Review: Motorola Moto Z3 for Verizon Wireless
The Moto Z3 is the first 5G-upgradable phone thanks to a forthcoming Mod from Motorola and Verizon. This mid-range device sports a 2:1 screen, metal-and-glass design, and compatibility with Motorola's ecosystem of swappable modules. It is good enough without 5G? Here is Phone Scoop's in-depth report.
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Is It Your Type?
The Moto Z3, a Verizon Exclusive, tweaks the Z3 Play with a couple of under-the-hood updates. It's also billed as the first "5G upgradeable" phone through a special Moto Mod. The phone targets those who've invested in Motorola's Moto Mod ecosystem and have one eye on the future. If you're seeking an affordable device with modern appointments and an upgrade path to 5G, the Z3 is tempting.
The Z3 and Z3 Play are essentially the same phone. They're twins, if you will, though the Z3 is smarter and has better eyes thanks to the upgraded processor and camera, respectively.
The Z3 is a sleek, metal-and-glass handset that looks and feels classy. It drops the aluminum rear panel of last year's Z2 for Gorilla Glass. The front and back glass panels are blended with a frame made of 6000 series aluminum. I like the rounded shape of the outer chassis. The Z3 is an attractive phone.
The only color option is black. The paint on the metal frame is mirror-like in its finish. I like the overall look and effect of the phone, which is handsome and sleek. Motorola slapped just enough of a new skin on the phone to give this year's model its own identity.
The phone is still large at more than 6 inches tall and more than 3 inches wide, but it's incredibly slim at just 6.75mm thick. I have no doubt that some people will be put off by the size of the phone, but it's about the same size as most other phones of this class with 18:9 screens. The thin profile and slippery glass mean it glides into pockets easily.
There's no question the Z3 is a high-quality piece of hardware. The glass panels fit into the frame tightly. The components are top-notch and assembled perfectly. The Z3 could easily be mistaken for a more expensive flagship device.
Apart from the glass backside, the biggest change to the design is the new screen shape. Motorola has finally moved on from the 16:9 shape to a 2:1 (18:9) shape. This means slimmer bezels. There is still a bit of a forehead and a bit of a chin on the Z3, but they are greatly reduced when compared to older Moto Z phones. The earpiece and user-facing camera are tucked into the forehead.
In order to retain the phone's footprint while increasing the screen size, Motorola was forced to relocate the fingerprint reader. Last year's Z2 featured a fingerprint reader on the front. Since the reader can't go on the rear, (it would be covered by Moto Mods,) Motorola put the fingerprint reader on the right edge of the Z3. It was easy to find and use.
The other controls around the frame are also easy to find and use. The screen lock button, which has a textured surface, is perched on the left side of the device. It has great travel and feedback. Motorola opted for two separate volume keys, which are located above the fingerprint reader on the right edge. These keys have smooth surfaces and excellent profiles. Feedback is satisfying.
The USB-C port is on the bottom. There is no 3.5mm headphone jack (boo), but the phone ships with a USB-C-to-3.5mm adapter. The tray for SIM/memory cards is on the top edge. It's no trouble to interact with.
The rear surface its typical for a Moto Mod-compatible device from Motorola. The glass panel is perfectly flat save for the huge camera module. The module is about the size of two quarters stacked on top of one another. It has a reflective rim that sets it apart visually, if the size/shape didn't call it out enough. The way Motorola arranged the two camera lenses and flash makes the module look like an emoji smiling at you.
The copper-colored pins and magnet for the Mod system are near the bottom edge. These are what allow Moto Mods to attach to and communicate with the Z3. It's a great system that Motorola did a fine job engineering. The glass is prone to collecting unattractive fingerprints and smudges.
Motorola did not fully waterproof the Z3. Like many Moto devices, the Z3 has a nano-coating sprayed onto the internal components that protects the phone from light rain and splashes, but not submersion. Also, let's not forget that glass breaks. Many Moto Mods will protect the rear surface by default, but won't protect the front.
The Z3 is designed and put together well.
