Preview: Lenovo Moto Z


It's about that time. Time for a new flagship from Motorola. Actually, that would be Lenovo now. You see, a lot has changed for Motorola since their last flagship announcement in July 2015. The company has been completely integrated into Lenovo, who bought the company from Google in 2014. Additionally, the name "Motorola" is now gone. But "Moto" is here to stay, and is serving as the brand for Motorola's products, at least for the foreseeable future. When Lenovo bought Motorola, a lot of people were worried that Lenovo might "ruin" the company. Although that might be strong wording there, many were afraid of what changes Lenovo may bring to Motorola. Especially on the software front. After Motorola had released a few devices with stock Android and some really neat software features on top. Meanwhile, Lenovo uses a heavy skin in their homeland of China. Something that many in the US won't be a fan of. The moment of truth may come this week when and if Lenovo unveils their new flagship under the Moto brand.

The company isn't all that has changed and will change. The first thing we need to address in this preview is the name. It has been rumored that Lenovo will rebrand the flagship line of smartphones to "Moto Z" from "Moto X". This is essentially the opposite of what Sony did this year, going from Xperia Z to Xperia X. It's not a big deal, but hopefully we'll have a better naming scheme this time around. According to leaks, everything will be branded under the "Moto Z" moniker. This includes the Moto Z Play, Moto Z Style and even Moto Z Droid Edition. Which is definitely going to be a mouthful. The Moto Z is expected to debut at Lenovo's Tech World event that is taking place on June 9th in San Francisco, along side a few other products.



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When talking about the Moto Z, there are two smartphones, at least. The rumor mill has spun us at least two distinct smartphones this time around. Likely continuing with the Moto X Play and Moto X Style monikers that we got last year. The codenames for these models are Vertex and Vector Thin. The Vector Thin is expected to be the higher-end Moto Z Style, and is slated to have a 5.5-inch Quad HD AMOLED display. Inside, we're looking at the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor along with either 3GB or 4GB of RAM, depending on the model. The device will also sport 32GB of storage, although there is no word on a micro SD card slot, we will likely see that as a feature on the Moto Z Play as well. The camera is supposedly going to be a 13-megapixel camera with laser autofocus and optical image stabilization included. The Vector Thin is measuring in at just 5.2 millimeters thin and will boast a somewhat small 2600mAh battery.


The other device, which is the Vertex, is slated to be the Moto Z Play, which is a bit lower-end with a larger battery. We're looking at the same sized display, but instead of Quad HD, it's a 1080p AMOLED panel this time around. It'll be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor which is overclocked from 2.0GHz to 2.4GHz. Lenovo is also slated to be selling this in a few different models, with a 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM model and a 32GB storage and 3GB of RAM model. The camera on the Vertex is rumored to be a 16-megapixel shooter with laser-assisted and phase detection autofocus. The Vertex is a bit thicker than the Vector Thin, coming in at 7 millimeters thick. That is partially due to its larger 3500mAh battery inside.




It's tough to say what we may see in terms of software for the Moto Z. With this being the first phone from Moto without the name "Motorola" under Lenovo, we could be in for some changes. However, where Lenovo has already unveiled the new Moto G4 (as well as Moto G4 Plus and Moto G4 Play), we can pretty much assume that the software we'll see on the Moto Z will be fairly similar. It appears that Lenovo did stick to stock Android on the Moto G4 series, which is a good thing, as that is what the majority of Motorola's fans loved seeing. Of course, there will be a few features added on top.

From the leaked images we've seen, it looks like the IR blasters are making a return to the Moto Z this year. And that likely means that Moto Display is sticking around. Now whether it sticks to that name or gets rebranded is another story. With Moto Display, you are able to wave your hand over the display when it's asleep and see what notifications you have. This essentially takes the place of the notification LED. Moto Voice, Moto Assist and Moto Actions should also remain intact this time around. The big question here is what other features will we see on top of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow? We don't expect to see it launching with Android N, seeing as we're still a few months out from the final release of Android N. But as we've seen with Motorola's track record (which hopefully carries over to Lenovo), we should see Android N fairly soon on the Moto Z.



