The latest Mods for the Moto Z line bring a slide-out keyboard and blood pressure monitoring to the party.

Motorola’s not backing away from the Moto Mod ecosystem, adding a mini slide-out keyboard and a health monitor to the line-up of capability enhancing add-ons for the Moto Z. We got to try out the two newest: the Lenovo Vital Moto Mod and the Livermorium Slider Keyboard Moto Mod.

Lenovo Vital Moto Mod

More and more we’re seeing health tools integrated into the gadgets we carry, from heart rate sensors to blood oxygen sensors. They’re usually pretty good, but they’re not quite clinical level. But there’s stuff they can’t do, and that’s where the Lenovo Vital Moto Mod comes in.

It’s a very bulky number, but it has to be to include the mechanics necessary to measure blood pressure. It is, in essence, a miniature blood pressure cuff, but instead of being for your arm it is for a single finger. You slip your finger through the ring on the back (a finger on your left hand is recommended for the 99.99% of people with left-sided hearts) and into the cradle — the ring then inflates to restrict the flow of blood through your finger and the pulse and blood oxygen sensors in the cradle turn on. It takes about two minutes to complete the measurements, which are logged in the associated app.

The Vital Moto Mod also has an infrared thermometer that you can hold close to your forehead to gauge your body temperature. While the Vital Moto Mod hasn’t been FDA certified, Lenovo says their own testing has shown it was at least as accurate as the approved clinical devices.

Lenovo’s built the Vital Moto Mod as more of a separate module than a Moto Mod. In fact, it only connects to the Moto Z with the magnets and makes no use of the pin connectors, instead handling data transfer over Bluetooth. The Vital Moto Mod is entirely self-contained, with a USB-C port to charge it up for the claimed 2-month battery life. This was an intentional design choice — it allows use without having to tie the phone to the mod.

Of course, that leads to the question of why this even had to be a Moto Mod. Every phone has Bluetooth, and nobody is going to carry around this incredibly bulky block of plastic on a daily basis. There’s absolutely nothing gained by it being a Moto Mod — in fact, being a Moto Mod dramatically limits the potential addressable audience of what’s an otherwise potentially useful healthcare device.

But, if it fits your healthcare needs and you have a Moto Z to slap it onto, then by all means, go ahead. You’ll be able to pick up the Lenovo Vital Moto Mod in April 2018 for $395.

Livermorium Slider Keyboard Moto Mod

I’m a longtime keyboard phone fan, so when I heard about the Livermorium Slider Keyboard Moto Mod (hereon referred to as the Keyboard Moto Mod) I found myself somewhat excited… and apprehensive. The Keyboard Moto Mod was born from the “Transform the Smartphone Challenge” that Motorola put on with Indiegogo, winning with its slide-out full-width QWERTY tilting keyboard design.

As a $99 accessory, I had high expectations for the Keyboard Moto Mod, but I was thoroughly disappointed. The slider action is smooth though stiff, and given its width it exhibits a fair amount of wobble in the mechanism. And because this is a landscape-oriented keyboard meant for a large phone, it’s not designed with any sort of handheld use in mind — you’re supposed to tilt the phone up after sliding it out and stick it on a hard surface to type.

Adding to the pain is the weakness of the magnets that hold the Keyboard Moto Mod to the phone. About half of the times I tried to open the keyboard I instead detached the phone. Thankfully the Moto Mod system is designed with the magnets in the mod itself, so these could (and should) be upgraded before the release sometime near the first few months of 2018.

Once you’ve successfully slid it open and positioned the phone upright at the 60-degree angle (any less of an angle and the weight of the phone will tip the whole thing back), then you can type. Except the keyboard is so short and the key travel so shallow and mushy with near zero tactile feedback that you’ll immediately regret that decision. Daniel Bader described the feel as similar to the original Motorola Droid, and I’m inclined to agree. With how far design and manufacturing has advanced since 2009, it’s just not an acceptable typing experience.

You might’ve noticed that this keyboard which slides over the back of your phone doesn’t have a hole in it (as you’d expect for a keyboard). Problem is… the camera’s on the back of the phone. So if you want to take pictures, you’ll have to slide the keyboard out. Honestly, if you want a keyboard phone, get a BlackBerry KEYone.

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Thinking ahead.

Amazon has the Yi 2.7-inch 1080p Dash Camera on sale for $29.99 when you apply coupon code KJHW27DZ at checkout. That saves you about $10 off the normal price of this camera, which received 4.4 out of 5 stars from 31 customer reviews. If you don’t already have one, make sure to pick up a microSD card so you have extra storage space.

Features include:

  • Loop recording
  • Easy installation
  • 130 Wide Angle Lens
  • 2.7-inch 16:9 HD LCD Widescreen
  • 1080p resolution at 30fps
  • Night vision
  • Wi-Fi enabled
  • Built-in microphone / speaker
  • Connects via iOS / Android app

A dash camera is to your car what a security camera is to your home. You’ll always have proof of fault for accidents, even at night. You might even catch some cool meteor footage.

See at Amazon

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Three years later, Samsung completes the SmartThings merger.

When Samsung bought SmartThings back in August of 2014, it was quickly clear the plan was to make that brand the one everyone associated with Samsung’s smart home products. And over the last couple of year, that is exactly what has happened. Everything Samsung does with the smart home gets released under the SmartThings brand, but if you owned products from before the SmartThings integration happened you still had to use the older Samsung apps.

Those days are over, because Samsung has finally decided to merge all of its IoT apps into the SmartThings app.

According to Samsung, more than 40 apps are being consolidated into SmartThings right now. The big ones Samsung users will most likely be familiar with are Samsung Smart Home and Samsung Connect, but any other company or product Samsung has acquired along the way that once had its own app will soon be consolidated into SmartThings. As SmartThings is embedded in more products, rolling everything into one app was inevitable.

Alongside this consolidation will be a huge UI overhaul, expected to be available for both Android and iOS this spring. Developers are being promised SmartThings is still a highly open platform with support for custom in-app panels. These panels let developers customize the UI and create scripts to pull their products deeper into specific functions, and according to Samsung there are over 300 of these panels for many of the devices SmartThings integrates with.

This change has been a long time coming, but it’s clear with the combination of improvements coming to SmartThings this spring that Samsung still has big plans for making your home smarter.

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Five headphones in total are getting some Assitant love.

To no one’s surprise, CES 2018 has been home to announcement after announcement of new speakers, headphones, TVs, and more that ship with Google Assistant built-in. This new tech is great, but if you own Sony headphones that have already been released, you’ll get a taste of this Assistant action, too.

First reported by the folks at Android Police, Sony will be releasing software updates to multiple existing headphones to add Google Assistant functionality. You’ll need to have your headphones connected to your phone in order for the update to download and install, and models that will receive this treatment include:

  • WF-1000X
  • WI-1000X
  • WH-1000XM2
  • WH-CH900N
  • H.ear on 2 WH-H900N

Sony hasn’t announced exactly when these software updates to add the Assistant will be pushed out, but even so, it’s still great to see a company adding new features to “old” tech.

Hisense announces two Android TVs with Google Assistant and Alexa

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Along with the HTC Vive Pro announcement today, HTC’s Vive team also unveiled a wireless adapter for the original and new Vive Pro. The Vive wireless adapter uses Intel’s WiGig standard to deliver wireless videos and control feeds form the Vive to … Read More

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HTC typically doesn’t have much of a presence at CES, but the company bucked that trend this year by announcing an updated version of the HTC Vive – the new Vive Pro. The new HMD doesn’t look much different from … Read More

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