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The Moto Z4 costs $500 but its biggest problem is all of the other phones that you can get for that price. Currently there are four other options that are just as compelling including the Samsung Galaxy S10E, Google Pixel 3A XL, OnePlus 6T and the Moto Z3. Each of these phone offer a different value. We compare those for you here: Moto Z4 vs. Galaxy S10 E, Pixel 3A XL, OnePlus 6T: $500 phones.
Don't get me wrong, the Motorola Moto Z4 is a decent phone, but, it seems like it's having a bit of an identity crisis. In addition to being a midrange phone, it's modular and has 5G connectivity with Verizon's network -- a feature you'd usually see on a high-end phone like the Galaxy S10 5G or LG V50. And like how a pair of zip-off pants that turn into shorts are neither the best shorts nor pants, the Moto Z4's versatility is also what makes it less appealing.
For starters, its price places it directly in competition with the $449 OnePlus 6T and the $479 Google Pixel 3A XL, the latter of which has one of the best cameras on any phone you can buy. The Moto Z4 can also transform into a 5G phone via a $349 5G Moto Mod accessory. That feature puts it squarely against the $1,299 Galaxy S10 5G and the $999 LG V50. Is the Moto Z4 better than the the Pixel 3A XL or Galaxy S10 5G? Unfortunately, no. Even with the 5G Mod, the Moto Z4 is a middle of the road phone that isn't anything more than just OK.
It's not that the Moto Z4 is "bad," per se. It's just that since the original Moto Z launched in 2016, phones with better cameras and higher-end processors, like the Pixel 3A and the OnePlus 6T, have been released and cost nearly the same price. The Moto Z4 feels like its goal was to be a cheap way to get people on Verizon's sapling-sized 5G network, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But for pretty much anything else, it's hard to recommend the Moto Z4 unless you're thoroughly invested in Motorola's Moto Mod ecosystem.
Without any Moto Mods attached, the Moto Z4 looks like the drawing a sketch artist would make if you described what a 2016 smartphone looked like. It has a glass back with a flat gray finish, a big camera bump and looks pretty bland. The screen is vibrant with good contrast, though sometimes hard to see in direct sunlight. In a nod to 2019 though, there's a notch and thin-ish bezels. But overall, it's vanilla ice cream in a Ben and Jerry's world.
Mods fit securely but not flush with the sides of the phone. When I have the Moto 360 camera mod attached, for example, the edge of the Mod doesn't perfectly meet the curved sides of the phone and the union makes this annoying lip that rubs my hand literally the wrong way. This noticeable seam between the phone and the Mod makes the setup feel like an oversight by Motorola. Oh, and by the way, the Moto Z4 has full support for all of Motorola's existing Mods, which includes battery packs, a speaker, a projector and others.
The Moto Z4's rear camera gets a few upgrades over last year's Moto Z3. It has a 48-megapixel rear camera, which is one of the highest resolutions you can find on a phone and follows a trend of other upper-mid-tier phones including the OnePlus 7 Pro, which has a camera with the same resolution.
Overall, photos are solid for the price but won't wow you. In good light, the colors are accurate and bright, and the exposure is spot-on, especially when using HDR. Even in medium- to low-light conditions, photos are useable but start to suffer from softness in details like textures, fabrics and hair.
When things get particularly dark, there is a Night Vision mode that takes eight photos and combines them to reduce image noise and improve brightness. Night Vision made images brighter but often processed them too much. In the photo below, of a tree I took after sunset, there's a weird digital stippling effect over the clouds, and it's surrounded by patchy smears of noise reduction. I found Night Vision gave the best results in medium-to-low light like indoors.
Video from the Moto Z4 is nothing special. It can shoot 4K, but videos looked oversharpened and struggle from noise in low-light. Selfies are actually good as long as you have a nice amount of light.
