Motorola Droid Turbo 2 review

Motorola’s Droid Turbo 2 may be shatterproof, but its design drops the ball

The Droid Turbo 2 is the most durable phone on the market.
The Droid Turbo 2 is the most durable phone on the market.
The Droid Turbo 2 is the most durable phone on the market.

Highs

  • Shatterproof display
  • Great battery life
  • Powerful specs
  • Turbo and wireless charging
  • Useful Motorola extras

Lows

  • Boring design
  • Average camera
  • Verizon bloatware

Verizon’s Motorola Droid series rarely gets the same media attention as other Android phones like Samsung’s Galaxy S series or Google’s Nexus line, but it has been one of the more groundbreaking series of phones ever. The Droid DNA was the first phone to feature a 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixel) display and the Droid Razr Maxx was the first phone to feature 24 hours of battery life.

Now Verizon and Motorola are at it again with the Droid Turbo 2. This phone has all the top-of-the-line specs that you would expect, but it also has one feature never seen before on any other phone: a shatterproof display. Motorola’s ShatterShield technology is guaranteed not to crack or shatter for up to two years.

If you cruise around YouTube, you’ll find plenty of people stress testing the phone by running it over with their cars, dropping it from 900 feet, and throwing it around.

It may be nearly indestructible, but is the Droid Turbo as good as it’s all cracked up to be?

A bland design that blends in

We typically praise Motorola’s phones for their fantastic build quality and workmanship. However, that’s not going to be the case with the Droid Turbo 2. It’s a solid and well-built phone, but it doesn’t have a flagship presence or a flashy design. It has a plain Jane look that won’t have anyone swooning over it.

My biggest complaint is that it looks too much like the mid-range Droid Maxx 2, which is a no frills phone, too. There are a few clear differences like the metal frame, but it’s not enough to differentiate the two stylistically.

Motorola Droid Turbo 2
Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends
Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends

The back panel on the Turbo 2 has a similar etched pattern, along with the same rubberized soft feel as the Maxx 2. It provided a good grip on the Maxx 2, but not so much on the Turbo 2. The Turbo 2 isn’t rounded on the back like the Maxx 2 is. Instead, it’s more flat, and only the edges are rounded. The idea was to keep the phone fairly thin, while supporting a larger battery at the same time. The result is the edges are now the focal point when holding the device, and they are more slippery.

The aforementioned frame around the body is made of aluminum instead of the plastic faux metal on the Maxx 2, but the two phones look nearly identical.

The front of the Turbo 2 is far from attractive with the speakers at the bottom, and the front-facing camera, front-facing flash, and other sensors at the top. Placing the stereo speakers at the bottom on the front of the phone is a shame. Most manufacturers place one at the top and one at the bottom. That layout is usually better for watching videos in landscape mode since it offers better separation of the sound. We found the overall sound to be okay, but it’s inferior to HTC’s BoomSound.

The black version of the phone looks better, but our white review unit feels cheapo.

We won’t get into the fact that the old Verizon logo is right smack in the middle of the speakers at the bottom. The black version of the phone looks better, but our white review unit feels cheapo.

On the plus side, the Droid Turbo 2 is the first Droid that you can customize through Moto Maker just like you can with the Moto X Pure Edition. Motorola is also offering a “Design Refresh” if you purchase the 64GB version before December 31, 2015. With Design Refresh, you can order a completely different design at any time within two years of your purchase date. If customization isn’t your thing, you can still opt for basic versions found at Verizon stores and online. These include Black Soft-Grip, Black-Pebble Leather, Gray Ballistic Nylon, and Winter White Soft-Grip (our review unit).

The Droid Turbo 2 is rather thick at 9.2mm, but it has one of the biggest batteries in the business. Most manufacturers continue to push the envelope on thinness, but it’s okay to be a little thicker in an effort to provide extended battery life.

Even though the Turbo 2 has a slightly smaller screen than the Maxx 2 (5.4 vs 5.5-inches), it actually has a bigger footprint. The Turbo 2 comes in at 149.8 x 78.0mm, while the smaller Maxx 2 is 148.0 x 75mm. The extra length is obviously due to the stereo speakers at the bottom, but it’s unclear why it’s wider.

The Droid Turbo 2 is very durable thanks to the ShatterShield display, but it doesn’t feel as premium as the iPhone 6S, Galaxy S6, or the Nexus 6P. However, a shatterproof display might prove to be more important than looks.

A worry-free shatterproof display

The highlight of the Droid Turbo 2 has to be its shatterproof display, or as Motorola calls it, ShatterShield. You can read more about ShatterShield technology here, but in a nutshell, the display consists of four layers for complete protection.

