[updated Jul 15th 2014; OS update 21.11.21 applied -- see paragraphs marked with /// for my edits]
[updated Jan 27th 2014; OS update 19.5.3 applied -- see paragraphs marked with +++ for my edits]
[updated Nov 11th 2013; OS update 12.15.15 applied -- increased my rating to 5 stars (from 4) -- see paragraphs marked with >> for my edits]
I didn't intend to buy a Droid Maxx on launch day; at least, not until a few minutes before 10am, when I read on Droid Life it would *really* be in stores that morning. I would only stop in to check it out in person. Then... it just happened. If you're like me and coming from a Samsung Galaxy Nexus, I'm betting this latest batch from Motorola caught your eye, too. I fully intended to wait for the first reviews, maybe check out the oversized Note III and HTC One Max, and see what LG was bringing to the table, but...
/// The Maxx's oversized battery is only part of the attraction. My Nexus had become fickle -- I weeded out a few apps that were absolute battery hogs on that device. While I didn't expect the full two day battery life promised by Verizon, the Maxx had to be at least 2x better than the Gnex, based alone on double battery capacity. But better! After my first 100% charge, I ended my day at 7% after 16 hours off the charger, heavy "first day with a new phone" usage, 1.5 hours video, 1+ hours audio streaming, 45 minutes unplugged Nav, forum browsing & posting, futzing with apps, editing this review, Bluetooth headset use, switching between wifi and 4G about 50/50, lots of screen on time, etc. I've since repeated this with up to 23 hour days, 5-8 hours screen time, video & nav, completely off the charger. I've bumped my screen timeout to 5 minutes, and don't bother switching off WiFi or GPS. And if that's not epic enough (for me, it is), there's a "Battery Saver" slider on the settings menu -- I haven't bothered to flick that On to see what it affects. [edit 7/14 Bbattery life is much reduced; I get about a full day without plugging in, and routinely charge it when using Waze or Nav. To be fair to the phone, I'd have to nuke all apps and restore to like new condition to evaluate, because I have lots of tasks on in the background. And naturally, batteries lose capacity with use, and as they are subjected to never ending charge/discharge cycles.]
Amazingly, the extra battery doesn't come at the expense of size. Held back to back, side to side, end to end, these two phones are close to identical in size. You can get the numbers from the spec sheet, but the Maxx is about 3-4 millimeters taller and wider than the Gnex, and more or less identical in thickness. According to my straight edge, the Maxx's screen even has a slight curve to it, ala the overly-hyped curved glass of the Galaxy Nexus.
But it's definitely shaped differently. I ran my Gnex without a case for the past year, and I'm starting out caseless with the Maxx. I don't see it visually, but the Maxx has a "wedge" feel to it, where the top end of the phone is thicker, and it slims down towards the bottom. The top end is also heavier. What this means is that, when I'm holding it in one hand, most of that weight is concentrated on my index finger. I'd prefer it the other way around -- with that weight and thickness at the bottom -- where it's resting more on two fingers. I know, I know... we're only talking about 164g according to my scale, but the phone feels more comfortable and balanced when I hold it flipped around like that. Despite the very similar size to my old phone, the Maxx has a definite chunky feel to it, not UNcomfortable, but -less- comfortable than my previous phone.
+++ My wife slipped a Diztronic TPU case onto her Maxx, and despite its slim dimensions, the phone feels bulky and unpocketable. My recommendation is to skip the case if you can.
+++ If you need a quality holster for this phone and want to run caseless, and don't mind an easy do-it-yourself mod, check my review for this Sedio spring clip unit: Seidio HLSSG4AASA
The phone's back is interesting. It's not the shiny, hard plasticky finish of the Droid Ultra. Instead, it's a very lightly textured ("rubberized") but smooth finish, with the appearance of a fiber weave. This finish wraps around the bottom edges of the phone and even around the chin to the face, down by the mic. The bottom corners are all rounded, so they're somewhat comfortable -- not squared off, though not as rounded as the Galaxy Nexus. The back is smooth enough that it -does- gets smudged with fingerprints, but matte enough that they're not easily noticeable. The Verizon and Droid labels are modestly sized, and rather than bright white, are of a dark gray hue that is easy to ignore.
