Remember that quirky ad Moto published a while back where everyone still used a Motorola Razr flip phone? That got us all a little too excited at the thought of a returning Razr flip phone but Moto has since come out and said that they’re not making another Razr.
Still, they did say that they were going to come up with a pretty radical smartphone. That’s where their new Moto Z — with its “modularity” — comes into play. And honestly, I’m quite excited about this.
As a smartphone, the Moto Z is pretty standard as far as flagships go. It comes with a 5.5-inch quad HD AMOLED display with a Snapdragon 820 processor mated to 4GB of RAM and 32GB/64GB of internal storage. It also gets a modest 13-megapixel camera with a fast f/1.8 aperture lens and optical image stabilisation.
The Moto Z also has a moderate 2,600 mAh battery to keep things running plus a front-mounted fingerprint sensor all encased in a sleek 5.2mm thick body. One thing worth noting is that the Moto Z doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack. Instead, you get a single USB Type-C port at the bottom, but Moto bundles a 3.5mm adapter with the smartphone.
For those who want more oomph, there’s also a Moto Z Force which bumps the battery up to 3,500 mAh, the camera up to 21 megapixels and it gets added protection thanks to a shatterproof front panel over the display. With all those added goodies, the Force is also thicker, coming in at 7mm.
What makes these smartphones special is their all-new range of accessories called the Moto Mods. These Mods attach to the back of the smartphone via four magnets like a magnetic smartphone case. Then, the Mods communicate with the phone via a series of pins and can give the smartphone a whole host of new features.
Moto will include what they call a Style Shell Mod which is basically a backplate that can be had in a variety of materials like nylon, wood, leather, etc. Besides that, there are other Mods that you can purchase too, like this cool one from JBL.
This Mod acts like a Bluetooth stereo speaker that can attach to the back of your smartphone. It can also add 1,000 mAh of battery power to your device plus a bangin’ sound system with its own kickstand. Other mods include a battery mode called the Power Pack Mod that adds 2,200 mAh to your smartphone and comes in a bunch of different styles.
Moto also has a projector Mod called the Insta-Share that lets you project what’s on your smartphone’s display, sort of like a pico projector.
All of this sounds rather familiar if you’ve been keeping up with LG’s “modular” G5, but the key difference is how seamless these Mods attach to the back of your Moto Z. Since everything is done with a magnet, there is no clunky release mechanism, no flimsy release switch and no need for you to reboot your smartphone. Just snap it on wait for the beep confirmation from the smartphone, and you’re good to go.
As icing on the cake, Moto also announced that the Mods will work with future versions of the Z smartphones and that they will be committed to the overall size and shape for at least two generations. Moto will also be releasing a development kit for third-party companies to make their own Mods and to entice developers, Lenovo is also putting up a USD1,000,000 fund for anyone that comes up with the best prototype Mod before the 31st of March 2017.
Of course, all of this sounds great on paper but how feasible this will be depends on the public’s reception of these Mods and the smartphone itself. Pricing of the Mods would likely be a key factor in determining their worth to the public and while Moto has not revealed how much each Mod would cost, they did tell The Verge that pricing would be “in line with similar smartphone accessories”.
Make no mistake, the Moto Z is in no way a modular smartphone (that’s why I’ve been using it in inverted commas this entire article), at least not in the traditional sense. But then again neither is the LG G5 and neither is Google’s Project Ara (if what we’re hearing about it is true).
But, currently it’s the most elegant solution I’ve seen to the semi-modular smartphone idea and I’m super stoked. How it will fare in the “drop test” remains to be seen. Still, one big piece is better than multiple tiny pieces, right?
The Moto Z will go on sale unlocked in the US and other parts of the world in September. Unfortunately, it seems that the Moto Z Force will not leave the US as it is a Verizon exclusive.
What do you guys think of the Moto Z?