moto Z3 Verizon review: A slightly better Z3 Play for Big Red

Android / Hardware Reviews / Mobile / Reviews / Tech
moto Z3 Verizon

The moto Z3 for Verizon makes the best of the Z3 Play slightly better in the same package.

TA-ratings-93

Motorola has been on a role lately with their smartphones. They are easily one of the most under the radar Android OEMs out there. It’s too bad that more people aren’t considering these phones as they’re excellent in many ways. We’ve already reviewed the moto Z3 Play and now we have the moto Z3 Verizon version. There are very minor differences here with the most significant being the moto Z3 Verizon chipset and performance. Read on for our full moto Z3 Verizon review.

Specifications

The moto Z3 Verizon edition has the following features and specifications:

  • Processor (CPU): Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
  • RAM: 4GB RAM or 6GB RAM
  • Storage: 32/64GB, MicroSD, up to 512 GB (dedicated slot)
  • Display: 6.01″ Super AMOLED 1080×2160 18:9, 402ppi Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • SIM capability: Single SIM (Nano-SIM) or Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)
  • Battery: Non-removable Li-Ion 3000 mAh battery
  • Operating System: Google Android O (8.1)
  • Main camera dual
    • 12 MP (f/2.0, 1.25µm, PDAF & laser AF)
    • 12 MP B/W, PDAF & laser AF
    • Geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, panorama, Auto-HDR
    • Video: [email protected], [email protected]/60fps
    • No OIS or EIS
    • Supports Moto Gestures
  • Front camera
    • 8 MP (f/2.0, 1.12µm), 1080p
  • Dimensions: 156.5 x 76.5 x 6.8 mm (6.16 x 3.01 x 0.27 in)
  • Weight: 156 g (5.50 oz)
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Works with all Moto Mods
  • 3.1, Type-C 1.0 reversible connector, magnetic connector, USB On-The-Go

What’s In The Box

  • moto Z3 Play
  • USB-C charging cable
  • Charging brick
  • Documentation and manuals
moto Z3 Verizon
The display on the moto Z3 Verizon edition is awesome for a mid-tier device.

Design

If you’re familiar with the Z3 design language of the past you’ll be right at home here. Nothing changes much at all on the moto Z3 Verizon edition. Set it side-by-side with the moto Z3 Play and you’d think they were the same phone. Verizon does add their logo to the back which is the only real distinguishing feature.

The reason the design of this moto Z3 remains the same has one simple answer. moto mods. Motorola has a large family of moto mods that it wants to continue to support. If it had changed the design, it would have had to abandon that entire ecosystem. That’s just something the company wasn’t prepared to do, just yet.

As I said in my Z3 Play review, the moto Z3 phones are some of the nicest looking and feeling smartphones I’ve ever used. Their slim chassis and glass body have a premium look and feel to them, even though they are mid-tier devices. As with the Z3 Play, the moto Z3 Verizon moves to all glass and gets rid of the metal back. There is no wireless charging as that would interfere with the moto mods.

moto Z3 Verizon
Left mounted power button makes me sad and mad.

The walk around of the phone is really about the same as the moto Z3 Play:

Taking a tour around the phone. The bottom houses the USB Type-C charging port. There is no headphone jack, an omission many will not like but doesn’t bother me in the least. Along the right side, you have the fingerprint sensor and volume rocker. The fingerprint sensor was moved from the front to make way for a bigger screen.

Along the top are the microphones and SIM card tray. Now, we get to it, my biggest gripe about this phone. The power button is on the left side of the phone. When I asked Motorola about this design choice they didn’t have much to say. Only that they felt it was a good middle ground to keep everyone happy. They didn’t feel integrating the power button with fingerprint sensor would be good so they opted to for this design.

That said. I agree. I don’t think the fingerprint sensor and power button should be combined. But I did tell Motorola that the volume rocker on the left and power button on the right would have made more sense, for most.

