Modular Smartphones Use Magnets To Transform Your Device

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Motorola's new Moto Z Droid is the thinnest smartphone to date, but it has a more notable feature. The phone is compatible with magnetic interchangeable backs, called "mods," which enable users to customize and transform their smartphones in brand new ways. Moto Mods snap onto the back of the Moto Z Droid and the Moto Z Force Droid to make the phone a high-powered speaker, projector, and more. Plus, they're great options for consumers who might not need these features all the time.

In the same way apps allow you to choose your phone's software, Moto Mods are pieces of hardware that give devices even more customizable power. We've collected some awesome videos that show you exactly how Moto Mods work with Motorola's new Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid. Watch them below.

To learn more about how magnets are helping shape the future, check out our series, Curiosity and Motorola Present: The Power of Magnets.

Paul Fordham
Lead Mechanical Architect, Motorola
What problem were you looking to solve when you developed Motorola's new Moto Z smartphone?

In the past, Motorola has been looking to figure out how to add functional customization to a phone. It's really about what software and applications have done to allow users to customize their phone, but we were trying to do it on the hardware side. We've always been looking at that — how do you add customization — something that you normally wouldn't put in every phone because it's a cost burden or because not every user would want it. In the past, we have looked at how to make a phone modular, which isn't something that is new to the industry; you see battery packs being added on today. But we wanted to make something more integral to the phone so that when you put the two together, they seem as one.

What did the beginning stages of the design process look like?

From day one, there were four mechanical engineers and this is really where the idea started. The original idea was called ICE, and it was about trying to make a super thin phone so that when you put a mod onto the phone you weren't compromising the overall design. Combined, it would be like a typical phone you buy today. So the idea was how do you make that attachment scheme and make it super reliable. And I think kids and parents and adults, everyone, has always played around with magnets. There's something fascinating about them - just the way they attach and the repelling and the attraction. That's really where we started out - let's try to make it super thin, let's make the mods attach, and let's do it with magnets.

What does it mean for Motorola to open up its technology to provide developer kits and have people create their own Moto Mods?

It's similar to the app store, if you think about it. You encourage all kinds of software development and we're trying to encourage all kinds of hardware development by opening up and saying "come help us develop hardware, get into the hardware business and help users get something that they want so they can customize the functionality of their phones." Because something that I want may not be something that you want. This allows every user to do this and also to share mods. You can take mods off and share them with your friends and family.

What kind of mods do you think will be coming next?

Well people are certainly going to start looking at the camera and then they might look at fitness mods and mods geared towards the health industry. What might those look like? Are they heart monitors? Or what about remote use cases, so that you can take a mod off the phone and it stays connected via Bluetooth or some other means? Like a remote camera, for instance. I could give you a mod and you walk out of the room and I can see what you're looking at on my viewfinder.

How Motorola Made Modular Smartphones A Reality

How did Motorola engineer a phone that instantly transforms into different pieces of hardware?

Key Facts In This Video

  1. Motorola's new Moto Z phone is modular, so users can decide how the phone works and looks. 00:17

  2. Motorola's Moto Z phone has mods that substantially increase battery life, and turn the phone into a high-powered speaker and projector. 00:28

  3. A developer is able to build his/her own mod to use with the Motorola Moto Z phone. 01:37

Hands-On With Motorola's Modular Smartphone

Why this modular phone is the next big step for smartphones.

Moto Mods Developer Platform: Design Your Own Moto Mods

Motorola is giving developers everything they need to develop their own Moto Mods.

Written by Curiosity Staff August 30, 2016

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