By Gerard Ramos / Lifestyle & Entertainment Editor
SURE, it is not as ambitious as Ara, the modular smartphone project Google began developing in earnest not long after it acquired Motorola Mobility in 2011, a “Developer Edition” of which the technology giant unveiled at its annual I/O 2016 that allowed the user to add or upgrade features through modules, such as a secondary display, replacement camera and speakers. The Developer Edition was supposed to be ship later this year—until Google announced in September that Project Ara had been shelved.
The “it” referred to in the opening paragraph is Moto Z from Motorola Mobility, the Chinese-American consumer electronics and telecommunications company owned by Lenovo, the “world’s largest personal computer vendor”, according to Wikipedia. The Moto Z was unveiled in June and released in global markets in September, with the Philippines finally getting its allocation of the company’s flagship in October, a unit of which we have been playing with and pushing through tasks courtesy of the local office of Motorola Mobility.
The Moto Z is housed in a high-grade metal frame and body, and sans the back cover—or the so-called Moto Style Shell Mod, which comes in real wood, leather or ballistic nylon, among other materials—the smartphone measures a whisper-thin 5.2 millimeters, making it the thinnest premium smartphone in the market, and one with a decidedly futuristic look and feel: all cold steel, rounded edges and refined angles, the connector pins for those Moto Mods in a neat rectangular array near the bottom of the device’s backside, with the 13MP rear-facing main camera with laser autofocus and OIS protruding ever so slightly at the top half. Slap on the Style Shell Mod of your choice—how about one fashioned from real wood? or leather? or patterned fabric?—and the Moto Z is quickly transformed into a more traditional-looking smartphone, though with more personality and far more stylish.
The front of the smartphone is a sheet of protective Gorilla Glass 4 topping the 5.5-inch Quad HD AMOLED display that can face-off with some of the best flagship smartphone screens with its incredibly deep blacks and vibrant color reproduction. Also evident on its face is the front-facing 5MP shooter with an f/2.2 aperture and 1.4 um big pixels for better low-light shooting, and even real LED flash, which should please the selfie-obsessed legion that has sprouted all over the world like gremlins after a spot of rain. Also to be found on its face is an excellent fingerprint sensor that not only wakes the phone up but can also put it to sleep with a touch.
Less obvious are a couple of IR sensors and one transmitter embedded on the phone’s face, proximity sensors that bring the screen to life in different ways that allow for discreet interaction with notifications and such, this without unnecessarily consuming precious power.
The Moto Z is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB RAM and Adreno 530 GPU, all of which come together to provide the user a truly seamless experience, the phone never breaking a sweat even when you have several applications and a couple of games running in the background, including the Chrome browser with a good 15 tabs open. (That’s just how we are with smartphones.) It ships with Marshmallow, the latest version of Google’s market-leading Android OS, and no doubt Motorola Mobility has an upgrade path for the Moto Z to the newest and widely acclaimed Nougat. The connectivity options on offer include USB Type-C port for charging and data transfer, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi.
Speaking of the USB Type-C port, yes, that means like a few flagship devices, the Moto Z has jettisoned the 3.5mm headphone jack. So what to do with the top-of-the-line pair of earbuds you purchased just a couple of months ago? No worries: Motorola Mobility has thrown into the package a headphone port adapter, which we suggest you now leave attached to your earbuds so as not to absently lose the dongle.
The version of Moto Z that’s available in stores around these parts packs 64GB of internal storage, which allowed us to install the myriad apps and games we like to have available whenever the mood strikes us, and also load up over 1,600 audio files (lots of music and a good chunk of podcasts) plus all nine Downton Abbey episodes from the final Series 6—with still 22GB of storage space left. That made it possible for us to free up the hybrid nano SIM/microSD card slot to work the phone’s dual-SIM muscles, a configuration that has spared us from having to carry around two smartphones. Of course, if you only work a single SIM like most sane people, you could slap in a microSD card for additional storage of up to 2TB.
Besides the flagship specs the Moto Z has bragging rights to, there’s the phone’s other big story—which is the Moto Mods, with the company approaching the modular smartphone concept more sensibly and more smartly than LG did with its G5. The South Korean company’s implementation of modules that extended the G5’s utility was nothing less than cumbersome, requiring the phone to be powered down as you attach/detach pieces from its limited modular ecosystem.
Not so with the Moto Z’s strong-and-secure magnetic approach to its module implementation, with each Moto Mod hot-swappable without one having to put their hands through so much work. Besides the Style Shells, the Moto Mods family includes the Moto Insta-Share Projector Mod, the Hasselblad True Zoom Camera Mod, the JBL Soundboost Speaker Mod, and the lightweight Incipio offGRID Power Pack, which the local Motorola Mobility office included in our review kit that powered the Moto Z for two days without us having to hunt for a power outlet for a recharge. On its own, the Moto Z, which supports Turbo Charging, has a built-in 2600 mAh battery, enough for a day’s use.
True, slap on a Moto Mod that’s not a Style Shell and the Moto Z’s svelteness is quickly lost, but even with the extra bulk, this flagship loses none of its premium look and feel—and what’s not to love about that?
To know more about Motorola Mobility’s Moto Z, visit https://goo.gl/vFnJA2.