t’s doesn’t take a genius to see that Motorola’s Droid Ultra isn’t that much different than the Droid Maxx. In fact, it’s largely the same phone, save for the slightly thinner body (.28″ vs .33″) thanks to the lesser battery and high gloss back covering. But alas, just as much as consumers like choices, companies like positioning. And in this case the Droid Ultra, available exclusively on Verizon Wireless, is $100 cheaper than the Maxx thanks to the less robust battery life.
I’ve been using the Droid Ultra for a few days now, albeit in a limited capacity. Before receiving my review units (the Droid Mini included) I tried my best to manage my expectations as what to expect. Unfortunately, I didn’t do a good job. Which is to say aesthetically the Droid is a bit disappointing. Put simply, the Ultra is a simple black slab. It’s neither svelte or cutting edge looking. At a glance, one would be hard pressed to discern between this phone and really any other device of a generation past.
But I know better than to judge a book by its cover, despite the market always clamoring for the next cutting edge device. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the mass disbelief when Apple doesn’t refresh their iPhone with a brand new design. Under the hood is Motorola’s own chip derived from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4. It’s called the X8 and promises to offer all the horsepower without any of the battery implications. So far I’ve managed to squeeze just under a day’s worth of juice under what is moderate to heavy use. Clearly I’ll continue to test this and for the review run a battery testing app to see how it holds up to a virtual video playing.
That said, the Droid Ultra is speedy as any other Android that I have used, which includes the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Edition. Side by side there is an imperceivable difference from app to app or while streaming a video on YouTube. Google Voice is equally as efficient as the next, though for some odd reason my Droid Ultra displayed different results compared to both the Galaxy S4 and the Droid Mini – I’ll have to dig into this more. Of course the Galaxy S4 doesn’t have the same “always on” feature as the Droid Ultra – this allows you to speak to the Droid Ultra without hitting the familiar mic button – so in actual use the Droid Ultra is faster at performing this task than the Galaxy S4.
The display of the Droid Ultra caps at just 720p, but there is largely no difference between it and any higher rez screen that I’ve laid my eyes on. Set to auto brightness, much like most Android phones, it’s a tad too dim for my liking, but in the name of battery it’s understandable.
The Droid Ultra camera is lackluster and in low light shots with the flash on, performs in an almost laudable fashion compared to my Galaxy S4. Nevertheless, it’s quick start function, as found on the Moto X, is applaudable and one that could come in handy – you just flip your wrist twist and it almost instantly starts up.
What remains is the Google’s Active Notification system which replaces the trusty Android LED light with a lower powered onscreen notification. As I discussed in my Moto X first impression, it’s an interesting but yet still questionable feature largely because it’s much easier to see an LED light blinking from across the room. However, it does negate the need to power on the phone’s screen to full to see the time and it also shows you what notifications you have by displaying an icon instead of a different colored, and cryptic LED light.
I should have a full review of the Droid Ultra by next week and with it the Droid Mini review as well.