Have Modular Phones Arrived? Lenovo Launches Modular Moto Z, Moto Z Force Smartphones


Moto Z Moto Z Force

First LG did with its flagship smartphone, LG G5, early this year and now Lenovo has done it with Motorola smartphones. Everything started with Google’s initiative Ara to provide a customizable smartphone to its users who do not want hard-coded specifications for their daily use.

At Lenovo Tech World 2016 in San Francisco, California, much awaited premium Motorola Moto Z and Moto Z Force smartphones were announced. Although G5 has a different structure to replace components in the phone, Moto Z and Z Force get magnetic snap-on panels.

These attachable panels ‘Moto Mods’ can house a larger battery, JBL speakers, projector capabilities and more. Naturally the back panels will make the phone thicker, but at 5.2mm thickness, Moto Z is the thinnest premium phone in the world right now.

Just like LeEco Le 2 and Le Max 2 smartphones launched recently, the two Moto phones ditch the 3.5mm headphone jack for a USB Type-C port, which limits the utility of the smartphone on the go.

Moto Z and Z Force specifications

Moto Z, the cheaper of the two variants, is much like an upgraded Moto X 2015

  • 5.5-inch qHD AMOLED touch screen
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor coupled with 4GB of RAM
  • Memory options of 32GB and 64GB will also be provided to users, and it is great that 16GB has been omitted from the range
  • External storage can be expanded using micro-SD cards of upto 2TB
  • 13MP rear camera with optical image stabilization, laser autofocus and flash
  • The front features a 5MP camera with wide-angle lens and flash, a fingerprint scanner like the recently launched Moto G4
  • 2600mAh battery, which Lenovo claims can give upto 30 hours of battery life, however the claim needs to be tested to confirm the real-time usage value
  • Comes with Android Marshmallow 6.0.1 out of the box and is nearly stock Android with minimal mods by Lenovo

Moto Z Force, just like the Moto X Force, comes with a shatter-proof display and has the same specifications as its sibling above. It comes with a larger 3500mAh battery which can last up to 40 hours on a single charge. The rear camera has also been bumped up to 21MP and houses an additional phase detection autofocus capability.

Both the smartphones have quick charging capabilities built-in and promise an 8 hour usage on a charge of just 15 minutes. Sadly, the phones do not have a 3.5mm headphone jack for listening to music. You have to make do with a USB Type-C port instead, which will make you prioritize charging your phone or plugging in your headphones.

What is the fuss about Moto Mods?

Moto Mods

Very frankly, Moto Mods are like extensions to your phone that will add another dimension to your smartphone. For example, a snap-on JBL SoundBoost speaker back panel will amplify your smartphone’s sound and create a surreal experience for you.

A Moto-Insta Share projector will project your smartphone’s screen up to 70-inch, allowing you to enjoy your favourite videos, TV shows and music videos in a bigger dimension. A power pack back panel can also be attached to juice up the battery life by up to 22 hours.

Motorola will also provide a host of other panels to customize and change the look of your smartphone. Interesting idea to start with, but can the size of the panels be decreased to accommodate more than one at the same time? Perhaps watching an HD movie with JBL SoundBoost speakers to create a cinema theatre like experience?

Mind you, this is just the start and we hope to see this technology quickly shaping to how users would like their smartphones to be. 2 years back no one had thought of such attachments, and I am sure two years from now we’ll be able to assemble and dismantle smartphones like Ikea furniture.

Is 3.5mm headphone jack going to be dead by next year?

Smartphones are getting thinner and thinner every year, which accommodating more than they did the previous year. Size zero is in and technology in general is becoming more compact.

Now there are some things that have not changed since the time smartphones were introduced, including batteries and 3.5mm port. Once a smartphones becomes thinner at 5mm, some components like the headphone port have to removed so as to adjust other larger and more important components like a bigger battery, stronger processor and a more efficient GPU.

We have also heard reports of Apple planning to remove the headphone jack altogether, which makes us wonder if the 3.5mm port is actually going to be extinct by next year. Smartphone manufacturers are trying to collate multiple features in one component to reduce the bulkiness of the phone and make it as modular as possible.

I honestly do not support the decision of doing away with the 3.5mm port unless an accessory is provided by the handset maker that satiates my need to use both a charging cable and an earphone at the same time.

The Z and Z Force smartphones look very promising and Lenovo has also confirmed that the X series is not dead yet, so we can expect these phones to be priced upwards of Rs. 35,000 in India.

So, what’s your take? Are we looking at arrival of modular phones era? Do you think they will get popular? Do let us know in comments section below!

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