We review a lot of phones here – and only scratch the surface of all the different makes and models that are constantly being churned out. So how about something at least a little different – a phone that’s not just another phone – but part of a system you can build on. The Moto brand – formerly Motorola, then bought by Google and currently owned by Lenovo – now has the Moto Z family – and when it’s called a “Droid” that’s a Verizon-only phone, because they licensed the Star Wars word from George Lucas. Truly.
We tried two Moto Z Droids, the thin Moto Z Droid and the Moto Z Force Droid (I don’t know if Lucas also made Verizon pay to use “Force”). Besides the price difference of about $100, the Force model is a little heavier, has a shatter-proof glass display, a battery said to last 40 hours (compared to 30 hours for the more vanilla model), a faster charger, and a 21 Megapixel rear camera, as opposed to only 13 MP on the less expensive Droid and the non-Verizon regular Moto Z models.
Otherwise, the Moto Z is an Android phone, with a Snapdragon processor, 5.5-inch HD AMOLED screen, 4 GB of RAM, up to 64 GB of internal storage, and 2 TB on a removable memory card. There’s a USB-C connection but no headphone jack – although they do include a 3.5mm adapter that plugs into the USB-C jack. The phone comes with all the usual Google apps, plus in the Droid’s case, a bunch of apps Verizon adds in, like them or not.
The Moto Z is well-built, with the volume controls handy on the upper right edge of the phone when held vertically. You might mistake the fingerprint reader at the “bottom” of the screen for a Home button – it’s not – and if you press it you’ll have to either use your fingerprint to re-open the Moto, or enter a 4-digit code.
So here’s the different part: the back cover of the Moto Z is held on magnetically and lifts off, to reveal 16 tiny connectors, and that’s how you can attach various Moto Mods as they’re called, which currently include a battery pack, speakers, projector, and high-end camera.
The Incipio Off-Grid Power Pack adds about 22 hours of battery life to the Moto Z and can be charged on the phone or even wirelessly. It does add about 3 ounces to the phone’s weight.
There’s also the JBL Soundboost Speaker mod, which includes a little kickstand so you can prop the phone up and hear much better sound than the phone’s little built-in speakers offer. This add-on adds about 5 ounces of weight but also includes its own battery for an extra 10 hours of use. It’s not only for music, but also makes a better speakerphone.
The Moto Insta-Share Projector is yet another possible addition to the Moto Z phone, and it can create an image of up to 70” diagonal of anything your phone can display including photos, videos, or presentations. It also has a little stand and a built-in battery for about 60 minutes of projection. About 4 more ounces.
Last but certainly not least, the Hasselblad True Zoom, a camera module that attaches to the back of the Moto Z and gives it a 10x optical zoom lens (plus 4x digital), the ability to take photos in RAW format, includes 2 microphones for taking videos, and has image stabilization, its own shutter button, flash, and a “Pro” mode for those so inclined. 5 extra ounces and but no extra battery. Turns your phone into a good zoom camera.
And – not to forget – that rear cover that comes off the Moto Z, you get one with it, but you can purchase other Moto Style Shells in a variety of colors and textures.
The idea here is that your phone becomes more than just a smartphone; of course you have to carry around all the Moto Mods you purchase if you want to use them, although I suppose you could just leave your favorite attached and deal with making a thin phone thicker and heavier.
At the moment, direct from Verizon, the Moto Z Droid is $624 if paid up front, the Moto Z Force Droid is $720, but you can put either on a 24-month payment plan. There’s also a Moto Z Play Droid, which costs less than the other two and claims longer usable battery life.
As for the Moto Mods, the Hasselblad camera and Insta-Share projector are currently about $300 each; the JBL speaker add-on is about $80, and the power pack currently about $60.
Worth it? If you just buy the Moto Z for the phone, you’re getting a good premium phone. The add-on mods are up to you.