Motorola’s still going strong with its Moto Z lineup with two new devices added to the lineup this year alone and various upgraded and totally fresh moto Mods to accompany. One of the newest additions to the Mods lineup is the new Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa built in. It costs $149.99 and is compatible with all Z-branded smartphones. In a nutshell, it’s cool and all, but it’s complete overkill. Let me explain.
First off, it’s quite a hefty Mod. The JBL SoundBoost 2 I reviewed with the Moto Z2 Play was hefty itself, but this one feels bigger and heavier. In terms of the Z2 Force Moto lent us to use with the Mod, the Mod is about five times its width which is crazy. It is well-built, however: the speaker portion is covered in a premium-feeling fabric and includes a rubber accent which surrounds a spiral metal plate with the words “amazon alexa” embossed that adds the ability to prop the speaker up from your desk or a table. There’s also a USB-C port that charges both your phone and the Mod at the same time so you rarely run out of juice.
The Moto Smart Speaker works like an Echo Show
To operate, the Smart Speaker intelligently uses its own battery that lasts around 10 to 15 hours, the same Moto claims it can achieve. This spares your phone’s battery which is drained slight more since it’s always listening for commands. Speaking of which, the whole point of this Mod is to add Amazon Alexa compatibility to your phone and it does that. You can ask it questions like what the weather is, watch flash briefings, control smart home accessories, and so on and so forth much like you could with an actual Echo or Echo Show, in this case. Information is displayed on your screen like it would on an Echo Show like weather data and news briefings which is a nice touch.
You can even control smart home appliances with your phone using Alexa. It’s a really convenient feature to have with this Mod as you can simply shout at your phone and turn off the lights at night.
Everything sounds great
Sound output from the speaker itself is also great. The speaker gets so loud it’s almost stupid and I never really heard any distortion. Only a few times did I hear a crackle but I think I’m gonna blame it on the audio I was streaming instead of the speaker itself. There’s plenty of bass, highs are nice and clear, and while mids could be boosted slightly, I absolutely had no problem hearing Alexa through the speaker or simply playing music with it since, yes, it’s also capable of doing this.
It’s worth mentioning that if you wanna control music with Alexa on your Moto Z with this Mod, you’ll only be able to do so if you use Amazon Prime Music. Those who strictly play music through services like Spotify or iHeartRadio will be disappointed to learn support for these services isn’t yet here. It’s currently unknown whether it’ll ever come to Alexa on Moto phones, but we’ll let you know if it does.
Finally, that rubber accent I mentioned earlier uses blue LEDs to light up when your phone recognizes the Alexa keyword. Take a look.
You really don’t need it, though
But here’s the thing: you don’t need this speaker at all. In fact, if you simply have a SIM card in your Moto Z and download the Alexa app for Moto phones, you’ll be able to use the voice assistant like you would with this speaker. A perfect example of this is in the case of the Moto X4 that ships with the same functionality presented by this Mod minus the Mod part. You can use all the commands you can with this speaker on the handset itself, and the same goes for both the Moto Z2 Play and Z2 Force that I’ve tested by downloading the Alexa app to them.
Therefore, rather spending $150 on a speaker Mod that works with only one type of phone, you could instead drop cash on a decent Bluetooth speaker that works with everything and shout commands at your phone and hear them in a higher quality for likely less money. Don’t get twisted, though, since this Mod is really good at what it does. But for basic Alexa functionality, the speaker’s a bit much.
And then you have to consider the whole two assistants on one phone thing. Every Moto phone that was released this year ships with the Google Assistant on board. This means you can already do most of the things you can with Alexa already without having to download an app or connect a Smart Speaker. If you’re a die heart Amazon fan, sure, go ahead and use Alexa. But for everyone else, maybe just stick with the Assistant.
In the end, the Smart Speaker with Alexa is great. It adds superb sound quality to your Moto Z phone and lets you access Alexa like you would on a real Echo. But in the same breath, you can get the same experience minus the excellent sound quality simply by downloading a free app to your phone. Therefore, if you’re on the fence about buying this speaker, you should probably just skip it and buy something like a Bluetooth speaker instead. It’s much more versatile and you may even have a better experience with Alexa for less money.
The Smart Speaker with Alexa is complete overkill. And unless you want the back of your phone to light up every time you say “Alexa” or you’ll only be using Moto Mods for all of your accessory needs, skip this one.