Motorola was technically the first company to offer a 5G phone, but it wasn’t actually a new phone. Its 5G Moto Mod on Verizon added 5G capability to the Moto Z3 earlier this year, and it later expanded to the newer Moto Z4. Now, Motorola and Verizon have expanded 5G Mod support in the other direction, all the way back to the Moto Z2 Force.
By most measures, the Moto Z2 Force was the company’s last true flagship Z-series phone. Last year’s Moto Z3 had a lower resolution screen and hardware that was already a year out of date. The Moto Z4 stepped down to mid-range specs, indicating Motorola’s lack of confidence in Mods going forward. However, Verizon is extremely invested in the 5G Mod to promote its burgeoning 5G network.
The Moto Z2 Force sports a 1440p OLED with a shatter-proof coating, dual cameras, and a Snapdragon 835 chip. It works with all of Motorola’s Mod attachments which feature batteries, speakers, a projector, a camera, and more. Motorola hasn’t launched a new Mod since the 5G collaboration with Verizon in early 2019. Since the Z2 Force was shatter-proof, there are probably still a fair number of them floating around. Now, they can get 5G.
Android device makers have a hard time updating phones that are more than a year or two old, so how can this new piece of hardware work with a circa-2017 phone? The 5G Moto Mod includes almost all the components you’d find in a phone — it’s not just a 5G modem in a case. It has a Snapdragon 855 system-on-a-chip (SoC), the same thing powering phones like the Galaxy Note 10. However, it’s not there to crunch bits on the phone. You just need the 855 to support the Qualcomm X50 5G modem that’s also packed inside the Mod. There are also multiple antennas and a battery.
The 5G Moto Mod attaches to the back of the company’s Verizon-branded phones only, giving them access to super-fast millimeter wave 5G, but only in a few cities. The range on millimeter wave 5G is also very limited, and it doesn’t pass through walls. So, you need to have line-of-sight to the cell tower to use the 5G Mod or any of Verizon’s newer 5G phones. That said, it’s cool that owners of a phone from 2017 can get 5G for a relative pittance compared to the $1,200+ asking price for new 5G phones.