Verizon Wireless and Motorola yesterday unveiled the next-generation of DROID Android smartphones, the DROID Turbo 2 and DROID Maxx 2, at a media event atop a high-rise tower in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood.
Both new phones are notable for many reasons, but the high-end DROID Turbo 2 stole the show, thanks to its unique "shatter proof" display, the cool "Moto Maker" customization options and an impressive list of tech specs.
I attended the Turbo 2 event in Manhattan and then hopped on an Acela train back home to Boston, both new DROIDs in hand. I spent the duration of that four-hour trip putting the Turbo 2 through the paces.
A few hours aren't enough time to provide an in-depth review of the Motorola DROID Turbo 2, but I did find a set of features I genuinely appreciate — and a handful of things I really don't like.
First up, the good stuff.
Why you'll love the Motorola DROID 2 Turbo from Verizon
1) Motorola 'ShatterShield' display 'guaranteed not to shatter'
The crown jewel of Motorola's new flagship smartphone is its "ShatterShield" display, which is composed of five layers (a rigid aluminum core; AMOLED flexible display; dual touch layer; interior lens; and an exterior lens on the touch surface). Motorola claims the screen on the Turbo 2 is "guaranteed not to crack or shatter" and backs up the claim with a four-year shatterproof warranty.
This may come as a surprise, but journalists and bloggers really like to attempt to break phone screens, especially when they're supposedly shatter proof. I saw at least a dozen writers drop, toss, throw and otherwise use gravitational pull to induce blunt force trauma, and the Turbo 2 displays did not break during the tests.
Its durable screen makes the Turbo 2 suitable for owners who tend to abuse their smartphones, and enterprises and businesspeople will particularly appreciate the Turbo 2's toughness because it should mean fewer replacements due to damage. (The phone is also covered in a water-resistant "nano coating" that helps protect it from brief encounters with liquids, but it's not fully waterproof.)
However, a Verizon representative made it clear the Turbo 2 is not "ruggedized," like the Galaxy S6 Active, and therefore it's still a good idea to purchase and use a protective case. In other words, while the Turbo 2's display is meant to take a beating, the rest of its components aren't.
2) DROID Turbo 2's 48-hour battery life, 'TurboPower' charging
Motorola designed the DROID Turbo 2 to provide more than a full day of heavy use, and it claims the device's battery can deliver "up to 48 hours of mixed use." I can't yet verify those claims, but based on battery capacity alone (3,760 mAh), Turbo 2 should see some of the longest life of all high-end phones. (For context, the Samsung Galaxy Note5 has a 3,000-mAh battery and the iPhone 6s Plus uses a 2,750-mAh power pack.)
DROID Turbo 2 also has a rapid charge feature Motorola calls "TurboPower" that's designed to quickly power up the handset. More specifically, you should be able to get "up to 13 hours of power in just 15 minutes" of charging when you use the supplied TurboPower adapter — which, by the way, is kind of large and clunky.
Businesses and power users should appreciate that long life.
3) DROID Turbo 2 supports PMA and Qi wireless power
Today, two major wireless standards have emerged in the world of wireless power: the Power Matters Alliance (PMA) standard, and the rival Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) standard, called "Qi" and pronounced "chee."
The new DROID Turbo 2 supports both PMA and Qi, so you can power up the device, sans cord, using any PMA or Qi compatible pad or other accessory. Today, wireless charge support is largely a luxury, but as more retailers, restaurants, hotels, airports and train stations build wireless charging kiosks, the value of wireless power will skyrocket. And DROID Turbo 2 owners won't have to use any awkward accessories to charge wirelessly.
4) Customize DROID Turbo 2 with Moto Maker
Motorola's "Moto Maker" online customization studio isn't new, but the Turbo 2 is the first Verizon DROID that can use Moto Maker for personalization. Moto Maker lets Turbo 2 buyers pick from three different materials for the device's rear cover (a rubber-like "soft grip," stain-resistant material; ballistic nylon; and pebbled leather), along with many different color options for the gadget's front panel, accents and trim.
Moto Maker gives you "over a thousand design combinations to choose from," so an IT manager could say, customize a new set of corporate devices in the company's colors, or just deck out his own DROID Turbo 2 to reflect his favorite football team. If you opt for the 64GB version, you can trade your device in for another color combination once during the two years after your purchase. (There's one major catch here, though, which I'll get to in the next section.)
5) DROID Turbo 2's top of the line, 21MP camera
When it comes to quality smartphone cameras, megapixels (MP) aren't the end-all, be-all. The industry standard on high-end phones today is somewhere between 12MP and 16MP. For example, the iPhone 6s has a 12MP rear-facing camera, while the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge and Note5 both have 16MP shooters. The two new Google Nexus phones have 12.3MP cameras.
It's tough to accurately judge camera quality without doing extensive tests in a variety of environments, and I haven't spent nearly enough time with the Turbo 2 to offer an informed opinion. Thankfully, DxOMark has. If you're not familiar with DxOMark, it's an independent camera evaluation service that rates cameras based on a number of key factors.
