Over the last couple of years, Motorola has been making its way into our hearts with the Moto X flagship phones and amazing software support. So, when Motorola partnered with Verizon to build a “shatterproof phone” it turned more than just a few heads. Never has anyone actually managed to build a high-end Android phone that was genuinely protected from the daily torture that some people put their phones through that doesn’t look like a boulder with a screen. Could Motorola have finally pulled it off?
The Droid Turbo 2 sports the Snapdragon 810 processor and 3GB of RAM. That pretty much matches any of the top flagships of 2015 and it comes with a 5.4” AMOLED QHD shatterproof display. It also comes with a 21MP camera on the back with all of Motorola’s optimizations that they baked into its 2015 Moto X Style flagship. On paper, this thing is the phone of the year.
When I first took the Droid Turbo 2 out of the box, my first reaction was to how much easier it was to hold than my Nexus 6P. Admittedly, I find the 6P to be a bit unwieldy but the Droid Turbo 2 is a bit smaller and has a nice feel with the metal band around the outside and the rugged soft grip on the back. It also looks pretty slick and you can fully customize it just like any other Motorola flagship on Moto Maker.
When you actually start to take a look at the screen, though, you notice the compromises that Motorola had to make in order to make this thing shatterproof. The display is hidden under 3 layers of glass and plastic that help to protect the phone and guarantee that it won’t shatter. The problem with that is that there are 3 layers of glass and plastic between you and the display and you can immediately tell that when you look at it compared to other high-end smartphones. What’s worse is that the outermost layer picks up fingerprints and grease like it’s made of the same material that swiffer pads are made from.
The big question that everyone has about this phone is whether it is truly shatterproof, though. I actually hadn’t planned on testing that feature myself, but I accidentally dropped it directly on its edge on concrete one night during my testing. You’ll notice that the edge took a pretty solid hit but the glass was completely untouched. On any other phone, let’s be honest, it would be ruined and I would be crying.
One thing that drove me crazy about the design was that the SIM card tray was not flush with the rest of the phone. It is about 1mm lower than the rest of the metal band and I thought that it was a good metaphor for this entire phone. It’s about one off from being perfect.
The Droid Turbo 2 is the child of Verizon and Motorola coming together to build a thing. It’s obviously mostly Motorola, but it also has bits of Verizon in there for flavor. You get a decent amount of bloat along for the ride but you can also uninstall most of it. Luckily this device only comes in 32GB or 64GB variants so at least you won’t be burning half of your space on a tiny 16GB internal storage thanks to the system and bloat.
The software is what we’ve come to expect from Motorola from the last couple of years – it’s very lightly modified AOSP with Motorola apps that can be updated through the play store that really improve upon the experience.
It’s been a long time since I’ve used a phone with Moto Display and I really appreciated having those pulsing notifications. The equivalent that Google built into AOSP, ambient display, is just terrible by comparison and it was a refreshing improvement. I also really liked the IR magic that it pulls off so that you can wave over the phone to get Moto Display to show you the time and your current notifications (if there are any). I found that after switching back to my Nexus I kept wanting to wave over my phone to get notifications and it was really disappointing when I couldn’t do that anymore.
One app that they seem to be pushing on the Droid Turbo 2 is Moto Loop. This is a product that is being at least partially funded by Verizon because it won’t even run unless you have a Verizon SIM in the phone. It is designed to be a light and easy to use app for keeping track of the things that mean the most to you – your family. It’s basically Motorola/Verizon’s version of Life360’s Family Locator but you can also control your Nest Thermostat from Moto Loop….for some reason.
They will also bother you with notifications from the My Verizon app, which doesn’t seem necessary but if you (like me) have no desire to see that you can just disable the app and forget about it forever.
Overall, there’s not much to say about the software experience on this phone because if you’ve ever touched a Nexus or a Motorola phone over the last few years, you already know what to expect. You may as well read a review of Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. Admittedly, it’s a bit disappointing that a phone that launched after the release of Android 6.0 Marshmallow didn’t come with Google’s latest tasty dessert (and has yet to be updated to such), but it’s really not that surprising either. It’s not like Verizon has an amazing track record when it comes to Android updates and Motorola has beendisappointing us at every turn since they were purchased by Lenovo.
I would give the battery life on the Droid Turbo 2 a B+. It definitely gets better battery life than the Nexus 6P, but that’s probably attributable to its massive 3760mAh battery by comparison to the Nexus’ 3450mAh battery. When the Droid Turbo 2 gets its Marshmallow update, we can probably expect it to get better battery life, still. In my experience it had no problem making it through the entire day without needing a recharge, so that’s generally 16 hours off the charger with and going to bed with about 20% left.
