|Introduction and Specifications|
When considering the physical design of a smartphone, there’s one key dimension that often matters most to the majority of users: thickness. No one wants to carry around a thick, clunky smartphone. Manufacturers realize thin devices sell, which is why it seems every time we turn around they’re constantly fighting for the title of thinnest device.
The current title-holder is the Motorola Droid Ultra, which is billed as the thinnest 4G LTE smartphone. It measures just 0.28 inches thick and is available exclusively through Verizon Wireless. The Droid Ultra was announced alongside the Droid Maxx and the Droid Mini. Falling in the middle of this trio, the Droid Ultra has a lot to offer especially given its current price tag of $99.99 after discounts and with a contract.
Another popular Motorola phone, the made-in America Moto X, also launched about the same time as the Droid Ultra. While these two phones have very similar hardware specifications, their exterior styling is noticeably different.
In addition to a thin design, the Droid Ultra features a 5-inch HD display and a Kevlar-based unibody frame. The phone is available in red and black. Before we dive in to the full hands-on review, let’s take a closer look at exactly what the Motorola Droid Ultra has to offer:
The Motorola Droid Ultra's specifications read very much like the Moto X's, which is to say the device falls somewhere in the upper, mid-range of the current smartphone market. As we've mentioned, it's thinness and form factor are what differentiate the Droid Ultra.
|Design and Software|
The Droid Ultra features a Kevlar composite Unibody design with slightly rounded corners and edges. Because of its unibody design, you won’t be able to swap batteries or upgrade the storage of the Droid Ultra. For some users, the 16GB of onboard storage will be enough, but we imagine there will be plenty of users who exclude this phone from consideration because of this limitation.
Overall, the phone feels solid and well-built. Compared to other popular phones such as Samsung’s Galaxy S 4, the Droid Ultra has a similar footprint and fits equally well in one’s hand. Overall, there’s plenty to like about the size of the Droid Ultra.
A glossy finish covers the entire Droid Ultra, making it a fingerprint magnet. In a matter of minutes, our test unit was covered with fingerprints on the front, back, and sides of the device. During our time with the Droid Ultra, we found it to be nearly impossible to keep clean.
The Droid Ultra features a 5-inch edge–to–edge Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 1280 x 720. Although we are always attracted to higher resolution displays, the Droid Ultra is designed to be a mid-range device and the screen falls in line with its positioning in the market.
Below the display, you’ll find three capacitive hardware buttons: Back, Home, and Recent Apps. The front-facing 2 megapixel camera is located above the display to the right of the speaker.
The Droid Ultra’s micro USB port is located on the bottom edge of the phone. A 3.5mm headset jack is located on the top edge near the right corner. The power key and volume rocker are located on the right edge of the phone. These buttons protrude slightly from the edge of the phone.
When you flip the Droid Ultra over, you’ll notice the glossy finish with a textured design. The phone’s rear-facing 10 megapixel camera and flash is located near the top edge. DROID, Motorola, and Verizon Wireless logos can also be seen on the back of the Droid Ultra.
When looking at the Droid Ultra from either side of the phone, you’ll see that the bottom edge is noticeably thinner than the top edge. Although the top protrusion is much less noticeable than previous DROID smartphones, it’s still there.
The Droid Ultra comes with a near-stock version of Android, save for the typical Verizon Wireless additions and a few other customizations and add-ons. You’ll find Android 4.2 on the phone out of the box. Though, Motorola has assured users an update to Android 4.4 (KitKat) is coming at some point in the future.
Like the Moto X, the Droid Ultra comes with many of the same well-advertised features as the Moto X, including the ability to launch the camera with a double-flick of the wrist, “always on” hands-free controls with Google Now, active notifications, and more. The Droid Ultra’s touch less controls are the same as what we saw on the Moto X. After a simple set up process, you can say “Ok Google Now” and tell your phone what you want to do.
|Benchmarks and Camera Performance|
We ran our typical set of benchmarks to see how the Droid Ultra compares to other phones. If you take a look at the charts below, you’ll notice the Droid Ultra often falls in the middle of our charts. This is what we expected – The Droid Ultra isn’t a phone with top-of-the-line specifications but it is a very adequate phone that will hold its own.
AnTuTu, Click to enlarge
One test shows a strength of the Droid Ultra and that’s the battery test. As you can see, the Droid Ultra outscored all other phones we have for comparison including the Moto X. For users who want even greater longevity, it may be worth considering the Droid Maxx.
The 10 megapixel camera that accompanies the Droid Ultra is adequate and on-par with what we’d expect from a mid-range device. The phone’s Quick Capture feature lets you access the camera app with two quick twists of the wrist. If you know other DROID owners, you can quickly share pictures using the DROID Zap feature.
The Droid Ultra is a solid mid-range device with a number of attractive features, including its ultra-thin design. Battery life was very good and performance was on-par with what we’d expect from a mid-range phone of today. Although the phone initially launched with a $200 price tag, the price is now down to $99 on contract making it very reasonable for what you get.
If you put the Droid Ultra in a case, the fact that this phone is an extreme fingerprint magnet won’t bother you. However, if you’re buying this phone because of its thin design and don’t want to add any extra bulk, be prepared to clean the phone regularly or accept the fact that it will show fingerprints.
We liked the Moto X and appreciated some of the extra features Motorola included on that phone. We’re glad to see Motorola included many of these same features in the Droid Ultra including the touch-free controls. The Droid Ultra also showed excellent battery life in our benchmark test, which is something users will definitely appreciate.
Overall, there’s a lot to like about the Droid Ultra. However, there are also a ton of similarities between the Droid Ultra and the Moto X. In fact, there are so many similarities between these phones that we’d be hard-pressed to recommend one over the other. Ultimately, if you’re torn between the Droid Ultra and Moto X, you’ll have to decide which of the minor differences between the phones matter most to you.