OnePlus 3 vs Moto Z: Round 2 For Android's 2016 Phone WARS

OnePlus 3 vs Moto Z: Round 2 For Android's 2016 Phone WARS


Lenovo and OnePlus have both come to market at a similar time with some pretty compelling design and hardware in the Moto Z and OnePlus 3. Both are, of course Android based, but have some very different features; the Moto Z, for example, runs stock Android, a relative rarity, while the OnePlus 3 uses the custom Android-based Oxygen OS.

Which one is more up your street? Read on to get the low-down on all the details and features.

Moto Z vs OnePlus 3: Specs

Moto Z

  • Dimensions: 153.3 x 75.3 x 5.2 mm, 136g
  • Display: 5.5in AMOLED 1440 x 2560 pixels (~535 ppi pixel density)
  • OS: Android Marshmallow (Stock)
  • Chipset: Qualcomm MSM8996 Snapdragon 820
  • Memory: 4GB
  • Storage Options: 32GB/64GB
  • SD-Support: Up to 256GB
  • Primary Camera: 13 MP, f/1.8, OIS, laser autofocus, dual-LED flash
  • Secondary Camera: 5MP, f/2.2, LED flash
  • Battery: Non-removable Li-Po 2,600 mAh battery

OnePlus 3

  • Dimensions: 152.7 x 74.7 x 7.4 mm, 158g
  • Display: 5.5in Super AMOLED 1080 x 1920 pixels (~401 ppi pixel density)
  • OS: Android Marshmallow + Oxygen OS UI
  • Chipset: Qualcomm MSM8996 Snapdragon 820
  • Memory: 6GB
  • Storage Options: 64GB
  • SD-Support: No
  • Primary Camera: 16MP, f/2.0, OIS, phase detection autofocus, dual-LED flash, 1/2.8″ sensor size, 1.12 µm pixel size 
  • Secondary Camera: 8MP, f/2.0, 1/3.2″ sensor size, 1.4 µm pixel size 
  • Battery: Non-removable Li-Po 3000 mAh battery

Moto Z vs OnePlus 3: Design & Display

With the Moto Z, Motorola (Lenovo’s behind-closed-doors development team for the Moto series), has tweaked the existing Moto X design to look significantly more premium than its forebears. It still has a rounded-off, slightly “Nexus” appearance in terms of shape, likely a hangover from the Moto-made Nexus 6. However, what you’re looking at here is “aircraft grade” aluminium and stainless steel construction for the frame, and reinforced Gorilla Glass 4 panels for both front and back. The Moto Z is the thinner and lighter option here, indeed one of the thinnest and most lightweight phones on the market at a mere 5.2mm round the belly and 136g on the scales. The handset is available in a selection of classy looking metallic finishes for the surround and back panel, and with either a white or black front fascia, while the back also has an interesting striped finish. 

One key point about the Moto Z though, is that like earlier Moto models there is a degree of user customisation available. This time this comes in the form of MotoMods; a range of magnetised clip-on back panels designed just for the Moto Z and its stable-mate, the Moto Z Force. There are MotoMods which offer functional features to enhance the phone’s capabilities, but we’ll talk more about that later, the point for this section is that the “Style Shells” are purely visual modifications for the back panel and allow you to go for something in leather, wood, Kevlar, patterned fabric, or any finish you fancy in a selection of colours. At present there are just official versions but it’s expected third-party accessory makers will produce a lot of variety both in decorative and functional MotoMod back panels.

The OnePlus 3 is pretty far removed from the last two generations of OnePlus handsets, most notably the firm has gone for an all-metal aluminium unibody design, without the older design interchangeable back panels. Customisation is gone, but build quality and overall aesthetic has improved, although it must be said that there’s a lot of HTC 10 style in the OnePlus 3. Not that this is a bad thing if you want that look for a fraction of the price. The OnePlus 3 is heavier than the Moto Z but is far from being a bulky piece of kit at 158g, and the thickness of 7.4mm is fairly standard for current flagships; not as thin as the Moto Z, but nicely thin nonetheless. In keeping with the full-metal trend the OnePlus 3 is also available in a selection of metallic colour choices, though some are market-restricted for now.

