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Mods could one day bring 5G data to the Moto Z series

John Touvannas, senior director of product management at Motorola, envisions modular accessories that bring 5G data and e-ink displays to existing phones.

Published onDecember 2, 2016

moto z and moto z force unboxing initial setup aa (11 of 24)

The Moto Z appears to have been a successful handset for Lenovo this year, and the company is looking to extend the handset’s life cycle with more modes for the range over the next year. A new 3,000mAh Mophie battery pack that’s available from Verizon will be heading out to more regions, and there are plans for an Incipio car dock charger with a 3.5mm audio output connection too.

Alongside these additions, John Touvannas, senior director of product management at the company, believes that we could eventually see secondary e-ink displays, a baby monitor, and even a 5G modem appear in the Moto Mods line-up in the future.

“Without having to wait for the next-gen phone that can bring the next technology or capability, we can get to that quicker through the mod,” – John Touvannas, Motorola/Lenovo

The prospect of something like a 5G modem being available via a modular extension is interesting, as it could mean that customers won’t have to upgrade to an entirely new phone for faster data speeds. Motorola’s mods can communicate via USB 3.1, as well as to the phone’s image and display processors, which would technically be fast enough to handle faster data coming in at 5G speeds. Although the form factor of such an accessory would need to be sleek enough for users to carry round, say a back panel with the required radio antennas and modem. Verizon, a close partner with Motorola, plans to begin its 5G trials in mid 2017.

While some are still sceptical that modular smartphones are nothing more than a gimmick, Motorola’s research suggests that around half of all Moto Z owners make use of at least one mod. The battery mod seems the most popular, with users clocking in 37 hours of typical use. 20 percent of users have even stumped up for the expensive camera and projector mods, with the latter being used 10 hours a week on average.

The good news is that Motorola is actively pursuing new mod ideas, rather than letting the idea flounder through a lack of development like a certain competitor. The company is running hackathons and an Indiegogo campaign to entice third-party developers, and the Motorola aims to bring out four new mods each quarter starting from the middle of 2017.

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