The monumental success of the iPhone and Galaxy brands has pinned smaller smartphone companies into a corner. One advantage of being pinned into a corner – probably the only advantage, come to think of it – is that you have very little to lose and are free to take risks that others might balk at. Let's see how one of the bolder risks in recent smartphone history, the Moto Z's modular design, stacks up against the unified simplicity of the iPhone 7 Plus.
Sick of Ads?
More than 700 New Atlas Plus subscribers read our newsletter and website without ads.
Join them for just US$19 a year.More Information
The iPhone is a little taller and wider, but – as we'll see in a minute – doesn't give you any extra screen real estate.
We put that asterisk next to the Moto Z's depth because that only measures the phone without any add-on mods attached.
Both phones have all-metal bodies.
Motorola only describes the Moto Z's water resistance as a "water repellent nano coating," which is fancy marketing jargon for "it can handle splashes." The iPhone's IP67 rating is more impressive: It can soak in up to 1 m (3.3 ft) of water and live to tell the tale.
The Moto Z's simple modularity is its killer feature. It has super-strong magnets that will snap and hold a Moto Mod of your choice in place.
The Mods are add-on accessories that add new style or functionality to the phone: things like a projector, speaker, battery pack, camera with optical zoom or simply a new color/material.
There are colors aplenty for both phones.
The Moto Z has the more economical surface, giving you the same screen size on a smaller phone.
The Moto Z also has a 33 percent sharper screen, but Apple did a phenomenal job making the iPhone 7 Plus' screen look so ridiculously good that you won't miss any pixels.
It's IPS vs. AMOLED in display panels.
The iPhone lets you activate some shortcuts by pressing deeper on the screen.
Don't fall for the megapixel myth: Both phones' cameras are well past the threshold where this is going to be the measure of the shooter.
Camera aperture (rear)
Perhaps more telling is aperture, where the primary cameras are tied up.
The iPhone 7 Plus' secondary rear camera acts as a telephoto lens that gives you 2x optical zoom without any loss in resolution. Later this year, after a software update launches, it will also enable a bokeh (blurred background) portrait mode.
The Moto Z doesn't have built-in optical zoom, but one of its add-ons is a Hasselblad camera with a lens that physically stretches out like a point-and-shoot cam. Oh, and it can zoom up to 10x without any digital cropping.
The only downside (apart from cost) is that the Moto's zoom mod, while attached to the phone, makes the phone feel a bit like a toy tank in your pocket.
Both phones have Optical Image Stabilization.
The iPhone beats the Moto Z's internal battery, but you can buy a battery pack that snaps on and gives the phone off-the-charts uptimes. It's our favorite thing about the Moto Z, and the best answer yet to extending smartphone battery life: thin phone when you want that, thicker and longer-lasting phone when that's what you need.
The Moto Z also has built-in fast charging; like nearly every Android flagship from the last two years.
Neither phone has built-in wireless charging, but some of the Moto's battery backs add this functionality.
The iPhone's A10 Fusion chip is a screamer, out-benchmarking the (already very fast) Qualcomm CPU in the Moto.
The Moto has an extra gig of RAM, but that means very little when comparing different platforms. Apple has a knack for doing more with less in the RAM department.
These are your storage tiers to choose from.
Most people can get by with the 32 GB version of the Moto Z, since it also expands via microSD card.
Hey, did you hear about how batshit-crazy Apple was to drop the headphone jack in the latest iPhones? Well, you may not have heard that Motorola had already done that a couple months ago.
Both phones include adapters so you can use your old wired headphones with the new handsets.
Like the iPhone, the Moto Z has a fingerprint sensor below its screen, but it isn't a home button (it's sleep/wake instead).
The Moto Z is still fairly hot off the press – and the non-Verizon (unlocked) version is only now going up for pre-order. It had been a Big Red exclusive with "Droid" branding up to this point.
Starting price (full retail)
The Moto Z undercuts the iPhone by US$155, but remember that any Moto Mods you buy (apart from the lone "Style Shell" that ships in the box) will cost you extra. If you go the Moto route, we highly recommend grabbing a battery mod at the very least, and they start at $60.View gallery - 27 images