Moto Z with Moto Mods is the closest thing to a modular smartphone

Hasselblad True Zoom
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Moto can’t lay claim to being the first in the modular smartphone game, that distinction would have to go to LG with its G5. However, I think it’s fair to say that the Moto Z and Moto Z Play with Moto Mods are at least well-executed, and paints a promising picture for the modular platform.

Revealed at its global launch at IFA 2016 just hours ago, the Moto Z is the top-of-the-line flagship smartphone from Moto. Moto Z Play, on the other hand is its lower-rung sibling, though no less impressive. The US-only Moto Z Force was mentioned, but not displayed during the launch. Note that ‘Droid’-edition Moto Z phones are exclusive to Verizon Wireless (well, not anymore, aside from the Moto Z Force).

Moto Z launch
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David Roman

Moto Z Play
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[nextpage title=”Hello, Moto”]

Moto Z: Z one you want

The Moto Z is a great-looking device – sporting a glass back and metal frame. It’s surprisingly thin, with a depth of only 5.19mm. It’s light too, tipping the scales at just 136g.

It rocks a vibrant 5.5-inch QHD AMOLED display (535PPI) complete with Gorilla Glass. It has a front-mounted fingerprint reader, and uses on-screen buttons for navigation.

Under the hood, it boasts on of the quickest mobile processors in the market – Qualcomm 820 with an Adreno 530 GPU. It comes with 4GB of RAM, with storage options of 32GB or 64GB (market dependent). What’s good is that the dual-SIM device has an independent microSD expansion slot instead of a hybrid SIM found on some devices.

In the optics front, it gets a 13MP f/1.8 rear shooter with OIS, laser autofocus, dual LEDs. It sounds pretty well-rounded on paper, though not the best compared to the current competition. On the front, a 5MP selfie camera with wide angle lens and flash should keep selfie lovers happy.

The rear camera is capable of Full HD capture at 6-fps and 4K at 30fps.

Moto Z
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Keeping it juiced is a 2,600mAh battery. Not the biggest found on flagships, but Moto claims battery life of up to 30 hours of mixed usage.

The good thing about the battery is that it supports TurboPower – giving you 8 hours of power in just 15 minutes of charging.

Oh it’s worth a mention that the Moto Z (and the Play) comes sans conventional headphone jack. Yes, Moto has beat Apple to it.

The Moto Z runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with Moto enhancements (Moto Display, Moto Actions and Moto Voice).

What you’ll notice is the 16-gold-pins connector on the bottom back of the device. This is secret for Moto Mods to work. More about this later.

Moto Z Play

Moto Z Play features the same metal and glass finish of the Moto Z. Again, it’s thin, measuring just 6.99mm and weighing in at 165g.

It sports a lower resolution 5.5-inch Super AMOLED Display (403PPI), protected by Gorilla Glass.

The device plays well with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 with an Adreno 506 GPU. It comes with 3GB of RAM and 32GB  or 64GB (China) of storage. Upgrades are possible via microSD (up to 2TB).

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The Moto Z Play packs a 16MP f/2.0 camera with laser autofocus, PDAF and colour-balancing dual LED flash.

Depending on countries/regions, the Moto Z Play may come in single- or dual-SIM variants. It has a whopping 3,150mAh battery and supports Turbo Power.

Like the Moto Z, the Moto Z Play also has an integrated 16-pin connector on the back of the device and a fingerprint reader on the front.

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[nextpage title=”Moto Mods: Snap it on!”]

Moto Mods

Moto Mods are modules that you literally ‘snap on’ to the back of Moto Z devices to add features to the phones.

How it works is pretty innovative. Like you’ve seen on the ThinkPad Stack, there are embedded, shrouded magnets (six of them actually) on the Moto Z and Moto Mods modules. This help to accurately align both and snap them in to place.

These magnets are pretty strong, it does take some effort to take them apart.

At the bottom of the Moto Z and Moto Mods modules is a 16- gold pin connector. This is the secret sauce that enables communication between the smartphone and module.

Moto Insta-share Projector
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Moto Insta-Share Projector

There are a dozen cool Moto Mods at launch. First of all, there’s the Moto Insta-Share Projector. The projector tech is highly similar to the one on the Yoga Tab 3 Pro. The 50 lumens projector gives you an image size of up to 70-inch. Contrast is 400:1, and it has autofocus and auto keystone adjustment.

With a battery size of 1,100mAh, it is self-powered, although once it hits its limit, it draws power from the phone.

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JBL SoundBoost

Then there’s the JBL SoundBoost for those looking for bigger sound when watching videos or listening to music. Snap on and get 6W of powerful sound through its dual-speaker, stereo sound set-up. They’re pretty loud too – commendable 80dB. It has a 1,000mAh battery that is claimed to give you up to 10 hours of playback time. A built-in kickstand keep the phone propped up for listening pleasure.

Incipio offGRID Power Pack

Well-known phone case maker Incipio has several add-on power packs for the Moto Z. The Incipio offGRID Power Pack, alongside co-branded TUMI and kate spade New York versions. They weigh just 79g and comes with 2,220mAh of juice. This effectively gives your Moto Z up to 22 hours of battery life. There’s also a wireless charging version that supports Qi 1.2.1 and PMA 3.0 standards.

Hasselblad True Zoom
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Hasselblad True Zoom

The headliner for Moto Mods is this – the Hasselblad True Zoom. Not unlike Leica’s co-engineering partnership with Huawei, Hasselblad has worked closely with Moto to bring this amazing piece of machinery.

The camera add-on weighs 145g, and features a camera-like design with a reassuringly good grip. It features a physical shutter button, zoom toggle and power button on the top. There’s a xenon flash up front, just in case conditions are dimly lit.

Its claim to fame is its 10x Optical / 4x Digital zoom.

Under its point-and-shoot camera like exterior, the Hasseblad True Zoom rocks a 13MP BSI CMOS sensor (1/2.3-inch) that supports RAW image capture and 1080 Full HD at 30fps. It comes with OIS for video and EIS for video. The large 1.55um pixel means great low light photos.

Check out Moto Mods here:

Initial impressions

The era of the modular phone is here. While it isn’t quite Project ARA, it shows that there is a future for the modular smartphone. Based on consumer feedback, Moto doesn’t believe that people want a hardcore modular phone where you can swap processors and etc. But people do want to customize their phones (ala Moto Style) and add-on certain features, hence Moto Mods.

It’s well-executed, I’ll give you that, and it’s a good start. Moto says Moto Mods will support up to three generations of Moto Z smartphones, so you won’t end up hanging when new devices come out.

Expect more nifty Moto Mods to come out in the future, with the Moto Mods Developer Program in force.

The unlocked Moto Z is coming to the US in October for US$699.99/MYR2,856. The Moto Z Play will retail at US$449/MYR1,832.

Lenovo’s exhibition area at IFA is at Hall 11.2, Booth 101 @ Messe Berlin, Messedamm 22, 14055 Berlin.

Follow Lenovo IFA updates @LenovoLive @LenovoPress and hashtags #LenovoLaunch #LenovoIFA

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