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Motorola Droid Turbo Review: The Smartphone with a Battery That Won’t Die

·Technology Editor
Motorola Droid Turbo
Motorola Droid Turbo

(Daniel Howley/Yahoo Tech)

Having your phone’s battery die sucks. You can’t check Twitter, take pictures, or even send a measly text. It’s especially annoying when your phone can’t last through the workday without needing to be recharged.

Those are the exact situations that Motorola and Verizon’s new Droid Turbo, available for $199 with a two-year contract, is meant to help you avoid. Packing a massive battery, the Turbo can, according to Motorola, last up to 48 hours on a single charge.

The Turbo is more than just a giant battery, though. In fact, it’s easily one of the best smartphones Motorola has to offer.

Size and design
The Droid Turbo  uses Kevlar to help give it stability while keeping its weight in check. You can get the Turbo with either a metalized glass fiber back panel or with a ballistic nylon panel.

Back of Motorola Droid Turbo
Back of Motorola Droid Turbo

(Daniel Howley/Yahoo Tech)

The ballistic nylon option gives the Turbo’s back panel the feel of an old backpack but also helps keep the phone from slipping out of your hand. The metalized glass fiber, however, gives the Turbo’s back a soft-touch feel that makes the phone more pleasant to hold.

Unfortunately, the ballistic nylon-clad Turbo that I reviewed is actually pretty fat. Measuring 0.44 inches thick, the Turbo is chubbier than Moto X (0.39 inches), as well as Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and Apple’s iPhone 6 (0.27 inches). And at 6.2 ounces, the Turbo is heavier than the Moto X (5.1 ounces), the Galaxy S5 (5.1 ounces), and the iPhone 6 (4.6 ounces).

Comparison of smartphone thicknesses
Comparison of smartphone thicknesses

(Daniel Howley/Yahoo Tech)

Turbos finished with the metalized glass fiber back panel are both lighter and thinner than their ballistic nylon-clad stablemates.

That added weight and thickness is the price you pay for a smartphone with a massive battery. But it’s not as if the Turbo is uncomfortable to hold. Folks with smaller mitts, though, may have a problem using the phone with one hand.

Motorola strapped the Droid Turbo with a gorgeous 5.2-inch AMOLED (active matrix of organic light-emitting diodes) display, which produces vibrant colors. And with a screen resolution of 2560 × 1440, the Turbo’s display is seriously sharp. Unfortunately, because there’s no content that supports such a high-screen resolution, you’ll never really take advantage of the Turbo’s display power.

Motorola Droid Turbo's AMOLED screen
Motorola Droid Turbo's AMOLED screen

(Daniel Howley/Yahoo Tech)

The Turbo’s AMOLED screen technology made reds and blues look positively alive. Colors were more accurate on the iPhone 6’s display, but I think most people would prefer the Turbo’s screen. The competing Galaxy S5, however, offered the best display of the group, producing absolutely gorgeous colors, with the Moto X not far behind.

Oddly, I noticed that the Turbo’s screen tended to favor yellows, which made some colors look slightly muted. If I wasn’t sitting with the iPhone 6 and S5 in front of me, though, I wouldn’t have noticed any issues with the Turbo’s screen.

The Droid Turbo runs on Google’s Android 4.4 KitKat operating system — not the latest release, Android 5.0 Lollipop. Unfortunately, the Turbo won’t get the update as soon as it’s available, as it has to be vetted by Verizon. If you must have the newest version of Android, then get Google’s Nexus 6.

Android operating system
Android operating system

Still, KitKat is an excellent operating system. And unlike other Android phone makers that modify the OS with their own overlays, like Samsung’s overly complicated TouchWiz and HTC’s Sense, the Droid Turbo’s version of Android is unmolested. It’s as easy to navigate as Google intended.

Moto apps
Like Motorola’s Moto X, the Droid Turbo comes loaded with the company’s impressive Moto app suite, which includes Moto Actions, Moto Assist, Moto Display, and Moto Voice.

Motorola apps
Motorola apps

Moto Actions lets the Turbo detect when you move your hand toward it and can silence incoming calls and, more dangerously, snooze your morning alarm. You can also twist your wrist twice while holding the Turbo to quickly launch its camera app.

You can also wave your hand over the Turbo’s screen to turn on Moto Display, perhaps the coolest of the Moto apps. It can show your recent notifications on the lock screen and even lets you interact with them.

