It just might be the future of smartphones: modularity. Though there are a number of different ways to look at this new technological step, we have here the first two phones to bring the concept to users’ hands. In one case, it is an involved process of removing parts of the phone and rebuilding it into a more capable device.
In the other, it is a matter of simply slapping the new features onto the magnetic back. Which one does mods better? We find out in this comparison between the Moto Z Force and the LG G5.
Before we get started, we want to make it clear how we want to name these features. While modularity is definitely what you can call what the LG G5 does, it is a bit different in the Moto Z. For that reason, we will generally call the act of adding features to a phone ‘modding.’ When speaking specifically, ‘modularity’ will be used primarily when describing the LG G5.
Before we even get into the two different methods of modding, it’s important to remember that we are still dealing with two standalone smartphones, capable of plenty on their own. The LG G5 was a drastic change from previous flagships, putting aside the curved body and display that defined the G4, and instead employing a different design language.
While the power/wake button is still found on the back, it now has a fingerprint embedded into it, and the volume rocker is now in a more conventional spot on the side. The metallic body has a rather rounded shape, but a noticeable sharpness can be felt due to the slightly protruding metal skeleton.
A slight curve can be found at the top of the display, there to provide a little more comfort when actually talking on the phone. And, of course, there is the removable bottom portion that is the crux of the phone’s modularity. Overall it is a rather drastic change that longtime LG fans may have needed to get used to, perhaps alleviated by the new modular features.
The same can be said for the Moto Z Force, the more powerful device in the brand new Moto line. What made the Moto X line well received is here in a few tiny ways, including the wooden cover that slaps onto otherwise shiny and fingerprint prone backing. Taken alone, however, much has changed as this fully metal body almost looks like blank canvas with obvious cues to its capabilities.
The chamfer on the sides makes it clear this is the thicker device with the bigger battery, and all buttons are where they should be. A new fingerprint reader is denoted by the small square under the display, which can be an eyesore and confusing because it is not a button. A large bezel above and below the display adds to the overall size of what is already a 5.5 inch phone, though on the backside of these areas are the magnets and connector pins for Moto Mods. The main issue we had was with the very large camera hump, which protrudes out quite a lot – thankfully, the Moto Covers make it flush.
It’s clear that both phones had to take on pretty drastic changes in design language to make modding a reality – whether or not that is a sacrifice of what made previous phones so recognizable is up to the user.
Power is not lacking in either case, however. Though the displays are slightly different in a few key ways, Quad HD is the resolution across the board. The LG phone is 5.3-inches in size and is an IPS panel, making it less saturated than the 5.5-inch AMOLED display found on the Moto Z.
Color output is a rather subjective matter, but we will say that there have been no problems with either of these phones when enjoying everything from sharp text to gaming. AMOLED is generally a little more pleasing to users’ eyes, so the Moto Z may be the way to go if you want the more punched up colors.
Underneath the hood, the stories are the same however, with both featuring the Snapdragon 820, the Adreno 530, and 4GB of RAM. There’s no questioning the speed of either device, as these are what flagships are supposed to sport, and it’s more a question of what the software feels like in this case, and a bit of streamlining on LG’s part helps the G5’s case.
Though a pretty stock-like experience in the Moto Z is bolstered by a number of Moto additions like the Moto Actions and Voice, there isn’t too much bogging down the system. On the other hand, the G5 still rocks a very familiar looking LG UI, but has shed a few features so that they’re not all up in one’s face. LG even opted for no app drawer in initial builds of the interface, but that can be rectified with a downloaded UI update.
Hardware features keep things pretty simple, minus the mods, of course. The lone 32GB of onboard storage in the Moto Z Force goes up against the 32 or 64GB options for the G5, but no matter which phone you get, there is still microSD card support to bolster it all.
The Moto Z also sheds the microphone jack, opting for an adapter that requires insertion into the USB type C port. In either case, the USB-C ports provide fast charging, though Quick Charge 3.0 for the LG phone seems just a step behind Moto’s own solution. In either case, a short stint connected to the wall can mean all the difference between no power and half battery in about half an hour.
Speaking of the battery, the Moto Z Force has the advantage here, with it packing a larger 3,500 mAh battery, compared to the 2,800 mAh unit of the LG G5. Both will comfortably allow for a full day or day and a half of use with average usage. Of course, if battery life is a huge concern, the battery of the G5 is replaceable, giving you the option of carrying around a spare. And in the case of the Moto Z Force, Motorola’s solution is a 2,200 mAh battery mod that you can easily attach to the device.
