Alphabet/then Google CEO Larry Page spilled the beans on Motorola’s big product announcement way back in 2013 on an earnings call justifying the purchase of Motorola:

“Think about your device. Battery life is a challenge for most people. You shouldn’t need to carry around a charger to make it through the day. If your kid spills their drink on your tablet, the screen shouldn’t die. And when you drop your phone, it shouldn’t shatter.

“Having just seen Motorola’s upcoming products myself, I’m real excited about the potential there. In just under a year, they have accomplished a lot, and have impressive velocity and execution.”

Unfortunately, Google capitulated to Samsung and sold off the Motorola division to Lenovo early last year.  That doesn’t mean that the things Motorola was working on stopped.

In fact, there’s a very real possibility that Page was referring to a shatterproof Google-branded Moto Nexus 6, but the shatterproof technology wasn’t ready for launch…just like the fingerprint reader that also wasn’t.

Fast forward to this week and Motorola along with its Droid carrier partner Verizon debuted two new Droids, the Droid Turbo 2 and Maxx 2. I’ve been using both phones since the event and have a pretty good viewpoint on their role in the Android ecosystem.

…when you drop your phone, it shouldn’t shatter.
To get the obvious out of the way first, both of these phones are Verizon Droids and that means they have a bunch of Verizon all over the phone. On the bottom front of the Turbo 2 and back of the Maxx 2, there are the now outdated Verizon Checkmark logos. Verizon changed logos in September – about the time that the new phones’ Android 5.1 OS would still feel new.  Motorola and Verizon promised that these would be upgradable to Android 6 Marshmallow but let’s just say that they likely won’t be very quick about it.

Being Verizon phones also means almost 50 (!!) apps are pre-installed including a few that can’t be removed.  There’s all kinds of stuff here with almost a page from Amazon alone, a bunch of games you’ll hate, and the NFL app which you might actually love.

That said, the Verizon overlay isn’t that bad. It looks a lot like vanilla Android did in 5.1 and is fluid. Most of the apps won’t be valuable to the user and of course can’t be deleted, taking up part of the 32GB OS space you are allocated on the Droid Turbo and 16GB on the Droid Maxx.

droid-turbo-maxx-2-cameras

These phones also use microUSB rather than USB-C to charge. That’s good for people like me who have tons of microUSB cables lying around but in about a year that will seem dated when everyone has USB-C stuff everywhere.

Let’s look at each phone separately.

Droid Maxx 2

Moto-Droid-Max 2

The Droid Maxx 2 is a Moto X Play with Droid all over it.  No one hates bloatware more than me and this one has tons of it. That said, it doesn’t really slow down the experience and the huge 3,630mAh battery has kept this thing chugging for the two days since I received the demo unit. The big 5.5-inch  1080P screen is nice, the camera is solid, and Snapdragon 615 chipset and 2GB of RAM all seem to handle the Droid handicap pretty well especially for the $384 or $16/month.

The quality and variety of backplates is also a welcome addition. The rubberized backs with luxury patterns are as good as I could have expected…and you can change them around to match whatever needs matching. Once you take the back off, you can access….nothing. It is just to change backs and gaze at the huge battery and camera specs. The good news is that you can put 128GB of additional storage in here via the SIM/SDcard slot on top.

Moto-Droid-MaxxNekked Droid Maxx 2

Droid Turbo 2 Moto-Droid-turbo-2

The Droid Turbo 2 actually breaks some new ground. There is of course the 5-Layer Moto ShatterShield Screen which I’ve tried to break at least 100 times on all types of surfaces including cement, pavement, tile, and wood. It just doesn’t break or even scratch. Unfortunately the metal band around the edged does get some scuffs and dents and I imagine with a few years of dropping would probably break. Have a look at the image below:

Droid-Turbo-2-bentI literally spiked this onto pavement 10 times like I scored a touchdown. The glass is stronger than the metal around it. 

This is a $624 or $26/mo, well spec-ed out phone that is almost the exact same size Droid Maxx. The screen is 2560 x 1440 pixels at 5.4 inches=540 ppi, there is 3GB of RAM and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor. All of these make the Turbo 2 go really fast but not anything you wouldn’t expect from a flagship. The cameras are the same quality 21-megapixel shooters that are built by Sony and DXO loves. I can’t complain.

Droid-moto-Turbo-X

Ugh that old logo almost ruins some impressive sound

What did impress me more than anything else (besides the glass) was the front facing speaker. With HTC foregoing Boomsound and going to bottom facing and super thin on the A9, this might be the best sounding phone out there. That means music sounds like you have a nice Bluetooth speaker and speakerphone conversations can be had in louder places.  There isn’t stereo separation because the grills are an inch apart but the sound is clean and even has a little bass to it.

 

Wrap up:

Droid-Turbo-2-review

Motorola has made some great phones this year and the Droid Turbo 2 and Maxx 2 are no exception. Price and battery life put the Maxx 2 out in front of the pack. Unbreakable glass and amazing speakers put the Turbo 2 in uncharted territory and represent real innovation that consumers will love. These phones have all of the fun Moto Maker things that the other Moto phones have, as well.

Then there’s Verizon who still has one of the best LTE networks in the US….but this whole “Droid” thing needs to die. The lock in, the overlays, the unnecessary apps. I imagine the Droid brand is appealing to fewer and fewer people and to me it now represents limitations instead of innovation.

The era of a carrier co-marketing a phone is over. You have iPhone, you have Galaxy phones and you have these excellent Motorolas. Droids are so 200L8.

Specs: Droid Turbo 2 vs Maxx 2:

Size 149.8mm x 78mm (5.9 inches x 3.1 inches) 148mm x 75mm (5.8 inches x 2.9 inches)
Weight 169 grams (5.96 oz) 169 grams (5.96 oz)
Screen 5.4-inch 5.5-inch
Resolution 2560 x 1440 pixels, 540 ppi 1920 x 1080 pixels, 403 ppi
OS Android 5.1.1 Lollipop Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
Storage 32GB, 64GB 16GB
SD Card Slot Yes, expandable to 1TB Yes, expandable to 128GB
NFC Support Yes Yes
System Architecture/Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor with 2.0 GHZ Octa-core CPUs, Adreno 430 GPU, Natural Language Processor, Contextual Computing Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor with 1.7 GHZ Octa-core CPUs, Adreno 405 GPU, Natural Language Processor, Contextual Computing Processor
RAM 3GB 2GB
Connectivity GSM/GPRS/EDGE, UMTS/HSPA+, 4G LTE GSM/GPRS/EDGE, UMTS/HSPA+,CDMA, 4G LTE
Camera Rear 21MP, Front 5MP Rear 21MP, Front 5MP
Bluetooth Version 4.1 LE Version 4.0 LE
Sensors IR Sensor, Magnetometer, Proximity Sensor, GPS Light sensor, Proximity sensor, GPS
Misc. PMA and Qi wireless charging compatible, Voice control, motion controls, Moto Loop, Moto Assist and Smart Lock  Voice control, Motion control, Moto Loop, Moto Assist and Smart Lock
Protection 5-Layer Moto ShatterShield Screen Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Battery 3,760mAh 3,630mAh
Charger Micro USB Micro USB
Marketplace Google Play Google Play
Price Starting at $624 Starting at $384

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