Moto Display
Moto Display

(Daniel Howley/Yahoo Tech)

To ensure that Moto Display doesn’t kill your battery, your notifications are shown using white text on a black background. It’s an incredibly helpful feature, and one I wish all Android phones had.

Moto Assist basically turns your phone into your own personal secretary. You set specific times when you’re in meetings, driving, at home, or going to bed, and the phone will reply to messages or silence notifications as appropriate.

Moto Assist
Moto Assist

For example, if you have a meeting from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. every day, you can enter the time in the Meetings section and choose whether you want Assist to silence all your incoming calls or allow calls from only certain people to come through.

Moto Voice is essentially an enhanced version of Android’s own Google Voice. With the feature, you can tell your phone to post to Facebook, or check the weather without ever having to touch it. You can even set the Turbo to let you use Moto Voice when its display is locked. That’s super convenient.

Moto Voice
Moto Voice

Dear Verizon: We need to talk about this bloatware thing you’ve got going on with your phones. The Turbo comes loaded with nine Verizon-branded apps, including Verizon Cloud, Verizon Message+, and Verizon Protect. Verizon Navigator, an app you have to sign up for, charges you $4.99 per month after a 30-day trial period to perform actions Google Maps already does for free.

Android home screen
Android home screen

Beyond the Verizon apps, the Turbo also includes four Amazon apps, as well as Audible, Slacker Radio, and the Softcard mobile wallet app. Those are a lot of apps that we haven’t asked for. What’s more, the majority of these apps can’t be uninstalled.

The Droid Turbo’s camera features a high-dynamic range (HDR) mode, which takes two photos and combines them to ensure that you get the best lighting, and a Panorama mode that lets you take a photo of sweeping landscapes, and that’s about it.

Comparison of photos taken with Motorola Droid Turbo and iPhone 6
Comparison of photos taken with Motorola Droid Turbo and iPhone 6

(Daniel Howley/Yahoo Tech)

The Turbo is the first Droid phone to get a camera with a 21-megapixel sensor. I shot a ton of pictures with the Turbo, and in general, I found that while images were clear they had a distinctly yellow tint to them.

When I shot a photo of a skyscraper in the evening, the Turbo’s photo made the sky look a bit hazy. Both the iPhone 6’s and Galaxy S5’s pictures, on the other hand, offered beautiful azure skies. (On the other end of the spectrum, the Galaxy S5 tends to exaggerate blues.)

Comparison of photos taken with Motorola Droid Turbo and Galaxy S5
Comparison of photos taken with Motorola Droid Turbo and Galaxy S5

(Daniel Howley/Yahoo Tech)

Similarly, when I took a picture of a shield on the side of a police car, the colors were a bit muted compared to those in the images taken with the iPhone and S5. That’s not to say that the Droid Turbo’s photos were wholly bad. It’s just that their colors were a bit off.

Battery life
The reason the Droid Turbo exists is to provide users with a premium smartphone that won’t die at the end of the day. And guess what — Motorola pulled it off. The company claims that the Turbo can run for 48 hours of regular use without needing a recharge. That battery is so big, Motorola claims, that you can watch all six Star Wars movies and still have juice to play Candy Crush. And based on my experience, that’s pretty close to being correct.

I received my review unit of the Turbo on a Tuesday and didn’t charge it again until Thursday. Granted, I wasn’t streaming videos or music, or navigating using the phone’s GPS, the whole time, but based on my testing, I would be able to do so and still have enough juice to get me through the rest of the day.

Battery life like that is usually available only in giant smartphones with screens larger than 5.3 inches, like the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 or the iPhone 6 Plus.

Oh, and with the Turbo’s included Turbo Charger, you can add an extra eight hours of use to your handset in just 15 minutes. There’s just one caveat to the feature, though, and that’s that the battery has to be nearly empty for it to charge that fast.

Should you buy it?
I’m a big fan of the Droid Turbo. Its battery life is seriously amazing, and its Moto apps are genuinely helpful. I’m also a fan of the display and camera, though both seem to generate yellowish hues. On the flip side, the phone’s design is a bit outdated, and the amount of bloatware is annoying.

In the end, though, if you want a smartphone that will get you from morning through night and into the next morning without needing to be recharged, it doesn’t get much better than this. If battery life isn’t your biggest concern, then grab the Galaxy S5, iPhone 6, or — if you want to stick with Motorola — the Moto X.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this review indicated that the Droid Turbo’s camera has optical image stabilization (OIS). It does not.

Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley or on Google+ here.