Motorola Z3 hands-on: Motorola's latest smartphone, brought to you by Verizon

The Moto Z3 sees modest updates, and will eventually support Verizon's 5G network through a Moto Mod.

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On Thursday Motorola held a special event at its US headquarters in Chicago to announce two new products: A smartphone, the Moto Z3, and a new 5G Moto Mod.

The Moto Z3 will be a Verizon Wireless exclusive, priced at $480 and available starting August 16. As interesting as the Moto Z3 is, with its slightly tweaked design, and attractive price point, the real star of the show is the 5G Moto Mod.

What show? Verizon's show. The entire event focussed on Verizon's networking aptitude and capabilities - and the yet to be announced 5G mobile rollout from the carrier. In other words, the event was one very long Verizon commercial, hosted by Motorola who also happened to have a new device.

moto-z3.jpg
Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

The upcoming 5G Moto Mod - compatible only with Verizon Wireless, by the way - attaches to the back of the Z3, just like the 360-degree camera mod or external battery mod, leveraging the existing pins and magnets Motorola has used on the Z-line of smartphones for the past few years.

Internally, the mod has a 2,000-milliamp hour battery, and the Qualcomm X50 modem. There's a four antenna array, designed to ensure a reliable connection regardless of how the device is being held.

5g-moto-mod.jpg
Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Once attached, the Z3 will recognize the Mod and allow the user to transmit and receive data on Verizon's 5G mobile network. Pricing for the mod wasn't announced. Motorola did announce availability won't be until "early 2019."

As for the Moto Z3, it boasts a 6-inch Full HD+ OLED display with an 18:9 aspect ratio thanks to the removal of the fingerprint sensor on that had perviously been placed underneath the display. Motorola opted to stick with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor - last year's processor - in order to keep the price of the device down. Verizon customers can expect Android Oreo 8.1, 64 GB of storage, and 4 GB of memory on the Z3.

moto-z3-mod-connection.jpg
Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

The left side of the Z3 is where you'll find the power button, with volume up and down keys on the right side. Just below the volume controls is the finger print reader. In my very brief time with a demo Z3, the placement of the sensor lined up with my rather average sized hands.

On the backside you'll find two 12-megapixel cameras, with an 8-megapixel camera on the front.

Motorola is positioning the Moto Z3 as the first 5G upgradeable phone, and that's fine. It is the first 5G upgradeable phone, and will probably be the only phone you can alter its network experience by simply attaching an accessory to it. That aspect of today's event is exciting and intriguing.

moto-mod-on-z3-play.jpg
Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

What's puzzling about today's event is just how prominent Verizon was throughout the announcement and the demonstrations that followed.

Actually, it's not puzzling at all. It's just... different. Wireless carriers are trying to get out ahead of one another, gaining attention for the next big push in wireless that promises gigabit connections to our phones. Verizon Wireless haven't even announced when its 5G network will go live, let alone which handful of cities would be first to get it.

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