Motorola's Moto Mods are one of the Moto Z's best attributes. And Motorola committed to them in a major way at Mobile World Congress.
One of the most unique — and arguably best — features of Lenovo’s Moto Z series is Moto Mods. The growing portfolio of modular add-ons includes cameras, speakers, batteries, and more, and on Sunday at Mobile World Congress, Motorola announced several additions to the lineup.
Motorola debuted a new Power Pack that snaps onto the Moto Z like an external battery. It gives any Moto Z up to 50 percent more power, the company said, and automatically detects the phone’s level of charge, replenishing the battery only when it’s “most efficient.”
It’ll be available starting in March for $50.
Another charging accessory, the Charging Adapter, is designed to recharge any new and existing Moto Mod. It’s a tiny box that fits over the metal connector on the Mod to be charged and plugs into an outlet, or other external charging device.
One of the most impressive of Motorola’s new Mods adds wireless charging capabilities to any Moto Z on the market. It features a glass design.
Finally, Motorola’s new Gamepad Moto Mod adds console controls to Moto Z devices. It snaps on the back and adds two joysticks, a directional pad, trigger buttons, and a lanyard loop. It comes preloaded with games, but Motorola didn’t elaborate.
That’s not all Motorola announced.
Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service, a set of APIs that allow hardware makers to integrate the Alexa voice assistant into their products, will hit Moto Z devices later this year in the form of a specially designed mod. It features a glowing blue light that illuminates when Alexa is activated, and a pyramidal base that doubles as a desk stand.
Interestingly, the Alexa-equipped Moto Mod can do more than Amazon’s own Alexa-equipped Echo speakers in some ways. It pairs with a companion app that shows search results based on voice queries — if you ask about the weather in Barcelona, for example, it’ll show a three-day weather forecast.
Motorola said that later in the year, Moto Z would gain “deeper integration” with Alexa. It will respond to Alexa’s wake word from the lock screen, and show results in a companion app.
Motorola took the time to show concept Mods, or ideas for Moto Mods that might (or might not) make it to market.
The first, a Polaroid-like printer for Moto Z devices, spits out photos on compact sheets of paper. A robotics module adds motors and connectors that transform any Moto Z into the brains of a Lego remote-controlled car or automaton. And a mutlilevel docking station serves as a charger for multiple Mods.
Two other concept Mods skewed a bit more practical. One, a giant, tablet-like stand with a docking station that fits a Moto Z Force, is more than a little reminiscent of Motorola’s Atrix laptop dock and Lenovo’s PadFone. The other, a virtual reality headset, uses a Moto Z handset’s screen as a VR display, much like Samsung’s Galaxy Gear.
More Mods on the horizon
Mods are the number one reason people are buying Moto Zs, Motorola said. They’re putting them to use: The average Moto Z user swaps Mods an average of 14 hours a week, Motorola said.
To help spur the development of Mods further forward, Motorola has teamed up with manufacturers to formulate a development platform. It will continue to design Mods itself, but it’ll also co-design Mods with partners, and let approved third-parties make, sell, and market Mods entirely by themselves.
In many cases, it’s jump-starting the development efforts itself. In India, Motorola recently hosted more than 100 developers, engineers, students, and partners to discuss new Moto Mod concepts. And it held hackathons in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and San Francisco last year.
The pop-up events dovetail with Motorola’s Transform the Smartphone Challenge, a competition that saw enterprising young hardware developers pitch ideas for Moto Mods at events in New York and San Francisco. They subsequently launched crowdfunding campaigns on Indiegogo, and have a shot at meeting with Verizon and Motorola representatives to get their Moto Mods featured in Motorola’s online store.
Motorola said the fruit of those efforts will emerge as soon as March.