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Moto Z3 phone sells at Verizon Aug. 16, with 5G to come

The Android phone will take on the Galaxy S9 and Pixel 2.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Motorola on Thursday announced the Moto Z3, at a small press event at its headquarters in Chicago. This is the latest Motorola phone to have magnetic backings that attach to Moto Mods, or modules, and will be one of the first phones ever to dial in to 5G.

Starting in early 2019, Motorola will release a 5G Moto Mod that will tap into Verizon's 5G network, once the first of the carrier's 5G networks flickers to life. 5G is so crucial because it's the next generation of fast data that will make phones upload and download an order of magnitude faster than the fastest 4G LTE networks today. We're talking about downloading 90 Spotify songs in 10 seconds, at up to 5 gigabits per second. 

Now playing: Watch this: The Moto Z3 gets ready for blazing 5G speeds

Like the original Moto Z Force and Moto Z2 Force before it, the Moto Z3 here will make its carrier home exclusively on Verizon in the US, at least at first. Speaking of which, don't expect a new Force until 2019 at the earliest. 

The Moto Z3 will cost $480 and launch on Aug. 16. That breaks down to $20 per month on a finance plan. US buyers who switch to Verizon can get a $300 trade-in credit toward the price of the Moto Z3.


The Moto Z3 has magnetic Mod attachments and gesture navigation with a single slider button.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

While 5G is the phone's big story today, it's the magnetic Mods that give the Moto Z phones like the Z3 and long-lived Moto Z3 Play their character. 

Mods include backings that help you customize the phone's look and feel and battery pack add-ons that can double the phone's battery life before needing a charge.

While Mods were once Motorola's golden ticket to stepping out from the Android crowd back when the first Moto Z phone debuted in 2016, the promise of its Mods has significantly dried up. 

The bustling modular ecosystem that Motorola first envisioned has failed to arrive, despite some interesting contributions from Polaroid (a projector mod), Hasselblad (a photo mod) and a gaming Mod that reminded us of the Nintendo Switch.

Motorola and its parent company, Lenovo, aren't fully to blame. Motorola bet big on buyers' interest in customizing their phones with add-on parts to boost speaker, gaming and photo capabilities, but modular phones never caught on. The mighty Google was forced to abandon its own take on modules, Project Ara, and the Essential Phone, which was spun up by "the father of Android", Andy Rubin, has now been scrapped after seeing only one compatible module. 

Although the promise of customization may not be the Z3's biggest draw for every potential buyer, Motorola still scores points with CNET reviewers for solid phone hardware and clever software that's better in some ways than Google's own take on Android.

Motorola Moto Z3 specs we know so far

  • 6-inch Super AMOLED display with 2,160x1,080-pixel resolution
  • Dual 12-megapixel rear cameras
  • 8-megapixel front-facing camera with wide-angle 84-degree lens
  • 2.35 GHz octacore Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor
  • 64GB of internal storage
  • 4GB RAM
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • USB-C jack
  • No headphone jack, but dongle converter included in the box
  • 3,000-mAh battery (plus 2,000 mAh more on the 5G Moto Mod)
  • 15-watt TurboPower charger
  • Snapdragon X50 modem (to help connect to the 5G network)
  • Google Lens integrated into the camera
  • 5G Moto Mod compatibility (eventually)

Read now: Motorola schools Google on Android navigation

Moto Z3 Play review: The free battery pack doubles its battery life.