The high-end phone space is amazingly tough to break into in any real numbers, and even established brands like Motorola and HTC find it hard. Both have taken to the strategy of low- and mid-range phones to bolster their business, but at the same time look for the big sales and brand recognition boosts that flagship phones bring — this year, it's the Moto Z2 Force and HTC U11.
We've learned plenty about the HTC U11 already, and in knowing so much about it, it was surprising to see the Moto Z2 Force announced with a large number of similarities to HTC's latest flagship. So what do we do? Compare them head to head, of course. Here's what you need to know.
Much about the hardware on the Moto Z2 Force and HTC U11 is extremely similar. They both have a 5.5-inch 16:9 display with a front-mounted fingerprint sensor, leading to near-identical widths and heights. The Z2 Force is of course a few millimeters thinner, though most of the thickness of the U11 is in the middle where it curves to its highest point. Both metal frames are smooth and slick, and both backs are similarly low on frills — the big differentiator being the U11's sparkling glass back to the mundane and functional metal of the Z2 Force.
It's surprising just how much is similar between these two.
Even though the U11's screen is LCD and the Z2 Force's is AMOLED, both are crisp, bright, and colorful at QHD resolution. I'd give the U11 a slight nod in terms of overall quality on account of the clarity of its Gorilla Glass 5 screen covering, but the Z2 Force of course has a completely shatterproof lens covering its panel. The plastic coating on top is clearly easier to casually scuff and scratch ... but when you drop it, it's going to hold up. While you're thinking of potential mishaps, you should also consider the U11 has IP67 water-resistance, while the Z2 Force sticks with Motorola's typical "water-repellant" coating.
The similarities between the phones continue on the inside, where you'll find the same Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and an SD card slot. Things diverge only slightly in battery capacity, where the Z2 Force's 2730mAh battery is 9% smaller than the U11's 3000mAh. People have generally expected more battery in both of these phones, and even though either one can give a normal user a full day of life, the Z2 Force offers just a bit less wiggle room for the heavier days.
Those internal specs lead to great performance on both phones, with Motorola having one of the most sought-after "customized" Android experiences available today and HTC continuing to keep its clean, consistent, and simple software approach. Motorola has a slight upper hand here in that it has its hands on far less of the interface overall, only adding where it makes sense, but HTC isn't far behind — and in both cases you feel like you're very much still using an Android phone. Novices and experts alike would be happy to use either one.
The U11 has a better overall camera experience, but we still tip our cap to Motorola's software.
When it comes to cameras, the Z2 Force was coming into a tough battle after everyone has generally concluded that the U11 has one of the best (some would say the best) cameras available in a smartphone today. The U11 keeps things simple with a single lens, all the right hardware and some post-processing that provides amazing shots in all sorts of lighting conditions. The Moto Z2 Force's main camera just can't match the U11 in dark or mixed light scenes, though its secondary black-and-white camera is super fun and its software is clean and easy to use.
The final part of the core smartphone experience to compare is audio. That's where these phones are the same ... but also inferior to the competition — neither one has a 3.5mm headphone jack. Most people don't care what the
excuses reasons are; they just want their headphone jack back, and adding an adapter in the box isn't the fix. Sticking with audio, though, the U11 has a dramatically better speaker offering than the Z2 Force. Its combination of the earpiece loudspeaker and bottom-firing speaker give you stereo separation and much higher volumes than the Z2 Force's single earpiece speaker that's just barely loud enough to be acceptable.
As was the case in our last Moto Z2 Force comparison, the Moto Mod aspect is the one true wildcard when comparing to a phone from any other manufacturer. Though it forces the Moto Z2 Force into a very similar design as its predecessors, you can expand and augment your phone experience with swappable Mods to add all kinds of capabilities. Spend $20 to $300 on each of these Mods, and you can get practical things like simple covers, wireless charging, or an extra battery, or more off-the-wall additions like a 360-degree camera or a full-on projector. Moto Mods won't speak to everyone, but for those who do think they're neat, there's nowhere else to go to get that kind of experience.
Deciding between two similar phones
With so much shared between these two phones, it seems only logical to compare them. With the same general size, shape, specs and qualities, if you're drawn to one you'd likely also be happy with the other. But there are differences to sway you.
On a point-by-point basis, the U11 is probably the better phone — but the Z2 Force is close.
Right off the top, the Moto Z2 Force is the more expensive device by roughly $100 — and that's before you add in the cost of a Moto Mod to cover the back. And though it offers a shatterproof display, it comes up short of the U11 in terms of battery life and overall camera quality.
The U11 is a far more traditional and conservative phone in that it doesn't offer any sort of standout features to compete with things like Moto Mods, the front-facing camera flash, or a secondary black-and-white camera sensor. One could also easily argue that HTC's software, while good, is lacking just a tad behind Motorola's exceptional offering. But those are small issues on an otherwise exceptional phone.
So which one is right for you? Well, you'll have to weigh those very specific points listed above to see which speaks to you most. Many will be inclined to go with the HTC U11 because of its lower price and better core experience, and on a point-by-point basis it's probably the better phone. But with so much shared between the two, the x-factors in the Z2 Force may sway some people the other way if they're looking for something a bit more unique.
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