It's clear from looking at the smartphone industry recently that there's a growing interest in modular mobile devices. LG launched the G5 in 2016, complete with its "Friends" options that clip onto the bottom of the phone to add extra features. Google, meanwhile, has been working on Project Ara - a device which has since been canned

Lenovo launched the Moto Z (and more recent big-battery Moto Z Play), a core part of which is its Moto Mods. These are a collection of accessories and covers that magnetically attach to the back of the phone to add specific features and functions.

At launch there were three Moto Mods - the JBL SoundBoost speaker, Moto Insta-Share projector, and Incipio OffGrid battery - with the addition of the Hasselblad True Zoom camera and Mophie Juice Pack battery adding yet more options.

At the 2016 Moto Unlocked event in the company's Chicago headquarters, the company also showed off an Incipio in-car dock, while alluding to other potential forthcoming possibilities in AR/VR and beyond.

MotorolaMoto Z Back

The short answer is: with magnets and "magic". Each Mod attaches to the back of the phone using the a collection of really strong built-in magnets. That means there's no fiddling around with clumsy hinges or clips on the sides of the phone, with no need to remove the battery (which, in the Z phones is built-in anyway).

In addition to feature-focused Mods, there are static fashion-based backplates, ranging from plastic, to wood and leather.

For the functional Mods, the key to operation comes from the 16 golden contact points on the back of the phone. These connect the phone to each of the Mods and can transmit data and power between the Mod and the phone. That means the USB port remains free and unused, regardless of which Mod you have clipped on.

For some Mods you may have to go through a couple of setup pages, but Lenovo promises it only takes a couple of quick taps to get each one set up.


The first Mods are simple covers, called Style Shells. When you order a Moto Z through Moto Maker you'll be able to choose which finish you'd like (if you want one at all).

There are options for a few different wood types, as well as different colored leather and nylon finishes, plus some more colorful plastic ones.

The Shells are available to buy via Amazon, costing around £16 for at fabric Shell, or £20 for wood or leather. 


Long before the Moto Z was an actual product, rumours suggested we'd see a unique modular camera made by Hasselblad, the company better known for building hideously expensive studio quality cameras.

That Mod, the True Zoom, delivers a 10x optical zoom lens, from a 25-250mm equivalent. Unlike the digital zoom of a built-in phone camera, this unit can zoom in without losing any quality until you get to the 10x limit. Its f/3.5-f/6.5 aperture is modest, however, as is its highest resolution video capture which sits at 1080p30.

The Mod uses it own 12-megapixel sensor, not the one that's built-in to the phone. Capable of shooting up to ISO 3200, the Mod's built-in optical image stabilisation will help with keeping that figure down while keeping shots sharp.

Like any good camera, you can adjust any settings like shutter speed, manual focus, aperture, ISO sensitivity, white balance and exposure. JPEG and raw file capture are both available.

A Xenon flash is built-in for more even, brighter flash coverage.

The True Zoom doesn't come cheap though: it's priced $250-300 in the States, or £199 in the UK.


Motorola partnered with JBL to create the SoundBoost, a stereo loudspeaker with two three-watt drivers.

The Mod amplifies the phone's sound, looking to replace the need for a portable speaker. It has a built-in 1,000mAh battery to extend the phone's battery life, too, and a kick-stand so that the audio isn't just firing upwards into the air, or downwards into whatever surface it's lying on.

The JBL SoundBoost is available to buy now, priced $80 in the States and £70 in the UK

LenovoScreen Shot 2016-06-09 at 19.32.17

The Moto Insta-Share is a pico projector which can beam an image or video measuring up to 70-inches diagonally from any angle, onto any surface.It also has a built in loudspeaker.

The sad part is that it only has 480p resolution, so the bigger you make your projection, the worse the detail is going to look.

If you're planning on using a Moto Z for some time then it might be a worthy investment, but it doesn't come cheap: it's $275 in the States and £250 in the UK.


Lastly, there are Power Packs: the Incipio Battery Case , which adds a 2,200mAh battery; Incipio OffGrid wireless charging case, which adds wireless charging to that device; and the Mophie Juice Pack, which adds a 3,000mAh battery. A US-only Kate Spade model is also available.

With the standard Moto Z, that's around double the built-in battery's capacity. The battery pack can charge the phone, so it can be used for top-ups and then, say, left in your car so you needn't carry that additional weight around.

Pocket-lintMoto Mods Incipio In-Car Dock

Due before the end of 2016, this in-car dock clips onto your car's dashboard to act as a navigation system. As soon as the Moto Z clips into place the phone launches Android Auto, including full music control and more. There's an additional USB port for plugging into a car charger too.

At the 2016 Moto Unlocked event, the company's CEO, Aymar de Lencquesaing, quipped that there's likely to be "a Tango module to basically enable the Z to have Tango functionality". Straight from the horse's mouth. Augmented reality and virtual reality are incoming.


One upcoming Mod, according to HelloMotoHK, is the Adventure Mod. Said to offer waterproof sealing and seemingly transform the Moto Z phones into an action camera of sorts. So you should be able to take your phone to swimming and take a bunch of cool underwater videos and pics. 

Moto is also behind a developer drive. There's a Moto Mods developer programme to encourage hardware and software makers to come up with their own Mods.

The sky really is the limit with these. A $125 Mods package can be bought by developers, including a variety of pre-made sensors - such as temperature, camera and beyond - to remove the need for hardware development from day one.

We could see all kinds of stuff coming to light, from secondary displays and alternative speaker systems, to computer docking solutions. It's very likely we'll also see a bunch of third party Style Shells, offering more variations in style and colour.

Tom's HardwareOneCompute-Moto-Mod-screen_w_600

One concept on show at the Moto launch was called OneCompute, a Windows Phone-style Continuum-like feature for Android, with the ability to turn the Moto Z phones into a desktop computer of sorts. The phone attaches to the Mod, which is then placed into a cradle and linked to a hub containing various USB, HDMI and power ports which connects to a monitor.

Here's something that's up for debate. Do you really need a modular phone? Wouldn't it be easier to buy a phone that's a phone and separate devices that handle other features, such as a camera, separate portable speaker and so on?

Moto's approach is far less intrusive than, say LG's, and as Mods can be added and removed in real-time, there's no affect on the Z phones' use. The simple magnetic clip-on approach works a treat. However, one downside is that you can only have one module attached at a time (for now: there's talk of daisy-chain Mods coming in the future).