The Moto Z2 Force keeps the modular phone alive, but it's a doomed concept anyway
This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Lenovo's Moto has just announced its newest flagship smartphone – the Moto Z2 Force. As expected, it's the one device to succeed both the Moto Z and Z Force from last year. As such, it fits somewhere between the two in terms of thickness and battery capacity; the happy medium, if you will. There's nothing that interesting in the Z2 Force specs, aside from the updated chipset (Snapdragon 835) and camera system (dual 12MP snappers).
The main story here, as with most recent Moto phones, are the Moto Mods which the company sells separately. And that's exactly what we're here to talk about...
From time immemorial, geeks and nerds around the world have been dreaming about the times when we'd be able to augment and enhance the capabilities of our smartphones through the concept of modularity: nifty add-ons that would enable us to easily (and cheaply) replace stuff like the camera, battery, processors, or other components of our handsets. If you've ever researched custom-built desktop PCs, it's basically the same idea.
G5, and Google's never-to-actually-launch Project Ara. What most fans of the modular phones idea refused to get even when Project Ara was still considered to be 'in development', was that it was supposed to be a cheap product for developing markets, not the "ultimate smartphone" to replace your iPhone or Galaxy. In other words, it was never meant to be a really great product.
And this brings us to today, where Moto's premium phone line-up remains standing as the last bastion of the modular phone. Credit where credit's due: Moto's implementation of this idea is the best one yet. However, it's in no way practical or convincing enough to be considered healthy or sustainable. In fact, it's pretty much a doomed concept. Here's why...
Moto Mods are expensive!
Let's start with the most obvious drawback: the Moto Mods are quite the investment! Aside from the Style Mods ($20 - $30), which are only meant to alter your phone's appearance and are probably the best value of all mods, the functionality-driven ones get way more expensive than that, very quickly. There are a couple of battery mods, which costs around $80 to $100, and then there are the Hasselblad Zoom camera mod at the prohibitive $300, the Insta-share portable projector mod, also at $300, and now the newest addition – a 360-degree camera mod, again selling for $300. Obviously, these mods are not meant to let you enhance your device and keep it current for a small investment – they are niche devices catering to very specific types of users, and don't come cheap at all. As such, the mass market appeal in these products is very limited from the start.
Moto Mods are bulky!
Not only are the mods very expensive and lacking general usefulness, these things are also quite bulky! While smartphone designers are hard at work trying to slim bezels down and make handsets slimmer and lighter so they are easier to carry around and less tiring to use, Moto wants you to buy one, or two, or three additional chunks of tech that are actually bigger and heavier than a phone. And what's the use in buying multiple mods for your smartphone, if you'll be having to debate whether or not to bother taking them along as you hit the road?
Moto Mods are limiting!
Moto has been able to keep Moto Mods compatibility in tact across its Z smartphones for a while, but we're probably reaching a point where sticking with the same physical footprint, design aesthetics and hardware layout will start working against Moto's ability to compete with other phone manufacturers. In reality, Moto's Z smartphones are already unable to compete with the market leaders (iPhone, Galaxy S) in terms of aesthetics, and with those guys successfully pushing the envelope every year, the gap between them and Moto's aging design is growing wider by the day.
All other phones already support better mods!
And after going through all the drawbacks of the Moto Mods concept, maybe it's time to put the final nail in the coffin by saying that you can actually already get all the Moto Mod functionality on any other phone through accessories like battery cases, external batteries, add-on camera lenses, Bluetooth speakers, game pads, and what not. As a matter of fact, doing so will probably be cheaper and produce better results, compared to Moto's proprietary and limited modules, because accessory makers have been working for years to come up with a vast ecosystem of products.
At the end of the day, if someone's willing to buy a $300 360 Camera Moto Mod for their $700 Moto Z2 smartphone, for a total investment of $1000, hey, nobody can stop them! However, we'd much rather just get a Samsung Gear 360 camera for $230 and use it with a recent Galaxy or iPhone. Where's the value in Moto's unique offer?