Motorola first to 5G? It may beat Samsung with its 5G Moto Mod coming April 11

The first 5G phone you can buy will come from Motorola, not Samsung, and we now have a concrete release date for the debut of future of wireless connectivity.

The 4G LTE-enabled Moto Z3 is already out, but its 5G Moto Mod add-on arrives on Thursday, April 11, and pre-orders start even sooner: tomorrow, Thursday, March 14.

Motorola's 5G add-on costs $350 (about £265, AU$495) – which is as much as the the Moto Z3 itself at some online retailers. The phone was $400 (about £300, AU$565) at launch.

The good news is that Verizon, the exclusive 5G carrier of the Moto Z3, is opening pre-orders at a much more reasonable $50 (about £38, AU$70), and 5G plans start at an extra $10 a month on top of your existing Go Unlimited, Beyond Unlimited or Above Unlimited plan. Better yet, this 5G service fee is waived for the first three months.

Motorola's 5G Moto Mod add-on (Image Credit: TechRadar)

Motorola's 5G Moto Mod add-on (Image Credit: TechRadar)

The first to a 5G phone – with some asterisks

Motorola will have the first 5G smartphone – depending on who you ask. Samsung's site still says: 'Introducing the revolutionary Galaxy S10 5G—the first 5G phone'. But Samsung has yet to announce a release date for it.

Samsung's statement is technically true if you want a 5G phone out-of-the-box. Moto has the first 5G upgradeable smartphone. Even Verizon is using that careful language (it's also the exclusive US carrier for Samsung's 5G phone for a limited time).

At the end of the day, the Moto Z3, with the thick 5G Moto Mod, is phone and it gets you a 5G signal before anyone else – depending (another 'depending') on where you live.

So, here's where we run into another asterisk: it's the first 5G phone if you live in the right cities (cities plural, yes, but plural as in exactly two cities). 

Motorola is timing the April 11 release date with the launch of Verizon's 5G Ultra  Wideband mobility cities: Chicago and Minneapolis. The good news? Verizon says it plans to expand its 5G signal to 30 markets in 2019.

By the end of 2019, the Motorola's 5G add-on may be worth trying out, but by then, Verizon's pre-order discount will have expired in favor of that off-putting $350 price.

Matt Swider