Today Motorola announced the latest model in their premium smartphone line, the Moto Z4. The new Z4 offers a number of improvements over its predecessor, the Moto Z3 – notably with its larger screen size, in-display fingerprint reader, massively improved camera and higher-capacity battery – yet comes in at a comparable price point ($499.99 on Verizon and the same price for and locked version bundled with the 360 camera mod). For those looking for a solid phone at a fair price – especially if you’re looking to jump onboard with 5G – the Moto Z4 offers a compelling choice.
The Moto Z4 has a 6.4” OLED display (up from 6.0” in the Z3). That size increase is primarily in height, as the Z4 display grows to 2340 x 1080p resolution (19:9), versus 2160 x 1080p on the Z3 (18:9). Like it’s predecessor, the Z4 is made with Gorilla Glass 3.
New for the Z4 is a fingerprint reader embedded behind the display. The placement works better, in my opinion, than the side-mounted version on the Z3, or on rear-mounted phones, such as the Pixel 3. On my review unit, the sensor quickly recognized my finger to open the device.
The biggest improvements to the Moto Z4 lie in the camera upgrades. On the rear, Motorola has introduced a 48MP Quad Pixel sensor, with optical image stabilization and Night Vision mode. The new sensor, which combines four smaller .8um pixels into each standard 1.6um pixel, should offer far more detail in bright lighting conditions and better light capture in darker scenarios. I’m not sure which sensor they’re using, but Sony introduced this technology last year and tests with phones using it have shown significant improvements over a standard 12MP sensor. Rear camera aperture is also improved from f/2.0 to f/1.7 for better performance in low light.
The Night Vision mode ramps up low-light photo taking with technology that takes 8 shots at varying exposure levels and stacks them together using algorithms to control exposure, color, noise reduction and sharpness. Night Vision is definitely a huge improvement over standard low-light photos, especially when the lighting is particularly dim (making impossible shots possible). Though in a quick side-buy-side, I found Google’s Night Sight mode on the Pixel 3 provides much better color accuracy and sharpness.
On the front is a 25MP, f/2.0 aperture camera, also using Quad Pixel technology. Night Vision mode is not available on the front, though there is low light mode that prioritizes the extra pixels into exposure/noise management to generate a better 6MP image.
The Moto Z4 is also leveraging the camera AI for a bunch of new shooting modes, from AI Portrait Lighting effects to Spot Color Mode to group smile capture.
The Moto Z4 is using a lower-power processor than the Z3 – the Qualcomm Snapdragon 675, versus the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 in the Z3. In processor performance testing, the 675 is slightly slower (about 20%) than the 835, but it’s built on newer architecture. In practice, most users likely won’t notice any performance difference, though they may notice the benefit of the 675’s lower power consumption when it comes to batter life.
Speaking of battery life, the non-removable Li-ion battery in the Moto Z4 has been upped to 3600mAh, versus the somewhat anemic 3000mAh in the Moto Z3. Since the Z4 is also using a lower-power processor – the Qualcomm Snapdragon 675, versus the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 in the Z3 – we could see far better battery life. The Z4 also continues with the 15W TurboPower charging of the Z3, allowing for far faster charge-ups when you need it.
5G & Moto Mods
Like the Moto Z3, the Z4 has the option for 5G capability with a Moto Mod. The $199.99 mod is only available for Verizon, and only on Verizon versions of the Z4 (i.e., not the unlocked version).
Beyond 5G all Moto Mods made for the Z3 will work with the Z4, though the edges of the mods protrude a bit on the Z4 – it’s not terrible, but not what you would expect from a high-end device. And believe me, you'll want some type of mod, back or case on the Z4, because without it this is one slippery device.
Recognizing that many people hated the removal of the headphone jack in the Z3, Motorola has brought the headphone jack ack with the Z4. You’re welcome.
Pricing & availability
The unlocked Moto Z4 will be available at Best Buy, B&H Photo and on Amazon.com starting June 6 (Presale May 30) bundled with the 360 camera Moto Mod for $499.99. It would have been great if Motorola offered a cheaper option without the mods, but that’s not in the cards right now.
Verizon customers can get the Z4 in Flash Gray on June 13 and in Frost White later this summer for $499.99. Though that deal gets better if you opt for the $10 per month for 24 months program, bringing the price down to $240. The 5G Moto Mod through Verizon is $199.99.
Is it worth it?
For those looking for 5G right now (which is practically limited to Verizon customers living in Chicago), the Moto Z4 with 5G mod at $439.99 on a two-year plan is a compelling choice. For others, it’s a harder call. Unless you see a lot of value in the Moto Mods, you may be better off spending $479 for a Google Pixel 3a XL, which is similarly spec’d, but offers better night shots and faster (and more guaranteed) updates to the latest Android rollouts. We’ll see how our opinions evolve as we spend more time with our review unit.
Operating system: Android 9 Pie
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 octa-core processor (up to 2.0 GHz); Adreno 608 GPU
Memory (RAM): 4 GB
Internal storage: 128 GB, expandable up to 512GB microSD
Battery: Non-removable Li-ion 3600mAh, 15W TurboPower charger included, wireless charging available with Moto Mod
Display: 6.39" OLED Full HD+ (2340 x 1080p)
Dimensions: 75 x 158 x 7.35mm
Body: 2.5D Gorilla Glass 3, 6000 series polished aluminum frame
Water Protection: P2i splash-proof nano-coating
Rear camera: 48MP sensor with 12MP output using Quad Pixel technology, f/1.7 aperture, 1.6um pixel size, OIS
Front camera: 25MP, f/2.0 aperture, 0.9um pixel size. Low light mode using Quad Pixel technology for 6.25MP, 1.8um pixel size output
[Image credits: Josh Kirschner/Techlicious, Motorola]