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printed October 17, 2017
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Review: Moto Mods for Motorola Z2 Play

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Jul 14, 2017, 2:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

Motorola's new Z2 Play smartphone is a fine piece of hardware and I strongly recommend it. While you're at the Verizon store, you should consider picking up some Moto Mods to go with the Z2 Play. Motorola has three new Mods available to enhance (any of) its Mod-compatible phones. Here's a look at Moto's latest modular, snap-on accessories.

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Background

Motorola first introduced Moto Mods with the Z Droid and Z Force Droid in June 2016. The idea was to create an accessory ecosystem that easily snaps into the back of a number of Motorola smartphones. The original selection included a speaker, batteries, simple protective plates, and even a projector. Now in their second year, Motorola has pushed out a fresh batch of Mods to accompany its latest handsets.

All Moto Mods work in the same basic way. They each have a large hole near the top to accommodate the phone's camera, and a series of copper pins near the bottom that align with the magnetic connector on the phone.

While the camera hole helps provide some initial alignment, it's the magnets that hold the Mods in place. The magnets are plenty strong. You can't shake Mods off a phone, and they won't slip off when you put a Motorola phone in your pocket. In fact, the only time I've seen a Mod become dislodged was when the phone was dropped onto a hard surface. Motorola did a great job engineering the magnets. Even so, it's easy to remove the Mods intentionally, and that's the beauty of the entire system.

In the mood to blast some tunes? Snap on the JBL speaker Mod. Need to charge up? Swap the speaker for a battery pack. Want to enjoy the natural look of your Motorola handset? Take the Mod off and go solo.

Moto Mods  

JBL Soundboost 2

JBL is back with another portable speaker for Motorola's Z-branded handsets. Last year's JBL Soundboost speaker was a reasonably priced and more portable option to larger Bluetooth boomboxes. This year's offering is more of the same.

There are some pretty obvious similarities between the original and the Soundboost 2. The speaker housing, however, is totally new. Where the original was somewhat boxy, the second-generation speaker is more rounded. It is made mostly of rugged plastic, though the speakers are covered with a fabric mesh. JBL widened the angle of the opening for the camera module a bit. There's no doubt it feels more comfortable to hold and use. It carries over the flip-out metal kickstand.

This Mod is sizable, as it needs to accommodate a battery and of course the two internal drivers. The Soundboost 2 is 0.42 ounces lighter than the original, but 2mm thicker. When snapped onto the back of the Z2 Play, the pair measure 22mm thick and a whopping 9.9 ounces. I wouldn't want to carry the Z2 Play around with the Soundboost 2 attached all the time, as it creates quite a bulge in your pocket. On its own, the Soundboost 2 is easy enough to drop into a pack or purse.

The Soundboost 2 has its own battery and JBL says it's good for up to 10 hours of playback. The speaker charges via USB-C. A small LED blinks while the speaker is charging and remains steady once the speaker is fully charged. You can press a small button to assess the charge level. One thing I dislike is that the USB-C port is on the back of the Mod, which means you have to charge it separately from the phone. Also, the Mod does not provide any power directly to the phone, so you can't use it to charge the Z2 Play. JBL's battery life claims for the speaker are accurate. In my tests the speaker lasted just over 10 hours on multiple occasions.

SoundBoost 2  

How does it sound? Well, the JBL Soundboost 2 contains two 3W drivers with an audio range of 200 Hz to 20,000 kHz. That's a little light as far as bass reproduction is concerned (many speakers and headphones go down to 20 Hz), but the JBL Soundboost 2 still manages to do a good job. Music leans a little toward the treble end of the spectrum, and yet bass isn't entirely absent. The Soundboost 2 did well with light pop music, classical music, and rock-n-roll, but fell a little flat when I tried some EDM and metal. The two drivers produce stereo sound, but they are positioned too close to one another for your ears to really hear the defined left and right channels. I found the JBL is at its best when you're watching video. The stereo speakers do a lot to improve the experience of watching Netflix or YouTube on the Z2 Play.

The speaker can easily fill a bedroom, kitchen, or living room with music. You can't use it to DJ a roaring indoor party, but it's a fine companion for a smaller gathering. It does fairly well outdoors, too. It's not powerful enough to shake your entire backyard, though it can spread sound over an area the size of an average deck. For example, the JBL Soundboost 2 did a good job providing a soundtrack while I grilled for friends outdoors. It also works well for small picnics in the park or a day at the beach (the speaker is splash proof.) The Soundboost 2 creates a personal space with sound.

