Moto Z3 vs Samsung Galaxy S9: Which flagship is more worthy?

Motorola has officially announced its flagship for 2018 — the Moto Z3. As the latest addition to Motorola’s Z-series, the Moto Z3 doesn’t bring many changes from the Moto Z3 Play — other than a few new specs and features. Its biggest change is the ability to support Verizon’s 5G network. But how does it stack up against one of the biggest flagships currently on the market? Below, we pit the Moto Z3 vs the Samsung Galaxy S9 to find out which one comes out on top.

Specs

Moto Z3

Samsung Galaxy S9

Size
156.5 x 76.5 x 6.75 mm (6.16 x 3.01 x 0.27 in)
147.6 x 68.7 x 8.4 mm (5.81 x 2.70 x 0.33 in)

Weight

156 grams (5.5 ounces)

163 grams (5.75 ounces)

Screen size
6-inch Super AMOLED display
5.8-inch Super AMOLED display

Screen resolution
2,160 x 1,080 pixels (402 pixels per inch)
2,960 x 1,440 pixels (568 pixels per inch)

Operating system
Android 8.1 Oreo
Android 8.0 Oreo

Storage space
64GB
64GB, 128GB, 256GB

MicroSD card slot
Yes, up to 2TB
Yes

Tap-to-pay services
Google Pay
Google Pay, Samsung Pay

Processor
Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845

RAM
4GB
4GB

Camera
Dual 12MP and 12MP rear, 8MP front
12MP (with OIS) rear, variable aperture, 8MP front

Video
Up to 4K at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 60 fps, 720p at 120 fps
Up to 4K at 60 frames per second, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps

Bluetooth version
Bluetooth 5.0
Bluetooth 5.0

Ports
USB-C
3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C

Fingerprint sensor
Yes
Yes (rear)

Water resistance
Splash-resistant coating
IP68

Battery
3,000mAh

TurboPower charging

3,000mAh

Quick Charge 2.0

Qi wireless charging

App marketplace
Google Play Store
Google Play Store

Network support
Verizon
T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint

Colors
Black
Midnight Black, Coral Blue, Lilac Purple

Price
$480
$720

Buy from

Motorola, Verizon

Samsung, Amazon

Review score
Hands-on
4 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

If you’re investing in a flagship in 2018, you should expect to find a Snapdragon 845 under the hood — which is what the Samsung Galaxy S9 brings. While the Moto Z3 offers a Snapdragon 835 — which will provide a smooth experience — the Galaxy S9 offers top-notch performance. Both phones come with 4GB of RAM. You can expect the S9 to be faster and more powerful, since it’s running on the latest chipset.

For storage, both the Moto Z3 and Galaxy S9 have 64GB of storage along with a MicroSD card slot to expand on it. You can also get 128GB and 256GB versions of the S9 if you need more internal storage.

While both devices come with the same 3,000mAh battery, you can use a battery mod for the Moto Z3 which adds another 2,000mAh for two-day battery life. It also charges incredibly quickly thanks to Motorola’s TurboPower technology. After testing out the Moto Z3 Play (which has the same size battery), our phone went from 33 percent to 100 percent within 50 minutes. As for the Galaxy S9, we found that it lasted a day long with heavy usage. It does however, support fast wireless and wired charging.

With a more powerful processor and fast wireless charging capabilities, the Samsung Galaxy S9 takes this category.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9

Design and durability

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy S9 and the Moto Z3 aren’t drastically different from their predecessors. Both devices look sleek with slim bezels surrounding the display. But the S9 does a better job at keeping everything more compact — which also makes for a more comfortable hold.

The Moto Z3 includes an unattractive and thick camera bump that makes the smartphone rock back and forth when it’s placed down on a flat surface. It also has the signature Motorola-style design, which we’ve seen time and time again, and the connector on the back for the mods. These issues can be fixed to an extent with Moto Mods, provided you’re willing to shell out a bit more money, but we’d still like the device to look better.

Meanwhile, the Galaxy S9 looks impressive out of the box, even though it’s hard to tell apart from last year’s S8. The infinity display and curved edges make it look far more futuristic than the Moto Z3. On both devices, the power button and fingerprint sensors are easily accessible — but the S9 does include a headphone jack whereas the Z3 doesn’t. You’ll have to use the 3.5mm headphone jack to USB-C dongle in the box to plug older headphones into your Z3.

