Motorola Droid Ultra

We've found the Droids, but we're not sure yet if they're the ones you're looking for

Verizon's Motorola Droid Ultra hits stores tomorrow, August 20th, and we've got our hands on the device a little early for you guys to look at. For all intents and purposes, the Droid Ultra is a larger, more plasticky and generally more Verizon-ized version of the Moto X with most of the same DNA (no, not that other phone) inside.

In general, you're getting the same software experience as the Moto X — plus some extra Verizon bloat — wrapped in a different shell, hitting the same price point to boot. Hang on after the break for a few more impressions, hands-on video and several pictures of the middle entry into the latest Droid lineup on Verizon.

More: Official Droid Ultra specs

We haven't had a whole lot of time with the Droid Ultra just yet, but first impressions are important when looking at a device. Unfortunately our out-of-the-box reaction to the hardware isn't the best. We're torn, really, because the Droid Ultra seems to be very well made in terms of fit-and-finish but we just can't get past the material choices.

In stark contrast to the soft touch "woven" material of the Moto X, we're looking at extremely (and we mean extremely) glossy plastic all around on the Droid Ultra. You have a honeycomb-like pattern on the back plate, but this surely isn't the kevlar we know from other Droids. Additionally, Motorola has dropped the on-screen buttons found on the Moto X and even last year's Droid RAZR line for capacitive buttons again, which is puzzling.

On the software side we're much more impressed with what we have to look at. To our eyes we're looking at 100 percent the same experience as the Moto X, with a relatively "Stock" feel alongside several Motorola improvements like Active Notifications and Touchless Control. Just as you'd expect, Verizon is still loading quite a bit of its own bloatware — from a handful of Verizon-branded apps to several more Amazon installments — on the phone, which can and will be swiftly disabled when you first set it up.

Overall we have to say that we're looking forward to putting the Droid Ultra through its paces in the coming days. There's a lot to like here, and we plan on having our full review up soon.

 

Reader comments

Motorola Droid Ultra: First look video and pictures

67 Comments

This reminds me of my first phone the Droid X. I got 3 replacement phones & needed another but did not want to bother with the trouble. I WILL N E V E R ever have another Motorola phone again.

I will not buy Motorola anything. Why bother.

My Droid X was good to me for two years, never had a problem. Only reason I got rid of it was because it was time to upgrade.

Same here. I only quit using my Droid X as my daily phone because I upgraded to a Note 2 in Dec'12. I do still use my old Droid X as a WiFi device whrn I am mowing the lawn & that kind of thing.

It still works great 3 years after it was released!

My Droid X lasted me 2 years and now my kid uses it as a small tablet on Wifi. It's 3 years old, same with the Mrs DX. Motorola is solid, main reason I got rid of the Galaxy Nexus for a Razr HD Maxx.

Goes double for me. I did Jump Motorola ship for the S3 and now on the S4. I am more concerned with radio signal and GPS and the S3 was such an improvement I wasn't afraid to go Galaxy.

You're the minority from what I know. I've had nothing but great experiences from all Moto phones. IMO, they're easily the best out there. This is coming from someone who owns a GSIII and has also had a T-Bolt.

You need to correct your story. It's not plastic. It's laminated Kevlar.

In order to make composite weaves rigid they need to be laminated. The original Droid Razrs were not laminated. The rigidity came from the battery, glass, PCB, and frame. Otherwise, the first Droid Razrs would have been flimsy.

It is plastic. It´s a fiber reinforced plastic and no the fibers aren't Kevlar but carbon fiber. Kevlar is yellowish not black. And its not laminated but properly made using RTM or compression molding.

It is a kevlar composite. Kevlar comes in many different colors now (and has for some time). And while technically the coating is a "plastic", most consumers attach that term to thermoform polymers such as PTFE, polycarbonate, and PVC. This device more likely uses a thermoset plastic, such as acrylic or some form of epoxy, as is usually the case since fiber reinforcement is used to prevent such very hard plastics from cracking due to excessive tension.