Perhaps the most impressive feature on the Moto Z4 is the big honking battery on the inside. In our looped video tests in airplane mode, the battery lasted 19 hours and 21 minutes, which is nearly 5 hours longer than we got with last year's Moto Z3. And in actual use, even with the battery-sucking 360-camera Mod attached, the Moto Z4 got through two days on a single charge. Of course, if you want even more battery, for an additional $50 you can grab a Moto Power Pack mod, which Motorola claims adds another 16 hours of battery life.
Built into the display is a fingerprint sensor, similar to the one on the Huawei P30 Pro and OnePlus 7 Pro. Setting up the optical fingerprint reader was seamless, but over weeks of testing I found it unlocks on the first try only, say, two out of five times, and it unlocks on the second try nearly all the time. This could be user error, though I doubt it -- I honestly tried to place my finger flat and centered on the reader and not move.
It turns out the fingerprint reader relies on machine learning and, in theory, the speed and reliability of unlocking will will improve over time. I'm going to continue to use the Moto Z4 and see if it does.
The Moto Z4 lacks wireless charging, but if you already own the Moto Style Shell with wireless charging, that won't be a problem. It also lacks IP-rated water resistance, though Motorola says the phone's nano-coating can withstand spills and rain. In a welcomed return, there's a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack along the bottom of the phone, which the previous Moto Z3 didn't have.
I love Motorola's friendly and easy-to-use software, especially Moto Actions. These are thoughtful shortcuts that you can selectively enable, like One Button Nav(igation) and Flip for DND (Do Not Disturb mode). Motorola's near-stock take on Android is honestly one of favorite versions of the operating system out there, and the company promises to update the phone to Android Q in the future.
The phone features a Snapdragon 675 processor, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. In daily use, the Moto Z4 launched apps quickly and handled videos as well as some games, like the graphics-rich Alto's Odyssey, just fine. In games like PUBG Mobile, the Moto Z4 got warm to hold (as most phones do), but for $80 you can buy a Moto Gamepad Mod that makes holding the phone more comfortable during gameplay. It adds joysticks, buttons and a D-pad, too.
During our performance testing, the Moto Z4 scored lower than last year's OnePlus 6T (which has a Snapdragon 845 processor) and split results with the Pixel 3A and 3A XL, even though the Pixel 3A phones have less powerful Snapdragon 670 processors. The Moto Z4's performance scored lower than last year's Moto Z3, which has a Snapdragon 835. Perhaps a more fair comparison is to the Moto Z3 Play, which the Moto Z4 beat handily.
Though I myself didn't test the Moto Z4's 5G connectivity with the 5G Moto Mod, my colleague Jessica Dolcourt got to test a Moto Z3 with the 5G mod this spring. She describes the experience as "kludgy at best."
"The 5G Moto Mod is thick and heavy," she wrote. You attach it magnetically and pins shuttle information and the data connection from the Mod, which has a Snapdragon 855 processor and a X50 modem that makes 5G possible, to the phone."
Her biggest issue with the Moto Z3 and 5G mod setup was the horrible battery life. Since the Moto Z4 offers a bigger battery though, this might be less of an issue when using the 5G Mod.
For more of her thoughts on Motorola and 5G read her story Motorola's 5G phone may be a first, but a foldable Razr is a more important win.
Moto Z4 vs. Galaxy S10E: The Moto Z4 and Galaxy S10E are two very different phones that by a twist of fate cost nearly the same -- at least for the time being. The Galaxy S10E is essentially a scaled down Galaxy S10 and includes a Snapdragon 855 processor, one of the best camera systems and wireless charging that can also be used to juice up accessories like wireless earbuds or a smartwatch. At its original price of $750, the Galaxy S10E was an incredible deal, even more so if you can snag one for $520.
At $500, the Moto Z4 lacks wireless charging and has a modest processor compared to the Galaxy S10E. On the other hand the Moto Z4 lasted 2 hours and 21 minutes longer in our looped video tests in airplane mode, has a larger screen and can be modded into a 5G phone with the addition of a 5G Moto Mod. Also, Motorola's friendly and easy-to-use software on the Z4 is a delight. The near-stock take on Android is honestly one of my favorite versions of the operating system out there.