Never having to worry about cracking your display is what I call peace of mind.

Although it’s shatterproof, the Droid Turbo 2 isn’t a rugged phone. It’s meant to survive typical accidental falls. That means drops from about 6 feet in height, not from tall buildings. However, it still did okay when the guys from Unlock River dropped from 900 feet onto concrete, which is impressive. Sure, the screen was banged up upon impact, but it still powered on and the screen itself was not shattered at all. You can’t slam a hammer on it repeatedly or drive over it and expect it to survive without some injuries. Thankfully those kinds of incidents rarely happen by accident.

The rest of the phone is as precious as any other. You will still need a case to protect the body from getting dinged up from those accidental falls or the keys in your pocket.

We dropped our review unit from no more than 6 feet high at least 50 times on various surfaces such as wood floors and pavement. The glass is the same as when it was removed from the box, which is remarkable and something we never thought possible.

Never having to worry about cracking your display is what I call peace of mind.

Blazing fast performance and a decent display

When it comes to performance, the Droid Turbo 2 is as good as any flagship phone. The octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor and 3GB of RAM provide the kind of speed that lives up to the phone’s Turbo name. After using the Nexus 6P for the two weeks prior to receiving the Turbo 2, I was shocked that I didn’t notice a difference. It’s as buttery smooth as any other high-end phone.

Motorola Droid Turbo 2
Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends
Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends

Its spec sheet is very similar to that of the 6P, Samsung’s Galaxy S6, the LG G4, and most of the other flagship phones released this year. In fact, the Snapdragon 810 is a newer processor than the 808 found in the G4, Moto X Style Pure Edition, and LG V10. On paper, the Turbo 2 is a flagship.

The Droid Turbo 2 also sports a 5.4-inch P-OLED Quad HD display that equates to a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixels. Quad HD is overkill for most people, but it provides a very crisp display. You might find that it’s slightly oversaturated, but the colors are more than adequate and the viewing angles are fantastic.

Great battery life

What’s interesting about the Droid Turbo 2 is that its 3,760mAh battery is bigger than the Droid Maxx 2’s 3,630mAh battery. However, the Turbo 2’s battery life isn’t as good. Both phones are rated at 48 hours, but the Turbo 2’s battery has to power a higher resolution display.

With that said, the it’s no slouch. We conducted our video rundown test, in which we leave the display at 67 percent brightness while the phone is connected to 4G LTE (not Wi-Fi), it lasted 9 hours and 20 minutes. The Maxx 2 lasted just over 11 hours in the same test.

I always had at least 50 percent left after a busy day at the office with about 30 percent left at bedtime.

The good news is that you will easily get through an entire day, and then some. I found that I always had at least 50 percent left after a busy day at the office with about 30 percent left at bedtime. You won’t get 48 hours out of the Turbo 2, but 24 to 30 hours is a dream when compared to most other phones. This year’s flagships suffered from short battery life. Whether we tested the Galaxy S6, Nexus 6P, or LG G4, the battery didn’t last past a day of use.

Just like the Droid Maxx 2, the Turbo 2 offers quick charging, or as Motorola calls it, Turbo Power. By using the charger that comes in the box, or any other Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 charger, you will be able to rapidly charge the phone. It only takes about 20 minutes to go from 0 to 25 percent, and depending on your use case, that could mean 7 to 10 hours of life. You can also go from 0 to 100 percent in about 2 hours, which is very good when you consider the size of the battery.

The Turbo 2 adds wireless charging, which the Droid Maxx 2 lacks. You can use either Qi or PMA mats, so whatever you already own will be compatible. Wireless charging is convenient, but we only recommend using it while sleeping since the charging rate is a lot slower than using the Turbo Power charger.

An improved camera

Motorola has drastically improved in the camera department, but the company still trails Apple and Samsung. However, the gap is much smaller than it was a couple of years ago.

The Droid Turbo 2 might not have the best camera on a smartphone, but it’s by far the best from Motorola.

The 21-megapixel-rear camera is the same one found on the Moto X Pure Edition, which means that it’s going to do a very good job when there’s a lot of light, but it can be inconsistent in low light shots. I found that most low-light shots were decent, but sometimes the image was oversaturated and/or had too much noise. Optical image stabilization (OIS) would have helped, but Verizon and Motorola decided to leave it out in favor of the shatterproof display.

The camera interface is the same as what you will find on past Motorola phones, which is as simple as it gets. You can tap anywhere you want on the display to capture shots, and the controls are limited. Motorola does offer a slide-to-focus option that includes the ability to adjust the exposure. You will get better consistency in low light shots if you utilize this option.

