Modular smartphones — phones with custom connectors that attach to aftermarket zoom camera lenses, hi-fi speakers, and even pico projectors — have achieved varying levels of success. Google put the kibosh on Project Ara, an ambitious modular smartphone platform, and LG’s G5 didn’t take off the way the company probably hoped. But Lenovo’s Moto Z and Moto Z Force have managed to catch on, more or less — in November, they surpassed 1 million sales. Unsurprisingly, Lenovo’s hoping to keep a good thing going. Case in point — the Timewave, a new Moto Mod.
The Timewave emerged from a Moto Mod accelerator Lenovo launched in 2016. In November, it teamed up with crowdfunding platform Indiegogo and Verizon to launch the “Transform the Smartphone Challenge,” a contest that tasked entrants with brainstorming ideas for new Moto Mods. Ten lucky winners get an all-expenses-paid trip to Motorola’s Chicago headquarters in March, where they will pitch ideas and hear feedback from a panel of Lenovo and Verizon venture capital arms.
The Timewave is one of the finalists. It’s is a case at its core, made of a textured soft plastic that provides extra grip and thick padding that protects against scrapes and falls. But it’s not your average accessory. The entire back cover is touch-sensitive, allowing for custom controls and gestures programmed with a custom launcher called the Esper. The Timewave’s creators call it a “5D surface,” capable of recognizing and processing strikes, presses, vertical swipes, horizontal slides, and lifts. It can be used to navigate the phone with one hand and a single index finger. And it pairs with software features like rich notifications, an app that automatically lights up in sync with your circadian rhythm, a meditation app, and a stretch timer.
The Timewave hasn’t quite made its way to store shelves, but the team has answered questions on Reddit and launched a teaser website. They expect to begin shipping the case this spring.
It joins a growing number of Moto Mods. Last year, Incipio launched a compatible extended battery and vehicle, JBL debuted external speakers, and Hasselblad took the wraps off a dedicated camera. “We are invested in the future of the Moto Mods ecosystem and we want to empower developers to dream, build, and fund their own Moto Mods,” Motorola said of the burgeoning ecosystem. “Over the next few months, we’ll be introducing new opportunities to help developers get involved.”