Motorola Droid Ultra

For a phone with so many great parts about it, why do we question its existence?

"Droid". The word that Verizon has spent millions of dollars marketing, built a highly-successful line of phones on and confused general consumers across the country about what an Android phone actually is with. But with the release of the latest lineup of Droid devices from Motorola, "Droid" doesn't mean what it used to. Sure Verizon has managed to sprinkle in its own bits of crazy lightning bolt and robot eye branding and commercialization, but the general theme of Droid devices in late 2013 is a much nicer, consumer-friendly experience.

But on a carrier that offers this exact same device with a substantially larger battery and double the storage for just a $100 more and the Moto X with a more appealing design and ergonomics for the same price, why would someone consider buying the Droid Ultra? We're not entirely sure that that question can be answered, but we've come to a few conclusions about the device nonetheless. Read on for our full review of the middle price point entry for the 2013 Droid lineup, the Motorola Droid Ultra.

Inside this review: Hardware | Software | Camera | Bottom line

The hardware

Motorola is making a big deal about the fact that its new Droid phones (as well as the Moto X) will do everything you expect without toting the highest-end specs available today. The Droid Ultra has a modest 5-inch 720p AMOLED display, a specialized "X8 Mobile Computing System" with just a dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of non-expandable storage and a 10MP camera with a new "Clear Pixel" technology.

Reading through the specs list nothing is going to jump out and grab you — but rather than just ticking individual boxes on a spec sheet, Moto thinks that it has put together a complete package that will more than adequately serve users.

Build quality and materials

Motorola Droid Ultra

Trying to make sense of the Droid Ultra's design is an exercise in frustration. There are so many aspects that we enjoy, tampered with a few poor decisions that leave us confused. Right off the top, we have to say that the Droid Ultra is built extremely well. The seams are tight, there aren't any unnecessary gaps and the entire handset gives you a feeling that it is built solidly — give the Ultra a twist in your hands and you'll feel nary a creak.

The Droid Ultra is built extremely well, but is still too wide and thin to comfortably hold.

Size-wise, the Droid Ultra is pushing the boundaries of what we're comfortable using one-handed. While its screen is surrounded by small bezels, it is still a 5-inch device with capacitive buttons at the bottom adding even more height. It is both taller and wider than a Galaxy S4, and substantially bigger than the Nexus 4. At just 7.18mm thick it's nice to look at, but ultimately falls into the camp of the previous two Droid RAZR lines by being too wide and thin, making it awkward to hold at times — perhaps the thicker Droid MAXX will remedy this some.

Motorola Droid Ultra Motorola Droid Ultra

The front of the Ultra is dominated by a big slab of glass that nicely rolls off the edge to the sides, broken by a small lip at the bottom and a speaker grille at the top. Somewhat confusingly you'll find three capacitive navigation buttons at the bottom of the screen (at least they're the right ones), breaking away from its predecessors in the Droid RAZR line and its nearly identical twin the Moto X who all have on-screen buttons.

While it is manufactured well, our issues begin with the material choices Motorola has made. Keeping in line with the recent "Droid" aesthetic we're looking at a primarily kevlar construction, which is coated (or laminated if you prefer) with an intense level of super-glossy plastic. We like that it covers up the cross-hatch pattern of the kevlar for a very subtle bit of style, but when it comes to usability it is far too slippery to trust in your hand most of the time.

Motorola Droid Ultra Motorola Droid Ultra

The entire device is an absolute fingerprint repository.

The only breaks in the glossy exterior of the Droid Ultra are the camera and speaker pod at the top of the back, an engraved "M" logo in the middle, as well as the volume keys and power button positioned on the right side together. Motorola has pulled a nifty trick and made the volume rocker double as a nano-SIM card slot — you wouldn't know unless you look in the manual, and it means one less cutout on the side of the phone.

This high-gloss plastic wraps the entire back, sides and "chin" of the Ultra in one big piece, which of course gives it great rigidity but also means 98 percent of this device is an absolute fingerprint repository. No matter how many times you wipe the Ultra on your shirt or jeans (or with an industrial car buffer), you will never get all of the fingerprints and oils off of it. Not only does it make the phone feel bad, it makes it look even worse.

Motorola Droid Ultra Motorola Droid Ultra

If you buy the Droid Ultra, get ready to preemptively tell your friends "No, my hands aren't that gross, this phone is just really glossy." It really is a shame that the phone is so ridiculously slimy considering that it is pretty much built like a tank otherwise. If it had a little more texture to hold onto, it would negate much of our complaints with the build.

As a complete package, the shortfalls of an ultra-glossy device and capacitive buttons aren't enough to turn us away from considering the device completely, but it certainly doesn't help with either short-term impressions or long-term usability. Motorola seems to have gotten the ergonomics right on the Moto X, but has pushed the Droid Ultra just a tad too tall, too wide and too thin, hurting usability in the process.