In terms of durability, both these phones are liable to get damaged easily if dropped, but the S9 offers superior IP68 water resistance, while the Z3 makes do with a water resistant coating.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9

Display

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Motorola Z3 packs a 6-inch, 2,160 x 1,080-pixel resolution, Super AMOLED display, while the Samsung Galaxy S9’s 5.8-inch Super AMOLED display boasts a superior 2,960 x 1,440 pixel resolution. The display on the Z3 is slightly larger than the S9 and won’t disappoint when it comes to color and brightness, but it doesn’t compare to the S9’s sharper, more vibrant screen. The infinity display also allows the screen to blend in with its edges, which makes for a more immersive viewing experience. For this one, we’re going to have to give it to the Samsung Galaxy S9.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9

Camera

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy S9 and Moto Z3 both offer 12-megapixel rear cameras, though the Z3 features two of them. While we haven’t had a chance to test out the Moto Z3, it has similar specs to the Moto Z3 Play — which we found takes decent low-light photos with good color accuracy  The details would sometimes look a bit too over sharpened and overexposed, but overall it took good photos. One difference however, is that the Moto Z3 offers a black and white camera mode that’s exclusive to the device. The Z3 Play made do with a 5-megapixel depth sensing lens as opposed to the 12-megapixel lens you’ll find in the Z3, so we may see a significant improvement in image quality.

While the addition of an extra lens can make for a better camera, that’s not always the case and the S9 has a few tricks of its own. The variable aperture allows the camera to switch between f/1.5 and f/2.4 apertures. It takes noticeably bright and sharp photos in broad daylight without you having to do anything other than open the camera app and tap on the shutter icon. With its multi-frame noise-reduction image processing, photos captured at night don’t look as grainy as they can with other smartphones on the market.

We do need to test the Z3 camera a bit more, but we’re not really expecting it to match the S9.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9

Special Features

The Samsung Galaxy S9 is packed with features geared towards entertainment — there’s support for the Gear VR along with the Bixby personal assistant. For productivity, there’s also the Dex Pad and Dex Station which turn your phone into a full-blown Android desktop computer.

Meanwhile, the Moto Z3 makes things a bit more interesting. What could be classified as one of the most important features of the device is its ability to support 5G — complete with a built-in Snapdragon X50 modem. With the addition of a 5G Moto Mod that will ship in early 2019, you’ll be able to connect to 5G networks, but only on Verizon and in places with 5G networks up and running. You’ll also find support for Amazon Alexa for those who don’t want to use Google Assistant, and there are a host of other Moto Mods that add different extras.

Even though the Samsung Galaxy S9 does offer features that make the device extremely versatile, the introduction of 5G on the Moto Z3 is extremely impressive. While we’re unsure how well it will work or what it will cost, the Moto Z3 will be one of the first smartphones with 5G network support, albeit through an add-on.

Winner: Moto Z3

Software and Updates

On both devices, you’ll find Android Oreo. The Z3 runs Android 8.1 Oreo and it’s mostly stock Android — with a few additions from Motorola. Since the device is exclusive to Verizon, bloatware is included. Motorola has confirmed that the Z3 Play will receive both Android 9.0 Pie and Android Q, so we can only assume the same applies to its latest Moto Z3 — especially since it’s launching around the same time we might see Google’s latest operating system launch.

The Galaxy S9, runs Android 8.0 Oreo with Samsung’s Experience skin on top and it works well, offering some handy extras alongside some clutter. We expect the S9 will also receive the next couple of major Android updates, but it may take a while for them to roll out.

Based on speed, we’re going to give this one to the Samsung Galaxy S9 which will most likely receive the update before Motorola. In comparison to Samsung, Motorola still has a long list of devices waiting to receive Android 8.0 Oreo, let alone Android 9.0 Pie.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9

Price

The Moto Z3 will cost you $480 and will launch exclusively with Verizon on August 16. On the carrier’s finance plan, you’ll pay $20 per month. Those in the U.S. will receive a $300 trade-in credit towards the device if they switch to Verizon. The Samsung Galaxy S9 is available for $720 from Samsung, or you can purchase it on a monthly payment plan. It’s also available through a variety of carriers.

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy S9

Snagging almost every category, it’s clear the Samsung Galaxy S9 is the winner. While the Motorola Z3 is a great contender, it’s no match for the S9, which takes on the qualities every flagship should — a sleek design, top-notch processor, and a stunning display. If you’re stuck between the two, the Samsung Galaxy S9 will provide you with the latest, high-end specifications and a more enjoyable user experience, though it will also cost you a fair bit more.

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