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In a slowing smartphone market, Lenovo is looking to alternate realities

The Chinese phone maker is introducing a new Moto Z line as well as the first consumer device with Google's Project Tango augmented reality.

Lenovo's Phab 2 Pro uses multiple cameras to allow augmented reality, such this WayfairView app which shows what new furniture might look like in an existing apartment.
Wayfair

By its own admission, Lenovo's smartphone business has been disappointing of late. So, now the Chinese phone maker is trying to take things in some new directions.

The company is introducing two new families of products on Thursday, including a new line of Motorola Droids as well as the $499 Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, the first consumer device to incorporate Google's Project Tango augmented reality.

Lenovo debuted the products at its Tech World event in San Francisco, with spokesman and quasi-executive Ashton Kutcher handling some of the introduction.

The new Droid devices, which also carry the Moto Z name (and will be sold under that moniker outside the U.S.) pack a lot of the components found on high-end smartphones, but have as their unique feature the ability to connect to a range of devices using a gold-plated electrical connector.

Customers can attach everything from an extra battery to a JBL speaker or pico projector. Moto is hoping that outside developers will be interested in creating "Moto Mods" of their own. LG has taken a similar approach with its G5 flagship, though both companies will have to prove there is enough of a market to warrant such interest.

Lenovo didn't offer price details on the Moto Z or accessories, but said they should be ready this summer.

To help woo developers and customers to the Moto Mods concept, Lenovo is promising that it will include the same connector on future Moto Z phones and that accessories purchased today will work on those new devices. After all, no one wants to spend $300 or so on a projector attachment only to find it won't work with their next phone.

There are two Moto Z models, with the higher-end version including a larger battery, shatterproof screen and higher-megapixel camera. Verizon will have the initial U.S. exclusive, though Moto plans to eventually offer some versions of the Moto Z unlocked as well.

Lenovo's new Moto Z line connects to a range of attachments, including a speaker dock, external battery and pico projector.
Lenovo

The Phab 2 Pro, meanwhile, has as its key selling point the ability to mix virtual and real worlds, allowing everything from gaming to visualizing what your apartment might look like with a new armchair.

With its six-inch screen and unique features, the Tango "phablet" is more likely to appeal mainly to tech enthusiasts interested in trying Tango than average smartphone buyers looking for their next phone.

"That's who we are anticipating for step one in the process," Lenovo Vice President Jeff Meredith told Recode. "We certainly see this as a longer-term play and engagement with Google."

While the Tango phone and Moto Z are interesting products, it's unclear if they will be big enough hits to turn things around for Lenovo. When it released its last quarterly earnings in May, the company noted that it has struggled in its home market of China as well as with its Motorola business in North America.

"These results show integration efforts did not meet expectations," Lenovo said in announcing its results. "In particular, China shipments declined 85 percent, as the business shifted focus to open market and higher price bands and product transition in North America was not successful."

The company changed up its leadership in March, with former Motorola boss Rick Osterloh leaving the company (and quickly winding up back at Google).

"Lenovo has learned a great deal since the close of the Motorola acquisition and is applying learnings quickly, with actions in organization, leadership and approach," it said.

How these two product lines are received will speak volumes on just how much Lenovo has learned.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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