Alexa as a Moto Mod is almost a good idea
Your Moto phone can now be a mostly functional Amazon Echo. Cool?
The coolest thing about Moto Mods as a concept is the ability to extend the capabilities of your phone with hardware that would be less convenient as a standalone device. When you look at the Projector Mod, the Speaker Mod, and the Gamepad Mod, you see these things perfected as accessories that genuinely improve the experience on both sides of the equation by making each feel like a better product by adding the other half.
And then there’s this Alexa Mod.
See at Best Buy
The idea is fairly simple. Attach the Mod, and your phone is now also an Amazon Echo. It works well, too. There’s a notification light ring just like an Echo with microphones that work very close to as well as an Echo and a decent boost in speaker power compared to what the Moto Z2 Force is capable of. There’s some solid integration here as well, the speakers in the mod can be used for anything, not just Alexa services, and when the Mod is attached you get an Alexa button you can tap in the notification tray. All things considered, this is an idea headed in the right direction.
Trying to use this Mod for any real amount of time is where things get confusing and the connection between the two halves starts to break down. For starters, this Mod completely covers the camera on the Moto Z 2 Force. If you want to use this as a connected speaker and suddenly need to take a photo, you have no choice but to clumsily remove the Mod. The design of the Mod also introduces some limitations. It’s designed to be rested on the back, putting the phone at an angle which introduces a ton of glare depending on how you sit. There are no options to adjust this, unless you want to lay the phone down on its face.
This leaning position exposes a USB-C power port on the back of the Mod, which is in theory a great idea. You could effectively leave this plugged in on your bedside table and use it as a dock to charge your phone at night. Just drop the phone in, and suddenly you also have an Amazon Echo in your bedroom when you want it. The downside here is the design of Moto Mods in general. It’s not convenient or easy to remove the mod, and when you connect the pins there’s an occasional chance things don’t line up just so and the phone never starts charging or communicating with the Mod. It looks like it would be a cool bedside dock, but in practice it’s not so great.
My biggest issue with this setup is the execution of Alexa through the Moto Z2 Force. First off, it’s an incomplete experience. You can’t use the “Drop In” feature like you can on an Echo and simple commands for things like radio stations return different results than an Echo would. The thing that makes this extra frustrating? Both of these things work great in the actual Alexa app I have installed on this exact phone. This is a specific disconnect in the permissions Amazon has granted to this Mod as a third-party Alexa device.
It’s also slightly slower than an actual Amazon Echo. This isn’t likely to be something most people notice, but since I already have Echo devices throughout my house I occasionally found myself in rooms where both the Alexa Mod and the Amazon Echo could hear me. In every test, the Alexa Mod would respond to my request or question at least a full second slower than an actual Amazon Echo.
Finally, there’s the price. Motorola is asking $149.99 for this Mod, and in case you’re unaware, that’s the same price as three Amazon Echo Dot speakers. In fact, you could buy an Echo Dot and the special battery Fremo made to make it portable and a much louder speaker to connect to the Echo Dot and still have at least $50 left compared to the what you would spend on this Alexa Mod for your Moto phone.
Moto Mods are awesome because they are frequently convenient in a way nothing else can be, and this mod doesn’t feel like it meets that description yet. The integration isn’t quite there, the design is a little questionable, and for what you get it’s prohibitively expensive. A lot of this is actually Amazon’s fault, as aggressive pricing is a bad business decision for Motorola and Amazon at least part of the reason the integration isn’t fully there. Unfortunately, blaming Amazon or Motorola doesn’t make this speaker Mod as cool as it could be. Hopefully with a software update or two, that will change, but for now this is one Mod you should probably pass on.
And remember, it could always be worse.
See at Best Buy