The idea of snap-on accessories that transform your phone only gets interesting when the accessories are interesting. That's been the challenge of Moto Mods, Motorola's initiative to create magnetic accessories for the Z series of modular phones: A few have been bold; others have been glorified battery packs.
The Moto 360 camera, arriving in the US on August 10 along with the latest Moto Z phone, the Z2 Force, is the result of a clever idea: make a 360-degree camera an easy-to-attach accessory.
Too bad that the still-unreleased Essential Phone had the same idea in an even smaller accessory for its modular platform, but we still haven't tested out either. And Motorola's could still be the better option... but at $300, it's far from an impulse purchase. (UK and Australian pricing and availability were not announced.)
That's the problem here: Does a 360-degree camera that costs as much as a budget phone make sense? Depends on how good it is.
Motorola promises the camera will shoot in 4K, with the ability to also shoot 150-degree "ultrawide-angle" photos. Photos will both upload to Google Photos and work with on-phone editing tools.
Along with Lenovo's pocket Insta-Share projector and the Hasselblad zoom camera mod, it's Motorola's third wild idea for the Z series of phones.
The mod is bigger than it seems. It's not just that little eye on top... it's also a big slab that magnetically grafts along the back of the Moto Z phone. It feels fine when it's on, but it's not pocketable when it's off.
That being said, a brief hands-on with the camera so far was easy. The 360-degree camera app loads automatically when the mod is attached, and photos and videos are easy to view in 360 after they're shot. They can also be edited.
Is this better than other 360-degree cameras on the market? Is it worth the extra price Moto is commanding for this phone-specific modular camera attachment? We'll know more when we spend more time with one over the next week. My only concern is that, with the Moto Z2 Force, this becomes the third rear camera... which seems like one camera too many for most. But I appreciate its easy one-snap setup.
Stay tuned for a review.
Editors' note, July 25, 2017: Updated with hands-on impressions and photos.