Motorola Droid Maxx 2 review

Leave the charger. Motorola's Droid Maxx 2 survives a weekend away from the wall

Motorola's Droid Maxx 2 banishes battery anxiety with almost supernatural endurance.
Motorola's Droid Maxx 2 banishes battery anxiety with almost supernatural endurance.
Motorola's Droid Maxx 2 banishes battery anxiety with almost supernatural endurance.

Highs

  • Amazing battery life
  • Solid Build
  • Large 5.5-inch screen
  • Near stock Android experience
  • Quick charging

Lows

  • Average camera
  • Mono sound
  • Quick charger costs extra

Fans of the Droid Maxx series finally have something to get excited about. After two years of waiting for a sequel, Verizon and Motorola finally teamed up again to release a worthy successor to its first Maxx, the Droid Maxx 2.

The Maxx 2 is actually a re-branded Moto X Play, which is a more affordable version of the Moto X Style. It features a good balance of mid-range and high-end specs. Since the Moto X Play isn’t available in the States, we welcomed the Maxx 2 with open arms.

At $384 (or $16 for 24 months) off contract, the Maxx 2 is not only competitively priced, it’s able to hold its own against other flagships.

Simple design

Motorola doesn’t make the flashiest phones in the world, but the company knows how to build quality handsets. Whether it’s an entry-level Moto E or the flagship-caliber Droid Turbo 2, Motorola always invests a lot of time in its craftsmanship.

The Droid Maxx 2 isn’t a flagship phone, so you won’t find a metal body or frame, but Motorola’s choice of materials give it a premium look and feel.

The back has an etched pattern with a soft rubber-like texture, which offers fantastic grip.

The back has an etched pattern with a soft rubber-like texture, which offers fantastic grip with none of the slipperiness found on other phones. The silver frame adds to the premium look, even though it’s plastic disguised as metal.

The body has a nano coating that acts as a water repellent. The phone shouldn’t be mistaken for waterproof, but it will be able to survive accidental spills, splashes, and light rain.

A major highlight of the design has to be its size, which is 148.0 x 75.0mm. The iPhone 6S Plus is 158.2 x 77.9mm, which is much bigger. Considering that both phones have massive 5.5-inch screens, the Maxx 2 has a clear advantage. It’s a lot easier to use and hold one-handed.

The downside is that the Maxx 2 is thicker. It’s actually 8.9mm at the sides, but the rounded back pushes it to 10.9mm at its thickest point. In comparison, the iPhone 6S Plus is only 7.3mm thick. However, the Maxx 2’s rounded back gives you the impression that it’s thinner than it actually is.

Although Motorola didn’t open up its Moto Maker customization engine for the Maxx 2, the removable back can be swapped out for a different color, which is arguably a benefit because you can change it any time you want.

Looking at the front of the phone shows speakers at the top and bottom that could easily be mistaken for stereo sound. Unfortunately that’s not the case, as the speaker phone and media playback sounds will only fire through the bottom speaker. The top speaker is reserved for in-ear phone calls.

Fantastic display and performance

Mid-range phones usually come with a below-average screen to keep the price down. However, the Maxx 2 sports a generous 5.5-inch 1080p screen, which equates to a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. This is the sweet spot, since it offers the perfect balance between viewing experience and battery life.

The screen is an LCD panel instead of the traditional AMOLED screen that we’re accustomed to on past Motorola phones. As such, it’s technically not as energy-efficient, but the battery size more than makes up for that. Although the colors don’t pop as much as they would on an AMOLED screen, the Maxx 2 looks sharp and viewing angles are very good. Plus, it performs well in sunlight, which is usually the case with LCD panels.

The back has an etched pattern with a soft rubber-like texture, which offers fantastic grip.

The Droid Maxx 2 features the octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor. Although a mid-range chip, it’s more than adequate for just about anything you can throw at it. Videos and games play smoothly, and I didn’t notice any stuttering or lag when navigating the user interface or opening and closing apps.

Internal storage is limited to 16GB, but the included MicroSD slot means that you can add up to an additional 128GB for all your pictures, music, and videos.

As mentioned before, this phone doesn’t have stereo sound, but at least the one speaker is front-firing. The sound is nothing to brag about, which is expected for a phone in this price range.

Crazy good battery

Battery life is becoming increasingly important because so many phones continue to fail to last through an entire day. Motorola has been a leader in battery life ever since the company introduced the Droid Razr Maxx back in 2012.

The Maxx 2 sports a whopping 3,630mAh battery, which is rather large for a phone of this size. The similar-sized iPhone 6S Plus only has a 2,750mAh battery, and the larger Galaxy Note 5 features a 3,000mAh battery. As such, the Maxx 2 is one of the most dominant phones in terms of battery life.

In our battery rundown test in which we play continuous video while the phone is connected to 4G LTE (not Wi-Fi) and the display is set to about 60 percent brightness, the Maxx 2 performed spectacularly. It went from 100 percent to 0 percent in 11 hours and 4 minutes. How does this translate in real life? Motorola promises 48 hours, which is not out of the realm of possibility with moderate use. Last weekend, I went from Friday morning well into Sunday without charging it once. Power users are likely to be limited to 30-36 hours, but even that’s phenomenal.

When it comes to most smartphones, you begin to panic when you hit 30 percent battery, but 30 percent on the Maxx 2 is like 80 percent on most other phones.

On top of the amazing battery life, you also get quick charging capability, or as Motorola calls it, “turbo power.” That’s just another term for Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0.

On top of the amazing battery life, you also get quick charging.

