When I was in the US a couple of weeks back the TV was dominated by ads for the new Moto phone, the Z. “Must get me one of those to play with!” I thought. And I did.
The Moto Z is a ‘modular’ phone. This is an idea that has been causing much excitement over recent years, ever since an amateur posted a YouTube vid showing how such an idea might work. The back of the phone would be made up of interlocking components that could be replaced to tailor its capabilities or apply upgrades. Google took the idea on and it became Project Ara, until it was recently culled.
I was never convinced by the Ara approach: the overhead in size, manufacturing cost, battery life and performance caused by breaking out the components would just be more than the customer would bear. Modular phones of this type with current technology would not be very competitive.
Fortunately, the Moto Z takes a different approach. All the core components are deeply integrated as we’ve come to expect. This time in an ultra-thin shell for the Z, or a slightly thicker shell in the Play Z, which has the added advantage of a huge battery life.
On the back of the phone is a multi-pin interface and magnetic locks that allow a range of accessories to be easily added and removed. Moto (now a Lenovo brand and nothing to do with the original Motorola), supplied us with the JBL speaker, Hasselblad camera, and a micro-projector attachment.
I’ll review those separately. Let’s talk about the phone itself. The Moto Z is a slim, attractive and competent. Powerful enough for the most demanding user, it is always snappy in use and copes with the most demanding games — perhaps the best test of a phone’s hardware these days. The Android implementation is unfussy, with the addition of some nice gesture controls to activate key features.
On the back the camera is good, if not best in class. On the front, the screen is bright and clear and very responsive.
Bring together the ultra-slim aesthetic and top-notch performance and it is clear that this is a premium phone, even before you get to the MotoMods. But the ability to transform is really the Z’s party piece and that gives it an added dimension with which other phones can’t compete.
Transformer phones won’t be for everyone, but the Moto Z is just a really good phone that also transforms. There’s no real compromise to get that added capability. If you’re in the market for a new Android phone, this should be right up there on your list.