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Hands-on with the Motorola Droid Maxx 2

Every day it seems like there's another company releasing a phone that competes in the $300-$400 price range, and today's offering is packing a Droid branding on the back. Motorola and Verizon launched a pair of Droid phones today, and while the Droid Turbo 2 continues to focus on the high end with amazing battery life and top of the line specs, the Droid Maxx 2 is all about the budget. Specifically, getting the most battery, the most specs, and the most affordable price these two companies could muster.

All they need now is for this phone to be as impressive in the real world as it seems on paper. Lets take a look.

Motorola has resurrected the Maxx branding (originally used to indicate the Droid phone with the biggest battery) to re-brand the Moto X Play — be sure to read our full review of that one — that is currently available outside of the U.S. It's got all of the familiar curves you'd expect to find on a Moto X, and while it has just enough heft that you feel the phone in your pocket it's not overly bulky. When you hold the phone in your had, your finger naturally finds the indent where the Motorola M lives, and you can actually reach the other side of the screen with your thumb.

The textures being offered here are subtle, and when coupled with the right color it really helps the phone stand out.

Despite identical speaker slits at the top and bottom of the phone, audio only comes out of the bottom speaker, with the top reserved for phone calls. Outside of the removable backs, which Verizon plans to sell in its stores for those who want that Moto G-esque customization, but you'll be shelling out $20 per back if that's what you want.

These backs aren't something to be dismissed, either. Motorola is launching the phone with eight colors, and several magnetic folio options with a square cut out so you can still use Moto Display. The textures being offered here are subtle, and when coupled with the right color it really helps the phone stand out.

The Droid branding underneath Verizon's enormous logo doesn't do much to add to the experience we're already familiar with. The Snapdragon 615 processor with 2GB of RAM underneath a 1080p display isn't going to be winning awards or breaking records, but they get the job done and look decent in the process. At no point did the phone slow down during our brief use, nor did the display feel lacking. Text is sharp, colors are well represented, and while whites tend to lean a little on the pink side it's not something you'd notice in most situations.

Given Motorola's recent history with software updates and the long history of Droid-branded phones getting software updates, there's a good chance you're going to be waiting a while for Marshmallow.

This being a purely Verizon exclusive experience, there's plenty of Verizon bloat to be found. There are 48 apps pre-loaded on the Droid Maxx 2, which includes five Amazon apps, four games, nine apps for Verizon services, and the new go90 social app among many others. These are full apps, taking up a whopping 3GB on the meager 16GB storage included with this phone. While many of these apps can be uninstalled, Slacker Radio and the NFL app top a small list of apps that can only be disabled. This isn't new information, mind you. Verizon has been behaving this way for a while. More than anything, it's interesting to see bloatware situation getting worse instead of better. But hey, at least there are no antivirus apps onboard.

Droid Maxx 2

Speaking of software, the Droid Maxx 2 is running Android 5.1.1 out of the box. Motorola promises to update the Droid Turbo, Droid Turbo 2, and Droid Maxx 2 to Marshmallow at some point, but no one is talking about when. Android 5.1.1 seems to run well enough on these phones, just like we've seen with the Moto X Play and Moto X Pure Edition, but given Motorola's recent history with software updates and the long history of Droid-branded phones getting software updates, there's a good chance you're going to be waiting a while.

Motorola has the same 21MP sensor in the Droid Maxx 2 that has been popping up in everything from Motorola this year, and that means it has all of the same strengths and weaknesses. The 21MP sensor can capture an incredible amount of detail for you to zoom in on, but it struggles in low light and HDR has some problems exposing either too bright or too dark depending on where the focus point lands. The Moto Camera app hasn't changed either, which means you get the same simple interface that exchanges tap to focus with a draggable exposure ring, with settings in a loop on the left for you to thumb through.

As first impressions go, the Motorola Droid Maxx 2 seems like a win for Verizon. At $384 off contract it's a reasonably priced phone with a decent all around experience, but it's also moving in on Moto X Pure Edition territory and a standoff between those two phones will not end in the Droid Maxx 2 winning. Verizon's real goal here is to push the $16/month for 24 months for this phone, and since the Moto X Pure Edition isn't sitting on shelves in Big Red stores it'll be the best budget-friendly option most people who wander into a Verizon store will see.

There's also plenty of questions left to be answered, not the least of which is exactly how this phone holds up against other phones in this $300-$400 range. We'll also need to do some long-term testing to see how the 48 hour battery claims hold up, but if Motorola can take a 3630 mAh battery and stretch it that long this phone will have a huge check mark in the win column for a lot of people. While we get to work on that, share some of your thoughts on this new Maxx in the comments below.