All in all, the material shouldn't feel too slick (even at the ridiculously high gloss), and should survive falls in relatively excellent condition (minor nicks and scratches).

It isn't likely to be carbon fiber as carbon fiber absorbs radio waves. CF isn't the best selection for good reception.

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All that matters is where you put the antenna. Carbon fiber or whatever as long s the antenna is place correctly it won't matter.

The DROID ULTRA is a curious phone. It'll live alongside the Moto X, and while there may a significant difference in overall side (4.7" screen on the Moto X, while the ULTRA gets a 5-incher), they're going to sell for the same on-contact price of $200.

Now, being DROID-branded, we all know what the sales reps are going to push on customers. But I think it's going to be more tough for the ULTRA, especially if there's some truth behind the supposed "$500 million ad-campaign" Google has planned for the Moto X.

The DROID MINI (significantly smaller size) and DROID MAXX (2+ day battery life) are differentiated enough from the Moto X (also at the low and high ends of price) that people who want the MINI or MAXX won't be too tempted by the X. But the ULTRA? I think it's a phone Motorola could have done without.

Essentially - if you want the cool software features from the Moto X in a phone that's slightly larger, get the ULTRA.

$500M doesnt go as far as it used to. I would have thought with the X being launched already on ATT we would have seen it ramping up already... building the hype until "my" carrier gets it.

Maybe it got lost? And they have to hire Indianna Jones to find it for them

Sent from the heartland of Africa

I've had great experiences with Motorola phones in the past. The Ultra and the Moto X are the phones that are going to tempt me back to Android I'm afraid. My current device is a Windows phone that I really, really like and I have said I wouldn't go back to Android, but I really like the features on these phones. Making me think twice about my next phone.

I really like the look of this phone(especially in red). I plan on comparing it with the X when they are both out, but my gut tells me I'm gonna be going with the Ultra. The looks of the phone say its gonna kick your a$$ if you get in its way. 16GB is enough storage on a phone for me. I'm more than happy if the battery lasts a whole day, and I would likely never use wireless charging, so there's no reason for me to shell out an extra $100 on the MAXX for features I don't want/need. The X might change my mind when I have it in my hand. but I'm thinking that this will be my next phone.

The material choice for the Motorola Droid Ultra is awful. It's almost hard to believe they also make the Moto X, which looks much better.

I'm thinking that Motorola is just doing this as they finish up there contract with Verizon

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It's not that simple. Most of Motorola's current management came over from Google but the engineers are still Motorola. The same engineers did the Droid Ultra as the Moto X. It's not like Google had phone engineers before they bought Motorola. Droid Ultras still exist because they were already in the pipeline so it was either sell them with the Moto X or sell just the Moto and throw away all the work done on the Droid Ultra's plus stop all manufacturing. But you won't be seeing Droid Ultra's after this version.

For such a hyped phone and as much as you pay for it and the Verizon plan you'd think it would come with a pair of headphones or something extra. That's Verizon for you.

Via Android Central App from a Galaxy Note 2

Being that I used to love Moto but in all honesty they have gone by the way side. There product line is sub par at best. They have become the new HTC. Depending on similar models to keep them afloat. If they don't go back to the drawing board they will not last long. No real competition coming from them.

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I really hope the Maxx isn't this glossy, that would be a huge bummer. Wouldn't even look at it if that's the case.

Looks like the anti-Moto X. To show how carriers can screw up the experience with bloatware and how OEM's mess things up with poor materials.

Or it could be awesome. We'll see LOL

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I don't see how a kevlar unibody that's laminated is poor build quality. Feel it in person. It's solid. Feels a million times more premium than a gs4

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It may be solidly built, but the feeling to the touch is just as gross and plasticky as any Samsung phone you've ever felt. That's definitely a step in the right direction, because you want your phone well built, but how it feels is important too.