Motorola has done pretty good over the last couple of years optimizing for battery life, but this phone doesn’t seem to be much better than what you would expect from AOSP. That partially could be attributed to the improvements in AOSP, but I think that the Snapdragon 810 is partially to blame for holding this phone back. Moto did a good job of taming the beast, but it is particularly evident when you’re “turbo charging” this guy, which is remarkably fast but the phone also gets really hot when you’re doing that, so keep it away from flammable objects while turbo charging.
I’m an opponent of the idea that you can get any real information about a phone based on benchmarks so you’re not going to get any, here (sorry, not sorry), but performance on this phone is above and beyond what you would expect from a Snapdragon 810 phone running Android 5.1.1. It’s very smooth and could handle anything I threw at it without a stutter.
Like I mentioned in the previous section, Motorola did a good job of taming the beast (SD810) and keeping Android’s memory issues on Lollipop under control, so I would highly recommend this phone if performance is important to you.
Overall I would give the camera on this phone a solid B. I didn’t get to spend as much time with this phone as I normally do and that prevented me from fully reviewing the camera but I would say that it leaves something to be desired compared to most 2015 flagships. Android phones really brought the competition this year when it came to camera improvements and Motorola is by no means an exception, but they still aren’t at the same level as an LG, Samsung, or even the new Nexuses. I could make the pictures come out well, but I found that it took a lot of effort on my part rather than just shooting and snapping.
I also can’t stand the camera app that Motorola has on its phones. When everyone else is using tap to focus, it really throws you off to have tapping anywhere snap a photo and focus is basically just a prayer.
Fingerprint Reader (oh, wait…)
I put this section is because that’s what Derrick Miyao had put into his review of the Nexus 6P a few weeks ago (definitely worth checking out). After now having used several phones that have fingerprint scanners (OnePlus 2, Samsung Galaxy Note 5, and Nexus 6P), I’ve honestly been spoiled by the convenience of having the ability to instantly unlock the phone and I found that it was really annoying after setting up Android Pay that I had to use a pattern unlock again. If you’ve never had a fingerprint scanner on your phone, you probably won’t care but this was a disappointment to me for Motorola’s entire 2015 lineup. This is something that we should see on all flagship phones going forward (unless you’re Blackberry and think it isn’t secure enough).
When I play games or music out loud on my phone (that is to say, rarely), I like for the sound to be loud and crisp. I love the trend that HTC started with its Boomsound speakers to bring the speakers around to the front of the phone where they can actually be enjoyed and they’re less likely to be covered up by your palms when you’re playing a game in landscape. At first glance you see that the Droid Turbo 2 is a part of this trend as well – it appears as though you have a great set of stereo speakers much like the HTC One M-series or Nexus 6P.
As it turns out, the top speaker is for the earpiece only – no big deal, you still have two speakers on the bottom part of the phone flanking the Verizon logo, right? Turns out that’s deception as well. Only one of these is actually a speaker and the other is just a hole for collecting dust and small creatures. Covering up the right of the two blocks all of the sound from coming out of the phone. I understand wanting symmetry, but this just feels deceptive – much like the “stereo” blasters on the bottom of the OnePlus 2.
The single speaker that actually does exist makes a pretty decent amount of sound, though. It’s not nearly as loud as it could be if it had a dual setup, but it holds its own for what it is. I noticed that the sound gets a little distorted if you turn it all the way up, but I don’t really have the highest of expectations for phone speakers, and these are honestly pretty average.
It’s worth mentioning that this phone (much like most of Motorola’s phones) has above average reception across the board. I was getting better coverage than I usually do with my Nexus on all types of coverage (2G-4G LTE). What’s especially impressive about this is that I was using my personal SIM card in the phone while I was testing it, which is a T-Mobile SIM.
The Droid Turbo 2 isn’t marketed as such, but it has all of the LTE bands necessary to be used on Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile and get excellent coverage throughout the country. The only loss for T-Mobile customers is band 12, which is missing from this phone. I was really impressed by this phone’s reception overall and I would give it an A+ for radio quality.
Like I mentioned earlier, I think that the Droid Turbo 2 is just short of perfect in every category. The speakers are fine, the camera is fine, the design is fine (albeit shatterproof), the lack of fingerprint sensor is disappointing, and the software would be a lot better if it were devoid of all of the bloatware that Verizon insists upon. Of course it really shines in the way of reception, but there are other options from Motorola if that’s what you want (and for a lot cheaper). The Droid Turbo 2 clocks in at $624 if you buy it outright, or $21.83/mo if you get it on an Edge plan from Big Red. For some people the prospect of a shatterproof phone is worth any amount of money, and for that you really do get your money’s worth. For me though, it’s just not worth it. I’m more likely to pick up a Nexus or the Moto X Pure Edition, but that’s just a difference in my priorities. Of course, there’s no other phone that you can get a Force Awakens edition of, so if you need a BB-8 phone (much like I sort of do) then this is your only option.