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

39 Comments
  • I don't believe this is a good year to upgrade your phone. Next will bring finger print scanner better displays with touch sensitivity and hopefully better battery tech to most new devices. It really feels like the tech in has come to a halt in the last few years. I think that will change in 2016-17. Posted via the MATERIAL AC App
  • I think the biggest thing in 2015 is the realization that the spec race is nonsense. The standout phones are the midrange devices like the Moto X Pure, OnePlus 2, Nexus 6P and HTC A9. All of those and more prove that you can get a "flagship" experience with less than the "best of the best" specs, while spending half on the devices off contract. That's what 2015 really represented.
  • Wow I wonder how come Samsung probably sold more phones than all those phones from other manufactuters you listed combined. Samsung must not have gotten the memo... Posted via the Android Central App
  • What a dumb comment. Samsung is far bigger than all of the others listed and they have a HUGE portfolio of new phones every year, from very expensive flagships to very cheap devices. The point of my comment was that these well priced midrange phones are catching on, as people are realizing that they're getting very good phones for around half the price, but with comparable overall performance.
  • You're an idiot. Those manufacturers settled for those low price SD chips because that's all they had available to them. When the 820 comes out youll see all the big names putting it in their phone. I agree with the original poster about waiting for next year when new tech comes out. Unless your interested in Samsung which has the best chip out now because they didn't rely on SD which had one of its worst years ever. So you're wrong. ...2015 isn't the year of lower specd phones and no spec war by those manufacturers by choice it was because it was all they had to offer... you couldn't possibly belive that those manufacturers could of out spec ed Samsung but decided not to because they would rather sell inferior phones.... smh... Posted via the Android Central App
  • Again, a dumb comment. Specs are not limited to chips. And some phones I mentioned are using 808 and 810 chips, which are considered top of the line right now. The Nexus 6P is even using a QHD AMOLED screen. I still think 1080 is more than adequate for a phone and a lot of people seem to agree. I'm not sure where your last argument is even coming from...
  • I have to agree on the display resolution. I can see little practical difference in real life usage between the Note 4, Note 5, and Iphone 6s+ screens. I would be glad to opt for a 1080 display if it gave me better battery life or a lower price.
  • Read the first sentence of your original comment. You said that 2015 is the year people realized the spec war was nonsense. But it's not..all those manufacturers would love to be able to have a higher spec ed phone than samsung chip wise, screen wise etc....if they could but they can't. Your original comment was implying they had a choice in the matter and would rather make an inferior phone hardware wise instead of a better one than samsung because in your words they realized the spec war was nonsense. So your wrong that's my whole point. Now go build a bridge and get over it. Posted via the Android Central App Posted via the Android Central App
  • Of course they have a choice. They're choosing not to use the highest end possible to keep the price down, because overall performance doesn't suffer as a result. That's been my point.
  • ....
  • Isn't the Moto x pure, oneplus 2, and 6p all 800 series top of the line processors? I can't imagine calling them midrange. The a9 is a 615 series... Definitely a midrange processor, with some higher end perks. Of course, they want more money than these other flagship-esque phones. Meanwhile, I've seen a few initial review of these Verizon phones saying it is overpriced. This seems especially true of the play edition variant... Which I think is about $100+ more for the privilege of having Verizon bloatware. HTC, Verizon... What do they have in common? They've been names in the industry for a long time... Obviously they aren't going to drop their price no matter what new competitor steps in and out shines them. The stubborn die hard, I guess.
  • It's actually an octacore 617, further bolstering your point.
  • Yep, which I thought was merely the replacement for the 615. HTC wants you to think they're giving you something different, instead of the November 2015 variant of the 615. The Moto play released before the 617 was available, that's why it's not in there... Not because it's a higher range chip, like the 808. It smells like sales gimmicks, Imo.
  • In my opinion, it doesn't matter if the performance is still there. Apple has been using "inferior" chips for years, but the performance was always there. I think the HTC M8 with an 801 chip performs just as good as the M9 with an 810 chip. A lot of these "bleeding edge" specs are mostly gimmicks when it comes to real world use. Benchmarks are nonsense for the most part.
  • Once you start comparing midrange and low-end processors with high-end you can definitely see differences in performance. You think the 801 performs the same as the 810 on the M9 and I'd argue that it performs even better due to the way HTC used the 810, but the 801 was a high-end chipset last year and it's still significantly more powerful than the 617. This phone won't perform on the level that last years M8 does. I guarantee it
