My review the other day of the Motorola Moto Z smart phone threatened to become interminable, so detailed coverage of the three most active Moto Mods – the devices which attach to it and make it so much more – had to be offloaded to this article. Those Moto Mods are the JBL SoundBoost Speaker, The Hasselblad TrueZoom Camera and the Instashare Projector.
Remember, all of these attach easily. Four strong magnets hold them in place securely enough to allow one or other of them to be kept on all the time, yet they’re easy to pull off again in a second.
So, let’s see what they do and how well they do it.
JBL SoundBoost Speaker – $159
Let’s face it, a smart phone with decent sound quality has yet to be invented. And the better the phone, the harder it gets because for phones, “better” goes with “thinner”, while for speakers “better” goes with “bigger”. Thus we have the JBL SoundBoost Speaker. This is bigger. It snaps onto the back and has the necessary camera hole to fit the Moto Z. There are two 27mm speaker drivers built in and up to three watts of power for each of them.
JBL says that they’re good for up to 80dB sound pressure level, measured at half a metre and can deliver frequencies from 200 to 20,000 hertz. Few compact Bluetooth speaker makers bother offering specifications, but I’m confident those ones exceed what most of them are capable of.
SoundBoost has a 1000mAh battery built in which is charged via a USB Type-C port on the face which mates with the phone, so I thought that might preclude it from charging or running from external power while in use. But it turns out that when it place it is charged by the normal phone power connection as well. JBL says that a full charge is good for ten hours of music. It does not draw from the phone’s power.
Carrying around the phone with the SoundBoost attached bumps it up from 5.2mm to 18.4mm thick by my measurement, which roughly accords with the 13mm thickness it is specified to have. There’s an alloy kick stand that levers out so the phone can stand up at an angle.
It sounds pretty good and almost incomparably better than any phone. It is lively and boppy and sketches out enough of the upper bass to give a good musical sense of what’s going on. It goes’s surprisingly loud without excessive distortion.
The kick stand is a bit useless. Sure, it looks cool but it leaves the speaker angled down at the desk behind the phone, and that detracts from the sound noticeably. If you can live without looking at track information, just put the phone face down on the desk and let the speakers shoot straight upwards.
If I had a Moto Z phone, the JBL SoundBoost Speaker would be on my must have list.
Instashare Projector – $429
The Instashare Projector must be the most unexpected snap-on I could think of for a smart phone. It is a DLP projector with WVGA resolution – 854 by 480 pixels – delivered at 50 lumens. I imagine the “lamp” is a LED. The contrast ratio is 400:1 and it is specified to produce a picture up to 70 inches in the diagonal. It is powered by the built in 1100mAh battery which is rated at up to sixty minutes of operation.
Again, it just snaps in place, with a hole allowing the Moto Z camera to operate normally. An aluminium panel hinged at one end can swing down to allow the projector to fire upwards at an angle.
Basic operation is super easy. Snap it into place on the phone, unlock your phone and hold in the power button on the Projector for a couple of seconds. It goes up to full brightness more or less instantly and it simply mirrors whatever is on the screen. The orientation matches the screen, too, so the home screen will be shown in “portrait” mode, as will photos and videos taken with the phone held upright. But the picture swings automatically into landscape mode if that’s the way it was taken.