If you do find yourself in a pinch, you can juice up pretty darn fast using a quick charger. Starting from 0 percent, our tests showed that the Maxx 2 will charge to 25 percent in just 20 minutes, 50 percent in 45 minutes, and 100 percent in 2 hours. This means that you can grab 12 hours of life after just 20 minutes of charging, or about 24 hours after just 45 minutes.

The downside is that a quick-charging compatible charger doesn’t come in the box. You can buy one directly from Motorola, or any third-party charger will work, as long as it’s certified with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 standard.

Unfortunately, wireless charging isn’t onboard, but you won’t miss it with battery life like this.

Average camera

Motorola has never blown anyone away with its cameras, but the company has improved greatly over the past couple of years. The Droid Maxx 2 sports a 21-megapixel main rear camera along with a 5-megapixel front-facing lens. When you consider the rear cameras on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are 12-megapixels and the Galaxy S6 sports 16-megapixels, this is very generous for a phone in this price range.

However, it’s not all about the megapixels. Megapixels only make it easier for you to crop images, but none of that matters if the quality is subpar. The Maxx 2 handles brightly lit situations very well, but the lack of optical image stabilization shows up in low-light shots, in which a decent amount of noise is present. There is a Night Mode, which does cut down on the noise, but at the expense of lowering the megapixel count down to 3.7. Ouch.

The camera software itself is very minimal with limited controls. It’s meant to be a simple point and shoot. In fact, it’s so simple, that you can tap anywhere on the display to capture a shot. For those who like to tweak things, there is a drag to focus with exposure control option.

Although it has a high megapixel count, the Maxx 2 cannot record 4K video. This isn’t going to be a big deal for most people, though. It can record up to 1080p (1920 x 1080) at 30 frames per second, which is more than enough.

The front-facing camera doesn’t include flash, but the display can be used for the same purpose. There is also a Best Shot mode that will automatically pick out the best selfie photo from a series of shots, but I was unable to get that to work.

Useful Motorola software

The Droid Maxx 2 runs Android Lollipop 5.1.1 out of the box, which is a bummer since the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update has been available for over a month. However, Motorola and Verizon promise that the Marshmallow update is coming very soon.

What separates Motorola from other Android manufacturers is its software on top of Android. While other manufacturers continue to muck up Android with a different look and useless apps, Motorola preserves the pure Android experience and includes some very useful features.

New for this year is Moto Loop, which again, shows Motorola’s prowess in offering stuff that fits into your everyday life. This app is the perfect way to keep track of each family member’s location and also offers the ability to send messages to each other. You can set certain locations where family members can auto check in. That way, you will be notified when your child gets to school and home, plus, you can always check the real-time location as well. If this isn’t enough, Moto Loop can also automatically control your Nest Thermostat or Philips Hue lights when you get home.

Other familiar apps like Voice, Display, Assist, and Actions are all back again.

  • Voice allows you to initiate commands without the need to wake your phone. You can ask questions, set reminders, play a song, and more.
  • Display shows your notifications without the need to turn on the full display. All you need to do is nudge your phone and they will appear.
  • Assist recognizes when you’re at home, driving, at work, or any other custom location. You can adjust the settings for when you’re at each location, like whether you want your text messages read to you, notifications silenced, and more.
  • Actions opens the camera with two flicks of the wrist.

Droid Zap, a past Verizon exclusive, is also back with the Droid Maxx 2. This app allows you to share photos and videos directly with other friends near you. It’s perfect for parties and group outings. It’s available on other Android phones, as well as iOS (Motorola Zap), so your friends don’t have to own a Droid-branded phone.

Warranty

Motorola’s Limited Warranty for the Droid Maxx 2 covers fixes for one year. After that, you’ll have to pay for repairs or to extend your coverage. Motorola will not repair or replace phones that have water damage, either. Out-of-warranty repairs cost $175. You can read more about the limited warranty here.

The Maxx 2 has a special screen program, which isn’t as extensive as the ShatterShield promise Motorola offers on the Droid Turbo 2. Motorola will give you one free certified replacement within 2 years of purchase, if you break yours.

Motorola offers a few more paid options for those who need more protection. Moto Care Accident Protection covers accidents that affect the functionality of the device, like drops and spills. It comes with an additional 3 or 12 months of Motorola’s standard limited warranty. It’s more expensive, though, and prices vary widely based on how many months you signup for and what device you have. Prices are between $15 – $70 for 15 months of coverage or $25 – $100 for 24 months of coverage.

The $13-$20 Moto Care Extended Service Plan covers an additional 12 months of Motorola’s standard limited warranty, with an unlimited number of claims and low deductible.

You can read more here.

Conclusion

At $384 off contract, you’re going to have a hard time finding a better value smartphone. The OnePlus 2 and Asus Zenfone 2 are worthy contenders at $330 and $300 respectively, but neither one will work on Verizon Wireless or offer this kind of battery life.

On the other hand, the recently announced HTC One A9 will work on Verizon, but it costs $500. The best competitor might be the Google Nexus 5X, which sells for $400. It will work on Verizon, and it has a better camera, but its battery life can’t hold a candle to the Droid Maxx 2, and we don’t recommend it as a viable alternative, based on our terrible experience with the phone.

The Droid Maxx 2 is exactly what the Honda Accord is for automobiles. You get rock-solid performance with a near luxurious experience for a lot less money.

If you’re looking for a new phone that won’t break the bank and is built to last, you can’t go wrong with the Droid Maxx 2.

Highs

  • Amazing battery life
  • Solid Build
  • Large 5.5-inch screen
  • Near stock Android experience
  • Quick charging

Lows

  • Average camera
  • Mono sound
  • Quick charger costs extra
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