Motorola Moto Z5: what we want to see

Motorola Moto Z4
(Image credit: Future)

The next Motorola Z-series phone is a big mystery: we’ve heard barely a peep about it, but we hope that a new fully-fledged Moto Z5 is coming.

That would be a successor to the Moto Z4, which took the series seemingly as far as it could go while still being compatible with the long-running Moto Mods. We have no idea whether the Z5 will likewise support the clip-on mods – and if not, the new smartphone could finally move in new design and capability directions.

But now that the Motorola Edge and Motorola Edge Plus have been announced as the brand's first flagships announced in 2020, it's unclear if we'll see a Moto Z5 soon, if at all. But given those new flagships are pricey and aren't compatible with Moto Mods, there's room in Motorola's lineup for a new Z5.

There are some easy guesses we could make about the new Moto Z5 – like expanded battery, a faster processor, and potentially more lenses on the front or rear camera suites. 

As a flagship phone (or at least, a flagship that’s non-foldable compared to the Motorola Razr 2019), the Z5 is expected to have higher-tier specs. It could even get back into the top-tier chipset game, though sporting a lesser Snapdragon 675 didn’t seem to severely impact the Moto Z4.

We’d love to paint a picture of what the Z5 will probably be... but we haven’t heard much at all about the phone. Without more concrete leaks or rumors, we’re pushed to make more educated guesses and speculation based on Motorola’s other phone releases and industry trends. 

Beyond that, we can only list out what we want from the New Moto Z5. And we have a lot of things we’d love to see in Motorola’s next flagship.

New Moto Z5 price and release date

Motorola hasn’t officially announced when its next flagship will arrive - nor has it acknowledged one is coming, leading us to assume it’ll be called the Moto Z5 until we hear otherwise. 

Unsurprisingly given the lack of news or even rumors, we haven’t heard when it will launch. Given we’ve heard about prior Z-series phones around Mobile World Congress, we expect to get some notice from Motorola at this year’s show in late February - but we've heard that it might not be shown off at the show. Given the release dates of all the older Z-series phones, we should expect this one to come out sometime between June and August. 

As for cost, the Moto Z4’s launch pricetag was $499 (about £379, AU$729), so we’d expect the Moto Z5 to launch at or above that. But if the device is 5G compatible, we could see the price increase. If not, and if the phone is compatible, we could see it connect to the next-gen networks via a 5G Moto Mod - though conversations we’ve had with Verizon officials suggest that add-on had a limited production run and likely won’t be a major strategy for Motorola phones going forward.

New Moto Z5 rumors

We haven't heard much at all about the Moto Z5 yet, which has us scratching our heads. The only rumor: it may come with a 5,000mAh battery.

That said, there are rumors about another device - the Moto Stylus - that suggests the Moto Z5 might not come out first, and we're just way too early in the process to hear rumors.

New Moto Z5: what we want to see

(Image credit: Future)

1. No more Moto Mods

Hope we won’t offend any Moto fans out there, but the time has come or Moto Mods to go the way of the Zune. Yes, they provided exciting capabilities for early Z-series phones - better battery, larger speakers, a 360-degree camera - but a lot of those extra boons have been met by the latest smartphones.

The last great Mod, of course, was the 5G Moto Mod introduced last year - an accessory that made the Moto Z3 the first phone to connect to one of the next-gen networks on Verizon 5G. Given that more chipsets are coming with 5G capability and paired 5G-connecting modems, like the top-tier Snapdragon 865 and higher-end Snapdragon 720G, even the 5G Moto Mod’s advantage doesn’t hold for the Z5.

It’s an unfortunate wish, given Moto Mods were some of the only exciting smartphone accessories to come out, well, ever. It’s easy to point the finger at how much they bulk up Moto phones’ silhouettes and make them more cumbersome in pockets, but they’ve always been a bit of a niche appeal - and unless Motorola recommits to a new line of intriguing Mods, we’d rather the Z5 have the freedom to expand in more interesting directions.

(Image credit: Future)

2. More rear camera lenses, please

The Z-series phones had maxed out at two rear camera lenses in a circular bump - real-estate restricted by the need for compatibility with Moto Mods. If the Z5 does away with those, it will have plenty of room to lay out an array of rear lenses, as we’ve seen in the recent Moto G8 Plus’s triple-rear-camera setup.

While tougher to implement if the Moto Mod compatibility stays, the Z5 could still include more lenses.. .because the Z4 reduced its rear lens array to just one, using software to make up the difference. Instead, add another - but follow the lead of the iPhone 11 and Samsung S10e and pair main and ultrawide shooters for a superior photography complement.

(Image credit: Motorola)

3. A reason to buy versus the Razr

This one’s easy - we’d love something that sets the Z5 apart as a proper flagship that isn’t just a non-bending version of the Motorola Razr 2019. Cynics would say the latter is all novelty as a full-size phone that can be folded in half, but its front camera-and-screen combo invents new use patterns. We want something similar with the Z5.

To be fair, it’s very likely the legacy of Z series affordability will continue and the Z5 will cost half what the Razr 2019 does, if not less. Still, without the Moto Mods, the Z5’s uniqueness might be harder to sell - and not just because the phone is higher-specced than the rest of Motorola’s lineup. Perhaps they’ll adopt the Motorola One Hyper’s pop-up selfie camera, or come in variants that emphasize battery or size.

(Image credit: Image Credit: Techradar)

4. 5G in the phone

The Z5’s exceptionalism could be simple: 5G connectivity, no Moto Mod required. The 5G Moto Mod enabled some of the first 5G use in the US, if not the world, and throughout 2019 it was one of the most affordable devices that connected to the next-gen networks. To be specific, it was only Verizon 5G.

The Z5 could offer this connectivity out of the box, and assuming Motorola keeps its pricetag in line with its predecessors, will be one of the cheapest 5G-capable phones out there. Which leads to our next point…

(Image credit: TechRadar)

5. Wider availability

In the US, at least, Motorola’s flagship phones have largely been exclusive to Verizon. The Z5 - especially a 5G-connecting Z5 - could be a better contender for budget flagship were it sold by other carriers. 

Selling the phone on other carriers means compatibility with their networks, and with 5G, this is no simple feat. Given they all operate on different combinations of mmWave, sub-6/mid-band and low-band frequencies, it’s unlikely if Motorola would break convention and make its handsets work on other next-gen setups. 

But it arguably would be a better fit as a lower-specced flagship working on lower-speed 5G networks.

David Lumb

David is now a mobile reporter at Cnet. Formerly Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, he covered phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made. He's most interested in technology, gaming and culture – and where they overlap and change our lives. His current beat explores how our on-the-go existence is affected by new gadgets, carrier coverage expansions, and corporate strategy shifts.