Display

Motorola Droid Ultra

Motorola has chosen to put "only" a 5-inch 720p (that's 293 ppi) AMOLED display in the Droid Ultra, and while everyone is busy yelling about how it's a failure because it isn't 1080p - like the HTC One for example, the resolution is the one aspect that we don't have any issue with.

Like most AMOLED displays, the Droid Ultra's is too highly saturated with unrealistic colors and has trouble reproducing accurate whites and greys. While AMOLED vs. LCD is generally settled on personal preference, we think Motorola has gone too far pumping up the contrast here. There is also a particularly ugly issue of using the Ultra at the lowest brightness levels, which produce blacks and greys with a purple hue.

Too highly saturated, with unrealistic colors and trouble reproducing accurate whites and greys.

The display's other characteristics are just fine though, with good viewing angles that distort only slightly when off-axis, especially at higher brightness levels. Outdoor visibility is just average, even when keeping the display at 100 percent brightness.

In day-to-day use at regular brightness levels, we think the Droid Ultra's display will be higher quality than your average user is expecting. You'll have even fewer issues with it if you're a fan of AMOLED displays in general and enjoy the punchy, bright colors. When it comes to actually using the device, the 720p resolution is a non-issue for us in the end. We could notice some softness around text and sharp lines, but it was something we had to look for rather than what we noticed off-handedly.

Radios and sensors

Although it is seemingly the only device on Verizon that doesn't have the branding to prove it, the Droid Ultra is of course a 4G LTE device. We experienced no particular issues with either LTE or Wifi data in our testing, aside from the general slowdowns due to network congestion on the mobile data side. The Droid Ultra is also GSM global roaming capable, with an HSPA+ 42mbps radio and a variety of useful bands. For those who make them, calls were crisp and clear as you expect on Verizon with a Motorola device.

Bluetooth, NFC and the bevy of sensors inside the Ultra worked just fine as well, which is important considering how reliant the newest Motorola phones are on them for its latest features.

Battery life

Droid Ultra battery life

Not only is that specially-crafted X8 Mobile Computing System supposed to offer solid performance, it is also expected to help with battery life by breaking out separate cores to manage different tasks — and being paired with just a 720p display and 2130mAh battery we are completely content with the longevity of the Droid Ultra. The "always listening" and Active Display functions don't seem to have any noticeable impact on the battery, and we easily made it through a full day of usage with charge to spare.

Seriously heavy use hardly makes the battery drop — and it sips power otherwise.

It was interesting to us that even during heavy use, such as running mobile hotspot while listening to podcasts and keeping up with email, the battery didn't dip down dramatically. We easily made it through a heavier than usual day of use with some Wifi time but primarily mobile data, taking lots of pictures, streaming music and using the hotspot function, and still came home with 25 percent battery left after 11 hours.

Usage varies of course, and going through a simpler day with more Wifi time and no hotspotting, we easily would hit that 10 hour mark without dipping down into the 40 percent range. The Droid Ultra seems to do a great job of not using up power when it is "idle", and the Active Display means you're turning on the screen less often to check your notifications, which again helps on battery life.

Those looking for that over-the-top amount of battery life will want to pony up the extra $100 for the Droid MAXX, but if you're not a power user and absolutely have to save the $100 you won't have any issues making it through your normal workday or weekend out of the house with battery left to spare.

Motorola software design, post Google

Active Display

Motorola has taken on a new philosophy with its software design in the latest Droid devices that has far less to do with robots killing things and more to do with actually helping you use your phone. Just as we've seen shown off countless times on the Moto X, the Droid Ultra has a generally "Stock" build of Android 4.2.2 with a few subtle tweaks to make the operating system more user-friendly.

This Droid has far less to do with robots killing things, and more to do with helping you.

Our very own Phil Nickinson has spilled countless words on the new software improvements on the Moto X — primarily Touchless Control, Active Display, Trusted Bluetooth devices and Motorola Assist — which directly apply to the Droid Ultra as well. We are going to refer to his excellent review for the nitty-gritty on the new features, which you can find right here:

Read: Moto X review | Inside the Moto X Active Display

Aside from a few Verizon-specific changes to the firmware, we're looking at a nearly identical implementation of software across the Droid line as is found on the Moto X. That's a great point of brand unification for Motorola, and we're extremely happy with the software as a whole. Read on below where we cover those few Verizon changes and our general feelings about using the software on a daily basis.

Verizon-specific tweaks

Disabled appsIn the end the device is still a "Droid", so the Verizon branding of the boot animation, wallpapers and default sounds are unavoidable out of the box, but these are just cosmetic changes that can be switched to whatever you see fit. Being a Verizon device you're also going to deal with a little bit of bloatware — from VZ Navigator to an entire lineup of Amazon apps — totaling about 15 apps to our count. Only a couple of them are useful, but luckily all of them can be disabled if you see fit.

