Near the bottom of the rear are eighteen gold-plated contacts. These are the interface for the Moto Mods – the enhancement modules. Each module has a cutout to accommodate the two centimetre circular camera bump. They are held in place magnetically, with two magnetic points at the top and another two at the bottom.
I know, that sounds like an uncertain arrangement, but in practice each of the Mods was held firmly in place. I used the battery pack and decorative back plate Mods extensively while on the move, and the camera back to a lesser extent, and none felt in the slightest bit insecure. Yet get your finger print into the slot at the base and you can whip a Mod off in an instant and replace it with another.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mounting system of any kind work so well. The phone of course recognises the addition of Mod and provides a quick tutorial the first time each is added. One of the Mods draws power from the phone, one supplies it, one does nothing and two have their own onboard batteries to power their own functions.
In practice, the phone worked as well as a well equipped Android phone with an excellent screen should. Everything was smooth. Everything was fast. Everything did what it was supposed to.
The Android 6.01 implementation was mostly standard with a few Moto additions. The only real irritation was the lack of a Hotspot button – something I use fairly frequently – on the quick launch screen. A bit of googling found a way to invoke a lower level settings menu which enabled this, but one shouldn’t have to resort to that.
Overall speed according to the Quadrant benchmarking app was about 40,000 on the apps index, compared to around 30,000 for my Samsung Galaxy S6. That seems to be about the norm for a phone running that CPU.
The screen was gorgeous, thanks to AMOLED. The colours were rich, the blacks deep, and the whole thing was surprisingly clear even under outdoor conditions, so long as the sun wasn’t falling directly on the screen. That made it easy to take good photos under a wide range of circumstances.
On a couple of occasions I retrieved the phone from my pocket to find the screen alive with a half-dialled phone number or a random Web page open. I’m not quite sure how I managed that since I normally put the phone in my pocket the right way up, which means the fingerprint sensor is at the bottom. One of those mysteries I guess. It did only happen a couple of times in the fortnight I used this as my main phone.
The camera has some very effective manual controls, presented as arcs over the screen. Things like focus, white balance and so on can be adjusted individually while leaving everything else on auto setting, or all the settings can be brought up at once.
In auto mode the camera was fast and delivered a generally fine photograph. There was little to distinguish it from the quality of the Samsung Galaxy S6 I use as a yardstick. The Moto Z did a little better on a shot where the sun could have interfered with light metering. The Samsung did better on a rose, allowing the petals to be more clearly distinguished. A just-after-sunset shot taken opportunistically was a touch grainy, but delivered excellent balance from the black of the night to the white of a porch light.
I will cover three of the Mods in an article coming soon. They are very cool. Just to remind us, they are a Hasselblad 10x zoom camera, a JBL speaker, a compact projector so that your screen can be displayed at a larger size on a screen or a wall.