Moto Mods: The future of modularity is bright, but still not there

by Danny Zepeda | July 27, 2016

The dream of a modular smartphone has been an elusive dream that has only existed in concepts. That is, until LG announced the G5’s Friends. Unfortunately, that just served as a reminder of how terrible the application of modularity can be done. But last month, Motorola announced a new modularity take, dubbed the Moto Mods, that abandon LG’s clumsy design in favor of an intuitive magnetic and pin cogitation that threatened to push modularity to the masses.

The attraction behind modularity is the easy customization of phones. In a perfect world, we would be able to swap camera modules or RAM in seconds. In reality, the only way to get an updated phone with more RAM or improved camera is to buy the latest phone. This is neither practical nor cheap. The full dream of swapping smartphone internals is still a ways off—best highlighted by Project Ara—but for the time being, adding functionality to your phone is something that can be done today with the Moto Mods.

We’ve already covered how the Moto Mods connect to the Moto Z and Z Force. The list consists of the Insta-Share Projector, JBL SoundBoost speaker and a variety of Power Pack batteries. These phone accessories boast both pros and cons and we’re here to answer whether or not they’re worth picking up.

Moto Insta-Share Projector – $299

Although the size of smartphone screens has increased dramatically over the past five years, they’ll never be able to compete with 50-inch TVs. That’s what makes a projector that attaches to your phone such a novel idea, it can actually be useful. The Moto Insta-Share Projector can deliver a 70-inch projection and includes a 1,100mAh battery. This will make sharing videos or pictures way easier when you’re in big crowd.

That’s where the good times end with the Insta-Share Projector. It’s hefty $299 price is comparable to many potent Android devices out in the market right now like the Nexus 5X, and this is just a projector we’re talking about. The 70-inch projection sounds cool, but when that is delivered in a paltry 480p resolution, you’ll be scrambling to get back to the Moto Z’s Quad HD display.

JBL SoundBoost – $79.99

Unless you’ve owned a phone with front-facing dual stereo speakers, chances are you probably don’t realize how much better the sound can be. The Moto Z seems to walk into this same trap until you add the JBL SoundBoost speaker and upgrade your sound game. Packing 6W and 80 dBSL, this will put most phone speakers to shame. It also comes with its own 1,000mAh battery.

At a significantly cheaper price than the Insta-Share Projector, the SoundBoost is an accessory that’s actually worth checking out. Its sound personality and additional battery make it an upgrade over traditional Bluetooth speakers, and at comparable prices, it seems like a worthy purchase.

Tumi Power Pack – $59.99

The biggest and most egregious downside of smartphones is battery. The incremental increases in battery size are instantly rendered useless with the addition of power guzzling displays. There are countless battery options out there, but few look as sleek and stylish as the Power Packs available for the Moto Z and Z Force. This iteration of Moto Mods has multiple makers, including some by Incipio, Kate Spade, and Tumi. The model we got in the office was from Tumi.

Packing an additional 2,200mAh of battery with a simple magnetic clip, adding battery life to your phone has never been so easy. Unfortunately, the only way to charge the Tumi Power Pack is through the phone, which makes this a bad design flaw that is sure to get annoying very quick. While sleeker than most options, competing 10,000mAh portable batteries can be found for less than $20, which put this Mod already behind the competition considering how cheap external batteries can be—if you haven’t already bought one for your Pokémon GO adventures.

Wrap-up

For all the glitz and glamor that surrounds modularity, the concept is probably at best still a few years away from the full Project Ara dream. Sure, it’s cool to customize your speaker options or add battery packs, but none of this is revolutionary. Moto Mods are the best effort we have so far, and it’s a damn good effort, but don’t expect this to completely change the way you use your phone.

Check out the video above to see what Jon thinks about the Moto Mods.



Danny Zepeda

Danny's interest in writing began with tech, which influenced his career path in college. After graduating from Vanguard University, he began to...