Should You Mod: Moto Gamepad, Moto 360 Camera, and JBL Soundboost 2 Review

The new generation of the Moto Z family is here and we’ve had the Z2 Force Edition in house for a couple weeks now. Jason has written a general review of the phone which you can read over here, but he was only able to touch on the Moto Mods for a brief bit. I was able to have some deep hands on with the Gamepad, JBL Soundboost 2, and the 360 Camera mods. Here, I want to go over the use and necessity of each.

If you’re out of the loop and don’t know what mods are, basically they are physical add-ons for any Moto Z phone that help the device in a specific task. Luckily the generation of mods made for the first 3 generations of Z phones will work with each and all of the Z family. They also easily snap on and off the phone, even during mid operation will little to no interruption.

 

Motorola Gamepad

Less start with what I actually find to be the most overkill mod I’ve ever seen, the Gamepad. The Motorola Gamepad is a Verizon exclusive mod that adds 15 external buttons and 2 joysticks to your Z2 Force (or any Moto Z phone). There’s also a charging port and A HEADPHONE JACK OMG on the bottom of the gamepad as well, so rejoice! The back is indented and has a slightly textured design that allows you to hold the pad and your phone more comfortably without needing to touch the screen. While the Gamepad is as thin as the phone, be prepared for your phone the be about 50% longer.

With the directional pad, ABXY buttons, trigger buttons, and joysticks, the Moto Gamepad will prepare you for any game available on Android. The overkill comes in with the need for all those buttons in most Android games. Now I know there are several games that can take use of all these extras buttons (most of them FPS) but are there enough players to warrant the use of a full size gamepad? Thankfully when you first connect the Gamepad, your phone will prompt you to download the Moto Game Explorer app which highlights the games that will benefit the most from the Moto Gamepad.

For $80 I wouldn’t say the mod is a must buy, but currently it’s on sale for $50 which easily makes it more acceptable if you play heavy games often. Unfortunately for Motorola I stick with puzzle games mostly.

Buy from Verizon

Motorola 360 Camera

Another likely niche mod is the 360 Camera. As you may have guess, this mod allows for taking pictures, videos, and streaming, in 360 degree views. After it’s latest update (yes mods get updated as well, and thank goodness for that) the 360 camera actually performs very well. The only thing is, how often do you take or want to take 360 degree pictures? The occasional concert or when you go on a hike, but I’m sure this is not nearly an everyday use case for most.

The quality of the media depends on which Z phone you have at the time, but you can shoot or stream in 4K with the appropriate Z device. You can also easily view the full picture in the camera app’s viewfinder, which I found to be pretty neat. Speaking of the camera app, you can switch back and forth between the 360 Camera and the normal camera with the tap of a button — no need to remove the mod.

At $200 currently due to a sale, but normally $300, the 360 Camera is a mod I can only suggest if you are always “doing something”. A Casey Neistat, raver, explorer type of person… with a just as large-of-life wallet.

Buy from Verizon

JBL Soundboost 2

This last mod is one I’d get if I owned any Z device, as it’s one of the few I found that would probably be used daily: the JBL Soundboost 2. The upgrade to last years mod of the same name isn’t what I’d call necessary, but appreciated anyways. You get a rounded and smaller speaker pack compared to last years version, with a slightly new design and new colors: Red, Blue, and Black.

The front facing speaker on the Z2 Force, while the correct direction, isn’t super amazing and that’s where the Soundboost 2 comes in. You can use the Soundboost 2 for simple music playing or when you’re watching YouTube or even for speakerphone. It’s worth noting that any audio that comes through your phone will go through the speaker. Additionally, it is waterproof so you can use it near the shower or pool without any worries. Simply put, the Soundboost 2 is a great speaker for any phone. You’ll get much higher volumes, deeper bass, and clearer sounds throughout.

There’s also a (pretty worthless) ‘My Soundboost’ app that you will be prompted to download on the first pairing of your Soundboost 2. In the app you can change the equalizer for the speaker, but I found it had a minimal effect throughout all six of its’ preset modes. There’s also a ‘Direc Panorama Sound’ feature that’s not available yet due to a future update. You can probably already tell that this app was rarely opened in my review of the phone.

The Soundboost 2 might not replace your full Sonos system, but you can forego buying a separate Bluetooth speaker if you do decide to grab the mod. For $80, this is one of the mods I’d consider a must buy (along with a battery pack or style shell) for those owning a Z Family phone. You can even use some cases with the Soundboost 2, which is definitely a plus.

Buy from Verizon

Overall, the almost need to have to buy mods is definitely a negative to the already expensive phone that is the Z2 Force, especially with most mods being niche in nature. Although Motorola has released the APIs and other developer tools to create your own mods, I’m still only seeing around three being practical while the others are less than pragmatic in nature. You can check out all of Motorola’s available mods below and let us know what you think of their various mods.

Check out on Motorola
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