Motorola Gamepad Moto Mod Review: Great for tiny hands

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  • High quality build
  • Includes built-in battery
  • Works with all Moto Z phones
  • Plug-and-play (no setup required)
  • Price is right


  • Not made for big hands
  • D-pad is a little clunky

When I use the Gamepad Moto Mod for extended periods of time, my hands cramp. When I place the controller in the hands of a 6-year-old colleague of mine, she’s able to use the controller without issue. The Gamepad Moto Mod, made for Motorola Moto Z2 Force (and similar Motorola phones), by Lenovo, works perfect in all other categories. It’s just that pesky size situation that’s bummed me out thoroughly.

Made for Moto Z

The Gamepad Moto Mod attaches to a variety of Motorola smartphones, all phones in the Moto Z family released thus far. That’s the Moto Z Play DROID, Moto Z Play, Moto Z DROID, Moto Z, Moto Z Force DROID, Moto Z2 Play, and the Moto Z2 Force Edition. The device I used to test this gaming accessory was the Moto Z2 Force, from Verizon.

All of the buttons

This accessory has XYAB buttons on its right side above both Select and Start buttons. Above is one of two joysticks – the other in nearly the same position on the left of the controller. Also on the left is a cross directional pad (d-pad arrows) and a Home button, below which is a loop through which an (included) strap can be strung for easy gripping in a backpack.

On top of and down the back of the controller are a set of four index-finger buttons. The frontmost two buttons light up in a satisfying tone of RED light when tapped. These buttons are so extremely close to one another that it’s easy to tap one, or the other, or both at the same time on accident.

The d-pad is a little funky – it’s not as fluid and smooth as I’m used to whilst playing games on Xbox One or PS4. My ideal controller remains the Xbox One Elite Controller – just as elite today as it was back in 2015. But Microsoft’s controller is significantly more expensive than the Moto Gamepad here – by a factor of as much as 3x. As such, I’m not expecting nearly as much from this Moto controller for mobile games.

The rest of the buttons are fine, and the joysticks are pretty great. The joysticks are the best part of this controller for me, not least of all because my hands cramp up when I’m trying to use any other part of the controller. The original Nintendo controller got away with no palm pieces because it was only a couple of buttons and a single d-pad. The Xbox One and PS4 controllers have a bunch of buttons, but they have palm rests to allow for comfortable movement.

The controller we’re reviewing today is caught between the future and the past. It’s small, fits its intended use just fine, but doesn’t successfully account for the ergonomic factors that come with the tapping of many different buttons both at the bottom and at the top of the controller. If I could add a couple of big ugly plastic wings to this controller, things might be different. Of course then it’d just be a DualShock controller with a Moto Z2 in the middle – but that’s not a terrible idea. I wish we were in a place in the mobile industry where either Sony or Microsoft had a reason to make something like that – maybe someday!


When this controller is first attached to a Moto Z, a notification pops up, recommending the user take advantage of an app. The app goes by the name Moto Game Explorer, and it’s developed by the folks at MEDION. This app is available to anyone who owns a Moto Z device and leads the user to a wide variety of games that work with this controller.

Many of these games are free, but there are entries that are amongst the highest-quality in mobile games, and therefore cost cash. Final Fantasy IV, for example, will cost the user $16 USD. But the purchase isn’t through the Moto Game Explorer app, it’s through Google Play. So it’s not as if any purchase here will be relegated to Motorola-made devices.

As the app’s listing suggests, “Some games may not enable all functions to work with the Moto Gamepad controller (e.g. menu navigation), and may require the use of the touch screen to execute that function. In addition, some games require user to manually enable gamepad control in settings.” All of the most major-name games I’ve tested so far have worked beautifully. That includes such gems as Minecraft, Sonic The Hedgehog, and Asphalt 8.

Branding Tidbit

On the back of this device is the three-pronged logo of Lenovo Legion. That’s the Legion line of devices introduced by Lenovo in January of 2017. Oddly it would appear that no other mention of the brand is made here – only that one mark. Everything else is MOTO-centric.

Also the logo on the back is lit up. I didn’t notice for the longest time – and why would I? It’s lit up on the back of the device at a time when you’re never meant to look at the back. This looks pretty epic, but it’s mostly there to show those around you that you’re rocking a Lenovo device.

Battery Life

Inside this controller is a 1035mAh battery which added a few hours of gameplay to my tests. While Motorola suggests we’ll see 8 extra hours for the smartphone, I’d only agree to that sans games. Once using a variety of high-demand games for extended periods of time, those quoted hours go down real quick.

Wrap-up / Availability

I recommend that each person considering buying this device go out and try it – hands-on style – before making that decision. Just like every other controller made for extended gaming sessions, this one really needs to be tested by the gamer’s own hands. If it feels to small for you, like it did me, I wouldn’t buy it.

If however the device fits your hands, your style, or your pocketbook, by all means go for it. It’s a high-quality piece of equipment well worth the money Verizon is charging right this minute.

The Motorola Moto Gamepad Moto Mod is available from Verizon for $50 at the time at which this article is set to be published. It’s also available at a few other stores for $80 – B&H Photo, Next Warehouse, Fry’s – but that’d be silly when Verizon’s is $30 cheaper for the same device.





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