Most phones become more or less obsolete after their successors hit the market, but that isn't necessarily the case with the Moto Z3 Play, thanks in large part to the Moto Mod ecosystem of accessories that allow you to add new functionality to the phone. With its recent update to Android 9 Pie, there's plenty to still love about the Z3 Play, but the Moto Z4 brings a new set of advantages like faster specs, a bigger display, and better battery life.
Moto Mods keep things feeling fresh
If you're shopping around for a new phone and don't want to blow an entire month's rent on it, Motorola has a strong selection of mid-range devices to choose from. The Moto Z3 Play and Moto Z4 both share similar designs and ship with nearly identical software — which is to say a near totally stock build of Android 9 Pie with a few convenient Motorola goodies thrown in, like Moto Actions and Moto Display.
Android 9 Pie and Moto Mod support help the Moto Z3 Play still feel new, even a year after its release.
The biggest physical difference between the two devices is in the displays. The Moto Z3 Play already had a respectable and fairly large 18:9 AMOLED display, but the Moto Z4 takes it a step further by extending the display across almost the entirety of the front of the phone, leaving room only for a small display notch up top that holds the front-facing camera. It's a much more modern look, and it allows the Z4 to hold a considerably larger display in nearly the same form factor.
Speaking of form factors, it's hard to tell the phones apart at a quick glance, but the Z4 trades the Z3 Play's glossy glass backing for a matte finish one, and gains a few millimeters in height as a result. It's mostly unnoticeable, but it means that Motorola had to round off the back of the Z4 slightly so that it could still support the Moto Mod magnetic attachments.
Those Moto Mods are a huge part of what makes the Z3 Play still a viable option; while the Z4 has the upper hand in raw specs, with a faster processor, more storage, and a larger battery, you can add features to the Z3 Play at a whim. There are plenty of great Moto Mods to choose from, like the Turbo Power Pack Mod and even a 5G Moto Mod that brings support for Verizon's UWB 5G network. However, one disadvantage the Moto Z4 has is that its rounded back makes for an awkward fitting with Mods; you'll often notice a gap in your hand that isn't there with the Z3 Play.
|Category||Moto Z3 Play||Moto Z4|
|Operating System||Android 9 Pie||Android 9 Pie|
|Display||6.01-inch 18:9 AMOLED
2160 x 1080 (402 ppi)
|6.4-inch 19.5:9 OLED
2340 x 1080 (403 ppi)
|Processor||Snapdragon 636||Snapdragon 675|
|Graphics||Adreno 509||Adreno 612|
|Rear Camera||12MP, ƒ/1.7, 1.4µm +
5MP depth sensor
|48MP, ƒ/1.7, 0.8µm|
|Front Camera||8MP, ƒ/2.0, 1.12µm||25MP, ƒ/2.0, 0.9µm|
|Security||Side-mounted fingerprint sensor||In-display fingerprint sensor|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, Bluetooth 5.0||Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, Bluetooth 5.0|
|Dimensions||156.5 x 76.5 x 6.8mm||158 x 75 x 7.4mm|
Despite the poorer fit of many Moto Mods, the Moto Z4 is clearly the better phone of the two. Its design, while similar to before, is much more modern, the specs are more powerful, and the camera is significantly better. Where the Z4 Play featured a secondary 5-megapixel sensor for measuring depth, the Moto Z4 instead features a single camera with much larger pixels, allowing it to take in more light. It's also a higher resolution, with a whopping 48-megapixel at its disposal.
The Moto Z4 is sleeker and faster for about $100 more than the Moto Z3 Play.
The Moto Z4 also comes with a free Moto 360 Camera Mod in the box, allowing you to capture unique 360-degree videos that you can turn into panoramic shots or post to supporting social networks like Facebook. On the other hand, the Moto Z3 Play includes a Moto Power Pack Mod for extending its battery life, which many will find more useful and helps offset the Z3 Play's smaller battery.
The Moto Z4 is about $100 pricier than the Z3 Play on a normal day, and while it is the better phone, plenty of people will be perfectly happy with the latter. The 18:9 display still looks fantastic, and Moto Mods help keep the phone feeling new — it's even compatible with the 5G Moto Mod if you're on Verizon. The Z4 will likely receive software support for longer than the Z3 Play, but ultimately, it all comes down to which phone better fits your budget. No matter which phone you buy, you're getting a capable mid-ranger.
Better Mod fit
Still a great option a year later.
The Moto Z3 Play isn't the newest phone around, but it still has respectable internals and modern Android software. With Moto Mods, you can add a bigger battery, speaker, or projector on a whim.
Bigger, better display
A more modern and powerful phone.
The Moto Z4 has a newer look and feel, and still supports Moto Mod attachments, including the 5G Moto Mod. It has a much better camera and a larger, better-looking display than the Z3 Play.
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