At $80, the JBL Soundboost 2 isn't quite as cheap as I'd like it to be. You can score full-sized Bluetooth speakers with fuller sound for almost the same price. That said, the JBL is highly portable, attaches to the Z2 Play without fuss, interacts with your music apps seamlessly, and provides just as much battery life as a larger speaker might. As long as you're not looking to fill large areas with sound, the JBL Soundboost 2 is a fine speaker for smaller spaces.

Soundboost In Hand  

TurboPower Pack

The Z2 Play has a 3,000 mAh battery that does a fine job powering through more than a day. Even so, it's nice to have a power reserve available if you know you won't be able to plug in for hours and hours. The TurboPower Pack from Motorola combines a 3,490 mAh battery and case in one slim Mod.

Battery cases can border on the ridiculous when it comes to size and weight. More than just thickness, some cases add length to phones in order to accommodate a USB or Lightning port. The result is an unwieldy combination that's not fun to use while re-charging your phone. Motorola's modular system has a huge advantage in that it can transfer power via the pin connectors on the back; no extra "chin" required.

Motorola got everything right with this Mod, as far as I'm concerned. First, it doesn't add too much bulk to the Z2 Play. The Mod measures 7mm thick and 3.35 ounces on its own, making the combined Mod+phone thickness 13mm and weight 8.54 ounces. That's really not bad as such accessories go. The Z2 Play still fits in your pocket with the TurboPower Pack attached.

The TurboPower Pack has a really nice hand feel. While the interior is hardened plastic, the exterior is covered in a grippy, rubber-like material. The material is patterned with diagonal ridges that lend it even more grip. The Mod makes the Moto Z2 Play easier to hold and use, even though it makes the phone thicker and heavier.

What I like most, however, are the charging tools. First, Motorola mounted the USB-C power on the side of the Mod, which means you can charge both the Mod and your phone even when they are attached to one another. There are four LEDs on the back of the case that make it absolutely clear how much charge the case has. Press the accompanying button to see if the case is full, half full, or empty.

TurboPower Sans Phone  

The Mod can charge the Z2 Play rapidly at up to 15W, which means about 30 minutes will boost your phone's capacity by 50%. The Mod itself also charges rapidly, and can soak up 50% on its own in just 20 minutes on a Motorola TurboPower charger. Last, you can attach the Mod and charge it while the Mod charges the phone. Motorola says the TurboPower Pack delivers one full day of battery life to the Moto Z2 Play. In fact, it delivered more than a day in my experience. Together, the phone and battery pack lasted well more than two days.

If you're a power user and want more power to use while you're on the go go go, the Motorola TurboPower Pack is a no-brainer. Motorola hasn't released pricing on this Mod yet. It goes on sale later this month.

TurboPower Pack On Phone  

Style Shell w/Wireless Charging

Last in this trio of new Mods from Motorola is the Style Shell with wireless charging.

The Style Shell comes in four options: Ebony Burl Wood, Grey Herringbone Nylon, Cateye Wood, and Floral Print. Each has its own personality. The two wood ones obviously include a wooden texture, while the nylon has a fabric-like texture and the floral print is straight up plastic. Motorola sent us the floral print Style Shell. It's incredibly smooth, and even borders on slippery.

In terms of size, the shell is 3mm thick and weighs just 1.52 ounces. The shell and phone together measure 9mm thick and 6.7 ounces. That's less than many modern smartphones. It adds a thin layer of protection to the rear of the Z2 Play without much bulk.

As for wireless charging, the Style Shell is pretty flexible. It supports both Qi and PMA wireless charging pads. I tested it on pads using each standard and, yes indeed, it worked. The Style Shell is definitely faster at charging the Z2 Play on Qi pads, where it supports 10W. You can charge somewhat quickly on a Qi pad. The Style Shell only supports 5W on PMA charging pads, however, and gave me the "charging slowly" warning on the phone. That means if you have a PMA charging pad and you're in a hurry, you're much better off plugging the Z2 Play into the wall.

For $40, the Style Shell with wireless charging isn't a bad purchase. I like that it provides a bit of protection, some personality, and the wireless charging functionality. If you've already invested in a wireless charging pad or find yourself at Starbucks a lot, the Style Shell may be a good add-on purchase.

Style Shell  

Our Ratings

4
Overall
 

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