Motorola Droid Turbo: four things wrong and four things right

The smartphone will be out Thursday from Verizon Wireless

Motorola Mobility's Droid Turbo has a big battery and a powerful processor, but it also lacks a microSD card slot and optical imaging stabilization.

The smartphone will be available starting Thursday from Verizon Wireless. Here are its main strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths

Battery

One of the main reasons to get a Droid Turbo is the promised battery life, which is helped by a massive 3900mAH battery. That's almost 70 percent larger than the battery in this year's version of Motorola's Moto X, which, like the Turbo, has a 5.2-inch screen, but with a lower resolution. The downside is that the Turbo is quite big-boned -- at 169 or 176 grams, depending on the version, it is noticeably heavier than the Moto X's 144 grams. But I think the tradeoff is worth it. Motorola has said the big battery offers up to two days between charges with a mixture of both usage and standby time.

Screen size

Smartphones with larger screens have been big this year, with products like the recently announced Nexus 6, which was also developed by Motorola, and Apple's iPhone 6 Plus. But I still want a smartphone that fits in my pocket that I can use with one hand. That's possible with a 5.2-inch screen, which is what the Droid Turbo has. Also, the device is almost 15 millimeters shorter than the iPhone 6 Plus.

Screen resolution

The screen on the Droid Turbo has a 2560 by 1440 pixel resolution (also known as QHD), just like the Nexus 6 and the G3 from LG Electronics. Smartphones with QHD screens are still rare, but by next year they will likely become much more common on high-end models. Anyone questioning the attractiveness of the higher resolution can take a look at LG's shipments during the third quarter. They reached a record 16.8 million, thanks in part to sales of the G3.

Processor

The Droid Turbo's Snapdragon 805 is starting to become the de facto standard on expensive smartphones. It offers better performance across the board compared to Qualcomm's existing Snapdragon 800 processors, which are used by many high-end smartphones. The Snapdragon 805 lets the Turbo implement carrier aggregation, technology that increases download speeds by combining two channels.

Weaknesses

Storage

The Droid Turbo is available with 32GB or 64GB of integrated storage, which is all well and good. But there is no microSD card slot for memory expansion, which most competing Android-based products have. The Moto X has the same drawback, so it seems Motorola or Google, which owns Motorola until its acquisition by Lenovo is final, for some reason don't think memory expansion is needed on high-end phones. But whatever that reason is -- perhaps the easy availability of cloud storage? -- I think the wrong decision was made. On-board storage is easier to use and offers better performance; plus, you can't install native applications in the cloud.

LTE

The Droid Turbo beats Apple's new iPhones on several hardware specs, but LTE is the area where Apple comes out on top. The versions of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus Verizon sells have 16 LTE bands compared to five on the Droid Turbo, which makes it much less suitable for use abroad. The difference is even bigger compared to the 20-band versions Sprint offers. International roaming using LTE is still not widespread, but will become more common during the two-year contract length Droid Turbo buyers are expected to sign.

Cameras

I haven't had much time to use the Droid Turbo's 21-megapixel camera, so future reviewers may have more to say about it, but the lack of optical image stabilization is a problem. The feature would make it easier to take pictures in the dark, as well as with one hand (for instance, photo taking at concerts and sporting events is ubiquitous these days), and it would shoot better videos. The feature has become much more common on expensive smartphones this year. Another camera trend this year has been front cameras with higher resolutions, but the Droid Turbo is again stuck in the past with 2-megapixel resolution.

Bloatware

A disadvantage with getting a smartphone that a mobile operator has handled is the number of applications that are added, whether you like them or not. The Droid Turbo is no different in this regard. Operators should leave it up to buyers to choose what they want. If the apps are any good, users will find them. Many smartphone vendors have already cleaned up the user interface on their devices, and it's now time to do the same on the application side.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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Tags consumer electronicsAndroidsmartphonesMotorola MobilityVerizon Wireless

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