Last year, the word “modular” was injected into the mainstream vocabulary of smartphone enthusiasts. Sure, it had been there for a while as a kind of aspirational idea, but never really real. Then, suddenly within a span of a couple of months, we had two mainstream smartphones pushing out the concept. The LG G5 and the Moto Z both stood up and seemingly went all in on the idea. “Awesome!” the nerds (myself included) cheered.

Then, almost as suddenly, the LG G5 … well, let’s not talk about it. But the Moto Z hit the streets and suddenly we had something. I’m not saying that the Moto Z was a hot seller or anything – but Lenovo-rola kept mods and modular design in the conversation. Plus, it doubled down in 2017 with more phones and more mods.

But was it essential?

2017 also saw the debut of the Essential phone, which also incorporates a modular accessory design. While the Motorola design uses the entire back of the phone to house and attach its mods, Essential uses two small connectors to attach its lone accessory – the 360 degree camera. So, we wanted to take a look at both ideas and discuss which one could theoretically be the most successful.

…Motorola has an entire ecosystem of mods that have been available from day one

Of course, we have to say “theoretically” because in the case of Essential, much of the discussion is still theoretical. As mentioned, Essential is bringing a single accessory to its phone. In the meantime, Motorola has an entire ecosystem of mods that have been available from day one. But we’re not just talking about numbers here. We’re talking about support, and that is something Motorola has thrown behind its concept.

Motorola has introduced contests and partnerships to endorse the continued development of its Moto Mods ecosystem. It has also promised that Moto Mods would continue to work with new hardware for at least three years. That’s quite a promise for an idea that is barely one year old.

See also:Essential Phone review: Maximum hardware, minimum softwareEssential Phone review: Maximum hardware, minimum software2 weeks ago

Out of the gate

From a design standpoint, the Moto Z and Essential phone are night and day.

On the other side, we have Essential, which has been very strong with its own push of its accessory concept. Essential plans to work with third party developers to utilize the magnetic connectors and wireless data transfer protocols the phone uses to push out accessory after accessory. In fact, we’ve even speculated on some of those accessories that we’d like to see. But, unlike Motorola, Essential has only developed a single accessory – a proof of concept, if you will.

From a design standpoint, the Moto Z and Essential phone are night and day. The Moto Z almost looks like an incomplete phone when it isn’t toting a mod. It’s for that reason that I generally leave the 360 degree camera – Source