Modular Moto Z phones do it with magnets


— 3:50 PM on June 9, 2016

Lenovo's Phab 2 Pro phone and its Google Tango brains would have made an impressive enough announcement on their own, but the company wasn't done yet. It's also unveiling its next high-end Motorola smartphones today: the Moto Z and the extra-durable Moto Z Force.


The Moto Z. Source: Motorola

Both phones have the kind of high-end specs we want to see in a flagship Android device in 2016, but that's not what makes them interesting. What does make them interesting is Motorola's take on the modular craze kicked off by LG's G5 and fanned by the Project Ara phone Google showed off at its I/O conference. Thanks to the magic of magnets, Moto Z owners can snap on a variety of magnetic back covers that add a variety of functions to the phone.

From launch, Motorola will be offering four of these backs. The first is a JBL "SoundBoost" speaker that puts out 6W of stereo jam-pumping power. This back also contains a 1000-mAh battery that lets owners avoid draining the phone's battery while rocking out.

The Moto "Insta-Share Projector" can purportedly turn any flat surface with a diagonal of up to 70" into an impromptu theater. The projector back holds a 1100-mAh battery that Moto rates for an hour of extra screen time. This back's 854x480 resolution isn't going to fool anyone into thinking they're at a Cinerama showing, though.

Battery case maker Incipio will offer a Moto Z-ready pack called the Offgrid. Moto says this 2220-mAh pack is good for up to 22 hours of extra life in a mixed-use situation. Incipio will be offering the Offgrid in a wireless-charger-compatible version and a plug-in version, as well as a variety of color options.

Last, but not least, Moto will continue to offer Z buyers a way to express themselves with custom backs that it's calling "Style Shells." Wood, leather, and fabric-covered shells will all be available, and given the range of custom options available through Moto Maker in the past, buyers shouldn't have any trouble finding a shell to fit their tastes. Of course, it'll be possible to run these phones naked, too.

Now for the spec lists. The Moto Z's metal, water-repellent body houses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 SoC, 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, and 32GB or 64GB of internal storage, augmentable with up to 2TB of microSD space. It runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, and its 2600-mAh battery is claimed to be good for "up to 30 hours" of mixed use. Owners can give that battery up to eight hours of juice in 15 minutes of charging, too, presumably with the right charger. 

The Moto Z's screen is a 5.5" AMOLED panel with a 2560x1440 resolution. Photographers get a 13MP rear camera with an f/1.8 aperture. That same shooter can capture 4K HDR video at up to 30 FPS. The Moto Z's selfie shooter is a 5MP unit with an f/2.2, "wide-angle" lens.


The Moto Z Force. Source: Motorola

The Moto Z Force adds a shatter-proof screen to the package, a capability that Motorola guarantees for four years from the phone's purchase date. This hardier phone also gets a 3500-mAh battery that can store as much as 15 hours of juice in 15 minutes of charging, plus a 21MP rear camera.

Both phones will be Verizon exclusives to begin with in the USA, and they'll be marketed under the "Droid Edition" tagline. Those phones should be available this summer. Moto says unlocked editions will begin shipping later in the year.

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