Before there was "Nexus," there was Droid. Verizon, Motorola, Smartphone HTC, & others teamed up to turn the Lucasfilm-licensed term inlớn a synonym for everything great about Android. It deserved the moniker, too: from the original, keyboarded Droid lớn the Droid X and Droid Incredible, the name meant something.

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Now four years after its first "Droid DOES" ad, the Droid lineup — now exclusive to lớn Motorola and Verizon — isn"t competing with the iPhone anymore. That"s what the Moto X is for: it"s a comfortable, powerful, genuinely useful phone with mass appeal và the full backing of both Google & Motorola. Droids are now niđậy products, souped-up robot phones for the aspiring Elon Musk.

They’ve changed, too. The $199 Droid Ultra & $299 Droid Maxx don’t have physical keyboards or removable batteries, but one is the thinnest Android phone you can buy in the US, và one has the biggest battery. That"s where Droids have come: trading overall appeal for superlative sầu specs.

The Droid brvà exists lớn offer bleeding-edge power, and give sầu Verizon an option for its most hardcore subscribers. But in 2013 there are plenty of phones with plenty of power, and Motorola itself has taught us that power isn’t everything anyway. Can the new Droids kichồng things up yet another notch, or has the Droid br& turned from futuristic robot powerhouse to impotent Roomba?


The Droid Ultra is aao ước the worst smartphone hardware I’ve sầu EVER seen

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Toy robots

It takes two seconds lớn decide between the Moto X và the Droid Ultra: just piông chồng them up. The Moto X is gently curved và comfortable in your hvà despite its relative heft. It’s solid và dense, premium beyond its plasticky materials. It’s neither the slimmest nor the sexiest device I’ve ever used, but it’s solid, rugged, & attractive sầu.

The Droid Ultra is none of those things. It’s just a slab of greasy, boxy, glossy blaông xã plastic. Motorola says it’s Kevlar, but it doesn’t feel like it — & given the chunk I took out of the edges the one time I dropped it, doesn’t act lượt thích it either. At 7.18 mm it’s imperceptibly thicker than the original Droid RAZR, và the phone does feel smaller than any 5-inch device I’ve ever used save sầu perhaps the Galaxy S4; since there’s almost no bezel around the display it feels even smaller still. But it’s still big, as any 5-inch phone must be, & the slight extra attenuation doesn’t mask that the Ultra just feels cheap & bl&. It’s not a cool, futuristic robot worthy of the Droid br&. It’s just a plastic toy.

What’s worse, Motorola’s not even done with its softer, better Kevlar: the Maxx has the same gray-and-gray jagged diagonal lines on a soft-touch bachồng that adorned last year’s Droid lineup. The Maxx still isn’t the prettiest phone out there, and it’s far from the smallest: it has an ugly Kevlar chin below the display, strange sanded-off corners on the back, & at 8.5 mm thichồng it feels a little chunky next to lớn the Ultra. I’ll happily take chunky và high-chất lượng over skinny & unsightly, though, và it’s not lượt thích the difference is significant; both devices are too big to lớn use in one hvà and plenty comfortable in two.

Neither phone is anywhere near as classy, or as comfortable, as the Molớn X. When you factor in the X’s many customization options, it’s really no conchạy thử.


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Both Droids have 5-inch AMOLED screens that are slightly larger but still basically the same as the Molớn X. They offer colors just as over-saturated và vibrant as on Motorola’s other devices, but just as Josh found with the Moto lớn X this is far from the worst screen out there. And with a little help from an ứng dụng lượt thích Lux, it’s a totally usable one. Its 1280 x 720 resolution pales in comparison next khổng lồ the 1080p screens on the Galaxy S4 or the HTC One, and it doesn’t make sense here: aren’t Droids supposed khổng lồ be Motorola’s high-over, made-for-power-users phones? There are plenty of reasons for the Ultra to lớn have sầu an AMOLED display, but I’d much rather it be lượt thích the GS4’s — Samsung made a big, high-res AMOLED display and still offers good battery life, and so should Motorola.


It’s the Moto X with only the subtlest of software tweaks

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The wrist-twisting Quichồng Capture gesture (which I’ve finally mastered), the all-too-simple camera phầm mềm, the bizarrely inconsistent picture chất lượng from the 10-megapx sensor — everything about the Moto X’s camera exists in the Droids as well. I’ve sầu taken great pictures with them, especially in low light; I’ve sầu taken a near-equal number of inexplicably terrible pictures. The camera does a particularly bad job with high dynamic range — put a light subject in front of a dark background, and it’s basically hopeless.

There’s one nifty new software feature called Droid Zap, which lets you swipe up with two fingers on any photo lớn lớn tóm tắt it on your local network. Anyone near you can swipe down on their Droid (or any other Android phone using a receiver app) to lớn grab it. Zap is terribly named, but works well — you know, as long as you have sầu a Droid Ultra or Maxx. Which you probably don’t.

From a hardware standpoint, the Droid Ultra và Maxx are just lượt thích the Moto X, only much worse. Bigger screens without being higher-res, or even that much larger; blvà, uninspired design; & in the Ultra’s case, a phone I like holding & using less than almost any điện thoại thông minh I’ve tested (including the Galaxy S4).

So why vày these phones even exist, other than as a marketing-driven vestige of the Droid brand?


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Droid + Google + Verizon

In July, Motorola tipped its h& for the Moto lớn X a week early, announcing the new lineup of Droids at a Verizon sự kiện in Thủ đô New York City. That was the first time we saw the Active Notifications, Touchless Control, & Moto Assist features that soon came lớn the Molớn X as well.