Throughout the system you'll see a few small tweaks, such as a "Backup Assistant Plus" account in the settings, a few icon tweaks and things like Mobile Hotspot and Tethering being disabled without the proper account provisioning, naturally.

Droid Zap

One of the new Motorola software features that isn't available on the Moto X is Droid Zap, which is very similar to services like Bump and Samsung Link. Once enabled in the settings, you can swipe up on the screen with two fingers when viewing pictures or video and "Zap" them to other devices. The content is uploaded to a server and re-downloaded on receiving devices, rather than being peer-to-peer. The sender also has the choice of adding a randomized passcode to the file as well, keeping things private.

For transferring media between two devices let's stick to Android Beam, no app required.

But here's the catch, the only way to receive a Zap is to either have one of the three new Droids, or install the Droid Zap app from the Play Store. If you do have a new Droid, you can simply swipe down with two fingers on your display and receive the pictures or video so long as you're within 1000 feet of the sender.  If you're on a non-Droid device, you'll have to launch the Droid Zap app and swipe down within the app. It isn't the most elegant solution, and the Droid Zap app doesn't enable you to send, only receive.

We see Droid Zap being useful once these phones get more exposure and there's actually a good chance that some of your friends and family will either have the phones or the app installed, but for transferring media from one device to another, let's just stick to Android Beam over NFC — the Droid Ultra handles that just fine, no app required.

Daily life with the Droid Ultra

Motorola Droid Ultra

People have complained about the Droid Ultra not being powerful enough, and we have to shoot down that notion right now.

Since Phil has covered the specifics of how the new software features of these devices work, we wanted to dive into what it is like to use the Droid Ultra as a primary device for the last several days. It probably won't come as any surprise, but coming from using a Nexus 4 we felt right at home on the Ultra. The similarities between the software experience on a Nexus and on these new Motorola devices goes far beyond simple familiarity — you're getting a Stock experience here.

Once we took 10 minutes to disable all of the unnecessary apps, switch the wallpaper and select our ringtones (most of the stock ones are available) it felt like we were using a slightly larger, glossier Nexus 4. We didn't need to install a new launcher, download any crazy apps or tweak anything to get the look and feel we wanted. In both performance and usability of the software, everything performed extremely well on the Ultra. We never found a stutter, crash, lag or inconsistency across all of our usual suite of apps and usage patterns. Much noise has been made about the Ultra not being powerful enough, and we have to shoot down that idea right now.

We just want Active Display on every one of our phones going forward.

Of all the software additions that Motorola has made, we found Active Display (aka Active Notifications) to be the biggest innovation that we came to rely on quickly. The phone makes itself known when there are notifications waiting, and doesn't do anything when there aren't. A series of icons subtly pulsing on screen is immensely more useful than a standard notification LED, and placing a finger on the notification gives you that extra bit of information to decide if you need to turn the screen on or not. One of the most useful parts about Active Display is the time and lock button popping up when taking the phone out of your pocket or off of a table — we would regularly go half a day without touching the power button on the Droid Ultra.

Active Display is one of those features that's so simple but drastically more useful than any lock screen or standby screen that any other manufacturer is doing. We want this feature on our Nexus 4, and all other phones for that matter, going forward.

Touchless Control, Motorola Assist and Trusted Bluetooth Devices

We don't find ourselves using Google Now's voice control on any regular basis on our own devices aside from setting reminders, but it has to be said that the addition of the "hot word" detection brings that barrier to accessing Google Now very low. We actually primarily used Touchless Control to ask the phone what the weather was before going out of the house, and to set alarms at night while our phone was on the nightstand charging — useful, but not life changing.

Motorola Droid ultraMotorola Assist will be useful for people who have a calendar full of meetings and a 45 minute commute to work, but thankfully we have neither of those things to deal with on a daily basis. The "sleeping" mode with set quiet hours and exceptions for favorite contacts is nice as well, but has been available in other manufacturer's devices and via third-party apps for longer than we can remember.

Trusted Bluetooth Devices is another great one for someone who uses a Bluetooth headset, car stereo or even a smartwatch, but alas we don't bother with these gadgets regularly either. The only Bluetooth device regularly in range of our Droid Ultra is a MacBook Air, which is easy enough to pair up but does not count as a "Trusted Device" unless there is an active connection for either file sharing or internet tethering ongoing. Maybe the addition of Motorola's new "Skip" and "Beacon" accessories will make this feature more useful for someone that doesn't use Bluetooth all that often.

