Verizon's 5G network is live and fast if you find it
Where I found 5G, I usually saw very fast download speeds in the Ooklas Speedtest app. Focus on the word "general" – some places I could consistently go north for 350 Mbps, and I often see speeds of nearly 600 Mbps. Verizon claims that top speeds can get as high as 1Gbps, but even with few people actively using the network now, none of my tests got even closer. Nevertheless, provided you find the right location, the 5G on the Moto Z3 can be very fast. (Of course, that's not to say it doesn't have competition.)
What to keep in mind is that there is more to using a phone than just looking at the speed test, and at least the practical benefits of 5G on this smartphone have not been game exchangers. Pages loaded noticeably faster than my personal iPhone on AT & T's so-called 5GE network, but I'm not sure it is necessarily a fair comparison. When I ran across the city, I rarely found full coverage at AT&T anyway.
5G was more useful for playing 1[ads1]080p60 video on YouTube, though. Scrubbing through the same videos took noticeably less time on the 5G Moto Z3 than another test unit I brought with me. I also downloaded PUBG Mobile (a 1.81 GB file) over 5G in exactly four minutes and thirty seconds, which is not bad considering the same download, took just over eight minutes over LTE. When I launched the app to try to fumble through a round, I realized that the download speeds of a 200-ohm MB update file never went faster than 8 MB per second or 64 Mbps. It wasn't as fast as I had hoped.
Months ago, Motorola almost sold me the idea of trying to use the 5G-enabled Moto Z3 as a super-fast mobile hotspot during the trip. It's a good idea in theory, but that's all it is right now – until Motorola publishes a software update at some point, the hotspot feature simply doesn't work. It's probably as good, too, because the upload speeds were relatively tame – they usually fluctuated between 15 and 25 Mbps. That's because only data traffic to the phone goes over the 5G network; Everything you try to upload is being directed over LTE, so anyone who hopes to move large files around on the go will likely be disappointed (at least for now).
When I plowed around in the rain on foot, I found a few particularly strong pockets on 5G. The easiest place I found to get a feel for the web's speed was right outside Motorola's headquarters in the city's historic Merchandise Mart. It's great if you're working for Motorola, but less than ideal for, indeed, most Chicago residents. I also stumbled upon a decent 5G signal in the corner of Michigan and Monroe, a busy intersection just yards away from Millennium Park and the city's art institute.
This is where things started to become a bit dicey. The typical speed tests were suitably fast out, but when I carved into a coffee shop to try to warm up, the phone quickly dropped back into an LTE connection. When I pushed myself up against the coffee bar's front window, the 5G UWB logo was popped up again … for a moment. I spent the next fifteen minutes watching the phone switch between 4G and 5G connections, but the glass pane in front of me seemed to prevent it from securely locking on the mmWave signal.
A missing speed test result (about 45 Mbps down) confirmed the problem. The flaky connections not only turn indoors, either. The rest of my quest around the tourist resorts of Verizon said should have functional 5G involved a lot of walking around and freezing in place when I saw the 5G logo pop up. While it often worked, I sometimes switched the phone back and forth between 4G and 5G during speed tests, resulting in significantly slower results.