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The more I use them, the more I lượt thích them, especially Active Notifications. It lights up the phone with the time and your notifications without you ever having khổng lồ turn on the phone — everything else just feels slow now.


I’m finding it hard to live sầu without Active Notifications & Voice Control

It’s taken me some time lớn get inlớn a rhythm with Touchless Controls. The first time I used “Okay Google Now” khổng lồ mix my alarm, I was across the room & didn’t notice it asking me which ứng dụng I wanted lớn use — it never phối, and I overslept the next morning. I’m getting the hang of it now, & Google Now frequently tells me when my next appointment is, calls anyone I need, & answers my trivia questions from across the room.

The Droid Ultra also uses voice control for a clever “ring my Droid” feature, which makes the phone buzz until you find it — many a couch cushion tried to lớn steal my phone, và I reclaimed it every time with this high-tech game of Marco Polo.

Motorola really needs to lớn continue to expand the Touchless Control feature phối — it spent all the time & resources lớn develop a separate, always-listening chip that knows when you’re speaking lớn the phone, và I want to be able to lớn do more with it. Why can’t I turn Bluetooth on and off with a voice commvà, or have sầu my text messages read aloud whenever I want? When I can say “okay Google Now, what was that ding about?” I’ll be smitten for real.

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The one time the phone does read your text messages aloud is when it thinks you’re driving, và the Molớn Assist kicks in. It’ll also tell you aloud who’s calling; another mode mutes your phone when there’s a meeting on your calendar, to help you avoid being that guy. Moto lớn Assist is a great tool on the X, and it works just the same here.

In fact, the Android 4.2.2 experience is nigh-identical across the board, save sầu for Verizon’s plentiful và messy fingerprints. There’s no question you’re using a Droid from the moment you turn it on, as the screen seems lớn explode into a supernova only to contract into the robot-eye Droid biệu tượng công ty. (The “DROOOOOID” sound when it boots is another dead giveaway.) The available wallpapers are dark & sci-fi, as opposed khổng lồ earthy và all-American as they are on the X. If none of that tipped you off, the dozen-plus bloatware apps lượt thích IMDb, My Verizon Smartphone, Verizon Tones, VZ Security, & the hilariously useless Caller Name ID certainly will. Motorola may be “a Google company,” but this sure ain’t a Google phone.


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The Droid lineup is supposed to lớn represent next-level power & next-cấp độ capability. Droid DOES, after all. But the Ultra và Maxx offer virtually identical specifications lớn the Molớn X, a phone Motorola says neither has nor needs great specs. The two Droids have sầu the same X8 system-on-a-chip — it’s a Snapdragon S4 Pro processor with additional cores that enable the Touchless Control and Active Notifications. It’s plenty powerful, and both Droids are responsive and smooth, but it’s not exactly next-cấp độ. These Droids are just powerful phones in a sea of other powerful phones.


I spent three months last year talking myself inlớn, then out of, buying a Droid RAZR Maxx. There’s a laundry menu of things I don’t like about the phone, but its battery life is incredible, and that really does change the experience of owning a điện thoại thông minh. The new Droid Maxx was supposed khổng lồ take the longevity even further, but it doesn’t: I was able to get a day và a half out of the phone’s battery, but I’d have sầu to lớn charge the second afternoon unless I really babied the phone. (That’s great, but last year’s Maxx made it two days without trying very hard.) It lasted 8 hours, 32 minutes on the Verge Battery Test, more than four hours less than last year’s model. The Droid Ultra, on the other h&, just continues its march toward obsolescence with its battery — at 4 hours, 17 minutes on the Verge Battery Test, it’s well below nearly every other high-over điện thoại thông minh.

The Droid Maxx is only slightly bigger than the Ultra, & offers nearly twice the battery life — reason the infinity why I don’t think anyone should buy the Droid Ultra. But the Maxx itself doesn’t exactly blow the doors off in the battery department; it doesn’t even last as long as last year’s RAZR HD or RAZR Maxx HD. Why spend $100 extra for that?


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The HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4, và iPhone 5 made me believe that the days of phone manufacturers kow-towing to the whims of carriers were over. Those devices represent the beliefs of their makers, and are offered lớn users with only a few Verizon-induced blemishes. The Droid Ultra, on the other hvà, appears khổng lồ have been designed by a committee so large it was bled of every one of its assets. What’s left is as blvà as it is ugly, without a single noteworthy flourish or feature. It’s the Molớn X minus its kiến thiết team, the Droid Maxx minus its battery engineers. In all my time with it, I’ve sầu found nothing about it that makes it worth your $199.

The Droid Maxx almost avoids the same fate, if only because Motorola changed fewer things about the device from last year’s Mã Sản Phẩm. It’s a better, slightly more premium-feeling device, but that doesn’t make it worth $299 on a two-year contract. Neither does its battery life, which doesn’t live up to lớn last year’s Model, and qualifies as something closer lớn “very good” than “epic.”

Building a spectacularly thin phone could have sầu been a winning formula for Motorola; so could building one with genuinely worry-miễn phí battery life. Motorola did neither, & in trying sacrificed nearly everything else that could have made these phones great. When the X offers every one of the Droid’s other features, I’m without a single reason lớn recommkết thúc either the Droid Ultra or the Droid Maxx. Not when Verizon offers the iPhone 5, the Điện thoại HTC One, the Samsung Galaxy S4, & virtually every other major điện thoại thông minh on the market as well.

The Moto lớn X is clearly Motorola’s future, và it’s said as much; the Droid lineup seems lượt thích nothing more than fulfillment of a contract lớn Verizon. They’re all on shelves, but Motorola would rather you buy the Moto lớn X, and believe sầu me – I’m happy lớn oblige.