'Clear Pixel' camera and a new interface

Droid Ultra camera

The Droid line of devices on Verizon has never been much about imaging quality. Come to think of it, Motorola has rarely put much focus on its cameras on non-Droid devices either. Well that's starting to change if Motorola's marketing speak is to be believed, with emphasis being put on its new camera interface, a new "Clear Pixel" sensor technology and a fancy new way to launch into the camera interface called "Quick Capture".

Read: The Moto X 'Quick Capture' camera

Clear Pixel, as Motorola describes it, is a system that adds in a fourth "clear" pixel to the standard RGB pixel arrangement to make a so-called RGBC sensor, which supposedly lets in more light and therefore creates more impressive pictures. By the raw numbers though we're looking at a 10MP camera that takes 4320x2432 (that's 16:9, sadly) stills, nothing fancy to write home about.

It's a basic interface, but one that just works the way you want and expect it to.

On the software side, Motorola is sticking near to what Nexus users have been looking at for the past few iterations of Android — an extremely simple interface with a limited set of features for capturing photos. Motorola has changed things slightly, removing the shutter key to use the entire viewfinder as such and using a slide-in gesture from the left edge of the screen to manage your settings. Those settings include HDR, flash, tap-to-focus, slow motion video, panorama, geo-tagging, shutter sound and Quick Capture.

The entire interface works just fine, and once you get used to using tap-to-focus to also capture your image you'll get into a groove of how you're supposed to use it for the best images. Considering that most users rarely touch the advanced features of most smart phone cameras nowadays and just want to be able to take above-average snapshots quickly, we don't think this stripped-down interface will upset many people.

Pictures

After taking countless pictures in a variety of conditions during the review, we found the Droid Ultra is capable of taking some excellent photos, while at the same time keeping the average quality of snapshots high as well. While some shots tend to be a tad washed out in certain conditions without the use of HDR, we can't say this isn't also the case with most smart phone cameras today.

Clicking images open full resolution versions in a new window

Droid Ultra Camera Sample 1 Droid Ultra Camera Sample 2

Droid Ultra Camera Sample 3 Droid Ultra Camera Sample 4

Droid Ultra Camera Sample 5 Droid Ultra Camera Sample 6

Droid Ultra Camera Sample 7 Droid Ultra Camera Sample 8

Droid Ultra Camera Sample 9 Droid Ultra Camera Sample 10

Droid Ultra Panorama Sample

Some low light shots

Droid Ultra Low Light Sample 1 Droid Ultra Low Light Sample 4

Droid Ultra Low Light Sample 3 Droid Ultra Low Light Sample 2

You can see even more sample images from the Droid Ultra on my Google+ page

Indoor shots can be over processed, soft and washed out.

One sore point for the Ultra seems to be close-up indoor shots, where it tends to have trouble with auto focus and will produce soft or over-processed images. The same can be the case when you attempt low-light pictures without HDR — the images are clearly over processed to attempt to smooth out issues, but don't end up giving a great result. The Ultra has the advantage of having 10MP of resolution to work with though, which in itself cuts down on grain in low light and we have to say we rarely saw any grain in our shots except for full-on nighttime pictures.

The Ultra's biggest downfall in low-light shooting is the lack of a dedicated "night" mode or manual controls, which in the hands of a patient and experienced photographer can make a world of difference with getting the right shot in the middle of the night. Camera interfaces from Sony, HTC and Samsung all offer better options in this respect, but are less intuitive and more confusing to normal users as a result — a tradeoff has to be made somewhere.

With HDR, tap-to-focus and a steady hand, we took some of the best pictures out of any recent phone we've used.

In the daylight, both indoors and outdoors, we took some of the best pictures out of any recent phone we've had our hands on — they have good dynamic range, accurate colors and are neither under nor over processed. Keeping the camera in auto HDR mode, using tap-to-focus (we found this to be important) and having a steady hand produced shots that frankly surprised us with their quality. We found in most cases that the Ultra did a good job in auto HDR mode of choosing when to use or not use HDR, and the difference in capture time was almost unnoticeable.

This camera isn't on the level of a Galaxy S4 Zoom or Nokia Lumia 1020, and it isn't a knight in shining armor that is going to replace your DSLR, but we have no issue in saying that it is capable of capturing the same quality of images of any leading phone out there today — and is off the chart better than what Motorola and Verizon have offered in the past in imaging performance.

Video

The Droid Ultra captures 1080p video from either the front or rear camera, and while the quality from the rear camera is far superior both are plenty acceptable. The sensor seems to do a good job metering light to keep the picture from getting washed out, and the audio quality is good, if a bit loud for the rear-facing camera, as far as phone mics go.

Motorola has also included a cool slow motion video mode that is fun to mess around with for certain types of shots. You can see samples of all three kinds of video — rear, slow motion and front — in the playlist above.

