back to article Motorola extends modular phone adventure for another year

Motorola has extended its modular phone adventure for another year, with new devices compatible with its Mods expansion spec. Reports of cutbacks raised fears the ambitious initiative would be snuffed out. The new Mod-compatible Z3 Play was launched in Brazil this week - Motorola is growing rapidly in Latin America - although …

  1. Simon Rockman

    Good News

    This is great. I'm an Indiegogo backer for the keyboard and have been holding off getting a phone until the keyboard arrives. It will be interesting to compare it with the Gemini.

  2. AMBxx Silver badge

    Is anybody listening?

    We ask for:

    1) Removable battery

    2) Better battery

    3) SD Card slot

    We get just about anything else.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Is anybody listening?

      For people wanting to continually use a phone throughout the day, a Moto Mod battery pack is a better option than a removable battery since it incurs no down time whilst the phone is power cycled. For people wanting to extend the life of their handset by changing the battery, the cost of having it done by the original vendor or 3rd party shop is small compared to the original price of a premium handset (removable batteries are still found in low and mid range phones).

      For safety reasons a removable battery must have a durable, hard to pierce shell (especially if it's slung in a kit bag) that is bulky (a slimmer metal shell would interfere with the phone's radios), so it results in several millimeters extra thickness over an internal-only battery that could otherwise be used for storing power.

      The need for a removable battery is further mitigated by rapid charging and the ubiquity of power sources, planes trains and automobiles. In the case of no mains or vehicle power outlets, power banks are inexpensive and universal (an investment not lost when a phone is eventually changed) and, whilst ungainly, don't need to be attached to a phone for very long (rapid charging again).

      Then of course there is the economics - why would a phone vendor go out of their way to appeal to a group who by their own admission only want to buy a phone every three years?

      You could get yourself an LG V20 with a Snapdragon 820 SoC with removable battery - and as a bonus it not only has a 3.5mm socket but a socket driven by an ESS Sabre DAC and amplifier.

      I'm not against removable batteries, I'm just trying to outline how the current state of affairs came to be.

      1. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: Is anybody listening?

        "For people wanting to continually use a phone throughout the day, a Moto Mod battery pack is a better option than a removable battery"

        But a non-Moto Mod battery pack is much better again, since it's cheaper, compatible with any phone (or any other device it can be plugged into), and comes with a much wider range of capacities/sizes/etc.. There's really no benefit in gluing your spare battery to your phone, so paying extra for a proprietary battery that has that as its only selling point really doesn't make sense.

        As for removable batteries in general, I really don't understand why people make such a fuss about them. Replaceable batteries make sense, so that you can swap in a new battery after a couple of years when the original can no longer hold as much charge. But for something that only needs doing on a timescale of years, there's no reason to worry about needing to take a few minutes with a screwdriver to do the job. As long as it's not glued or soldered in place (sadly all too common these days), there's absolutely no point in worrying that you can't just pop the back off whenever you want. Spare batteries have exactly the same problem as Moto Mods - you're forced to use a single size and shape from a single manufacturer that's not compatible with anything else, instead of just using any of the huge choice of power bricks available.

    2. Richard 81

      Re: Is anybody listening?

      My Moto G6 Play has 2 and 3. I can use it throughout the day and it only drops to about 60% charge, and it takes an SD card. It's hardly a premium phone and definitely slows down when it's busy, but it's still pretty good for £160.

    3. onefang

      Re: Is anybody listening?

      Dunno about the other Moto Z varieties, but the Moto Z itself has an SD card slot, or at least mine does.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is anybody listening?

      Is anybody listening?...We ask for:...

      ...a range of things that make little or no difference to sales numbers, but add to cost. Personally I'm with you, but we have to accept that the bulk of the market is not, leaving us to buy devices without, or choose from a VERY limited range that also compromises on the better features of the flagships.

      My Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X does 2 & 3, but I've had to accept defeat on 1.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is anybody listening?

      Don't forget FM radio and IR blaster, features which are very useful, don't add much to the manufacturing cost, and yet inexplicably removed in all the flagship phones, and almost all of the budget phones.

      I personally can live without a SD card if the internal storage capacity is at least 64Gb. I always use the SD card slot as my dual SIM slot wherever possible.

      If phone manufacturers can provide one free fresh battery replacement within two years after purchase date, that'll be great. Then again, most would have upgraded to a newer phone by then.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was looking at the Z2 Force as I like the mod concept and easy replace battery packs but rumour has it I might be getting a Gemini for my birthday. Put's my wondering if getting a Key Two was worth it due to a sealed in battery on the back burner.

    1. MondoMan

      Doesn't the Z2 Force have the easily-scratched plastic screen?

      1. onefang


  4. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Obvious mods:

    Game controller. Tricky because Android devs don't make much money from games due to the ease of piracy. Many Android titles that would benefit from a physical controller don't support one (I've tried, using an Xbox controller over USB OTG).

