Normally, when we talk about phones, we talk about things like size, camera, and battery life. It's not often that a phone's accessories take center stage. The Moto Z Droid is a solid phone under the usual review rules, but it's real charm is in the extras.
Powered by a Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of RAM, the Moto Z is fast enough to keep up with any other phone on the market. It comes with 32GB of storage so there's plenty of room for your music collection. It's impressively thin for a phone with enough battery (2600mAH) to keep it going all day. The 5MP wide-angle front camera is more than adequate for your selfie addiction and it's 13MP, image-stabilized, laser-autofocused back camera is actually pretty impressive in low light.
Blah, blah, blah.
New phones are (pretty much) always at the top of the market in this kind of comparison. Of course the camera is good. Of course the screen is big and bright and the battery lasts all day. None of this is what makes the Moto Z Droid one of the most fun demos I've done all year.
It's all about the mods. The Moto Z comes built for a series of Moto Mods, which alter and increase the phone's capacity in some way. They make the phone – truly – into more than a phone. The phone's back case is magnetic and pops off easily enough to make is useful, but not so easy you're going to lose it. I carried the phone around in my computer case for weeks in a big pocket with lots of stuff in it to see if it would jar loose,but it held fast.
Pop it off (on purpose) and snap on a Mod. There's the (super useful, but relatively boring) Power Pack, which tacks on another 22 hours of battery life without adding a lot of bulk to the phone. No doubt portable batteries can be a life saver and with the Moto Mod system you don't have to deal with any wires. The Power Pack snaps securely to the back of the phone and off you go.
For shutterbugs, there's the Hasselblad True Zoom Camera. I didn't get to try it, but it looks incredible. Snap this mod on and your back camera now has true 10x optical zoom and a physical shutter. It even has a shutter button on the top, turning your phone into an actual camera. Hasselblad is a well-know creator of (sometimes outlandish and expensive) cameras so I assume the lens is high-quality. Again, I didn't get to try it out, but it's too interesting not to mention.
Another quality brand Motorola brought in was JBL for the SoundBoost Mod. It snaps on for a no wire, no Bluetooth speaker. A built-in kickstand keeps the phone upright so you can still control the phone while you listen. The increase in both volume and quality is impressive. The Moto Z's built-in speaker is what you'd expect from a cellphone speaker: it's a little tinny and never quite loud enough. With the JBL SoundBoost, though, the sound is full, rich, and loud. It's not room-full-of-people loud, but enough to keep you as a Bluetooth speaker would. It's great to have around the house, out in the yard, or out with friends (once we get back outside).
The most fun Mod I tried was hands-down the InstaShare Projector. It projects your screen onto a nearby wall so you can share photos, videos, or presentations without everyone hunched over the phone. Over the course of my demo, I watched music videos on the side of my car (for no reason other than I could, back when it was still fall and could sit in the driveway), used it to project a proposal presentation at work, and (my favorite), projected movies and TV shows on the ceiling. You know how you and your SO can never quite get 100% comfy on the couch for a whole movie? Well just show that movie on the bedroom ceiling, cuddle up in bed under fifty blankets, and forget that it's snowy and cold outside. This is most why I'll miss the Moto Z after sending it back; movies on the ceiling is a game changer.
Moto Mods have separate batteries and charge on their own so they won't drain your phone. Thankfully, they can also charge through the phone so if you plug the phone in with one attached, they'll both charge. Moto Mods are purchased separately, but they're simple and useful enough to be worth the extra cost.
OnMilwaukee.com's senior developer Nick Barth has been a part of the team since 2008. After an 18-month stint in Portland, he returned to his hometown with a new love of food trucks, bike life, and simple and effective gadgetry. The self-proclaimed gear geek and denim addict now presents OnMilwaukee's #wewant series weekend mornings on WISN-12.