  • You have no idea what you're talking about. The difference between an 808 and an 810 is much more than just processing speed or chip size. We're talking battery life, call quality, data download/upload rates, signal quality, graphics, video recording, picture processing... The list goes on. Just because a manufacture can dumb down a phone like the iPhone by striping it of multitasking features, services, screen quality, data speeds, etc just to make the experience seem fluid, doesn't mean these mid range phones can do the same and succeed. Android users still want fast, fluid, and featured which is something the Maxx, OP2, and the like don't offer. Sure, for a first time buyer it looks good, but that market won't last. Granted, Android is getting so much polish with each OS update that specs aren't as important(ART), but since these aren't flagship's, updates won't happen, leaving them bug ridden and in the dust. Posted via the Android Central App on the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
  • I don't disagree there. The Nexus 6P, for example, has an 810 chip, QHD 5.7" AMOLED screen, 32GB (starting) and 3GB RAM, all in a machined metal body. Yet some are still calling it "upper mid-range". Regardless, it's priced at $499, where Samsung charges over $700 for something comparable. My overall point is that paying such a high price is being proven unnecessary in 2015, as many companies are proving that slightly lower specs (and sometimes comparable specs) get you the same performance at a much lower price. This trend will force companies like Samsung to rethink their pricing strategy moving forward, as I think their sales will suffer from the lower prices around them.
  • I have seen absolutely nobody calling the 6P "upper mid-range", and if anyone has, they're just plain wrong.
  • I agree. I've seen it in some blogs. It's clearly a flagship. I think they're letting the $499 price somehow influence them.
  • The first comment on this article called the 6P midrange. They're wrong, obviously. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Amen. Unfortunately, the way things are going now (early on, I suppose) I think Samsung and the like will be slow moving to the new thinking. They will have a lot of fiscal problems. The more stubborn will have problems like Moto before google. Except no one will save them. Moto was a cellphone pioneer, htc is just a big name. The a9 going to $500 was a mistake IMO. I believe this is going to hurt them when they need a life jacket.
  • I think Samsung's been here before in a way. They resisted upgrading their hardware and stuck with cheap plastic through the Galaxy S5, finally changing to premium metal and glass when sales suffered. I think the same thing will happen with price. They'll resist too long until sales significantly suffer, then they'll be forced to change. Moto, HTC, LG, etc. will live or die at this point based on price. Moto is kind of leading the way right now. We'll see where they end up. HTC is foolish to raise the A9 price, but I think they'll realize that soon enough and drop it back. It'll be an interesting 2016...
  • HTC were THE smartphone pioneers, both pre-iphone, and in the Android era. The problem is Samsung has blown them away, and a series of bad decisions a few years ago has left HTC no way of fighting back. Not in such an obvious way as Nokia and BlackBerry, but it's the same result. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I imported this phone's GSM-based twin brother from Canada known as Moto X Play. What an awesome "little" device! Everything I throw at it absolutely screams. Can't wait for Marshmallow to bring proper external storage support, so that I can stop using hacks like Link2SD.
  • What is Moto Loop?
  • Can you confirm whether the display is AMOLED or IPS? The Play is LCD but Motorola's website is strangely silent on this. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It is an AMOLED panel from LG.
  • 49 Verizon crapware installed ? Lord! It'll take a couple hours to disable all that junk. Replace the rear cover free of logos and I'm good with that. Posted via the Android Central App on Moto X 2014/Moto G3/Moto G1/Lenovo Tab S8/ Lenovo Yoga 11 on $35 Cricket wireless plan.
  • Yeah, my first job after activating it would be to disable the bloat. I wonder if the logo-free Play backs will fit? HEY, YOU GUYS at AC, how about test that for us? kthxbye Posted via the Android Central App
  • The Droid Maxx is the Moto X play (that's according to my info search) so any cover will fit for sure. I just can't wait to get my hands on that phone with that awesome battery. I completely quit using my Moto X 2014 for the Moto G 2015 because the battery is awesome! I can't imagine the time the Droid Maxx will give me. Posted via the Android Central App on Moto X 2014/Moto G3/Moto G1/Lenovo Tab S8/ Lenovo Yoga 11 on $35 Cricket wireless plan.
  • Vz put the old logo on these phones... The panda has spoken
  • A new vzw store opened last week in my area with the old logo. Must take awhile to go through the proper channels to get changed.
  • "This isn't new information, mind you. Verizon has been behaving this way for a while."
    I'll say. That was the primary reason I dusted Verizon back when it was time to retire my FROYO phone!
  • "if Motorola can take a 3630 mAh battery and stretch it that long this phone will have a huge check mark " It already has a huge check mark!
    LOGO!
  • Nice one Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • I wonder if the battery life on either of these phones can even come close to my Xperia Z3. My last charge gave me 8.5 hours screen on, from 34 hours total. That may sound like a brag. And it is. But if any phone can beat that I think we'd all love to know about it. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Seriously? You must have had it a while too. Any idea why!
  • (Assuming you are replying to me) I don't have to do anything radical to get that battery life. I use the stamina mode, which queues data and whitelists apps which can use date while the screen is off, but I have twitter, and Gmail and WhatsApp and important things whitelisted, and I don't even notice that it's on. I have my screen brightness set to about 60%, and don't use auto brightness. I didn't leave the house in the last 2 days, so that will have extended the battery a bit, but 7 hours is pretty typical screen on and I can get 48+ hours total if I need too. Posted via the Android Central App
  • $300 trade in for my old Droid Ultra = Maxx 2 beating out the Moto X Pure all day long.