So long Moto X, hello Moto Z. For its next round of Android flagships, Motorola is going for a new brand, an ultra-thin design and support for “Mods” that expand their capabilities. And yes, the Moto Z is seriously thin at just 5.19 millimeters millimeters thick. How Motorola achieved will probably be controversial, though: the Moto Z and its slightly beefier sibling, the Moto Z Force, don’t have headphone jacks. Instead, you’ll have to plug in the included USB-C to 3.5mm jack adapter to use headphones. But is any of this enough for Lenovo to finally have a hit phone? (Take a look at our hands-on impressions of both phones here.)
At the very least, you can’t say Motorola is being lazy. It’s embracing the idea of modular add-ons, Moto Mods, wholeheartedly. Both new phones have magnetic connectors on their rears, which a variety of accessories can connect to. So far, that includes a homegrown pico projector, a speaker upgrade from JBL and a variety of battery packs from Incipio, Tumi and Kate Spade. Moto says the Mods will work on next year’s phones, which should give potential buyers a bit of piece of mind. Yes, the whole concept is similar to what LG attempted with the G5, and it’s still unclear if mainstream consumers care about modular upgrades.
Lenovo is the first major manufacturer to dump headphone jacks in exchange for a thinner design, and it’ll likely end up taking the majority of consumer flack for doing so. But it’s not alone: Intel is also pushing USB-C over headphone jacks, and Chinese phone maker LeEco has already dumped them with its latest devices. We’ve even heard from the rumor mill that Apple might be considering the same thing for upcoming iPhones. But as someone who usually has expensive earbuds plugged into my smartphone, I’m not looking forward to relying on a dongle. (And I’m definitely not going to be upgrading to USB-C headphones anytime soon.)
While it took a few revisions for the Moto X to become truly great, the Moto Z seems like a leap ahead in many ways. It’s got the usual speed improvements, with a new quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor running at up to 2.2GHz and 4GB of RAM. Its screen is a tad smaller than last year’s, at just 5.5-inches instead of 5.7-inches, and it sports the same quad HD resolution of 2560 by 1440 pixels (535 pixels per inch). Naturally, its thinness means it’s significantly lighter than before, weighing in at just 4.6 ounces (136 grams), compared to last year’s Moto X Pure (Style outside of the US) at 6.3 ounces (179 grams).
On the camera front, the Moto Z packs in a 12 megapixel rear shooter with an f/1.8 aperture lens, optical image stabilization and laser autofocus. Its front camera is a typical 5 megapixel entry. Motorola seems to have crammed in as much whiz-bang technology it could to deliver a better photo-taking than its past phones: the rear camera also features color-corrected flash with dual LEDs and a 1.12um pixel size.
Just like last year, there’s also a more powerful model with a few additional features, the US-only Moto Z Force. It’s a bit thicker (6.9mm) and heavier, but it also packs in a significantly larger battery (3,500mAh compared to the Z’s 2,600mAh) and a more capable 21 megapixel camera with phase detection autofocus and Deep Trench Isolation (a technique Apple used for the iPhone 6S camera). The Moto Z Force’s screen also uses Motorola’s Shattershield technology, which it claims is more resistant to cracks and scratches than Corning’s Gorilla Glass. While it’s not as mind-blowingly thin as the Z proper, the Z Force sounds like the ideal Android phone for power users.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to be on Verizon to nab the Moto Z phones this summer, where they’ll be available as “Droid Editions.” Motorola says it’ll also sell the Moto Z unlocked on its website this fall. The Moto Z will be available internationally in September, but Motorola says the Z Force is a US-only affair for now.
Get all the news from today’s Lenovo and Motorola event right here!