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Modular smartphone dream endures via Lenovo's Moto Z4

Photo: Motorola
Photo: Motorola

There's a lot to love about Lenovo's Moto Z line, which is now on its fourth iteration.

What's new: It's the one semi-successful effort at a modular smartphone, functioning as a perfectly good smartphone on its own, with the ability to add features like a better camera, smart speaker or projector via "Moto Mods."

  • Verizon used that capability to create with Motorola a 5G mod to make the Z3 its first 5G-capable phone and the Z4 will, naturally, also work with the 5G mod.

Yes, but: The Z line hasn't been enough of a commercial success to generate lots of add-ons. Indeed, there are no new mods to accompany this year's Moto Z4.

What's included:

  • New front and rear cameras use "quad pixel" technology to create sharper images. The Z4 also has Night Vision, Motorola's effort to offer dramatically better nighttime photography by combining parts of eight frames taken at different exposures. It's akin to the Night Sight feature on the latest Google Pixel phones.
  • The Z4 has a faster chip than last year's model, but it's a part of Qualcomm's midrange Snapdragon 600-series rather than last year's 800-series chip.
  • It has a big 3,600-milliamp-hour battery, with the option to add even more juice via a battery mod.
  • It carries a $499 suggested retail price. (Verizon, the only carrier to sell the Z4 directly, is offering a lower price for new customers.)

What's missing: It's not fully water-resistant, there's only one rear camera, and it uses older fingerprint sensor technology.

The bottom line: There are lots of other mid-range phones out there, but the Z4's versatility helps it stand out.