Moto Z4 vs. Pixel 3A XL: If you're a camera nerd, the Pixel 3A XL has one of the best cameras on any phone today. The Moto Z4 lasted over 2 hours longer than the Pixel in our battery tests, despite having a lower-capacity battery.
One more thing to consider is software updates. Google promises a minimum of 3 years of software updates for the Pixel 3A and 3A XL, and as a Google phone it'll be one of the first devices to get updates as they roll out. Motorola is committed to keeping phones up-to-date, but makes no promises for how long.
Moto Z4 vs. OnePlus 6T: Though it launched in November 2018, the OnePlus 6T still offers more flagship appeal than the Moto Z4. It has a better design, camera and faster performance. However the Moto Z4's battery lasted 2 hours and 18 minutes longer than the OnePlus in our tests. Still, if you have $50 more to spend in your budget, the OnePlus 6T is the way to go.
Moto Z4 vs. Moto Z3: Currently Motorola sells the Moto Z4 for $500 and the Moto Z3, which has a Snapdragon 835 processor and can use the 5G Moto Mod, for $480. The Moto Z4 has a much longer battery life, comes with twice the storage and newer cameras on the front and back.
|Motorola Moto Z4||Google Pixel 3A XL||OnePlus 6T||Motorola Moto Z3||Samsung Galaxy S10E|
|Display size, resolution||6.4-inch OLED; 2,340 x 1,080 pixels||6.0-inch gOLED; 2,160 x 1,080 pixels||6.41-inch AMOLED; 2,340 x 1,080 pixels||6.0-inch OLED; 2,160 x 1,080 pixels||5.8-inch AMOLED; 2,280x1,080-pixels|
|Dimensions (Inches)||6.2 x 2.95 x 0.3 in||6.3 x 3.0 x 0.3 in||6.20 x 2.94 x 0.32 in||6.16 x 3.01 x 0.27 in||5.6 x 2.8 x 0.27 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||158 x 75 x 7.35 mm||160.1 x 76.1 x 8.2 mm||157.5 x 74.8 x 8.2 mm||156.5 x 76.5 x 6.75 mm||142 x 70 x 7.9 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||5.82 oz; 165g||5.89 oz; 167g||6.5 oz; 185g||5.5 oz; 156g||5.3oz.; 150g|
|Mobile software||Android 9.0||Android 9.0||Android 9 Pie||Android 8.1 Oreo||Android 9.0|
|Camera||48-megapixel||12.2-megapixel||16-megapixel standard, 20-megapixel telephoto||12-megapixel, 12-megapixel mono||12-megapixel (wide-angle), 16-megapixel (ultra wide-angle)|
|Processor||2.0GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 675||2.0GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdraon 670||2.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 845||2.35GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835||Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 855|
|Storage||128GB||64GB||128GB, 256GB||64GB||128GB, 256GB|
|RAM||4GB||4GB||6GB, 8GB||4GB||6GB, 8GB|
|Battery||3,700mAh||3,700mAh||3,700 mAh||3,000 mAh||3,100mAh|
|Fingerprint sensor||In-display||Back||In-display||On the side||Power button|
|Special features||In-display fingerprint reader, Moto Actions, Moto Mods||AR in Google Maps, Timelapse video shooting||In-display fingerprint sensor, dual-SIM, Dash Charging, notifications toggle||Compatibility for Moto Mods, extra battery pack||Wireless PowerShare; hole punch screen notch; water resistant (IP68); Fast Wireless Charging 2.0|
|Price off-contract (USD)||$499||$479||$549 (8GB RAM/128GB), $599 (8GB RAM/256GB)||$480||$520|
Originally published July 31. 3:30 a.m. PT.
Updates, July 31 at 5:45 p.m.: Lists the Moto Z4's pixel density at 403ppi; Aug. 14: Adds link to other $500 phones you should consider.