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Mounds of Moto Mods: We'll see at least 12 per year

Those snap-on accessories for the Moto Z phones aren't going anywhere. In fact, Lenovo Moto phones will soon see many more.

Welcome to Moto's headquarters in Chicago, where magnetic Moto Mods are dreamed up and tested.
Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Now playing: Watch this: Lenovo commits to 12 Moto Mods per year

Moto is investing big in Mods, those magnetic, snap-on accessories -- like a battery pack and external speaker -- that enhance the Moto Z, Moto Z Force and Moto Z Play. In fact, Lenovo's Moto execs told a small group of journalists this week, the company itself will commit to releasing at least 12 new Moto Mods a year.

Specifically, that works out to four Mods per quarter that Lenovo makes with partners like Mophie, Incipio and Kate Spade. Lenovo, which bought the Moto brand when it scooped up Motorola Mobility from Google, counts its year from April to April, so look for the number of Mods to ramp up starting next spring.

"Our goal is to get more Mods out this year than we did last year, no question," said John Touvannas, Lenovo's Moto Mods director.

In truth, we should see many more than 12 new mods for 2017 by the time next year is through. Lenovo will launch an Indiegogo campaign come January to drum up more developer involvement. Those who pitch the best ideas will get a Mods kit with the hardware and software needed to start making their own prototypes, plus help bringing those ideas to market.

More cameras, more sensors

While Moto didn't spill the beans on what future Mods could look like, executives hinted that the brand would like to go broader and deeper into cameras (like this one with an impressive optical zoom) and explore bringing second screens to Mods (as in, tap a screen on the back of a Mod to pose a selfie through the often-better main camera).


Lenovo Moto is experimenting with all sorts of Mod ideas, like this attachment that helps you take a selfie from the rear camera, rather than the front.

Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

"The mods are putting new sensors into phone," said Stephen McDonnell, senior manager of the Moto Mods Ecosystem. "When you attach a JBL speaker to your phone, that's your phone's speaker now."

I also got my hands on two new Mods, a Mophie battery Mod and an Incipio-made docking station that clips into your car.

Here are a few more potential ideas, which may or may not become a reality:

  • E-reading concept and a mod that uses a front-facing speaker
  • LED lights to express your mood
  • Game controller
  • Measurement tool
  • Remote control
  • External storage
  • Alarm clock
  • Breathalyzer mod
  • Baby care that measures humidity, temperature, etc.
  • Color sensors for the blind

When it comes to Moto Mods, Lenovo's main goal is to spin up a real ecosystem that's vital enough to innovate against Apple and Samsung, and pull the Z family of phones from a niche corner further into the mainstream.