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Moto Mods hands-on review (featuring Hasselblad True Zoom mod)

Moto Mods hands-on review: Lenovo and Motorola have been hard at work developing a range of modular accessories to complement its Moto Z smartphone family and we went hands-on with the lot of them at IFA 2016.

If you haven’t heard of Moto Mods we cover everything you need to know here, but read on to find out more about each mods’ specific functionality.

Lenovo/Motorola Moto Mods: Moto Style Shell

The Style Shells are the bread and butter of the Moto Mods line, demonstrating the simplicity of the Z family’s modular technology and adding an element of personality to your phone at the same time.

Moto Mods: Style Shells

Serving as what are essentially magnetically detachable back covers for any of the Z phones, the Style Shells come in a range of colours and materials that add 2mm of thickness to the back of any of the compatible handsets, which is somewhat of a benefit as the additional depth irons out the phone’s otherwise prominent rear camera bump.

Presently there are six different style shells; herringbone nylon, crimson ballistic nylon, silver oak (wood), washed oak (wood) and charcoal ash (wood), whilst the fifth black leather option costs a tad more.

Lenovo/Motorola Moto Mods: Incipio offGRID power pack

Case maker Incipio is one of a number of third-parties already involved with the Moto Mod line and it’s created a variation of its offGRID power pack for the Moto Z family.

They’re thicker than the Style Shells at 6.2mm and depending on whether you opt for the version with (currently US-only) or without wireless charging, add 85 grams or 79 grams to the overall weight of your phone respectively.

Moto Mods: Incipio offGRID power pack

Each power pack mod is finished in soft touch rubber with gentle rounding, so the Moto Z feels pleasant to hold, despite the extra bulk and along with black and white versions to match the phone’s native colourways, partnerships with Kate Spade and Tumi give you the benefit of an optional dose of designer style.

The 2220mAh battery inside is good for up to an additional 22 hours of use, which paired to the Moto Z Play’s existing 50 hours of use on a single charge, is pretty exceptional. Pricing starts at £59.99.

Lenovo/Motorola Moto Mods: JBL SoundBoost Speaker

Music lovers and media buffs looking to bolster their phone’s entertainment chops might like the JBL SoundBoost Speaker. It’s the biggest (13mm thick), heaviest (145 grams) mod of the current range but packs a punch with, strong, clear output from its dual 27mm 3W (each) drivers.

Moto Mods: JBL SoundBoost Speaker Moto Mods: JBL SoundBoost Speaker w/ kickstand

The integrated 1000mAh battery charges using the same Type-C USB connection as the Moto Z family and boasts 10 hours of use per charge, plus the integrated kickstand makes it great for enjoying videos too. At £69.99 we’re just curious whether it’s a better option over a standalone Bluetooth speak that works with any smartphone. The choice will ultimately be yours.

Lenovo/Motorola Moto Mods: Insta-Share Projector

Another mod from Lenovo’s own labs is the Moto Insta-Share Projector. Unlike Samsung’s Galaxy Beam and the company’s own Yoga Tab Pro line, going with a detachable mod removes the risk of damage when it’s not in use, not to mention having the ability to remove the obvious additional bulk the gubbins that make up the Insta-Share Projector take up.

Moto Mods: Moto Insta-Share Projector

It’s impressively slim at 11mm, although perhaps not quite as in keeping with the Moto Z aesthetic as the majority of the other mods are. The brushed metal band at the mid-point of the projector not only serves as a nice design element but pulls down on a taught hinge to serve as a stand so you can angle it. Intelligently, the projector also offers automatic keystone correction to iron out distortion, by way of the phone’s gyroscope data, which is a great demonstration of Moto phone and mod working in harmony.

The Insta-Share Projector also features its own 1100mAh battery to supplement the power drain on your phone (cited as offering an extra hour of playback), a focus wheel and it’s capable of throwing up to a 70-inch WVGA image from its 50-lumen DLP setup.  The biggest sticking point for interested parties may, however, be its £249.99 price tag.

Lenovo/Motorola Moto Mods: Hasselblad True Zoom

The newest mod in the collection was unveiled at IFA 2016 alongside the new Moto Z Play and news that both the Z Play and Moto Z would finally be coming to Europe. Lenovo joined forces with famed camera brand Hasselblad to create the True Zoom mod.

Moto Mods: Hasselblad True Zoom 1 Moto Mods: Hasselblad True Zoom 2

As the name implies you’ll essentially be able to strap a full digital camera to the back of your Moto Z phone which offers a number of added benefits. The main hook is a 10x optical zoom, emulating the experience offered up by the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, but you also get a physical shutter button and zoom toggle, a 12-megapixel sensor with larger 1.55μm pixels in place of the Z/Z Play’s native camera sensor, a xenon flash and on the software side RAW image support.

Moto Mods: Hasselblad True Zoom 3 Moto Mods: Hasselblad True Zoom 4

At £199 it’ll serve as a marginally cheaper alternative to some standalone compact digital cameras if you want more from the imaging experience on the Moto Z phones, but we’ll pass judgement once we’ve taken it for a real spin.

Lenovo/Motorola Moto Mods: What next?

Whilst other phones like LG’s G5 promise similar functionality, Lenovo appears to be one of the few companies genuinely committed to building out a portfolio of truly modular accessories in the coming years. Along with the existing third-party partnerships, the company revealed that it’s actually in talks with over 50 names surrounding potential Moto Mods, including those that extend beyond the dimensions of the current Moto Z phones.

Potential future mods could allow interfacing with IoT devices, compatibility with Google’s Project Tango 3D mapping technology and even applications in the automotive space. The company says it’s committed to supporting the current iteration of the Moto Mod interface as far as 2018, with plans to add new functionality that may not be 100 per cent backwards compatible beyond that. It’s also supporting third-party developers who create mods using the development tools available to anyone, direct from the company’s website.

With Google’s Project Ara modular smartphone recently confirmed to have been shelved and the limited reach of devices like the Fairphone 2, it looks as though Lenovo/Motorola is now the front-runner in the push for modular smartphone technology.

Watch our IFA hands-on review of all the Moto Mods covered here, below:


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