Pros / It’s a highly customizable device thanks to the modular Moto Mods.
Cons / It is only available from Verizon.
Verdict / The Motorola Moto Z3 is a good mid-range phone, but 5G-capability, the phone’s most-anticipated feature, is only available through a mod that comes out sometime in 2019.
Launched in August 2018, the Motorola Moto Z3 is an odd device and carrier-specific to Verizon Wireless, which automatically limits its appeal. Still, it’s a decent phone, especially for device customization. The phone is compatible with all Moto Mods, which let you add extra functionality to your device. The mods cost from $20 to $200 each, but considering the Z3’s relatively low starting price, tacking on a little extra is still affordable as long as you don’t buy all of them.
The Moto Z3 is designed to be used with mods, such as a Polaroid photo printer or a simple style shell. We tested the phone without a mod, and the device felt incomplete. It’s very thin, and its dual cameras jut out from the back of the phone. Additionally, the Z3 itself is missing some common smartphone features like wireless charging, which is only available with an additional Mod. Some Mods, like the power pack, add considerable bulk to the phone. One of the highly-anticipated features for the Moto Z3 is its potential 5G capabilities. Motorola and Verizon have touted that the Moto Z3 as the first 5G-compatible phone, but that is only true with the 5G Moto Mod, which isn’t released yet.
The Moto Z3 is a large phone with an 18:9 aspect ratio, similar in size though slightly smaller than a Plus-sized iPhone. It’s an all-glass, aluminum-framed device which features a six-inch AMOLED display. In tests performed by Tom’s Guide, our sister site, the notchless, 1080p display covered 228 percent of the color gamut. It’s a good-looking screen that covers most of the front of the phone, and it gets almost as bright under sunlight as the iPhone X.
The sides of the device house power and volume buttons, as well as a fingerprint scanner. Because most phones’ fingerprint scanners are on the back of the device, this placement took a bit of getting used to. This is more of a quirk than a con. Another quirk is the lack of a headphone jack, though this is more common among smartphones as of late. The Z3 is also missing an IP rating. It is instead advertised as water resistant.
The Z3 features dual 12 MP rear shooters. One camera is a monochrome (black and white) lens, which is supposed to help it take better low-light photos. To that end, it’s fine, but doesn’t compare to the Pixel 2. The Z3 captures video in 4K up to 30 frames per second. The front-facing 8 MP shooter is also unremarkable but gets the job done. Honestly, the Z3’s whole camera setup is perfectly adequate but is better with a Moto Mod.
The Motorola Moto Z3 runs on the year-old Snapdragon 835 chipset, which is an interesting choice, as it came out months after smartphones started using the Snapdragon 845, though it performs well enough for most applications. The phone has 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of built-in storage, plus it supports expandable storage using a microSD card. It runs on Android Oreo 8.1 with the promise of at least two future upgrades to keep up with the latest Android OS.
The Moto Z3 comes with a 3,000 mAh battery. It lasted or 9 hours and 22 minutes in our continuous web-browsing test, which is longer than both the LG G7 ThinQ and the HTC U12+, but still far short of the Google Pixel 2’s over 11-hour lifespan. The USB Type-C charging accessories packaged with the device allow for fast charging, but wireless charging is only available with a separate Moto Mod.
Overall, the Motorola Moto Z3 is a good phone for the price. It has a decent display and modular functionality, though it feels a little lacking should you choose to forego the Moto Mods. If you’re on Verizon, it’s a great value at $480.