The Z3 jumps from the 5.5-inch, 16:9 display of last year's Z2, to a 6.01-inch, 18:9 display, all while keeping the chassis the same size and shape. This means a huge reduction in the forehead and chin, giving the phone a screen-to-body ratio of 79%. This puts it in line with competing phones.
The screen is an AMOLED panel will full HD+ resolution (2,160 x 1,080). The resolution works well and everything on the screen is nice and sharp. My eyes didn't see any individual pixels. The screen pumps out plenty of light and was easy to view under a bright sky. AMOLED screens offer better contrast than LCD screens, and in that respect the Z3's display delivers. Blacks look great.
You can take control of the display's color profile, blue light filter, and other options via the settings menu, to make the experience more your own.
The Z3 performed on par with most other devices I've tested on Verizon. It connected calls on the first dial and maintained those calls across miles of travel. LTE data performance was excellent. Browsing the web felt zippy and scrolling through social media was smooth. Streaming standard definition content from services such as Netflix and Play Music worked perfectly. High definition content introduced a small amount of buffering, though nothing out of the ordinary.
The 5G Moto Mod won't be available until next year. If you want to learn how that will eventually work, you can check out our initial assessment here.
The earpiece above the screen is for both normal and speakerphone calls. Regular calls were clear and loud. I had no trouble hearing calls in coffee shops or other semi-noisy spaces. The Z3 did well on city streets and in the car, too. Clarity was quite good and voices sounded warm and present. Those I spoke to through the Z3 said my voice came across "very good".
The speakerphone delivered similarly clear and loud calls. I was able to use the Z3 everywhere I took it without compromises.
Ringers and alerts are fantastically loud, and the vibrate alert gets the job done.
It's not the best at blaring music, but that's what speaker Moto Mods are for.
Despite measuring less than 7mm tick, the Moto Z3 has a 3,000mAh battery. That's pretty standard for a phone like this. The phone on its own can push from breakfast to bedtime, though just barely. I never had the phone call it quits before the end of the day; that's a good thing. This mirrored the experience I had with last year's Z2.
You can take advantage of software tools to manage battery life and put Motorola's TurboCharging to use for rapidly replenishing the battery. The phone doesn't support wireless charging on its own, but a Moto Mod accessory adds that capability for a bit more cash.
Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi
The Z3's secondary radios mostly get the job done. I'm happy to report that the Z3 has Bluetooth 5.0 on board, though it is limited to the normal A2DP profile and doesn't seem to include any advanced codecs, such as aptX. The phone connected to accessories, including headphones and speakers, just fine. Phone calls pushed through headsets were very good, and music sent to Bluetooth speakers was fine. Calls I made through my car's hands-free system were very good.
The GPS radio paired well with Google Maps and handled real-time, voice-guided navigation without breaking a sweat.
The Z3 has NFC, too, which helps when pairing with some accessories and making payments with Google Pay. Moto Mods will get in the way, however, which means you'll have to remove most Mods to perform tap-and-go actions.
The dual-band WiFi radio delivered speedy app downloads and perfect HD video streams at home.
The latest entry in Motorola's Moto Z series of devices is the Z3, a thin slab that's compatible with Moto Mods modular attachments. The Z3 is an improved version of the Z3 Play thanks to a better processor and camera configuration.
Motorola and Verizon Wireless hope consumers will buy into the idea of upgrading their Moto Z3 phone with a modular 5G attachment some time next year. The Mod promises to bring a 10x improvement in data download speeds without sapping the battery too much.
Aug 16, 2019
Motorola has updated the software for its Moto Mod accessory that adds 5G to existing Moto Z-series phones, improving functionality for all phones, and adding compatibility with the Z2 Force for Verizon. The update improves both 5G download speeds, and enables two-way charging between the phone and the Mod when the battery is low in either.
Mar 13, 2019
Verizon's first standards-compliant mobile 5G network will launch in select areas of Chicago and Minneapolis on April 11th. 5G service will cost an extra $10/month.
Nov 14, 2018
Motorola and Verizon Wireless say they've successfully completed a 5G NR data transmission test between the Moto Z3 paired with a 5G Moto Mod and Verizon's network. Motorola announced the Moto Z3 for Verizon in August along with a Moto Mod capable of adding 5G to the Z3.