Emerging Technology

GADGET WATCH: Motorola Droid Ultra

Patrick Stafford /

With the smartphone market reaching a maturation point, there’s very little room to move when it comes to getting a leg-up on the competition.

Motorola made a good impression with the Droid line-up a few years ago, but with the Moto X already on the market, there’s no need to compete with Samsung and Apple on this front anymore.

So can the Droid Ultra, a lower-priced alternative with some better specifications in some areas, mount a convincing competition?

Hardware and features

The Droid Ultra features a five-inch screen, with a native 720×1280 resolution, made from Corning Gorilla Glass.

The device is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4Pro, dual-core 1.7GHz processor, with 2GB of RAM. The Ultra features 16GB of memory, and doesn’t feature a card-slot, as many of its Android counterparts do.

Connectivity includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC and a micro USB port, while the battery is a Li-Iin 2130 mAh battery which Motorola claims has up to 28 hours of talk time, and 312 hours on standby.

What’s the consensus?

Over at The Verge, the publication starts with the usual – the design. While it noted the Moto X was “gently curved and comfortable”, the Ultra has the opposite design philosophy – “a slab of greasy, boxy, glossy black plastic”.

Unfortunately, this isn’t good. The Verge notes the device just feels “cheap and bland”, even though the five-inch screen provides a larger viewing area. The colours are over-saturated, it said, and although noted this was “far from the worst screen out there”, still wasn’t impressed.

“From a hardware standpoint, the Droid Ultra and Maxx are just like the Moto X, only much worse. Bigger screens without being higher-res, or even that much larger; bland, uninspired design; and in the Ultra’s case, a phone I like holding and using less than almost any smartphone I’ve tested (including the Galaxy S4).”

Over at Engadget, the publication did have something nice to say – it praised the design to have the volume button double as a SIM card tray. However, it did say the pre-installed software got in the way.

Engadget did praise the camera, although said it isn’t perfect and had a few flaws.

“True to the company’s claims, the camera is indeed good at capturing errant light; unfortunately, noise and blurring frequently creep in since the camera occasionally approaches ISO 6500, and it captures color and white balance inconsistently. Also, the Ultra lacks image stabilization, which doesn’t help either.”

Finally, over at Android Central, the publication said trying to make sense of the Droid Ultra’s design was an “exercise in frustration”, although praised the battery life.

“It was interesting to us that even during heavy use, such as running mobile hotspot while listening to podcasts and keeping up with email, the battery didn’t dip down dramatically.”

“We easily made it through a heavier than usual day of use with some Wifi time but primarily mobile data, taking lots of pictures, streaming music and using the hotspot function, and still came home with 25 percent battery left after 11 hours.”

Who’s it for?

While the Droid Ultra isn’t built to compete with the top smartphone lines, there isn’t necessarily anything here that would warrant a look at this price point. While the device itself is fairly thin, there’s nothing that can’t be found in other devices. Anyone looking to save a few dollars may do better looking elsewhere.

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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