    Camera Sensor. There is a zoom camera Mod, but it isn't as great as Weird Sony's QX100 which was an RX100 without a screen - it talked to a phone by radio. A Moto Mod would solve the shortcomings of the QX100. However, it was a serious bit of sensor and lens, too much of an investment to tie to a single phone. Sony discontinued the experiment.

    Speakers are less obvious. You either want a speaker built into the phone for podcasts, or you want something bigger than a Mod for music - there isn't a sweet in-between zone.

    The obvious and sustainable market for Mods would be in industry - barcode scanners, thermal cameras etc - that is to say, many niche markets.

    1. Richard 81

      A printer was already mentioned, but a card reader with receipt printer would probably sell.

      1. 89724102371714531892324I9755670349743096734346773478647852349863592355648544996313855148583659264921 Bronze badge

        I'd buy that for a dollar! (Receipt printer MOD)

        That projector thingy looks potentially useful.

        If the battery pack has a removable battery packed?

        An open standard for comms so we could pi our own mods would be great! Oodles of educational possibilities too.

        1. onefang

          "An open standard for comms so we could pi our own mods would be great! Oodles of educational possibilities too."

          The specs for how to build Moto Mods is public, and you can easily buy a developer kit and a few examples, complete with source code and circuit diagrams. I did.

          1. onefang

            Just missed the edit window.

            You can even buy an example Moto Mod that allows adding standard Raspberry Pi addons.

      2. the spectacularly refined chap

        A printer was already mentioned, but a card reader with receipt printer would probably sell

        In some respects they are already out there, as a separate unit communicating with your phone via Bluetooth or WiFi. I don't really see what you would get by more tightly integrating it into the phone - it would simply add a hell of a lot of bulk for something that would probably be better integrated as a separate unit in any event. You probably could reduce a card reader/printer down to perhaps half an inch depth at the cost of a standard and proprietrary paper size (something like a Post-It note). Even a small paper roll wold at least double that depth making the combined phone seem very bulky.

        In any case, would you really want to hand over your own phone to customers dozens of times a day if there is not good reason to?

    2. onefang

      "Many Android titles that would benefit from a physical controller don't support one (I've tried, using an Xbox controller over USB OTG)."

      There's an app called Sixaxis Controller that not only allows you to use a PS3 Sixaxis controller with games, it also lets you set up games that otherwise don't support it by defining areas of the touch screen and mapping them to the various widgets on the controller. And you can get plastic clips that attach to phone / Sixaxis controller that turns the combination into a single handheld gaming device.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'd reserve judgement on that zoom mod. Unless someone is just ripping off the hasselblad name it should be pretty sweet, although it could just be one of their lenses with a crap control system.

  5. onefang

    "The Mods spec includes a high-throughput wireless data bus."

    Um, I think it's a WIRED bus, not wireless.

    1. Marcelo Rodrigues

      If I'm not mistaken, is a USB 3.1 data bus. Or, at least, a data bus with USB 3.1 speeds.

  6. Francis Boyle Silver badge

    Motorola promised that Mods would be compatible with its devices for three years, which is something of a curse for the company, as it requires Motorola to produce phones that are (more or less) the same shape and size for the duration of the commitment.

    Well that was the result of a bad design decision. Either you make the mod larger than the largest phone you want to support and have adaptors to suit smaller phones or you define the mod dimensions as smaller than the smallest phone and require an adapter (which can be styled to match the specific mod) to bring it up to size. Either way has (slight) disadvantages but nothing compared to locking yourself into one form factor.

  7. GlasshalfHull

    Happy Moto Mod user here

    I bought a Moto Z with JBL speaker mod and black herringbone styleshell in 2016. I bought a Motorola battery Mod just as the internal battery on the Moto Z was prematurely failing. Motorola offered a replacement Z2 Play, and it being a mid-range phone agreed to bundle in the Qi wireless mod. In any event they also fixed the Moto Z, so i have both phones and 3 styleshells and the JBL, battery and wireless charging mods. Both phones take SD cards while the Z2 Play takes 2 SIMs and an audio jack, so i use it in preference currently.

    Day to day they're both great devices and the mods work as intended. When travelling with boarding passes or tickets on an app, a battery mod for long battery life is reassuring, while installing a second PAYG 3 SIM when overseas is a boon. I'd like more frequent security updates, and was put off by the premature battery problem, but Motorola more than made up for that. The form factor is still current, and IMO the mods have been value for money for early adopters. The phones all charge quickly too.

    I moved to Motorola from OnePlus, with no regrets.

    1. onefang

      Re: Happy Moto Mod user here

      "Both phones take SD cards while the Z2 Play takes 2 SIMs"

      The Moto Z takes two SIM cards to. Though that's 2 SIM cards, or one SIM card and one SD card. Not sure of the Z2 Play can have all three at once.

      "I'd like more frequent security update"

      When I first got my Moto Z mid last year, it got an update about once a month, then slowed down while they got Oreo sorted out. Dunno if they'll return to once a month.

  8. RobertsonCR7

    these guys need an extension into the future

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