How to Mod Your Motorola Moto Z

Upgrade Your smartphone in a snap

Moto Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa next to Moto Z smartphone
Moto Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa. PC screenshot from video

Moto Mods are devices which 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 first line of Moto Z Mods is compatible with all of the Z smartphones in the series, through the Z3 line. The upside to these devices is you can 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.

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 the side of the Mod 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. 

Moto Gamepad

The Moto GamePad Mod with game on smartphone display
Courtesy of Motorola

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 responsive 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. To find compatible games faster, you should download the Moto Game Explorer app.

What We Like
The Gamepad takes gaming off the touchscreen and enhances the experience of playing first-person shooters (FPS) and driving games.

What We Don't Like
It doesn't come with speakers, so for the best sound, you'll have to use headphones. (Those nearby will thank you.)

Hasselblad True Zoom

The Hasselblad True Zoom lens mod, with lens extended
Courtesy of Motorola

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 enlarging 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.

What We Like
Great for better close-up shots.

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

Moto 360 Camera

The Moto 360 Camera Mod next to the Moto Z2 Force Edition smartphone
Courtesy of Motorola

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.

The Motorola 360 Mod is pictured above with the Moto Z2 Force.

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
The quality of 360 photos and videos isn't as good as traditional shots, and this feature could quickly become a novelty.

Moto Insta-Share Projector

The Moto Z Insta-Share Projector
Courtesy of Motorola

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.

What We Like
Cool feature to show off to friends and share funny videos and watch movies and games on the fly without crowding around one device.

What We Don't Like
Works only with apps that support a second display. (Many do, including Netflix, but your favorite streaming app might not.)

Polaroid Insta-Share Printer

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

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.

What We Like
Handing a printed picture to someone in this digital age is pretty darn cool and great for parties and other events.

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

Moto Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa

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

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 last 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.

What We Like
It's Alexa on the go, plus a pumped up speaker for your smartphone.

What We Don't Like
It doesn't offer the full Alexa experience and doesn't always hear the user's voice when there's ambient noise around. If you want to play music, you're limited to Amazon's music and video services unless you go around Alexa and navigate to your service of choice.

JBL SoundBoost 2

The JBL SoundBoost 2 speaker mod in red
Courtesy of Motorola

The JBL SoundBoost 2 pumps up your Moto Z smartphone's sound with dual speakers. It has a splash-proof coating so you can bring it outside, and a battery that lasts up to 10 hours, so you don't have to go running to find an outlet. The speaker also has a kickstand so you can watch videos or access controls and is speakerphone compatible.

What We Like
Significant improvement against typically tinny smartphone speakers

What We Don't Like
The price for excellent sound is extra bulk and weight.

JBL SoundBoost Speaker

The JBL SoundBoost speaker Mod in white
Courtesy of Motorola

The JBL SoundBoost Speaker has two speakers, a built-in kickstand, and up to 10 hours of battery life. Unlike its successor, it is not splash proof.  

What We Like
Smartphone speakers range from bad to mediocre, generally, so there's nowhere to go from up.

What We Don't Like
Knowing the second generation of this speaker can handle getting wet, it seems like a better bet. 

Incipio Vehicle Dock

The Incipio Vehicle Dock
Courtesy of Motorola

This vehicle dock offers hands-free control while driving and support for 15 W TurboPower Charging, which gives smartphones hours more battery life in minutes. The unit secures to an air vent and connects to your car's stereo system over Bluetooth or through a wired connection. You can configure the dock to launch Android Auto whenever your Moto Z connects to it.

What We Like
It provides a safe way to interact with your smartphone while on the road.

What We Don't Like
What happens when you're blasting the heat?

Moto TurboPower Pack

The Moto TurboPower Pack Mod in black
Courtesy of Motorola

The TurboPower Pack can keep your smartphone running up to a full extra day with its 3490 mAh battery that supports fast charging. If you purchase a TurboPower 30W wall charger, it gives your phone up to 15 hours of juice in only 15 minutes.

What We Like
The battery is large, but the Mod is slim. It's a great companion to bring along when you are on-the-go all day.

What We Don't Like
No color or style options.

Moto Style Shell With Wireless Charging

An array of Moto Style Shell cases with Wireless Charging
Courtesy of Motorola

This Moto Style Shell adds wireless charging to your Moto Z, though you'll have to purchase a Qi or PMA wireless charging pad separately. It comes in a variety of styles and colors but doesn't include a battery.

What We Like
Wireless charging is convenient, especially if you won't be using your smartphone for a while, plus you can add some style.

What We Don't Like
Would be nice if it also had a built-in battery. 

Moto Style Shell

The Moto Mod Style Shell case in charcoal ash color
Courtesy of Motorola

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.

What We Like
The Shells add style and personality to your smartphone, and 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, such as charge your battery.

Moto Folio

Moto Folio Mods lined up next to a Moto Z smartphone
PC screenshot

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.

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.