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Specs aren't the entire story here with the Moto Z family though. The big feature of these devices is going to be modularity. According to the rumor mill, Lenovo is also going the modular route with their flagship. Although, unlike LG, they are opting to place modules on the back of the device, instead of swapping out the bottom of the smartphone. There have been a few modules leaked already. Which include a back cover with a pico projector included, one with JBL speakers, and a third with a Hasselblad camera. Another leak showed the "Style Mods" for the Moto Z. Which are essentially the back-plates of the device, but in different materials and colors. We've seen them in leather and wood, and another material that appears to be ballistic nylon. If it is indeed ballistic nylon, it would be a first for the Moto X line, as that material has only been used on the Droid lineup that is exclusive to Verizon.

The big question is how will these connect to the smartphone. Well there are pogo pins located on the back of the device – which many thought was the speaker. These pogo pins will allow the MotoMods to connect to the device and do all sorts of things. We've seen three different mods already, and there are likely plenty more that Lenovo is holding back from leaking out.


We've heard rumors that while Lenovo will have a number of MotoMods available at launch, they are also going to be opening the platform up to developers to create their own MotoMods for the Moto Z. This is similar to what LG has done for the modules for the LG G5. Although many developers haven't taken them up on that offer just yet.

With Lenovo also going the modular route, this leads many to wonder what happens with the next-generation Moto Z? Or even Lenovo's other smartphones. If these modules only work with the Moto Z, and not the Moto Z2 (or whatever Lenovo calls next year's model), then many customers aren't going to see it as a selling point and likely won't want to buy any. This is something that Lenovo will need to address in their announcement of the Moto Z. This way potential customers are actually likely to buy these MotoMods that Lenovo has created.




Each iteration of the Moto X has seen a slightly different design, and this year looks to be a huge change in design. First of all, it appears that we have a metal unibody design, and gone is the Motorola dimple that we all loved so much. However, the Motorola logo is remaining in that spot, but it appears to be flat. The back is fairly plain, with the camera up at the top of the device, and sporting a "flat-tire look", like the Moto 360 smartwatch. The camera module is round, and the bottom of the module appears to house the flash. While the laser auto-focus and other sensors are on the left side of the camera. Then we have the pogo pins for the MotoMods near the bottom. It also looks like the volume rocker and power button are situated on the right side, with the charging port on the bottom. From the renders we've seen, it's tough to say whether Lenovo is going USB Type-C on the Moto Z or sticking with Micro USB. Although the Moto G4 family that was recently announced does stick with Micro USB this time around.

The front of the device does look a whole lot like the Moto G4 family. With the fingerprint sensor on the bottom of the front of the device. And there also appears to be IR Blasters in each corner. These are used for Moto Display, so it's no surprise that these are sticking around for another generation. The Moto Z, at least the renders we've seen so far, does look an awful lot like a "typical Motorola smartphone". And that's not a surprise nor a bad thing. Seeing as Motorola's employees are still working on their smartphones, it makes a whole lot of sense. This means that Motorola's DNA is still alive and well and present in these new smartphones. From what we've seen of the Moto Z Style and Moto Z Play, they do look to be pretty nice smartphones.



Pricing & Availability

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Obviously we don't have any confirmation on pricing or availability. But we can expect to see the Moto Z Style and Moto Z Play launching at some point this summer. It likely won't launch the same day as its announcement, however. If Lenovo follows last year's pricing for these two devices, the Moto Z Play should be cheaper than the Moto Z Style, which will sell for around $400 USD. It's worth noting that last year the Moto Z Play was not available in the US. Hopefully that is not the case this year. As many users would love to have a device with a slightly lower resolution display, and a huge 3500mAh battery.

Last year, Motorola only sold the Moto X Style (as the Moto X Pure Edition) in the US and it was not available at any wireless carriers. Motorola only sold it unlocked. Which also meant that we saw one device work on four carriers. We will likely see that again this year. However it's tough to say whether that plan worked out well for Motorola and Lenovo. So we may see it also be available at carriers, while sticking with the one SKU working on all four carriers. Similar to the Nexus 6 that Motorola did with Google in 2014.

The Wrap Up


There's a lot of hype surrounding Lenovo's June 9th announcement. This is the first mobile event that Lenovo has held in the US – outside of a trade show like CES. Which makes it a pretty big deal. We're expecting to see their Project Tango phone, which is expected to be a 6.4-inch smartphone, along with the Moto Z lineup. Lenovo hasn't confirmed that we will see the Moto Z at this event, but it is fairly likely. It's going to be exciting to see what direction Lenovo is taking the Moto brand in, especially after many have been skeptical as to what Lenovo may do with Motorola since buying them in 2014. We won't have to wait long for Lenovo to show us exactly what they have planned for Moto, though.