The 5-megapixel front facing camera gets the benefit of its own flash, which does help those low light selfies.

You can record 4K video at 30 frames per second, but the default is 1080p at 60 frames per second. You can also record in slow motion or HDR. Video recording quality is very good and on par with other flagship phones.

The Droid Turbo 2 might not have the best camera on a smartphone, but it’s by far the best from Motorola, and we were quite impressed.

Useful extras from Motorola

While most manufacturers muck up Android with crazy user interfaces and apps that are gimmicky, Motorola keeps the Android interface intact while offering useful apps that make everyday life better.

Unfortunately, the phone launched with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, but the promised Marshmallow update is on the way.

You will find all the cool Motorola apps we have become accustomed to over the past few years.

You will find all the cool Motorola apps we have become accustomed to over the past few years. These include Voice, Display, Assist, Actions, Droid Zap, and a new one called Loop.

Voice allows you to speak to your phone at anytime (even when asleep) to ask a question or initiate a command. You can use Voice to set reminders, send texts, search Google, start playing a song, and so much more.

Display will show your notifications without turning on the full display. You can also tap on each notification to get more information such as the contents of an email or text. Display is not only a convenient way to find out what’s been going on since you last used the phone, it also increases the battery life because the display is only partially lit.

Assist allows you to set certain actions for particular activities or places. For example, you can set the phone to read your text messages when you’re driving or silence notifications when you’re in a meeting (based on your calendar).

Motorola Droid Turbo 2
Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends
Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends

Actions are quick gestures to open apps faster. Just like on the Droid Maxx 2, you can double twist the phone to open the camera app and lift the phone to your ear to say a command and hear a discreet reply, but the Turbo 2 adds more Actions since it has more processing power. You can wave your hand over the screen to show your notifications (Display feature) and move your hand in a karate chop motion to turn on the flashlight.

Droid Zap has been a Verizon exclusive for a number of years. It allows you to share photos with nearby friends so it’s perfect for parties and events. Originally, everyone had to own a Droid phone in order to participate, but the app is now available on all Android devices, as well as iOS.

Loop is brand new for 2015, and it appears to be another Verizon exclusive. It’s a location-sharing app that’s perfect for families. All members of the family will be able to see where everyone is and notifications can be sent when someone arrives at chosen locations. For example, you can get notified when your child arrives at school and at home. Loop also takes things a step further by giving you the ability to automatically control Philips Hue lights and a Nest thermostat based on your location. Family members aren’t required to use a Droid Turbo 2 or Maxx 2, only the person who sets up the family.

The software on the Turbo 2 is a wonderful experience. The only downside is the tremendous amount of bloatware that Verizon requires to be pre-installed on the phone. These are the apps that you will probably never use. The good news is that you will be able to uninstall or disable most of them.

Conclusion

The Droid Turbo 2 seems to have it all: a nice display, blazing speed, great battery life, a near stock Android experience, useful apps, a decent camera, and a shatterproof display. Seems like a worthy flagship right?

However, there seems to be something missing. The Droid Turbo 2 has all the features you could want in a $600-plus flagship, but it doesn’t feel like one. The phone does sport a metal frame, but it looks too much like the Droid Maxx 2, which costs $240 less. Similarly priced flagship phones such as the iPhone 6S, Galaxy S6, and Nexus 6P all have a higher quality design to match their price points.

The good news for the Droid Turbo 2 is the design might not be the best selling point for consumers. What the Droid Turbo 2 lacks in design, it more than makes up for it with powerful specs and a shatterproof display. That is something that no other phone, flagship or otherwise, can offer.

With that said, the Nexus 6P appears to be a better buy if you can live without the shatterproof display. It has similar specs, but the all-metal body is nicer, the camera is better, the display is bigger, and you will always have the most current version of Android. It also costs $124 less. The only stickler is the shatterproof display, but you can make up for some of that by paying $90 for Nexus Protect.

One the other hand, if you’re more of a casual user and don’t require the best of the best, the Droid Maxx 2 is a solid option. You will save $240 and the downgrade in performance and display won’t be noticeable. Plus, you will get up to 48 hours of battery life.

The Droid Turbo 2 is no different than any other phone. It has its pluses and minuses. In this case, there are more pluses, but you have to decide what’s important to you. If you drop your phone often, it’s a no-brainer — Get the Droid Turbo 2.

Highs

  • Shatterproof display
  • Great battery life
  • Powerful specs
  • Turbo and wireless charging
  • Useful Motorola extras

Lows

  • Boring design
  • Average camera
  • Verizon bloatware
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