The Moto Z's snap-on Moto Mod modules make it the first convertible smartphone

If you want a projector, external speaker, or just more battery, Lenovo's got you covered.

At Lenovo’s Tech World conference on Thursday, Motorola debuted a new take on the modular phone, launching the Moto Z and Moto Z Force with a trio of modular add-ons, dubbed Moto Mods.

Though both phones will be available unlocked, Verizon will launch them this summer as the Moto Z Droid Edition and Moto Z Force Droid, for an undisclosed price. The Moto Mods will be available then as well, executives said. The unlocked version of the phone will follow this fall, executives said.

moto z side angle

The Moto Z Force differs from the Moto Z by boasting a larger battery and a shatterproof display.

On the surface, the specifications of the Moto Z Droid aren’t that unusual: The 5.5-inch phone boasts a 2560x1440 AMOLED display, a 2.2GHz Snapdragon 820 CPU, and 4GB of RAM, with a 5MP front camera as well as a 13MP f/ 1.8 rear camera with automatic HDR. The Moto Z Droid includes a 2,600mAh battery, good for 30 hours of mixed usage. It also includes what Motorola calls TurboCharging, which can charge the battery enough for eight hours of use in just 15 minutes. The Force edition is similar, but with a “guaranteed” shatterproof display, a larger 40-hour battery, and a 21MP camera on the rear of the phone, Motorola said.

moto z front

Front view of the 5.5-inch body.

Flip the phone around, though, and you’ll notice two rows of metallic dots, connectors to enable the new Moto Mods. A Moto Mod is part case, part attachment, providing additional capabilities by attaching to the rear of the phone. Lenovo’s modular approach leaked before the announcement, though the specifics weren't revealed until today.

moto z back

Connector dots on the back of the Moto Z, provide expandability via Moto Mods.

Why this matters: If you’ve been following what Lenovo has been doing in the PC industry, the company’s modular approach shouldn’t come as a surprise. Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Tablet also includes a modular connector and three productivity modules: a projector, an external battery pack, and an “imaging” module that the Motorola smartphone obviously doesn’t need. It’s an efficient way to add additional functionality, while leaving it as an optional add-on for those who don't need it.

Moto Mods: Spicing up a vanilla smartphone market

“Right now there are 200 manufacturers [with phones] that feel the same, look the same, and work the same,” said Yang Yuanqing, the chairman and chief executive of Lenovo. “Consumers have waited for something revolutionary for a long time. Lenovo does not want you to wait any longer.”

Motorola will launch at least three new Moto Mods, executives said: the Insta-Share Projector, the JBL SoundBoost speaker, and the Incipio OffGrid Power Pack. A number of “shells,” or cases, are also available, boasting natural materials like wood.

moto z motomods @evleaks

The three available Moto Mods snap onto the body much like a case.

The Insta-Share Projector is designed to take the smartphone’s display and project it up to 70 inches on any surface. It also includes a small additional battery, good for about one extra hour of additional battery life, according to Seang Chau, the senior vice president of software engineering at Motorola. It can project up to 50 lumens, with a contrast ratio of 400:1, according to Motorola.

Both the Projector as well as the JBL Sound Boost include a kickstand, a feature that has largely disappeared from modern smartphones. Motorola said the SoundBoost should pump out 3 watts through each of its speakers, for a total volume of 80dBSPL @ 0.5 m. It sounded moderately loud, audible from the balcony in the Masonic Auditorium in San Francisco, where Lenovo launched its new products.

moto mods incipio offgrid power pack white

The Incipio OffGrid Power Pack in white.

Finally, there’s the Incipio offGrid power pack, designed for one thing: to add extra battery life. The Incipio Motomod adds 22 hours of battery life, Motorola claims, with its 2220mAh battery. A wireless charging option is also available, supporting both the Qi 1.2.1 and PMA wireless charging standards, Motorola said.

moto mods style mod black herring 5

The natural wood shell is one of many cosmetic options for the Moto Z phones, although notice you can't use a shell and a Mod Mod simultaneously, since the connector dots are covered up.

And if that’s not enough, Motorola is working with external developers to make even more. Yuanqing announced a million-dollar developer prize for the best new Moto Mod, which he will personally award. “The sky is the limit,” he said.

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Mark Hachman

Mark Hachman

PC World
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