Modular mid-ranger

Moto Z4

Top-tier camera

Google Pixel 3a XL

The Moto Z4 has a large screen with slim bezels, a futuristic in-display fingerprint sensor, and a modular attachment system for adding new features on the fly. Its camera isn't as good as the Pixel's, but it's one of the cheapest ways to gain access to Verizon's 5G network.

$495 at Amazon

Pros

  • Moto Mod attachments
  • Great battery life
  • High-end build materials
  • Splash resistance

Cons

  • In-display fingerprint sensor isn't great
  • Camera isn't as good as the Pixel
  • Unlikely to receive updates

The Pixel 3a XL takes some of the best photos in mobile, making use of the same sensor and computational data as the more expensive Pixel 3. It's missing a few features like expandable storage and water resistance, but it's an excellent value with years of software support.

$479 at Amazon

Pros

  • Phenomenal cameras
  • Three years of software updates
  • Useful features like call screening and Now Playing
  • Great battery life

Cons

  • No water resistance
  • No microSD expansion

Motorola's new Moto Z4 and the Pixel 3a XL are two sub-$500 phones that both offer large displays and clean Android software, but each has its own distinct advantages that set it apart from the other, depending on the type of user you are. The Moto Z4 is the clear choice if you're a Verizon customer within a 5G city, but many will prefer the Pixel's camera and longterm support. So, which is better?

Longterm hardware versus software support

It's pretty incredible what you can get for under $500 these days. The Moto Z4 has a thinner, flatter design with a metal frame and soft-touch glass backing that feels every bit as premium as a phone that costs twice as much. There's a massive display up front with slim bezels and a tiny teardrop notch, and an optical fingerprint sensor hidden under the glass.

Buy one Galaxy S10 or Note 10 and get one free at Verizon

The Pixel 3a doesn't feel as ritzy as the Moto Z4, with a matte plastic frame, but make no mistake — it's still terrifically well-made, and some even prefer the less fragile nature of plastic. There's also a traditional fingerprint sensor mounted on the back; while it may seem less futuristic than the Moto Z4's in-display sensor, it's significantly more reliable.

But the Moto Z4 moves to an in-display sensor for a reason. Motorola decided to continue supporting its Moto Mod system beyond its initial three-year promise, meaning that a rear fingerprint sensor would be obfuscated when using a Mod. These magnetic attachments allow you to add any missing or new features to the Moto Z4 — whether that's a bigger battery, a louder speaker, or even support for Verizon's new 5G network.

Category Moto Z4 Pixel 3a XL
Operating System Android 9 Pie Android 9 Pie
Display 6.4 inches, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, 2340x1080 resolution, OLED 6 inches, 18:9 aspect ratio, 2160 x 1080 resolution, OLED
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 octa-core
Graphics Adreno 612 Adreno 615
Memory 4GB 4GB
Storage 128GB 64GB
Expandable Storage MicroSD No
Rear Camera 48MP, ƒ/1.7, 1.6µm, OIS, PDAF 12.2MP, ƒ/1.8, 1.4µm, OIS, EIS, PDAF
Front Camera 25MP, ƒ/2.0, 1.8µm 8MP, ƒ/2.0, 1.12µm
Security In-display fingerprint sensor Rear-mounted fingerprint sensor
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, Bluetooth 5.0 Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C USB-C
Audio Top-firing, headphone jack Stereo (earpiece + bottom-firing), headphone jack
Battery 3600mAh 3700mAh
Water Resistance P2i No
Dimensions 158 x 75 x 7.35mm 160.1 x 76.1 x 8.2mm
Weight 165g 167g
Colors Flash Gray Clearly White, Just Black, Purple-ish

That's actually the biggest reason to buy the Moto Z4. If you live in Chicago or Minneapolis, where Verizon has already launched its ultra-wideband 5G network, the Moto Z4 paired with the 5G Moto Mod is one of the cheapest ways to access it. The Pixel 3a XL, by contrast, only supports 4G LTE, with no way of retroactively adding 5G support later.

Buy the Moto Z4 for 5G connectivity on Verizon. Buy the Pixel 3a XL for its class-leading camera and software support.

On the other hand, while both phones offer an extremely clean build of Android 9 Pie, the Pixel 3a XL has a big advantage in longterm software support. Motorola has a terrible track record when it comes to updates, and it's safe to assume that the Moto Z4 likely won't receive Android Q any time soon. Google promises three years of platform updates and regular security patches for the Pixel 3a XL, and users can already install the Q beta if they're so inclined.

Another big win for the Pixel is its camera. The 3a XL uses the same computational software as the higher-end Pixel 3 XL to take absolutely remarkable photos that beat out even flagship devices from other manufacturers, thanks in large part to features like Night Sight and Google's excellent Portrait Mode. The Moto Z4's 48MP camera is no slouch either, with a much larger sensor and pixel binning for detailed 12MP images, but it simply doesn't hold a candle against the Pixel 3a XL. On the bright side, Amazon sells the Moto Z4 with a 360 Camera Mod bundled in the box for more creative shots.

So, which should you choose?

If you're interested in trying out 5G and you live in one of the 20+ cities where Verizon plans to deploy its network by the end of the year, then the choice is easy: buy the Moto Z4, and pick up a 5G Moto Mod while it's on sale. But for most others, the Pixel 3a XL is simply the better device. Between is a class-leading camera, longterm software support, and slightly lower price, it's easy for most to live without some of the Moto Z4's advantages like modularity and expandable storage. No matter which device you choose, however, you'll be getting a large, powerful phone at a bargain.

Modular mid-ranger

Moto Z4

Add new hardware features on the fly.

Thanks to continued support for Moto Mods, you can instantly augment the Moto Z4 with features like wireless charging, longer battery life, or 5G. The Z4 also has a high-quality metal design, along with convenient software gestures and splash resistance.

Top-tier camera

Google Pixel 3a XL

Never wait for a new version of Android again.

The Pixel 3a XL takes considerably better photos than the Moto Z4, and it comes with the guarantee of three years of software support. You'll have to with a lower storage capacity and a plastic frame, but this is the phone to buy if you value regular updates and photography.

We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.