How to Mod Your Motorola Moto Z

Upgrade your smartphone in a snap

Moto Mods are devices that attach to the back of Moto Z smartphones and give them superpowers, such as a louder speaker, a super-sized battery, or even a projector. The devices (called Mods) attach to the Moto Z series via magnets.

The upside to Moto Z Mods is you can often use them when you upgrade your Z smartphone; the downside, of course, is when the phone design changes, your Mods could become moot.

There's also a Moto Mods Development Kit with which you can create your own Mod, as part of the "Transform the Smartphone Challenge." The kit includes the tools needed to build a prototype, including a Reference Mod. Lenovo partnered with Indiegogo to help participants raise money to use for prototyping.

Moto Gamepad

The Moto GamePad Mod with game on smartphone display

Motorola

What We Like
  • Takes gaming off your touchscreen.

  • Enhances the experience of playing first-person shooters (FPS) and driving games.

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't come with speakers, so for the best sound, you'll have to use headphones.

The Moto Gamepad brings mobile gaming to the next level by adding dual control sticks, a D-pad (four-way directional controller), four action buttons, and two red LED lights to your Moto Z smartphone. It also includes a headphone jack, which is missing from some Moto Z smartphones. The battery can last up to 8 hours, and the Gamepad is compatible with hundreds of games in the Google Play Store. Download the Moto Game Explorer app to find compatible titles quickly.

Hasselblad True Zoom

The Hasselblad True Zoom lens mod, with lens extended

Motorola

What We Like
  • Great for better close-up shots.

What We Don't Like
  • Could be a drain on your smartphone's battery.

This Hasselblad Mod takes your camera to the next level with a 10X optical zoom lens, an external flash, and RAW format support. A real zoom lens lets you capture details without sacrificing image quality since the lens moves closer to the action. Your smartphone likely uses digital zoom, which degrades photo quality by increasing the size of pixels. (Think of using the enlarge feature on a photocopier—not a lot of clarity there.) Shooting in RAW results in an uncompressed image (as opposed to a JPEG) which gives photographers more flexibility in editing.

The camera has a 12-megapixel sensor and shoots 1080p video; it can capture black and white photos in addition to color. The Hasselblad True Zoom doesn't come with a battery, but it does come with a carrying case.

Moto 360 Camera

The Moto 360 Camera Mod next to the Moto Z2 Force Edition smartphone
The Motorola 360 Mod next to a Moto Z2 Force smartphone.

Motorola

What We Like
  • Live streaming 360 videos is pretty cool.


  • The ability to edit photos and videos on the fly is a timesaver.

What We Don't Like
  • Image quality not as good as traditional shots.

  • More of a novelty than a must-have feature.

The Moto 360 Camera produces 4K 360 videos with Ultra HD audio and photos with a 150-degree field of view. The camera has a dual 13-megapixel sensor and built-in editing software, including cropping, filters, exposure adjustment, and more as well as video editing tools.

You can live stream videos on social media or share them using the Google Photos app.

Moto Insta-Share Projector

The Moto Z Insta-Share Projector

Motorola

What We Like
  • Cool way to share funny videos and games on the fly.

What We Don't Like
  • Works only with apps that support a second display.

The Insta-Share Projector turns flat surfaces into a big screen (up to 70 inches diagonal), so you can show content from your Moto Z smartphone in 480p resolution. It comes with a kickstand so you can angle it just right and comes with a small bag to stow it in when you're not using it. The included battery will last about one hour before using the smartphone's power. The projector mod can play audio by connecting to your smartphone via Bluetooth or aux cable.

Polaroid Insta-Share Printer

Polaroid Insta-Share Printer printing out a 2 by 3 photo

Motorola

What We Like
  • Printed photos are great for parties and other events.

What We Don't Like
  • Each print runs you about 40 cents.

This Mod turns your phone into a Polaroid, complete with a shutter button. Snap the Mod on and take a photo, add filters, share it with friends, or print it using 2x3 Zink Zero Ink adhesive-backed paper. You can also print existing pictures. The built-in battery can handle about 20 prints per charge, and the camera holds up to 10 sheets of paper.

Moto Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa

The Moto Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa, facedown with the indicator light on

Motorola

What We Like
  • Convenient to have Alexa

  • Pumped up speaker for your smartphone.

What We Don't Like
  • It doesn't offer the full Alexa experience.

  • Doesn't always hear voices when there's ambient noise around.

  • If you want to play music, you're limited to Amazon's music and video services.

True to its name, this Mod adds Amazon Alexa to your Moto Z so you can ask questions, play music, control your smart home, and get headlines, weather, and check your schedule for the day. The Mod automatically connects to the Wi-Fi or 4G network that your smartphone is using. There are two speakers for stereo sound and four microphones to pick up your commands. The built-in battery lasts for up to 15 hours, and you can charge both at the same time by plugging in the speaker and docking the phone.

The Moto Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa is pictured above with the Moto Z2 Force.

Moto Style Shell

The Moto Mod Style Shell case in charcoal ash color

Motorola

What We Like
  • Adds style and personality to your smartphone.

  • You can swap them out as needed.

What We Don't Like
  • While they protect your phone from scratches, the cases don't do anything else.

The Moto Style Shell is simply a case to cover the back of your Moto Z. It comes in a variety of colors, patterns, and materials, including Corning Gorilla Glass.

Moto Folio

Moto Folio Mods lined up next to a Moto Z smartphone
What We Like
  • Who doesn't love a pocket?

What We Don't Like
  • The Folio's color options aren't as vibrant as the Moto Style Shells.

The Moto Folio is another case, available in a few colors, for your Moto Z, but it adds a pocket to hold your credit card, ID, or some cash.

How Moto Mods Work

To use Moto Mods, you need a Moto Z smartphone and the latest version of the Moto Mods Manager app, which is available on Google Play but should be pre-installed on your device.

Then all you have to do is snap one on, matching up the gold contact points, and your Moto Z will vibrate, show a message on the screen, and emit a sound to confirm it recognizes the Mod. (No need to power off your Motorola phone first.) To remove a Mod, find the groove on its side and push the phone out with your finger.

Some of the Mods are cases, to cover the magnetized back, while others are battery-powered and perform a function, as we discuss below, and have a USB-C port for charging.

If you charge both the smartphone and Mod at the same time, the phone gets priority. To check the battery level of a Mod, pull down the notification panel or quick settings, where you'll see battery icons for both the smartphone and Mod.

When the Mod is detached, you can check by pressing the power button to turn on the indicator light, which blinks green for full, red for nearly empty, and steady green, yellow, or red for everything in between. Let's take a look at the current class of Moto Mods.