A Droid in a confusing place

Motorola Droid Ultra

Verizon and Motorola have teamed up to make what is possibly one of the best Droid devices yet, and they have done it without a lot of what Droid phones have traditionally been saddled with. It's refreshing to see Motorola bring over its user-friendly design from the Moto X to the Droid Ultra, and we hope it sets a precedent for Droid devices going forward.

After an exhaustive review, and with all of the great parts of the Droid Ultra in mind, we're still completely confused as to why this phone exists aside from filling a middle price point in Verizon's 2013 Droid lineup. As we alluded to at the beginning of this review, you can get so much more in the Droid MAXX for just $100 extra up-front, or side-step to a better design and smaller screen in the Moto X for the same price.

If you're in the market for a new device on Verizon, and the high points of the Droid Ultra discussed here appeal to you, go to the Verizon store and buy a Droid MAXX or a Moto X. If you don't mind capacitive buttons or a slippery design, the MAXX is your choice. Otherwise, go with the Moto X — you won't lose a single feature going to either device, and both offer a better value. As much as it pains us to recommend against this particular phone that has so many great qualities, you'll be better off with one of the other two choices.

 
There are 93 comments

ScottJ says:

You question its existence? Do you believe it to be an apparition? Are there not objective tests you can make on it to confirm that it is in fact real?

icedog55124 says:

Great article . However in night mode on the android central app the pros and coins page is hard to read. Switching to white surface fixes it.

Posted via Android Central App

Thank you. And yup, we're working on a better way to display the pros/cons/conclusion table. The app development process is full of learning for all of us.

campbell98 says:

Andrew, can you let me know where you got that wallpaper on the phone? or did it come stock on the phone? I have one on my phone, but the resolution is horrible and would love to find a better one. Thanks!

I've posted the link in the comments already.

hodan says:

Yeah white on white is rough. Sounds like solid logic on the Ultra. Also - terrible name.

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What's the wallpaper

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bunsen says:

+1 I've seen it popping up in AC phone pics a lot lately but have not been able to find a good download.

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tannerrblake says:

It's on Zedge, it's called Hexagons Design!

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I can't find it on zedge any help?

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Fields3212 says:

The wallpaper comes with the goolors icon pack from the play store. Which cost money, I'm sure you can find It elsewhere for free though

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This will be my one and only post of this wallpaper here. Everyone keeps asking, so this is where I get most of my recent wallpapers: http://www.behance.net/gallery/iPad-Retina-Wallpaper/3516257

the1m.polo says:

I honestly can't find a reason to buy this phone.... Not just for me but for the tons of people on Verizon (as myself) who often ask me for selection recommendations . Well i just remembered two.. Maxx if battery life is most important.. But I'd also recommend looking at a note2.. The mini if you don't want a large phone.. But idk the original Razr set itself apart by being thin and the first android to compete with Apple for build quality... I'd recommend waiting on a customizable moto x before any of these... The 1 thing razr(now just droid) line up has continued to fail at is a great screen.. And good camera

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I think the ONE was the first to challenge Apples build quality.

Posted via Android Central App using my awesome Nexus 4

NoNexus says:

Did you miss the HTC One?

arrigob says:

I don't get the love everyone has for the ONE. I think its ugly and and physical buttons make it out of date, just like this moto ultra.

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Sure not everyone thinks it looks beautiful, but you can't argue that the One is extremely well made with high-quality materials.

mwara244 says:

The Ultra series phones will also work with ATT hspa out of the box right now, just need to cut the sim card to fit in the micro tray in the volume rocker.

Pretty odd for Verizon to have a phone that works on other carriers

mwara244 says:

Also on Verizon the maxx has 32 gb storage and a maxx battery for 46 hrs, allegedly. The Moto X on Verizon will only offer 16 gb

mtmerrick says:

Correction to your article - the Droid Maxx doesn't have a super-gloss back, the Maxx has a soft touch back.

Holding one in my hand now. It's definitely a softer (and overall better) material, but it's still pretty rounded and slippery. It's a million times better due to the fact that it's not glossy though.

tdizzel says:

Let me ask you a question. If I was still in the market for a new phone, why would I waste $100 on a MAXX? The Ultra gets through a day easily and no matter how big my battery is, I'm gonna charge it every night while I'm sleeping so having one that lasts 2 days instead of 1 is completely unnecessary. The Ultra has 11 GB free and I can guarantee I won't use all that storage, so having 32 GB is a waste. I think the Ultra feels great in my hand and haven't once felt like it was too slippery. So why throw away $100 for stuff I don't want or need?
The reason "we" question its existence is because "we" have no idea what the other 99% actually want in a phone. The Ultra was sold out at 2 of the 4 Verizon locations near me. One other store was a non-corporate store and didn't get any in because of the high demand at the corporate stores. The other only had 2 left when I got there. The online pre-orders got pushed back to the 27th because of high demand for the phone. This review does a good job of pointing out the capabilities of the phone, but is extremely narrow-minded and quite disappointing.

