Motorola announced its latest flagship smartphone, or at least the highest-end phone the company bothers to make anymore. The Moto Z4 is a mid-range Snapdragon 675-powered device that will launch June 13 on Verizon for $499.99.
The phone still supports MotoMods. Motorola has been chained to its modular ecosystem for four generations now, which has limited what it can do in terms of phone design. MotoMod compatibility means the phones all have to essentially share the same body, so the Z2, Z3, and Z4 are all stuck coloring within the lines set up by the original Moto Z, which were laid out in 2016.
The frozen-in-time design has created an issue with regard to the fingerprint sensor, since the original Moto Z had a front-mounted fingerprint reader. As time went by, slimming front bezels and the demand for bigger screens meant fingerprint readers needed to be relocated, but Motorola couldn't put it on the back fo the phone like everyone else, because it would be blocked by the clip-on MotoMods. With the Z3, the company finally came up with a creative solution in the form of a side-mounted fingerprint reader. For the Z4, Motorola's strange design problems are solved: it has an optical in-screen fingerprint reader, which is quickly becoming a standard phone feature.
Housing that fingerprint reader is a 6.39-inch, 2340×1080 display. Thanks to the fingerprint reader, Motorola can turn in a pretty modern-looking design for a $500 phone, with slim bezels and a front camera notch. Other specs include 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, an SD slot, NFC, a USB-C port, and 3600mAh battery. Both of the cameras use "quad pixel technology," which just means Motorola takes a high-megapixel sensor and combines four pixels into a single pixel, resulting in better light performance. So for the rear sensor, there's a 48MP sensor that outputs 12MP photos, and in the front there is a 25MP sensor that pumps out 6.25MP images.
The Moto Z was one of the first phones to remove the headphone jack, with Motorola citing the ability to make a thinner phone. With the Z4, it seems the company has heard the outcry for the return of the headphone jack, so the Z4 brings back the universally compatible audio jack. Motorola even has a few headphone-jack centric renders, with one showing the phone on a pile of headphone wire and another showing it charging and using headphones at the same time.
For all of this designing around MotoMod compatibility, the MotoMod ecosystem seems pretty dead. Motorola is promoting the same years-old Mods that we've seen in the past. There's the terrible pico projector, an expensive clip on battery pack, a low-resolution 360 camera, several clip on speakers, and a game pad. For pretty much all of these, you'd get better value and wider compatibility if you just bought a universal Bluetooth version of the thing you want instead.
Motorola is also promoting the "5G Mod," which isn't compatible with every MotoMod device but is compatible with the Z4. This brings 5G mmWave compatibility to the Z4, and we've already seen it in action on Verizon's nascent 5G network. The 5G Mod is a whopping $200, as it's basically an entire extra smartphone that you clip onto the back of your existing smartphone. It contains a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 855 SoC, a Snapdragon X50 5G modem, a 2000mAh battery, and its own USB-C port. It's a strange hardware hack, but 5G hardware (and networks) are not ready for mass consumption yet.