Fingers-on with the new and weird Vital and Keyboard Moto Mods

Jan 9, 2018

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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