I said it feels better than the gs4. I have the Ultra in my hand and my wife's gs4 is about a foot away. There's not even a contest.

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I'm not in love with the feel of the GS4, but I don't think its as bad as people are saying. If the Ultra feels better than that then its another plus in my book.

Can't say I agree there. The Ultra is definitely better made with overall higher quality materials, but it is extremely glossy and a horrible finger print magnet. Just as bad or worse than any plastic Samsung phone of the last 2 years.

You're gonna put a case on it anyway. Does it matter that it's glossy?

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Very valid of course. Personally, the existence of the Maxx makes the Ultra not an option for me. But I can't imagine eliminating a device purely on appearance. Then again, I stuck with the SGS's glossy appearance for a long time and even preferred it, so what do I know? ;p

Agreed. I think most of us would certainly put a case on our phones, so all this talk about the look and hype about the MotoX's custom looks seems way over exaggerated to me. I'd rather have a phone that looks a bit clunky than one that shatters the first time I drop it.

But it still doesn't answer why the Droid Ultra was even released...the Maxx and the Mini seem to have something unique. I can't imagine the logic behind having it out plus the MotoX.

Any chance there'll be a Moto X Maxx? Motorola has a habit of releasing better versions of the same product within months of each other. Give me the moto maker customizations and onscreen buttons of the Moto X, along with the Droid Maxx 5" screen, 3500 mah battery, 32gb internal memory, and that's my new phone upgrade. I'm guessing they both use the exact same camera hardware and hopefully that's up to par with the other higher end phones.

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Well almost... I have convinced myself to really give the lg g2 a chance. Otherwise the last hope for a great phone this year will be to be the nexus 5 but i don't know if I could wait till October. Currently using a dying verizon gnex with a terrible battery.

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Coming from a Droid Razr Maxx HD...I'm not digging the glossy, "plasticky" feel on the new Droid (even if it's "laminated kevlar"). As another commenter said, it's also about the feel (and no, I don't put cases on my phones, just an Invisible Shield on the screen (though I did put a "bodyguardz" protector on this phone).

Anyway, I'll wait for the review on the VZW Moto X, we'll see how that goes.

"Motorola has dropped the on-screen buttons found on the Moto X and even last year's Droid RAZR line for capacitive buttons again, which is puzzling."

I don't think this is very puzzling. It seems logical to me. What is not logical is why Google would recommend static buttons on the screen at all times except for video playback. While this works on a tablet with a 16:10 aspect ratio (the aspect ratio means that there is room for the buttons when displaying 16:9 content full screen) it doesn't make any sense on a phone with a 16:9 aspect ratio. There is no way to view 16:9 photos full screen. There is no way to use the full screen (important on such a small device like a phone as opposed to a tablet) for web browsing and other content viewing. Moto made a wise choice to go "back" to this just as HTC and Samsung have always understood it was not a well thought out idea on a phone or at least a poorly implemented one. Show me one Android phone with on screen buttons that doesn't have room below the screen for capacitive buttons and you may be able to convert me. For now, I haven't seen that and it would be the only thing that would make the move to onscreen buttons logical.

Sooooo true! On screen buttons are such a waste of screen real estate, especially in landscape mode...not as big of a deal in portrait mode, but on-screen buttons are the reason I wouldn't buy a Moto X...the wooden back might woo me though.

agreed 100%. I do not like the onscreen buttons at all. I'm happy manfacturers are moving away from it. They must be listening to customers.

Not liking the shiny plastic on this one at all the finger prints will just be horrible on this. This time instead of just rubbing the screen now your rubbing the both sides front and back oh the insanity ahhhhh lol.

maybe it's the video but to me the screen on the Moto X looks a lot better than the Droid. Maybe it's the size of the Droid screen?

I can't really see a reason to get this phone over a moto X, or any other top-tier smartphones out there. The Droid Maxx is more worth looking at