Motorola was in dire straits when it was acquired by Google back in 2012, as its phones failed to compete with the Galaxies and iPhones of the world. Google oversaw the launch of the original Moto X, which many feel was a turning point for the company. Now, Motorola is owned by Lenovo and it’s nearly time for a refresh of the Moto X. Multiple leaks are pointing to a radical redesign focused on a system of modular accessories, because apparently modular phones are the gimmick of 2016.
In the first of the recent Moto X leaks, we saw a device that looked very different than the last few Motorola flagships. The back panel was completely flat and made of metal, rather than the curved plastic, wood, and leather of current phones. The trademark Motorola dimple was also gone, much to my personal dismay. That small depression serves as an excellent place for your finger thanks to the ergonomics of “internal stabilization.” That’s a big help with hand-stretching phablets.
On the bottom of this rear panel we see 16 electrical contacts, and sources now say these are for connecting modular accessories called Amps. If that sounds familiar, that’s because Motorola isn’t the only OEM to have this idea in 2016. LG did something similar with the G5. On that phone, the bottom of the phone comes completely off and can be replaced with a camera grip or Hi-Fi audio module. However, you need to shut the phone off, swap the battery, and wait for it to boot back up to swap G5 modules. Those two modules aren’t even very compelling (and the Hi-Fi isn’t available in the US). Motorola’s system has the potential to be much more friendly.
According to the leaks, there will be six different attachments for the new Moto X, including a simple stylized cover that comes with the phone, a dedicated camera module with optical zoom, a pico projector, a battery pack, stereo speakers, and a wide-angle camera lens with rugged case. You’ll be able to simply snap these on the rear of the device without a full reboot. The Amps will snap onto the back of the phone, going all the way from top to bottom. They’ll probably be held in place with magnets.
Pricing will be key. LG wants $ 70 for the camera grip and nearly $ 200 for the Hi-Fi. I have a hard time believing people are going to buy very many $ 100-200 accessories for their phone.
We also have it on good authority now that there will be two Moto X phones this year, both compatible with the same modules. The Moto X Vector Thin (above right) will be the flagship with a 5.5-inch 1440p AMOLED, Snapdragon 820, and 4GB of RAM. The Moto X Vertex (above left) will have a 5.5-inch 1080p AMOLED, Snapdragon 625, and 3GB of RAM. Oddly, the Vector Thin will be so thin (5.5mm) that it’ll only have a 2600mAh battery (the current Moto X is 3000mAh). The Vertex will be a little thicker (7mm) with a 3500mAh battery. Both phones have a fingerprint sensor on the front below the screen as well.
But wait, there’s that modular capability. Even though the Moto X Vector Thin allegedly has a pretty small battery, you can just buy that battery Amp and attach it. Oh, and Motorola is ditching the stereo speakers on these phones, but you can get the stereo speaker Amp. Frankly, this is starting to sound like DLC for your smartphone. It strikes me as very strange that Motorola/Lenovo might be artificially limiting a phone in order to sell you modules.
Lenovo is set to host its Tech World event on June 9th where it will show off its new Project Tango phone, as well as something from Motorola that will “transform mobile in a snap.” That sounds like a modular phone announcement.