The DROID 2 received an overall DxOMark rating of 84, which means it has the third best camera of all the phones ranked, behind the Sony Xperia Z5 (87) and Samsung Galaxy S6 edge (86), and it's tied with the Nexus 6P. (The iPhone 6s is tied for fifth place with a DxOMark score of 82.)
The camera can also reportedly recognize QR codes, barcodes and business cards, so you don't have to download additional apps to enable these features. In other words, DROID 2 owners should be pleased with their cameras.
6) DROID 2 Turbo supports memory cards up to 2TB, but …
The DROID 2 Turbo is one of a dwindling few high-end handsets that still supports memory cards for expandable storage. Despite the widespread availability (and affordability) of cloud services today, there's still a place for the trusty memory card, especially if you're concerned with cloud security.
Motorola offers 32GB or 64GB of built-in storage in the Turbo 2, and the company says it can use microSD cards up to 2TB. However, that's kind of a moot point, because the largest widely available card on the market today is 200GB — and it'll cost you somewhere around $175 on Amazon.com.
If you hold onto your DROID Turbo 2 for a few years, microSD card capacity skyrockets and prices plummet, you might actually take advantage of the support for 2TB cards. But that's improbable.
That's a lot to like, and I'm mostly impressed with the DROID Turbo 2 at this point. But it's far from perfect, and potential buyers should be aware of its shortcomings before making a purchase. On that note, here are a handful of things I (really) don't like about the DROID Turbo 2.
What you will NOT love about the Motorola DROID 2 Turbo
1) DROID Turbo 2 is a Verizon Wireless exclusive
If you're not a Verizon Wireless subscriber, and you're not willing to become one or pay full retail price for an unlocked DROID Turbo 2, you can stop reading this post now. The Turbo 2, like all DROID phones, is a Verizon Wireless exclusive. If you're on the edge and considering a switch, however, Verizon offers a trade-in plan for new customers that will give you up to $300 back for you old phone when you buy the DROID Turbo 2 — even if it has a cracked screen.
2) DROID Turbo lacks a fingerprint reader
The Turbo 2's conspicuously absent fingerprint scanner is a deal-breaker for me. I've been using iPhones and Galaxys with finger readers for years, and the idea of typing in a password every time I want to use my phone seems downright outlandish to me. I probably use Touch ID on my iPhone, and the Samsung scanner on my Note5, more than any other single feature.
And it's not just about device access. I use fingerprint authentication to authorize mobile payments, access sensitive apps and data on my phone and make secure purchases. The DROID Turbo 2's lack of a finger scanner is unfortunate, to say the least.
3) DROID Turbo 2 doesn't ship with Android 6.0 'Marshmallow'
New Android phones should come with the latest software from Google, right? Well, that's not the case with the DROID Turbo 2, which ships with Android v5.1.1, "Lollipop," instead of Android v6.0, "Marshmallow."
I asked Verizon yesterday when the new DROIDs will get the Android Marshmallow update and got a noncommittal answer along the lines of "as soon as possible." Motorola was a bit more specific, saying that the DROID Turbo 2 and DROID Maxx 2 should get Android 6.0 in "a matter of weeks." However, history suggests that Android updates consistently take long than carriers and manufacturers want them to, so I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the new DROIDs don't see the Marshmallow update until December, or maybe even January.
4) Light color DROID Turbo display is NOT good looking
Before Verizon gave me my DROID Turbo 2 review unit, which is black, I manhandled a white version at the media event. The back, "soft grip" cover in red was kind of cool looking, though not really my style. When I turned the device over to examine the display, however, I had to stifle a giggle-gasp. The top of the white display has five dark shapes on the sides of the ear speaker, for the "selfie cam" and other sensors, along with two more to the sides of the dual microphones on the bottom of the screen.
The display is by far the most "busy" screen I've seen on a smartphone, and frankly is distracting and kind of ugly. (None of the marketing materials I've seen for the Turbo 2 show the device with a white display, which could suggest Verizon feels the same way.) This is mostly a non-issue if you choose a dark colored display that hides all of the sensors, but it's definitely something to keep in mind if you're considering a light color display on the Turbo 2.
5) The catch in DROID Turbo 2 'design refresh'
As mentioned in the previous section, people who buy a 64GB DROID Turbo 2 can swap their phones out for a new color combination once during the two years following the purchase. You don't have to send in your phone, so Motorola can strip it down and refit it with the new colors. You simply initiate the process, choose your colors, wait for the new phone to arrive, then send back the old one, as long as it's in good working order.
Sounds great, right? Sure, but don't forget to read the fine print: "The design refresh phone may be a like new/refurbished phone." In other words, you might send in your New-York-Mets themed, orange-and-blue phone with a leather back cover, for a New-York-Rangers colored Turbo 2, and simply receive a used phone from somebody else who ditched their Rangers-themed device for a Turbo 2 in Jets' green and white.
You might not have any problem with your refurbed phone … but to me, the "r word" is akin to a curse, and I'd just as soon steer clear.
The Motorola DROID Turbo 2 goes on sale tomorrow, and prices start at $624 (32GB) off contract, or $26 (32GB) or $30 (64GB) a month on Verizon's installment plans.