And then there are the cameras. Rather than go for anything more elaborate, Motorola went with just two sensors: a 25MP front-facing camera and a 48MP main camera resting in the classic, circular hump around back. By default, the phone uses a process called pixel binning to treat clusters of pixels on both of those sensors as single larger ones, for better detail and less noise (especially in low-light situations). That's probably for the best, though you can shoot selfies at full-resolution if you really wanted to.
More importantly, some of the new camera features that debuted on the One Vision are here too. Motorola's Night Vision mode can produce some bright, Insta-worthy photos (though it's still notably less effective than Google's Night Sight). AI shot composition seems more immediately useful: It allows the phone to look at the photo you just took, and automatically crop and level the image to look a little tidier if your framing is off. Oh wait, you did that on purpose? That's fine, too — when the feature is enabled, Motorola's suggestions get saved alongside the original.
The Z4 is shaping up to be a perfectly adequate upper-mid-range device, but I can't help but long for the days when that "Z" denoted full, flagship power. As Motorola freely admitted at its launch event, though, it hasn't released a high-end Z phone since 2017 — in fact, if you look at Motorola's lineup, there really isn't a traditional premium flagship at all.
Granted, nearly all of the success Motorola has found over the past few months has been because of its affordable mid-range devices, but it does sort of feel like the company is intentionally keeping its high-end offerings limited to make room for its first foldable smartphone. (Sorry: Unlike last time, Motorola artfully dodged all questions about future products.)
And to be quite honest, the Z4 would look at least a bit more palatable if Google didn't recently deliver a stunner of a $500 phone. After a bit of testing, the Pixel 3a offers similar levels of performance, but unsurprisingly blows the Z4 out of the water when it comes to camera performance and access to new versions of Android. It's arguably the best phone in that price range you'll find on the market right now, but it does nothing for people who are itching to get started with a live 5G network. And really, that's one of the only apparent reasons to buy a Z4: It's a way for people to start using Verizon 5G (albeit in two midwestern US cities for now) without plunking down too much money. Beyond that, it doesn't seem to excel in any significant way.
That certainly explains why Verizon is offering something of a sweetheart deal here. The Moto Z4 will set you back $499 and will come with a 360-degree camera Mod unless you buy one from Verizon, where it's only $439 and includes one of Motorola's 5G Moto Mods. (For the record, you'll get an error if you try sticking a 5G Mod onto an unlocked Z4.) I'm told Verizon's 5G service has improved significantly since the last time I tried it, and if you're locked into Verizon service, a cheap way to get started with 5G isn't a bad idea.
After a bit of hands-on time, though, the overall picture is less satisfying for everyone else. We'll have to test the thing further before issuing a final verdict, but so far, the Moto Z4 seems like a perfectly adequate mid-range device that really needs its Mods to stand out in an increasingly competitive crowd.