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August 3, 2018

Moto Z3 hands-on preview: A Verizon exclusive that adds a 5G flourish

by John_A

It may look familiar, but this phone goes to 5G.

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Motorola’s newest phone looks a lot like its other newest phone — and that’s no accident.

The Moto Z3 (no Force) is a Verizon-exclusive version of the Moto Z3 Play, and while it shares much the same spec sheet, there are a couple of upgrades — and one particular exclusive feature — that will keep it differentiated. Of course, it supports Moto Mods (more on that in a bit), but at its core, it’s a 2017-era smartphone from a specs perspective in a 2018 body.

Operating system Android 8.1Moto Display, Voice, Actions
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor
GPU Adreno 540 GPU
Screen 6.01-inch Full HD (2160×1080) AMOLED
Materials Gorilla Glass 3 6000 series aluminum
RAM 4GB
Storage 64GB
Expandability microSD up to 2TB
Rear camera 12MP, Dual Autofocus Pixel phase-detect, laser autofocus 1.25um pixels f/2.0 lens dual-LED flash
Rear camera 2 12MP black & white Phase detection autofocus portrait mode
Video capture 720p (120fps), 1080p, 4K (30fps)
Front camera 8MP 1.12-micron pixels f/2.0 wide-angle lens
Connectivity USB-C (USB-C to 3.5mm adapter included)
Speaker Single front-facing
Moto Mods support Yes
Water resistance Water-repellent coating
Security Side fingerprint sensor, face unlock
NFC Yes
Battery 3000mAhTurboPower charger (8 hrs battery in 15 min)
Colors Deep Indigo
Dimensions 76.5 x 156.5 x 6.75 mm
Weight 156g

That means a Snapdragon 835 instead of an 845, and 4GB of RAM instead of the increasingly common 6GB or 8GB. The 6-inch screen is the same AMOLED panel as on the Play, too, for better or worse, with a 2160×1080 pixel resolution, as is the 3,000mAh battery.

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On the camera side, there’s a dual 12MP camera setup, with 4K video support. Both sensors are upgrades over the Play — the secondary sensor, in particular, is black and white, promising better low-light photos. Up front, there’s an 8MP selfie camera.

The phone’s design is a known quantity: covered with Gorilla Glass 3 on both sides, there’s a right-side fingerprint sensor, a left-side power button, and very fast face unlock support. Moto Mods support is particularly important here, too, because this is the only phone in the Moto Z lineup to support 5G.

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As part of the launch, Motorola and Verizon are co-launching a 5G-compatible Moto Mod that will launch in early 2019, allowing the carrier’s four supported cities (Houston, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and another unannounced one) to connect where the gigabit-plus speeds are available.

It uses the previously-announced Snapdragon X50 platform, which includes four millimeter-wave antennas operating at 28GHz, with support up to 5Gbps in ideal conditions.

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So how does the 5G Moto Mod work? It’s actually pretty interesting. When attached to the back of the phone using the magnetic pogo pins, the X50 modem kicks in and, if there’s sufficient signal, takes over the download and upload responsibilities from the X16 modem in the phone’s Snapdragon 835. When there’s a phone call, based on the current 5G spec, it falls back to the phone’s modem.

But there’s a separate, much-faster X24 LTE modem in the 5G Mod, too, offering LTE speeds of up to 2Gbps over existing LTE networks. If you’ll recall, the X24 was announced alongside the X50 in February, and it’s the world’s first product built on a 7nm process. It only achieves those vaunted 2Gbps speeds using 20 spatial streams and 5x carrier aggregation, or up to 7x carrier aggregation with fewer individual streams.

The Moto Z3 will be available at Verizon on August 16 for $480 outright, or $20 per month for 24 months. The 5G Moto Mod doesn’t have pricing or specific availability just yet, but Motorola says it will release it in “early 2019” when Verizon’s 5G network is a bit more mature and ready for mobile connections.

See at Motorola

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