The first thing worth mentioning when talking about the cameras of these two devices is the 8 MP wide angle lens on the back that is coupled with the primary shooter of the LG G5, giving you something extra without needing any mods to be tacked on. Along with this wide angle lens is a 16 MP rear camera, with a f/1.8 aperture and OIS, while the Moto Z Force features a 21 MP rear shooter, also with a f/1.8 aperture and optical image stabilization.
As we mentioned during the full G5 review, the wide angle lens of the LG G5 is an absolute joy to use. It may not offer the highest quality or the sharpest image, but it’s great to use when you want to do things like take interesting selfies, or footage for vlogging. You get a lot more of the scenery into the shot with the secondary camera of the G5, and is certainly better suited to taking a picture of a landscape.
The more conventional camera setup found with the Moto Z Force are pretty standard. It doesn’t particularly excel in any single aspect, but the camera certainly isn’t bad by any means, and works well as a daily companion. When comparing the two, we did notice that the shots taken with the Moto Z Force feature a warmer tone than those taken with the G5.
Looking at the respective camera applications, there are quite a few features LG has packed into the app of the LG G5, including a variety of modes, and also returning is a robust manual mode that we have praised in the past. The Moto Z Force comes with a good manual mode as well, but in both cases, the viewfinder can get cluttered and messy pretty quickly if you are looking to make adjustments to a lot of aspects.
LG G5 camera samples
One very nice feature of the Moto Z Force camera is that it can be launched really quickly by using a gesture that involves a double twist of your wrist.
Moto Z Force camera samples
Up front, the LG G5 comes with an 8 MP front-facing camera, while the Moto Z Force features a 5 MP unit. However, users may prefer the latter, with the Moto smartphone coming with a front-facing flash. It’s certainly a rarity to see this feature with smartphones, and the Moto Z is one of the few that is available with it.
The standalone experiences end on the software, in which the LG phone got a welcome streamlining. The LG UI still retains the rather bloated and somewhat cartoonish look – with icons stretching when reaching the homescreen threshold – and the initial lack of an app drawer that expected users to put up with all these icons crowding the homescreens.
Thankfully users were given the option to put the app drawer back on, and in the same vein, much of what used to be way too in people’s faces has been toned down. QSlide doesn’t take up so much space in the notification shade, and there are far fewer prompts for features that people simply weren’t using in previous LG devices. The bottom line here is that if you were not a fan of LG’s UI in the past, there might not be enough change here to make you feel differently. That said, we notice and appreciate what was slimmed down, minus the app drawer (which, again, isn’t much of a problem anymore).
It might come as no surprise that the Moto Z software is an easier pill to swallow. Historically, the Moto line has used interfaces that are very close to stock Android, with quite a few extras that are mostly out of the way. That is definitely the case with the Moto Z, which might have a few miscues, but overall provides a familiar but powerful suite of features.
Putting aside the fact that the fingerprint reader looks like a home button, holding it down to lock the screen is a very nice touch. Moto Actions still bring useful gestures like chopping twice to turn on the flashlight and the double twist to open up the camera. Finally, sing a custom phrase to wake the phone straight into a Google Voice Search never gets old. Here at Android Authority we tend to gravitate toward feature sets that have more we would use rather than options we would never touch. In this case, the Moto Z line succeeds where the LG G5 falls just short of the mark.
Modularity vs Mods
Coincidentally, this is the same story when it comes to the mods. In a nutshell, the Moto Z line is simply a more accessible and easier way of doing mods than LG’s brand of modularity. If you want another one liner to describe this battle, you need look no further than how many mods we have for either phone.
Modularity on the LG G5 is a process. Basically, one has to press a small release button on the bottom left side of the phone so that the bottom portion can be pulled and slid out. Bear in mind that the phone should be turned off before doing this, much like clicking “Safely Remove Hardware” before pulling out a USB device in Windows. The battery that is quite literally clipped into the bottom piece then has to be snapped off in what can only be described as a precarious manner, so that it can be snapped into any of the LG Friends (the name they gave the mods).Then the phone needs to be powered on again.
