Moto Mods adds increased functionality to the Moto Z with Insta-Share Projector, JBL SoundBoost Speaker and offGrid Power Pack. (all images via Moto-Mods)


Every year smartphone companies release a new iteration of their flagship devices that seemingly have marginal upgrades from their previous line - usually a slightly higher screen resolution, better camera and a larger battery. That’s to say revolutionary upgrades with new technology don’t happen every year and what’s more, users typically can’t upgrade their existing phones beyond increasing the storage (provided it has a microSD slot) and increasing battery life with an external pack.


How about they stop telling us what we should upgrade to, but give the ability to change it ourselves?


Some companies such as Google, Phonebloks and PuzzlePhone (among a host of others) are looking to change the way these devices are upgraded by going modular - different cameras, batteries, speakers and storage can be switched out when damaged or when better hardware is introduced. While all of those modular phones hold promise for the way we will use smartphones in the near future, none of them have hit the market as of yet, except for Motorola’s (Lenovo) new Moto Z and the introduction of their Moto Mods.



The Moto Z itself features a 5.5-inch (1440 X 2560 resolution) AMOLED screen, 4 GB RAM, 13MP camera and a 2600mAh Li-Ion battery.


The Moto Z itself sports most of the hardware you would expect in any flagship phone- a 5.5-inch AMOLED display (1440 X 2560 resolution @ 535ppi), 4 GB of RAM, 13MP camera, 32/64 GB of storage (with up to 256 GB using microSD slot) and a 2600mAh battery. Nothing out of the ordinary or truly innovative when compared to others currently on the market but when you factor in the upcoming Moto Mods, the phone clearly separates itself from the others.


Motorola is currently releasing four Mods along with a slew of interchangeable back-plates from several different manufacturers that are designed to increase the phone’s functionality. Each Mod connects to the back of the phone using a series of strong magnets (housed inside the phone itself) to hold them in place and automatically adjusts itself when connected- meaning users simply snap them in place and start using the new functionality.


Those Mods include the Insta-Share Projector - projects media onto flat surfaces from up to 70-inches away, JBL SoundBoost Speaker-gives the phone a powerful stereo external speaker (complete with stand) and an Incipio offGrid Power Pack- gives the phone increased battery life. Notice I said four Mods, the last turns the Moto Z into a development platform using the Moto Mods Development Kit (MDK).



The Moto Mods Development Kit includes a reference Moto Mod, Perforated Board and example cover plate. Hope the kit comes with a few of these. How many perf-boards have you destroyed?


The Development Kit is essentially a blank Mod that houses a Perforated Board that can be used as an adapter platform for other dev boards, including Raspberry Pi HATs and Motorola’s Personality Cards. This essentially allows developers to design their own Mods or other projects with the Moto Z without altering the ROM. They’ve even included the APIs necessary for developing with Android.


The Perforated Board is essentially the primary platform for Mod development and includes 80 connection pins with 26 rows of soldering points to attach the other dev boards directly to the phone. The MDK also includes the HAT adapter that acts as a bridge to connect any number of RPi HATs to the Moto Z and features a standard 40-pin header and 15-pin camera and display header as well. Of course in order to use the HATs, it needs to be connect to the 80-pin connector on the Moto Mod seen above.


For strictly developing Mods for the Moto Z, Motorola designed Personality Cards for building prototypes. These are end-to-end reference modules that can be attached for developing your own Mods that include samples for audio, battery, display and even a temperature sensor if the project calls for it. If you actually build your own Moto Mod and want to sell and want to bring to the market, you’ll have to collaborate with Motorola- meaning no using any personal online retail entity or community, which could be a turn-off for some.


Then there’s the cost- the phones come in two flavors (minus the MDK) with the standard Moto Z costing $624 and the Force version (larger batter @ 3500mAh and camera @ 21MP) costing $720 respectively. Will this Moto Z be the next big thing in dev?


You can read more about the Moto Mods Development Kit and the personality cards that element14 have available.


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