Around the back, you have the moto mod connectors, moto logo, and dual camera with flash. Yes, the camera bump is noticeable but not as bad as you would think. Though I am sure some will not like it at all. Finally, the front houses the 6.01″ display, camera, flash, and speaker.

Overall, this is a moto Z3 phone. It’s well built, nicely designed (except for the power button), and looks more expensive than it is.

Display

This display is the same display you’ll find in the previously released moto Z3 Play. I am still pretty impressed with the 6.01″ Super AMOLED 1080×2160 18:9, 402ppi panel. It’s just slightly better than FHD but also not a crazy QHD display that will eat up your battery life.

Since this is an AMOLED display, the colors are punchy and vibrant. Brightness levels are great and it’s useable in bright sunlight but not perfect. Blacks are nice and whites are fine, nothing out of the ordinary for this price point.

As with the moto Z3 Play, touch responsiveness is good. Scrolling felt fine with little to no noticeable lag. I will say that the better processor on the moto Z3 Verizon does make things much smoother than the Z3 Play. More on that in the performance category. Of course, since this is an 18:9 aspect ratio, videos will have black bars on the left and right. Just pinch to zoom and you’ll be fine, though you will lose just a hair off the top and bottom then.

Overall, a fine display here and the same display as this phone’s slightly older sibling.

moto Z3 Verizon
Pins for connecting moto mods.

Software

Again, you’ll read this throughout this review: “like the Z3 Play.” The moto Z3 Verizon is running a nearly stock Android 8.1.0. It does have Motorola’s minor tweaks with gestures and a simple moto interface but it’s as close to stock Android as anyone can get. Below are the same moto features we listed for the Z3 Play.

  • Moto Actions
    • Screenshot Editor: Get shortcuts to edit and share your screenshots immediately after you capture them.
    • Three Finger Screenshot: Touch and hold the screen with three of your fingertips to capture a screenshot.
    • One Button Nav: This eliminates the software buttons onscreen and replaces it with a nav bar giving you a little more screen (my favorite feature).
    • Chop twice for flashlight: Turn the flashlight on and off with two chopping motions.
    • Twist for quick capture: Twist your wrist twice and quickly open the camera anytime.
    • Swipe to shrink screen: Swipe down to the left or right to make the screen smaller for one-handed use.
    • Pick up to stop ringing: Lift the phone to switch incoming calls to vibrate.
    • Flip for Do Not Disturb: Place the phone face down to silence notifications and calls.
  • Moto Display
    • Night Display: Changes your screen to a warmer tone in the evening hours to prepare your eyes for sleep.
    • Attentive Display: Keeps the screen on while you’re looking at it.
    • Moto Display: Friendly notifications fade in and out while the screen is off.
moto Z3 Verizon
Android 8.1.0 runs on this phone with a very light moto skin.

Now, none of these software features really impacts the Android experience and you can turn them all off if you wish. I found the One Button Nav to be the best of the bunch and if you’re switching from an iPhone X, this will feel somewhat familiar to you.

Overall,  the software experience is top notch. I dare say that Motorola is second to Google’s own phones in terms of a pure Android experience.

Performance

This moto Z3 is rocking a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 with 4GB of RAM. There is an optional 6GB RAM version with 512GB of storage. This chipset is much better than the Z3 Play’s and it does show in some applications.

Gaming is much smoother on the Z3 than the Z3 Play, mind you it’s great on the Play as well but just ever so slightly smoother on the Z3. Where I noticed the performance bump was just in everyday tasks, along with smoother scrolling and gesture controls.

Testing both phones side-by-side apps also loaded quicker and everything just seemed just a hair faster and smoother with the Snapdragon 835 inside.

As with the moto Z3 Play and all Z3 phones, moto mods are a big part of the experience here. Here’s a rundown of some of the mods Motorola has available for the Z3 phones.