These mods are a CAM Plus camera module that gives the phone more battery, and hardware buttons to use for picture and video taking, and a Hi-Fi audio DAC by Bang & Olfsen, that can enhance headphone listening experiences. The usefulness of either Friend can depend on the user, but in our experiences with the CAM Plus, we found that although the hardware buttons and grip made picture taking pretty comfy, the added bulk and odd shape quickly took away from its practicality.
Ultimately, the biggest issue with LG’s modularity is the process, but there is also the problem of Friend availability. Even though the G5 has been around for months, there are only two currently on sale with no news of any other ones even in development. The usefulness of LG’s modding way requires proofs of concept, and that simply is not the case for a phone that will become old news by the time the LG V20 arrives soon in less than month, or when the next G device comes around the time of the Mobile World Congress next year.
Proof of concept is probably the best way to describe how Moto presented modding. While it is not full modularity by nature, it is still a way to add features not already available on the standalone device. The procedure to add these Moto Mods is simple – almost too simple – and just requires a lining up of the connector pins and magnets. Easily snap the phone and the mod together and it works immediately.
The Moto Mods include the Moto Covers for further customization, Incipio battery pack mods for much more available power, the JBL SoundBoost speaker for better onboard audio, and a Moto projector mod that is surprisingly powerful and fun but ultimately impractical. A closer look at the different mods is available here on Android Authority, but here is the gist – the most useful of them is definitely the Incipio Power Pack, which adds much more available battery life to the normal capacity Moto Z and the large unit in the Moto Z Force.
Moto’s way of modding is the clear winner when it comes to convenience, because simply attaching the mod makes it work immediately, provided each unit is charged – yes, each Mod has its own batteries so they don’t just feed off of the phone’s own battery to work. There are three main types of Mods with the promise of more to come, but at the very least there are different colored and styled Covers and Power Pack Mods so the look of the Moto Z can be changed in multiple ways. Though all of the mods add a significant amount of heft to the phone, only the Power Pack Mod has to be handled on the phone – even then, it isn’t weirdly shaped so as to make it a pain to use.
Though LG was the first one to bring modularity to the mainstream, it just wasn’t accessible enough for the masses. Moto’s version of modding is the clear winner, not just because it is a simple plug and play method, but also because every Mod has proven their usefulness, even if overall practicality is up to the end user.
As far as cost goes, the Moto Mods can range in price, with the Power Pack costing $60 and the Projector costing a whopping $299. In the other camp, the CAM Plus for the LG G5 can be bought for $70. So adding features via mods to these phones can cost a pretty penny, but when judging them by cost and value, the Power Pack Mod is rather nicely priced for its utility – the rest of the Mods and Friends, maybe not so much.
Moto Z Force
5.5-inch AMOLED display Quad HD resolution, 535 ppi
5.3-inch IPS LCD display Quad HD resolution, 554 ppi
21 MP rear camera, f/1.8 aperture, dual LED flash 5 MP front-facing camera
16 MP (f/1.8) + 8 MP (f/2.4) rear cameras, LED flash 8 MP front-facing camera
Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Android 6.0 Marshmallow
155.9 x 75.8 x 7 mm 163 grams
149.4 x 73.9 x 7.7 mm 159 grams
Taken alone, there is a lot to like about either of these devices. The Moto Z line has a new design language that may be different but it retains much of the DNA that made the Moto X line so well liked. It’s nice to have a powerful phone with the option to use the Mods and yet never truly need to.
On the other hand, quite literally, the LG G5 has some trouble convincing us to use its modularity. And not just us, either – I personally have come across a few people recently who were using the G5 without mods. Upon asking, these people said that they didn’t ever get a Friend or use the ones that may have come with their phones. What they did enjoy was the camera package, where the wide angle shooter totally added to their picture and video taking experiences. We tend to feel the same way, as the wide angle camera is the most fun we’ve had shooting with a smartphone in a while.
Is that enough to put the overall package of the LG G5 over the overall package of the Moto Z? Probably not, as nearly every other aspect favors the Moto Z – software, modding, and even customization.
And so, there you have it – the Moto Z and the LG G5. The two main modularity or modding smartphones available right now. As we said in our full LG G5 review, we applaud LG for taking a chance and a crack at modularity, but Moto simply put a little more thought into its execution and accessibility. Taken alone as phones, there’s plenty to enjoy from either company’s brand of Android, and it is ultimately up to you to decide which one better suits your needs. Which one would you pick? Let us know in the comments below!