News Products Reviews History German Español About Contact Us Privacy

R.I.P. MotoMods: the modular era is over


We all saw this coming. It was kind of expected, but still sad to see. After 4 years of being Moto's top phone, Moto Z and its modular Mods are slowly being removed from Motorola's website.

Let's take a look at some highlights of this era...

June, 2016 - Moto Z and MotoMods was introduced during Lenovo Tech World event in San Francisco. It quickly captured the world's attention because it was truly innovative and sounded like fun. You could enhance an already capable smartphone like the Moto Z or Moto Z Force, which had flagship-like specs and premium design at its time, to make it even more powerful with a projector, a professional camera, a loud speaker or a powerful battery pack.

The phone was quickly launched in the US through Verizon and globally, selling around 10-12 million units with its 4 year run and different updates. We saw 8 versions of this Z franchise:
  • Moto Z (2016) - released globally and Verizon in the USA
  • Moto Z Play (2016) - released globally and Verizon in the USA
  • Moto Z Force (2016) - Verizon exclusive in the USA
  • Moto Z2 Play (2017) - released globally
  • Moto Z2 Force (2017) - released globally and at all major USA carriers
  • Moto Z3 Play (2018) - released globally
  • Moto Z3 (2018) - USA and China exclusive - first 5G-capable phone through MotoMods
  • Moto Z4 (2019) - USA and Canada exclusive
On top of that, we saw MotoMods released every year for: Hasselblad Camera, JBL speaker, JBL speaker 2, Motorola speaker, Projector, Battery packs, Digital TV, 5G antenna, 360 camera, several wood, leather, and fiber style shells, Amazon Alexa speaker and even a Polaroid printer. So you could choose any Mod you liked.

Why didn't the modular era succeed?

Moto Z wasn't a flop, but it was not a huge success either. But there are a few reasons why this innovative phone didn't gain much popularity:

  • Identity crisis. Motorola was in the midst of a press/marketing/image change at the time the Moto Z was released. You might remember it as the time Lenovo, Motorola's parent company, wanted to rename Motorola as Lenovo Moto, while still keeping Motorola's logo on products among the ¨Moto¨ wordmark while advertisements and packaging would show Lenovo's branding. Long-time users and potential customers were confused at the time and the media wasn't helping either, saying things like ''Motorola is dead'' or ''Lenovo killed Motorola''. So this might have been a big reason why the phone didn't become popular enough at first and most advertisements or any marketing efforts were offset by this.
  • Verizon exclusivity. Motorola has had a long and criticized partnership with Verizon for more than 15 years, even before Droid Smartphones. It helps with getting the phone out there and making it be on every Verizon store, but at the same time, it makes it an exclusive that no one out of this carrier will buy. So its released was limited in the USA until the 2nd generation was released a year later, with 3rd and 4th generations becoming Verizon exclusives again (you could buy them unlocked at some retail stores though, but it's not as widely available).
  • Confusing branding. So we got Z, Z Play, Z Force and MotoMods. But in the US those phones were Moto Z Droid, Moto Z Play Droid and Moto Z Force Droid. Those names are crazy long. And a bad name doesn't work in the marketing world. Moto and Droid had always been two different brands and now they were being combined because in 2016 it was all Moto and no ''Motorola''. Globally, the 2017 and 2018 phones only saw either Play or Force versions, and no standard phone. Why wasn't the Moto Z3 Play just called Moto Z3 globally instead? Why wasn't the Moto Z2 Play just called Moto Z2?  
  • MotoMods pricing. Most mods were expensive and not widely available, so people ended up buying the Moto Z for its phone features other than the innovative accessories. Motorola did offer tons of options and customization, but in the end its availability didn't help. 
  • Design. The Moto Z was beautiful, and every version of this phone looks better than any flagship from any other brand at its time. But for 4 years Moto was stuck with the same size and rear camera circle, so certain features couldn't be upgraded in recent generations. They had to keep the same design so the MotoMods would fit.
But this effort must be recognized. Through 2017-2018 Moto invested a lot in marketing and was past its identity crisis. They also improved availability and Mods became even more fun, like the 360 camera and Polaroid printer. Year after year, Moto Z and Mods won prestigious design awards from the tech industry and was praised by the media for bringing the first 5G-capable phone.

This week, removed the MotoMods tab from its menu, meaning they are no longer available and no longer a current product. Moto Z4 from 2019 is also out of stock and will probably be removed soon.
It was a fun ride. Moto pushed for it, but since the first generation had these issues mentioned above, it kind of ruined hope for further generations to compete with other brands.

But if one thing is clear is how innovative Motorola was with this project and how supportive of it they were. R.I.P. MotoMods!

Powered by Blogger.