Motorola's Moto Z3 Phone to Be Upgradable to 5G With Add-On Module

Users can buy Motorola's $480 Moto Z3 phone now and move to 5G service in early 2019 when the add-on 5G Moto Mod becomes available.

Moto Z3

Motorola's new Moto Z3 smartphone will go on sale exclusively through Verizon with a 5G twist—the phone will be an upgradable device that will accept a snap-on module which provides faster 5G cellular service in the future.

The Moto Z3, which was announced on Aug. 2 in a post on the Motorola Blog, features a 6.01-inch Super AMOLED Full HD+ display (2,160-by-1,080-pixel resolution) that includes an 18:9 aspect ratio and a protective Corning Gorilla Glass 3 cover glass. The phone also boasts a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 octa-core processor and an 850MHz Adreno 540 graphics processing chip.

The handset, which will retail for $480 through Verizon starting Aug. 16, can be purchased through a Verizon device payment plan for $20 per month for 24 months with no interest. New customers who switch to Verizon from another carrier are also eligible for up to $300 off a new Moto Z3 when they trade in their old phone and use a device payment plan.

Also included in the Moto Z3 is 4GB of memory, 64GB of internal storage, a microSD slot for expandable storage up to 2TB, dual 12-megapixel rear cameras with up to 4K Ultra HD (30 fps) video capture, an 8-megapixel front camera with up to 1080p (30 fps) video capture and a USB-C charging port that also includes a 3.5mm headphone jack converter.

The 4G phone includes WiFi 802.11 a/ac/b/g/n 2.4GHz + 5GHz, Bluetooth 5.0 and near-field communications connectivity, as well as a fingerprint reader and face unlock capabilities for security.

The handset features a 3000mAh non-removable Li-Ion battery and has a polished aluminum frame and glass front and back. It is splash-resistant and comes in Ceramic Black. The smartphone is 3.01 inches wide, 6.16 inches long and 0.026 inches thick, and weighs 5.5 ounces.

5G Moto Mod

Pricing has not yet been announced for the accessory 5G Moto Mod, but it is expected to be available in the U.S. exclusively starting in early 2019.

5G networks are slated to feature up to 10 times the speed of today's wireless technologies, with lower latency and higher bandwidth, according to Verizon. Verizon's 5G services will first roll out in select areas in 2019, with additional regions to follow.

Avi Greengart, a device analyst with GlobalData, told eWEEK that the new handset will allow customers to pop the 5G Moto Mod in or out when it becomes available so the phone can be used as a 5G hotspot only as needed.

"However, the Mod adds significant thickness, may cost as much as a dedicated 5G hotspot device, and will not be out until next year," said Greengart. "By that point, smartphones with integrated 5G will surely be reaching the market as well. So, Motorola can claim it is first to announce a 5G-capable smartphone, but it may not actually have the first 5G smartphone you can actually buy."

On the other hand, he said, with this device Motorola will be the only smartphone vendor that can announce today that customers can buy a handset now and not worry that they'll be missing out on 5G next year, said Greengart.

"Marketing games aside, the only thing you can buy today is the Z3 itself, and it is not clear exactly who the phone is targeting," he added. While Motorola has done a good job in the midtier market with its earlier Moto G6 handset, the company has "struggled to sell premium products because consumers generally seek a great phone that best meets their needs, not a very good phone that can extend its capabilities with pricey modular accessories," he said.

"The Z3 has a top-of-the-line processor—but it's from last year," said Greengart. "The Z3's design is nice enough, but it is so wide that phones with even larger displays feel smaller in the hand—and that's before adding Mods that add to the overall girth."

Overall, the latest Moto phone is priced lower than the best phones from competitors like Apple and Samsung, he acknowledged. "At $480, Verizon appears to be heavily subsidizing it even before trade-in and switcher offers."