how I reacted when I got the Echo way back in 2015. Both then and now I expected empty, lifeless sound but got a more immersive listening experience.

Perhaps you’re thinking about battery life after realizing that this Moto Mod is leveraging the power of artificial intelligence and sending out big, rich sound. Fear not, friends. The Moto Smart Speaker has a 1530mAh battery of its own, so it doesn’t draw all of the power from your phone. Motorola says you should get up to fifteen hours of battery life on a single charge.

Getting to chat with Alexa through the Moto Mod isn’t hard. As you’d expect, all you have to do is say the digital assistant’s name. If you’re looking at the display, the Moto Alexa app will launch and say Alexa is listening. When the Moto Smart Speaker is facing you, you’ll notice the light bar surrounding the logo turn blue just as the light ring on the Echo and Echo Dot does. Say whatever you’d like to Alexa and it’ll come back with instant results.

There’s little reason to go over what Alexa can do, but we need to point out how the Moto Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa handles itself. Alexa will speak aloud as it does on other devices; however, since you have a display, your phone can show what Alexa is talking about. Hearing what the digital assistant says is fantastic, but the visual results are pretty unattractive. I asked for NFL standings and, while Alexa was talking, the app showed me only a transcript. Google Assistant, however, will talk about the NFL standings but show a detailed, organized breakdown on my phone.

Amazon needs to figure out how to show information in a more attractive way. It’s artificial intelligence because it’s not tapped into Google’s knowledge graph, is also a little underwhelming. I asked Alexa to show me tigers and ended up getting a description of golfer Tiger Woods. Alexa may have the upper hand on syncing with other connected devices, but Google Assistant is way smarter at understanding people.

It’s cool having Alexa integrated into a Moto Mod, but you’re not really using it for anything more than playing music. In that case, why not just get the JBL SoundBoost 2? It offers better sound than the Moto Smart Speaker, and the price is almost half what the Alexa-powered accessory costs.

Plus, if you’re at home, you could spend the same $149 on an Echo Plus. Or you can save money by getting the Echo ($99), Echo Spot ($129), or Echo Dot ($49). Even the portable speaker space is crowded with devices like the Eufy Genie for $34. The Moto Smart Speaker has Alexa, which is unquestionably cool. But you can definitely spend your money on something with more value.


Justin Herrick

Justin is easily attracted to power buttons. His interest in technology started as a child in the 1990s with the original PlayStation, and two...

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