Moto Z: Meet the modular mobile


Ultra capable candidate: The Moto Z is a very competent Android Marshmallow smartphone with a very nifty feature which allows you to attach external devices. — Photos: TAN KIT HOONG/The Star

Ultra capable candidate: The Moto Z is a very competent Android Marshmallow smartphone with a very nifty feature which allows you to attach external devices. — Photos: TAN KIT HOONG/The Star

Add new features, including a projector, to the Moto Z smartphone with the Moto Mods.

Thanks to miniaturisation and the relentless march of technology, ­companies have been introducing smartphones that can accept add-ons for additional features

However, this idea is not new – in the late 1990s, I owned a Handspring Visor personal digital assistant with an expansion slot called Springboard that accepted all kinds of modules, including for mobile phone and music player.

This idea has now been taken to the next level with the Moto Z and its Moto Mods, as the add-on ­modules are called.

Out of the box

Before we go on with the Moto Mods, the real question is how does the Moto Z perform as a smartphone?

Right out of the box, you’ll notice that the Moto Z is one very thin phone – by default it comes with a standard back cover which ­magnetically attaches to the back of the device.

You’d think that since it’s only attached with magnets, the cover would easily come off but that’s not the case (pardon the pun).

The Moto Z with its current lineup of Moto Mods accessories
The Moto Z with its current lineup of Moto Mods accessories.

The cover (and Moto Mods) will only come off if you pull them apart in the prescribed way which is usually from the bottom up.

The screen is a very nice 5.5in Amoled display with a 1,440 x 2,560-pixel resolution. Just like most Amoled screens, the ­colours are quite punchy and ­saturated which is great if you like that sort of thing but it does give up a little in terms of colour ­accuracy.

The Moto Z has a fingerprint sensor on the front and you’d be forgiven for thinking that it also doubles as a Home button. The sensor only works to unlock your phone (and to turn it off if you choose that in the settings).

Instead, like most Android phones these days, the Home, Back and the recent apps buttons are software buttons that appear at the bottom of the display, just above the sensor.

The 13-megapixel camera on the back of the Moto Z has an f/1.8 aperture and pretty good image quality on its own. If you want a camera upgrade you can always opt for the Hasselblad camera Moto Mod.
The 13-megapixel camera on the back of the Moto Z has an f/1.8 aperture and pretty good image quality on its own. If you want a camera upgrade you can always opt for the Hasselblad camera Moto Mod.

Performance-wise, the Moto Z actually did quite well – everything was snappy and I never experienced any slowdowns. And in terms of battery life, it’s pretty okay – when used mainly for browsing the Web, sending ­messages and making phone calls, you can easily get through the entire workday and night.

The phone supports TurboPower, Moto’s name for fast charging – 15 minutes of charging will get you up to seven hours of battery life.

Moto Mods

What sets the Moto Z apart is of course the Moto Mods – at launch, a number of third-party hardware makers already have modules ready to snap on to the Moto Z.

The Moto Mods attach to the back of the Moto Z via these gold connectors and well-placed magnets.
The Moto Mods attach to the back of the Moto Z via these gold connectors and well-placed magnets.

We got to try a whole bunch, including the Incipio Offgrid Power Pack, Hasselblad True Zoom camera, Insta-Share Projector and JBL SoundBoost.

Interestingly, the modules are truly plug and play – or should I say snap and play – as they can be attached to the back of the phone and will automatically work without any configuration or fiddling around with the settings.

When you snap on the Hasselblad True Zoom, for example, the camera app will automatically choose the True Zoom and you can simply snap photos as normal.

The Hasselblad camera Moto Mod has a whopping 10x zoom lens.
The Hasselblad camera Moto Mod has a whopping 10x zoom lens.

The True Zoom has a ­whopping 10x zoom so it will take you from wide-angle to a very long telephoto and everything in between with a flick of a switch.

Image quality on the True Zoom is pretty excellent and something you might want to consider if the Moto Z’s 13-megapixel image sensor with a fixed wide-angle lens just won’t do for you.

The True Zoom has its own 12-megapixel image sensor and can also record images in RAW format.

Another Moto Mod which I quite liked was the Insta-Share Projector which adds a pico projector to the Moto Z, which will mirror anything you currently have on the screen.

The Insta-Share Projector turns the Moto Z into a tiny projector that can project images and video up to 70in size.
The Insta-Share Projector turns the Moto Z into a tiny projector that can project images and video up to 70in size.

The resolution is only 854 x 480-pixels but it really doesn’t ­matter too much if you’re watching a movie – I tried it with YouTube videos and being able to project movies at up to 70in in size really makes for more immersive viewing.

Interestingly, the Insta-Share has auto keystone correction so it will automatically compensate for any vertical distortion caused by not having the projector perfectly square to the screen.

The JBL SoundBoost and the Incipio Offgrid Power Pack are more basic in function – the JBL adds speakers which give you louder and clearer sound in stereo while the Incipio is an add-on ­battery pack.

Conclusion

The Moto Z is a really nice phone – in the time that I had it, I really appreciated how thin it was and how good it feels in the hand.

However, it’s the Moto Mods that are the real stroke of genius – they are truly seamless in functionality and it looks like the company has done some work to ensure that the Moto Mods work well.

The Moto Z is reasonably priced – at RM2,699 it’s ­certainly not cheap, but you’re getting a really good phone for the price.

Even if you look beyond the Moto Mods the Moto Z is a good smartphone.
Even if you look beyond the Moto Mods, the Moto Z is a good smartphone.

Of course, if you’re going to invest in the Moto Mods, the price of ownership is likely to go up – the Hasselblad is RM1,299, Insta-Share is RM1,399 and Incipio is RM499.

Moto says that the Moto Mods are supposed to work with future Z phones so at least the modules won’t turn into junk when you get a new Moto in the future.

Pros: Very thin, compact body; Moto Mods are fun and useful additions; good performance. 

Cons: Fingerprint sensor does not double as a Home button; Moto mods are not cheap.

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Moto Z
(Lenovo)
Android smartphone
NETWORK: 4G
OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 6.0.1
DISPLAY: 5.5in Amoled(1,440 x 2,560 pixels)
CAMERA: 13 megapixels f/1.8 (rear), 5 megapixels f/2.2 (front)
CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth 4.1 LE, WiFi with MIMO
PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
MEMORY: 64GB internal storage (expandable up to 2TB with microSD)
BATTERY: 2,600mAh
DIMENSIONS (W x D x H): 75.3 x 5.19 x 153.3mm
WEIGHT: 136g
PRICE: RM2,699
RATING: 4 stars
Review unit courtesy of Moto Malaysia, www.moto.com/my/home