Both handsets feature 5.5in display panels but there are some key differences. The Moto Z has an AMOLED panel with a QHD resolution at 535ppi, while the OnePlus 3 has a Super AMOLED with a 1080p Full HD at 401ppi. The question is whether such a difference in pixel density will be noticeable to the human eye at normal viewing distances. Our thought at present is probably not, though admittedly we have not test driven either device at time of writing. What’s more, Super AMOLED on the OnePlus 3 has some distinct advantages over regular AMOLED in terms of colour, contrast, and overall image quality, and a 1080p resolution, while lower than the QHD, should also be more friendly to the battery (not that this will matter one jot on the Moto Z if you use the battery booster MotoMod – again, more on that later).

Moto Z vs OnePlus 3: Hardware

Both handsets carry exactly the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor; the market-leading model in most major flagships right now and which storms to the top-end of most benchmark databases. However, there are some flies in the ointment here; the OnePlus 3 has 6GB of RAM, which is quite a bit more than the Moto Z’s 4GB, meaning in theory it should be quicker, but we’ve already seen reports emerging of other handsets with 4GB of RAM beating the OnePlus 3 in performance tests, most notably the Samsung Galaxy S7 with the Exynos 8890 processor (see video below). That doesn’t mean, of course, that the OnePlus 3 can’t beat the Moto Z using the same chip but different RAM values; it’s not a clear cut issue because factors such as software optimisation are also important, and it’s worth bearing in mind that the Moto Z runs stock Android without any overlays to slow things down, while the OnePlus 3 is heavily customised. Further testing is definitely needed here to establish the pecking order!

The OnePlus 3 is lagging behind when it comes to storage options – 64GB is the only choice, not that this much space is a bad thing and if you’re limited to one option it’s better that it is a higher-end one, but it also lacks microSD expansion. The Moto Z has options for either 32GB or 64GB onboard and microSD support up to 256GB. Having said all that, price is a factor, but we’ll cover that in a later section.

The Moto Z does have a decently sized 2,600mAh battery cell, especially not bad considering the thin body it is squeezed into, but it is significantly smaller than the OnePlus 3’s 3,000mAh setup. That said, Moto buyers do have the option of augmenting the Moto Z’s battery with MotoMods, and to up the base battery rating by going for the thicker-bodied but otherwise similarly specced Moto Z Force with its 3,500mAh cell (though this model is expected to be more expensive and naturally MotoMods cost extra).

Moto Z vs OnePlus 3: Price & MotoMods

Ok so this is where we’ll discuss all the stuff we kept referring to earlier in the article.

First up, it’s worth mentioning that the OnePlus 3 is priced at £309, which is a mid-ranger price for a broadly premium spec and build, one which makes the lack of lower-tier storage options and even microSD more forgiveable. Secondly, at time of writing the Moto Z hasn’t been given a price, which makes it really tough to compare in terms of value – if it’s at a similar price point to the OnePlus 3 then it has a few key features which could give it the edge and make it well worth considering to choose OVER the OnePlus 3 (thought it’s a pretty close run thing in many respects), but if it’s a typical £500 flagship price then the OnePlus starts to win out on pure value-to-spec ratio. Naturally we’ll be keeping an eye out for pricing details for the Moto Z in the coming weeks and will update this comparison accordingly.

The third and final point is the functional MotoMods, which give Moto Z buyers a lot of customisation options and the ability to augment features of the phone which might be otherwise lacking. A prime example is the battery, as mentioned 2,600mAh is not massive and a good deal lower than the OnePlus 3 3,000mAh setup, however, slap an “Incipio Offgrid” MotoMod on there with its own 2,200mAh battery inside and you’re suddenly looking at 4,800mAh. Again though, this is spending more money, so that’s something to consider.

Other options include an “InstaShare Projector” with built-in 1,000mAh battery and a pico projector for your own portable cinema, and the “JBL Soundboost” with a kick-stand, twin 27mm, 200 Hz – 20 KHz, 3W stereo speakers, and a 1,000mAh battery cell to turn your phone into a boombox. A camera MotoMod has also been spotted in promo material, but no word on it officially just yet.