Overall, the performance is the only thing that makes this a slightly better choice over the Z3 Play. Of course, you won’t be able to use this device on anything other than Verizon’s network so it’s really your only Z3 choice if you have Verizon.

Speakers/Sound

Once again, same as the Z3 Play, no dual speaker. The single speaker is housed in the earpiece which actually isn’t bad at all. While the sound isn’t stellar, it’s at least firing straight at you rather than to the side. It’s also nice because you’re not muffling the sound with your hand. Overall, the speaker is decent, not awesome, but I do like the placement.

moto Z3 Verizon
No bottom speaker and no headphone jack.

Camera

The camera situation is about the same as on the Z3 Play. I will say that the photos the moto Z3 Verizon produces are ever so slightly better but not extremely noticeable. Low-light is still a struggle for these mid-tier phones but they are getting better. Just not in the same league as many flagship phones. Also missing is optical image stabilization (OIS). The camera is snappy and quick to respond and as long as you have a somewhat steady hand, the video isn’t too shaky. OIS would have been great to have here though.

Overall, (as with the Z3 Play) the camera is a basic midrange offering. It does well in decent to great lighting, falls off a bit in low-lighting, and gets grainy in dark conditions. My one major gripe would be the lack of OIS.

Reception/Call Quality

There are no issues with reception or call quality with this device. Verizon’s network is pretty strong and coverage was excellent where I was.

Battery Life

One last major difference between the Z3 Play and the Z3 Verizon is the battery. Not so much in internal battery but included battery. Both have 3,000mAh batteries inside the phone and both battery’s lasted me from 5 am to 9 pm. But the moto Z3 Verizon does not include the 2,000mAh battery mod like the Z3 Play does. That mod was a nice addition and really gives users a lot of battery life. Of course, you can still buy one separately but it would have been nice to have included.

Overall, battery life is one of the Z3 family traits that is best in class and even better than some pricer phones.

What about 5G?

When Motorola announced this device they also announced a partnership with Verizon on a 5G moto mod. The moto Z3 Verizon is capable of handling 5G but not without the moto mod. 5G is still under development and is rolling out in certain markets only. So don’t expect 5G on this phone out of the box.

We didn’t get the chance to test or even look at the 5G moto mod at Motorola’s event in Chicago but Motorola did show us some testing in their labs. From what they showed us, 5G is promising and looks to work as advertised. The bigger question, which we never got an answer to, is how much will 5G plans cost and how long before an extensive rollout?

For now, I wouldn’t worry about 5G too much. It’s likely going to be pricey. Once available more widely it may drop in price but that may not be for a while anyway.  But if it matters to you. Yes, this phone will work on Verizon’s upcoming 5G network with the 5G moto mod in select areas only.

moto Z3 Verizon
The new 5G Moto Mod will be available early 2019.

Price/Value

The moto Z3 Verizon has a retail price of $480USD. That’s really a great price for what you get in this phone and if you’re on Verizon it’s a great value.

Wrap Up

The moto Z3 Verizon is another very solid mid-tier phone from Motorola that is really challenging the idea that everyone needs a flagship phone. The power button placement is irritating and the camera could be a bit better but for the price you get good value here.

moto Z3 Verizon

480.00USD
9.3

Design

9.0/10

Display

9.5/10

Software

9.0/10

Performance

10.0/10

Speakers/Sound

8.0/10

Camera

8.5/10

Reception/Call Quality

10.0/10

Battery Life

10.0/10

Price/Value

9.5/10

Nailed it

  • This is the same basic Z3 design but still nice
  • Really nice build quality and materials
  • AMOLED display is still killer
  • Performance is even better than the Z3 Play
  • Moto gestures are still great
  • Battery life is amazing
  • Android runs great here
  • Moto Mod support for added functionality

Needs work

  • Left mounted power button
  • Camera could be better
  • Single speaker
  • No headphone jack (for those who care)
  • Glass design could lead to breaks without protection
  • No OIS
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