LudwigRocker says:

This is just my opinion but the 11GB of free space ends up being only 7.6 and change usable for storage. Now is that excluding a partition for apps like the droid RAZR has? I don't know (I forgot to look). That said the Moto X at AT&T had 10GB available as storage for the user. 7.6 is a deal breaker for me. Do I need to store my whole life on my phone? No. But I would like enough space for a selection of music space for pics, docs, etc without having to swap out with a PC or download from cloud storage constantly. Two things I can't afford is a higher data plan and cloud storage.

tdizzel says:

I downloaded all the apps that I actually used from my Bionic and a couple of new ones, and there was 9.8 GB left. If I know I'm gonna be somewhere where I can't have a signal, like on a plane, that's plenty of room to store a few movies and plenty of music. Fortunately I have unlimited data so that's not an issue, and I took my old computer and turned it into my own cloud server(I don't know why that option wasn't really examined during talk mobile's week of cloud discussions(at least I didn't see where it was)) so I don't have to pay any extra for that and I can access it from any phone/tablet/computer that has internet connection.

NoNexus says:

There is no way it is 7.6GB of total usable space left. Even the SGS4 is up to 11ish.

My Droid Ultra reports "storage" as 11.03GB total. After installing all of my apps and getting my data on it, I have 6.7GB free.

return_0 says:

I thought I heard that the GS4 had 9GB available...

I don't doubt that the Ultra will sell better just in terms of pricing and the way that it will be pushed in-store. People just want to save the $100 even though it's a miniscule amount of money in the scheme of things (they likely pay more than that per month for their phone plan on Verizon).

I recommend paying the $100 more simply to have the extra battery (about 60% more, which can get you through pretty much anything), completely ditch the overly glossy and slippery design of the Ultra and pick up the extra 16GB of space as a bonus. Sure if you're trying to pinch pennies and save the extra $100 you won't be disappointed with the Ultra, but the Maxx is a better value for just $100 more.

tdizzel says:

I can accept that you would recommend the Maxx over the Ultra even if I disagree. And like I said in my post, for me it would be a complete and total waste of the $100 and in my situation it is absolutely not a better value, but for some it is. Sure I could afford it, but I'm not someone who just wastes money on things I neither want or need. Like I said, I can accept your opinion or recommendation, but the whole "don't understand why it exists" is just way too much. It reeks of biased fanboyism and belongs more in an opinionated forum than a technical review.

atlas9171 says:

Most of the reviews I've read that question why this phone exists have primarily been because it's pretty much a Moto X with a slightly bigger screen. Even this review mentions that at the end. I personally can understand that perspective and don't think it has anything to do with fanboyism at all. The Ultra appears to be a very nice phone, it's priced right, but it may struggle selling when compared to the Maxx and X.

arrigob says:

Even with your explanation, I think moto should not have made the ultra. I agree with the author, thanks for your opinion though.

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Alcarnor14 says:

When these new droids were announced, it was indicated that they were the last of the contracted droids from the pre-google purchase of Motorola contract. Verizon undoubtedly wanted small, medium and large price points. I'm pleased that moto was able to use the X8 system and a similar software build to the moto X. It's also nice to know that Motorola and Verizon are continuing the relationship.

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cliberti says:

Some of us travel for work and are away from a charger for a while and want to be sure we can check emails and appointments when we land.

Nev says:

The camera really isn't as terrible as it's made out to be. Thanks for putting effort into the sample shots. Nice review, man.

Posted via the TARDIS.

I agree, these shots looks better than the ones from the Moto X, if you ask me.

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Thanks! I think the camera is capable of some great shots, as shown here.

seanjenkins says:

Can you please fix the white on white text in dark mode

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You have to remember that the AMOLED screen that produces those slight color inaccuracies is what makes Active Notifications possible. IMO, it's easily worth it.

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Well it isn't what makes Active Display possible, but it is a part of what makes the feature appealing (saving battery life and all that). If you'll recall, the Droid Mini has an LCD screen and still has Active Display. 

Kinglo says:

I think the design for the droid's is a 2 year pipe. That would explain why the lip comes on every other droid device. Would also explain why they have capacitive this year and didn't have it last year.

Question on its existence????

Simple... To make DroidMAXX look like very good vfm mobile... For extra 1mm thickness and 100USD, we are getting [1] JUMBO battery [2] Wireless Charging [3] Soft-touch back instead of finger-print magnet [4] DOUBLE the Internal Storage

squeeze5590 says:

All good reasons. I picked up on launch day.

Precisely my point. The Droid Ultra has very little reason to exist aside from filling the $199 price point for Verizon.

radioone says:

I have a Droid phone and I like the Droid RAZR phone/style...

