The pieces for 5G network connectivity are falling into place, but we haven't seen an actual production-ready 5G handset from a major manufacturer yet. Motorola, for its part, is taking the first steps down the road to 5G hardware by harnessing the Moto Mod accessory connector on the new Moto Z3 handset. A companion 5G Moto Mod exclusively for Verizon's network could make the Moto Z3 the first 5G-capable phone on the market.
The Z3 itself is a fairly straightforward Android device with high-end specs. It's got a Snapdragon 835 SoC inside with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage, and a microSD slot can address cards as large as 2 TB. Its 6″ display uses a 2160×1080 OLED panel covered with a sheet of Gorilla Glass 3, and it's all powered by a 3000-mAh non-removable battery.
The handset's rear camera cluster includes a 12-MP main shooter with an f/2 lens, paired with another 12-MP monochrome array for depth-sensing duties and other computational photography tasks like bokeh effects. The rear array can record 4K videos at up to 30 FPS and capture slow-motion footage, although Motorola doesn't dive deep into just how slow the Z3 can go. The front-facing camera can capture 8-MP shots through an f/2 lens with an 84-degree field of view.
The Moto Z3 will be available in the USA exclusively on Verizon starting August 16 for $480. Upgraders can take as much as $300 off that figure with a trade-in on an older device if they sign up for Motorola's payment plan.
What's more interesting about the Z3 is that aforementioned Moto Mod. Verizon, Motorola, and Qualcomm have wrapped up the Snapdragon maker's X50 modem and recently-announced mmWave transceivers into a snap-on back panel for the Z3 with its own 2200-mAh battery inside. Moto says this Mod will be available “exclusively in the US” in early 2019, probably as soon as Verizon's first public 5G towers begin transmitting.
Even as a first-generation 5G device with its own power pack inside, this Mod looks like a fairly chunky and heavy apparatus to snap on to the razor-thin Z3. It'll be interesting to see whether first-generation 5G handsets themselves have to use beefed-up bodies like this to squeeze all of that hardware inside when they're not piggybacking on an entire other handset to function. It's also worth noting that buyers after peak 5G speeds will likely need to be in specific parts of major urban areas to get them. Still, this Mod could be an important step on the road to low-latency, high-bandwidth mobile communication.