Motorola's (which today really means Lenovo's) Moto Z is one of the boldest smartphones yet. A modular phone, like the LG G5, the Moto Z has a simpler, more elegant kind of modularity – with optional plates snapping magnetically onto its back, to give it either a new look or all new functionality. Let's see how it compares to one of its best and most popular – but not modular – rivals, the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge.
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Height and width differences aren't glaring, with the Moto Z coming out just a smidge taller and wider. The eye-opening part here is the Moto Z's ridiculous thinness: at 5.2 mm, it's about a third thinner than the already-svelte Galaxy S7 edge.
The asterisk there, though, comes from the fact that Lenovo is measuring the phone without any mods on its back – not even cosmetic ones. We think the phone looks a little incomplete without any add-ons, with its wireless connector coils displaying themselves for all the world to see. Still, the option for an insanely thin phone is there if you want it.
As we mentioned, the Moto Z has a chance to be the best implementation yet of modular smartphone tech. Unlike the LG G5, you don't have to yank the phone apart to add new mods – just snap one of the optional back plates onto the phone's backside, and its magnets will hold it in place until you're ready to swap out for a new one.
The Galaxy S7 edge is a very light phone, but the Moto Z comes out 13 percent lighter. Again, though, that's with no mods on the back – the optional battery, projector and speaker modules all make it downright tank-like.
Lenovo says the barebones Moto Z has an aluminum and stainless steel finish, while the Galaxy S7 edge has Samsung's (now familiar) glass back and aluminum frame design.
These colors denote what you can choose from for the back of the core Moto Z, but once you factor in its cosmetic back plates (or "Style Shells") your color list gets much longer – and should continue to grow over time.
With that in mind, the color of the front of the Moto Z is the most permanent part of this equation. The black, gold and rose gold hues all have black fronts; only the white-backed Moto Z has a white front.
Ultra-sharp Quad HD resolution is also par for the course on both phones.
Both use AMOLED display panels.
The Samsung Edge series' claim to fame is their dual-curved display that slopes off on either side.
Motorola and Samsung added an always-on display option to their 2016 flagships: when you set it someplace like on a desk or in your car, you'll see the time, date and number of recent text messages glowing on an otherwise black screen. It's a bit like turning the smartphone screen into a (really big and not wearable) smartwatch.
Both phones have fingerprint sensors below their screens, but they work a little differently. The Galaxy's doubles as its home button, while the Moto Z's sensor works as a sleep/wake/power button. Its home button is virtual, using Android's navigation bar on the screen.
Performance is zippy in the S7 edge, and should be in the Moto Z as well, with identical Snapdragon 820 processors.
Here's another good omen for the Moto Z's performance, as it clocks in with the same 4 GB of RAM.
There's an extra 128 GB internal storage option for the Galaxy S7 edge, but US customers will only see the 32 GB option for Samsung's phablet.
We think 32 GB internal storage will be plenty for most people, though, since both handsets support microSD cards. You can expand up to 2 TB with the right card.
The Moto Z starts with a disadvantage in battery capacity (though that doesn't always necessarily translate into inferior battery life). The Moto bounces back, however, when you factor in its battery module. The Incipio OffGrid mod adds an extra 2,220 mAh to the Moto Z, giving it a grand total of 4,820 mAh – or 34 percent more juice than the S7 edge.
The nice thing about the battery mod is that you can opt for a light and thin phone on days when the built-in battery life is all you need, but snap on the battery mod when you're going on a business trip or on other days when you need that extra juice. It's basically a more elegant and integrated version of a battery case (speaking of which, Mophie is going to be making its own version for release later on).
Like all modern Android flagships, both phones have fast charging tech built-in.
There are two versions of the Moto Z battery mod, and one of them includes wireless charging capabilities. The Galaxy S7 edge, though, has this built into the phone.
The Moto Z wins out slightly in megapixel count, but many factors go into determining actual photo quality. The S7 edge is hard to beat, with leading low-lit photography (alongside the outstanding HTC 10).
Camera aperture (rear)
The S7 edge has the slightly wider aperture, which could mean the Moto Z will have a hard time matching, much less beating, Samsung's performance in poorly-lit settings.
Camera quick launch shortcut
Each phone has a way of quickly launching the camera app from anywhere: a twisting gesture on the Moto Z (something we saw all the way back in 2013 on the original Moto X) and a double-tap of the home button on the Galaxy.
Both phones' rear cameras have Optical Image Stabilization.
Motorola doesn't give a specific rating for the Moto Z's water resistance, but don't expect anywhere near the protection that the S7 edge gives you: you can soak Samsung's phone in several feet of water without any problems.
The Moto Z goes with the new USB Type C standard, while the Galaxy S7 edge sticks with the old microUSB (likely to maintain compatibility with the Gear VR, which would have otherwise required a new version with USB-C just a few months after the original launched).
Somewhat controversially, Lenovo axed the headphone jack from the Moto Z. If you own a pair of cans, you'll either want to swap for a wireless or USB-C compatible pair ... or just get a different phone.
This is about as niche as niche can be: one of the Moto Z's Mods will turn your phone into a projector, splashing a 70-inch version of its screen on any nearby wall. We checked it out at Lenovo's launch event and, while it could be handy for some people to show off videos or photo albums, its transparency makes for a seriously degraded image over simply passing around your phone for people to look at its screen.
This is one of the nice things, though, about modular phones: somebody out there is going to want a projector in their phone, and Motorola can offer it to them and them only.
Both phones run Android Marshmallow, but the Moto Z's version is closer to stock Android. Samsung's customizations aren't quite as egregious as they were in years past, but they still lay it on thicker than stock – both in appearance and in extra features and background processes.
We don't yet have an exact release date for the Moto Z, but we do know that it's releasing first as a (Droid-branded) Verizon exclusive during the US summer. An unlocked global model (and, presumably, other US carrier models) will launch in the September/Fall time frame. That sound you just heard was the collective groan of US smartphone enthusiasts who thought the days of timed exclusives were over.
There's also a variant of the Moto Z launching alongside it, called the Moto Z Force, but we left it out of this comparison. While it's almost the same phone, it adds a "shatter-proof" screen and bigger battery.
Starting price (full retail)
This is the big question about the Moto Z. Its cost is already going to have some add-ons if you want to buy one or more snap-on modules, so it would be nice to see the base phone price come out a bit below typical flagship pricing. Our ideal figure would be no higher than the US$450-550 range. Any higher than that, and you're looking at a phone that's going to cost significantly more than rivals, after factoring in Motorola's Mod squad.View gallery - 31 images