But for $199, you can also get the heavyweights: the S4 and the One... So, I can't see anything really compelling that makes me want to buy it even though I was very interested in it.

I mean if you want the Google Experience (to me) the X seems better. If you want the extended life, you get the Maxx version.

I don't see who would really buy this phone unless you were slavish to the DROID design, when even Motorola's other options seem to be more compelling.

icebike says:

Quote:
"Droid".
"The word that Verizon has spent millions of dollars marketing, built a highly-successful line of phones on and confused general consumers across the country about what an Android phone actually is with. "

This is why you don't end a sentence with a preposition. It also begs for a few commas.

jonsnowden says:

Find something better to do.

Posted via Android Central App

Trentoncc24 says:

Can someone tell me why 16:9 (wide-screen) camera resolution is bad? I downloaded Camera JB+ just to have this feature....

Real photography happens in 4:3 aspect ratio :P .

Trentoncc24 says:

You couldn't just crop down to 4:3?

But then you're cutting down the resolution quite a bit. Not a huge deal at 10MP, but it's an issue. Would prefer to just have the option, but Motorola is keeping options sparse in its camera UI.

Trentoncc24 says:

Oh. I guess that makes sense.

bluebanzai says:

If the camera app were to offer an option, this is all it would be doing, cropping the picture. The sensor itself is likely arranged in a 16:9 ratio; offering a software option wouldn't change that.

We don't know that. Most sensors are 4:3 natively (aside from phones like the One, which are 16:9 natively), and crop to 16:9 when the settings are changed.

Where is the wallpaper from?

Posted via Android Central App

droidhead_1 says:

Read comments

Posted via Android Central App

tatas#AC says:

It sucks that all of the Android sites are reviewing the Ultra instead of the Maxx because they got it first and will just copy and paste the review + slightly larger screen, better battery life, 32gb storage, gloss-less back, and wireless charging.

krobin350 says:

This is my point exactly.. Ok we get it, the ultra is a super insane fingerprint magnet. Therefore it can't compete with the x at that price point. So why wouldn't one these sites review the Maxx instead without the glossy back and a few other superior stats?

valapsp says:

link to that wallpaper guys?

droidhead_1 says:

Read comments

Posted via Android Central App

BB_Bmore says:

Don't like the hardware at all.

Posted From my HTC One running PlayBook 3.0 via Android Central App

bluebanzai says:

You realize it's the exact same hardware as the HTC One that you have except it drops two cores that are rarely made use of except to burn more battery, and goes for 720p instead of 1080p because you can hardly tell the difference without putting it uncomfortably close to your face? How do you not like it at all when you have 90% of the exact same hardware on the phone you purchased?

I mean... the HTC One and Droid Ultra share absolutely 0 of the same specs or parts, aside from having 2GB of RAM each.

Not to mention that they're built out of different materials by different manufacturers and with different designs.

superxraziel says:

What wallpaper is this? where can i get it?

droidhead_1 says:

Read comments

Posted via Android Central App

gamefreak715 says:

I do prefer my phones naked, but I could easily see a case solving both glossiness and ergonomic issues. Otherwise, this phone is a bore with the maxx and X around. And even the mini fits the petite hands crowd.

Posted via Android Central App

dave04045 says:

I like the new review format

Thank you!

phathands says:

Yeah this looks cool and clean.

Good review. I really see no point to this phone either. First- it's a mid range spec phone that probably is in fact "adequate". But VZW does not market it that way. They will never say that it's just another very "meh" average phone. It's not priced as such either.

But hey- don't say VZW does not listen to their customers. They have "only" 15 pieces of their useless, P.O.S. bloatications on this phone? Impressive. My (lovely) droid charge has 22 i think.. I actually lose count flipping pages.. anyway.. When I can replace it - I was thinking it would be fun and therapeutic to take a roger clemons dose of HGH and go pitch it through my local verizon's store window. :)

bluebanzai says:

I don't understand why people continue to complain with such fervor about bloat when it literally takes 5 minutes to disable any apps that offend you. The days are over of in your face bloat you have to love with but some people still think it's a huge deal, can anyone explain why?

Nev says:

Disabling apps is great if you're running 4.x+ on your device. Anything running an earlier version doesn't have that option...unless I'm mistaken about that.

sforsyth01 says:

Guys, I have the MAXX and it's backing isn't glossy. It's matte. Yet another reason to drop the extra $100.

