Lenovo Moto Z
Lenovo Moto Z

Motorola phones are back in SA — in a manner of speaking. Lenovo acquired the brand in 2014, and late last year brought the Moto Z smartphone to the local market with much fanfare.

The Moto Z is not only a cool, high-spec device; it is also modular — designed to pair up with add-on components called "Moto mods" to boost the functionality of, for example, camera, speaker or battery.

The Moto Z is not the first or only modular phone on the market, but it is the one that has captured public (and reviewer) interest. And it is backed by a well-known brand with a solid and trusted market presence.

But is there a big enough market for modular phones to be successful?

As a standalone device, the Moto Z is a great high-end phone, costing about R12,999. The first thing that strikes you is how thin and light the 5.2mm handset is. It has to be, to accommodate the mods without being bulky; without them, it’s the Kate Moss of smartphones.

It has a snap-on back cover, for use when you are not pairing it with a mod, and a clear plastic frame that clicks on to protect the face of the device.

The 5.5-inch screen offers a quad-HD (2,560 x 1,440) AMOLED display, and in the machinery beneath Lenovo has packed a Snapdragon 820 processor with 4GB of RAM for competitive and capable processing. It has 32GB or 64GB of storage (expandable via the dual Sim slot) and a fingerprint scanner in line with those of the flagship Samsung and Apple devices it intends competing with.

The rear camera is 13MP, with image stabilisation and laser auto-focus, and the front-facing wide-angle camera offers 5MP and a flash.

To keep the device so slim and pretty, Lenovo has worked in a slightly lightweight battery that will need charging (with a USB-C connector) before the day is out.

Then there is the novelty versus usefulness factor. The Financial Mail reviewed the JBL SoundBoost speaker mod and the Incipio Power Pack mod. Another cool mod (not reviewed) is the Hasselblad True Zoom camera mod, which offers an impressive 10x optical zoom.

These snap on easily and firmly with a magnetic hold, and work seamlessly. But they are not cheap, with prices that reflect the functionality of the mod (meaning you’ll pay more for the zoom lens than the battery pack).

Do people want to boost their devices with these extras, and purchase and carry about mods to plug in as needed? That remains to be seen. Nonetheless, Lenovo’s accomplishment of this vision is impressive.

Lenovo Moto ZCool factor: *****Usability: *****Value for money: ***

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