You'll soon be able to talk to Alexa, Amazon's voice-powered digital assistant, from your Moto phone. But you're going to need a Moto Mod to do it initially.
At Mobile World Congress, Motorola took the wraps off some new add-ons for its modular Moto Z Droid smartphone, which lets you swap in different modules to add new capabilities to the device. Leading the charge will be a Moto Mod that adds Alexa integration to the Moto Z lineup, allowing you to summon up the voice assistant to perform many of the tasks you'd otherwise need an Amazon Echo speaker to pull off. The Alexa-ready Moto Mod is due out later this year.
That won't be the end of Alexa integration with Motorola's smartphones. Dan Dery, vice president of the mobile business group for Motorola owner Lenovo, promised deep Alexa integration with Motorola smartphones later this year.
Motorola joins Huawei in promising more Alexa integration with its mobile products. Last month, Huawei said that a software update to the Mate 9 smartphone later this year will add built-in Alexa support.
Alexa may be the most eye-catching addition to the Moto Mod lineup, but it's not the only one Motorola has planned. In March, the company will release the Motorola Power Pack which will add 50 percent more battery life to any Moto Z Droid you attach it to. The Power Pack mod also sports a smart changing mechanism that promises to efficiently charge the phone.
Another mod planned for release in the next two quarters adds a glass back panel to the Moto Z Droid, making it easier to charge the phone wirelessly. A Turbo Charger add-on plugs into the back of the phone to bolster the amount of juice you get during charging, similar to the turbo charging feature that's part of Motorola's newly announced Moto G5 Plus. Another mod attaches a gaming pad onto the Droid Z, with a d-pad on end of the phone and buttons on the other.
Motorola's decision to press forward with its Moto Mods comes on the same day that LG indicated it's backing away from modular phones, after it followed up the customizable G5 with the big-screen G6. LG began its launch event for the G6 vowing to listen to customers, suggesting none-too-subtly that the market had rejected modular devices.
Motorola, in contrast, indicated it couldn't be happy with how its Moto Mod lineup is doing. Dery noted that Motorola's research indicates Droid Z users are using a speaker mod available for the device an average of 14 hours a week, while a battery pack mod produced by Incipio gets an average use of 37 hours a week. Motorola's research also indicates that its customers are buying multiple mods for their phones.
"We're committed to launching new mods every quarter," Aymar de Lencquesaing, chairman of Motorola Mobility, told the audience at the phone maker's Mobile World Congress press event.
No wonder, then, that Motorola was eager to share concept mods that its own engineers were working on, including a mod that's not only capable of taking photos but also printing them. A potential mod that could appeal to kids would feature a Lego-like product you could assemble around your phone, essentially turning it into a programmable toy.
"Mods are no longer just a back cover for your phone," Dery said.
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.