Motorola’s 360-degree camera ushers in the future of modular smartphone tech

Moto Z2 Force hands-on review white camera back
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

There is no shortage of 360-degree cameras out there. These days, many of the newest entries on the market are coming from smartphone manufacturers. Android startup Essential revealed one alongside its new smartphone, the PH-1, which is set to launch sometime this summer, and Samsung has its Gear 360. Not to be outdone, Motorola now has a 360-degree camera of its own — and it’s available now for a steep $300 price tag.

The company officially announced the camera at a press event in New York, July 25, alongside its new Moto Z2 Force smartphone. Although it might seem like something of a “me too” move, there’s one particular aspect of this camera that differentiates it from the competition: it’s modular. The camera has been designed to work with the Moto Z family, which also includes the recently-released Moto Z2 Play. It can even capture-three dimensional audio.

360-degree camera
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

As a Moto Mod, the camera is part of a larger back shell that magnetically snaps on to the back of the phone. While that does make it rather simple to use, it also restricts compatibility to only the Moto Z line, as the E and G models do not accept Mods.

While there is certainly a lot of potential in the Moto Mods platform — as evidenced by the Transform the Smartphone Challenge from earlier in the year that saw a variety of unique and inventive pitches — the first-party Mods haven’t been released with the frequency that Moto Z owners probably had hoped for. The ability to take 360-degree video is a nice addition, but it’s still a bit of a niche feature.

Lenovo, Motorola’s parent company, says it’s on track to release “at least” 12 Moto Mods in the next year, according to TechDroider, and the company showed off a couple concepts in a video at an event in Ghana. These included a Marshall-branded speaker, a camera body that accepts full-size lenses, and a strange DirecTV-branded contraption that featured an HDMI port in the back for compatibility with media streaming sticks, like a Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV.

While those particular Mods may not necessarily see the light of day, the 360-degree camera is a full-fledged product at this point.

It’s also worth noting Moto has several other Mods available now as well. There’s the new Style Shell with wireless charging and the TurboPower external battery. The company will also release a gamepad attachment before the fall that looks strikingly similar to a Nintendo Switch. Check out our handy guide on the best Moto Mods for more info.

Update: Added availability of Motorola’s 360-degree camera mod.