Posted via Android Central App

phathands says:

I have it as well and I don't feel that it's slippery, at least no more than other phones out there. My GNex certainly has more tactile response with the dimpled back but compared to the One, S4, Note 2, N4, this is less slippery than any of those.

squeeze5590 says:

Upgraded to Maxx from 32GB iPhone 5. The soft matte rubbery back, unbranded FRONT of the device matches perfectly in form and function with my Nexus 7 2013. Also the hotspot tether held on for 2 hours on a torrent download via Nexus 7...didn't need to reconnect or start stop on handset (iPhone requires airplane mode every 5 mins). Induction charging works great on LG Wireless pad for both N7 and Maxx. BTW. 2 hr ACTIVE tether ate 3% of my battery.

deadpenguins says:

Isn't this the same camera as the moto X? Why do these pictures look way less muted than the moto x? Some hope for a firmware fix for the X? I don't personally care, but if I'm going to recommend the phone to people I know a handful that consider the camera quality more important than I do.

Alcarnor14 says:

Is quite possible that the reviewers got a preproduction software build and it was tweaked for release.

Posted via Android Central App

The camera hardware/software is supposed to be the same between these devices. To my understanding none of these devices had pre-production software.

A lot of it is the photographer, to be honest. Some of the pictures I took show what this hardware is capable of, and other people have shown what the hardware does on average. I wrote what I found after my experiences with the camera, which ended up being very positive.

I was going to get the Maxx but then I got offered the Ultra for free so obviously I went that route.

Posted via Android Central App

kenc3dan says:

This should have been a review of the Maxx with a reference to how the Ultra isn't as good, instead of the other way around. Please do a full review on the Maxx, it's clearly the phone a lot of people will want and deserves the attention. I heard the camera and CPU may be different on the Maxx, is that possible?

We're putting the Maxx through its paces right now as well, and we will put our thoughts on the site soon. The Maxx and Ultra are the exact same spec-for-spec internally, but the Maxx is slightly thicker, has a different case material, larger battery and wireless charging.

JOHNGAETANO says:

I've had the MAXX for 4 days. Coming from the iPhone 5 and S-4. MAXX is better in build quality, and battery life. Battery for me is a game changer. The ear piece and speaker quality is great.The back of the MAXX is not smooth or slipery. Has a nice grip and feel. I really like this phone. All the hype some phones get is amazing, and yet this phone is like it never existed. The MAXX is worth checking out in person. You will surprised.

rushmore says:

..... Is there a bunch of Motorola/Google marketing folks in defensive mode here? Lot of defensive retorts it seems. The DNA is better than this thing. Heck, same lack of sd, but the DNA has a better chipset and audio quality. Both suck though, since no sd clot ;) :) Media fans that only like clouds for rain and shade should get an S4 :)

bluebanzai says:

Man, if only Motorola had paid royalties for the red "b" paint on the back of their devices because that seems to really make the sound quality so much better. Are you basing this on a technical sound review that I haven't seen yet or just the paint?

I also question your judgment on build quality, screen quality, experience from moto improvements and durability saying the DNA even comes close to being able to compare...

jonsnowden says:

The sound quality of the DNA whether plugged in to your car or listening to the headphones is significantly better than any other phone I've experienced. Its nothing short of amazing and ive compared it to most the "flagship" smartphones. It is not just a label.
Also the screen on the DNA is the best I've seen yet without question.

Posted via Android Central App

jean15paul says:

I have to disagree. I definitely prefer 16:9 pictures.

Posted via Android Central App

Chiplg says:

The RAZR DID have capacitive buttons like the new Droids do. They are visible and talked about in the RAZR review video linked to @ 3:24. I also have a RAZR sitting next to me. The latter RAZR phones didn't, but they original RAZR and RAZR Maxx did. I really don't get the hate for these as they clean up the display. On screen buttons are obnoxious. Why would I want to have buttons over my video, game, or camera screens? That's just wrong to me, and a major reason I didn't wait on the G2 to compare with the Maxx. I also don't get the hate of the menu button. I was really annoyed with my Maxx until I found I could configure the app button show the menu with a long press.

c0ldburn3r says:

Fantastic write up! I believe most consumers learned long ago that Motorola builds "C" grade devices that lack power and ability.

Posted via Android Central App

Is this some kinda common wisdom that I've never heard of? I don't think Motorola has any kind of reputation for making bad devices. The Droid Ultra and Moto X are both very capable and well-made devices.

Paul Swain says:

Who cares about the sheel? Simple fix....a PHONE CASE....

Posted via Android Central App

That's obviously not a solution for everyone. What if you just don't want a case? 

jer85008 says:

I just tried out the camera in the Verizon store, and did some quick tests vs. a Lumia 928.

The Moto flat out smoked the Lumia, not even close.

I was pretty shocked based on the reviews I've read, and one reason I was leaning towards another phone.

However, after seeing these test shots, and what I managed to see for myself today, I will either get the Moto X or MAXX.

chupajr says:

Late to the party, but I think there's a typo in the last paragraph:
"If you don't mind capacitive buttons or a slippery design, the MAXX is your choice."

I think you mean the Ultra!