All together it creates a package with a hefty, high-quality feel. I never minded the durable all-plastic construction of my Nexus and Samsung's Galaxy lineup -- something many reviewers and forum posters dismiss as "cheap." But the Maxx feels anything but, possibly belied by its flat slab appearance.
Interrupting the smooth Kevlar wrap are the power and volume buttons -- all stacked on the right side -- that project from the device perhaps a little more than necessary, and with very square edges and textured surfaces. The buttons don't really jive with the carefully crafted, smooth-to-the-touch backside finish, but then again, there's no mistaking when my fingers are resting on them -- even lightly -- so hopefully no accidental presses.
/// Boot is about 1 minute 15 seconds to home screen/slide-to-unlock, but 2:25 until I get a PIN pad unlock (time in between, apps still loading and processes running) [post KitKat 4.4.4 update; original boot time was 30 seconds, which increased to 45 seconds with 12.15.15, then 55s w/ 4.4]. That's still pretty quick to phones I've owned previously, but nearly double the stock, Day 1 boot time. The busy (and noisy) Droid boot animation, followed by the default red home screen, put me off at first -- it all just feels very "angry" -- but as I'm sure you're aware, that's all easily changeable with a good selection of included live and static wallpapers (a soothing blue relaxed the feel of the phone for me; I wonder if the default aggressive red tone -- VZW's Droid branding -- turns off would be buyers at the in-store display).
While looking for my next phone, I've been really intrigued by the front-firing speaker on the HTC One. My previous phone (like practically every other phone) was rear-firing, but with speaker placement at the bottom of the phone, where my hand tended to cup it and muffle the volume. Not to mention it was a pretty weak speaker. The Maxx? Surprisingly good, by comparison. The speaker is at the top of the phone, co-located with the camera. It's loud. Even when facing into my passenger seat, the Google Nav directions come through crisply. I've tried to muffle the sound with my hand, like for instance when holding the phone in landscape mode to watch a video, and it comes through loud and clear. The sound is still projecting to the rear, which means the phone is projecting away from me and toward the rest of the room that I'm facing, but it's so much improved over the Gnex that I'm now only partially envious of the HTC speaker.
I recall quite a bit of forum debate over the 3.5mm audio jack placement on the Nexus -- some folks absolutely HATE the bottom placement (I, for one, was a fan). The Maxx puts that jack up on the top of the phone, where many users think is its rightful place. I suppose I'm indifferent since I tend to use bluetooth headphones when I'm out. But at home, laying in bed and catching up on some YouTube while plugged in to my charger, I've now got to contend with cords coming out of both sides of my phone.
One other design niggle -- wnen using the phone on a flat surface, screen presses anywhere within a half inch of the edges causes the phone to rock. The back runs flat for a few inches from top to bottom (down the spine), but is curved side to side all the way across.
Let's talk about the Super AMOLED (RGB) screen. The quality is great. Really, I'm don't feel deprived without 1080p. But, don't hate me for this, I preferred some aspects of the Galaxy Nexus Pentile (non-RGB) AMOLED better. Here's what I'm noticing with the Maxx:
- whites look slightly gray, particularly in a dark room
- blacks have sort of a reddish tinge to them, particularly in dark
- in general, pictures look underexposed (for instance when browsing a news website)
- in video playback, the black and darker areas of the screen have better overall consistency than on my Gnex (less noise)
- in bright sunlight, the screen brightness can't meet the challenge (so what's new?)
- but in dark rooms, it's almost as though the screen can't dim enough (but just slightly so)
- the active notifications appearing on the screen aren't ever-present -- the phone needs to be jostled / disturbed for the blank screen to briefly light up and display the current notifications, BUT the phone does not need to be flipped over to activate this (a light tapping of the face-up phone causes the Active Display to light up)
- >> the capacitive buttons now dim during most video playback [as up 12.15.15 update] -- nice; they were originally full bright, which was distracting in a dark setting.
- there's just the slightest amount of light leak from between the screen and capacitive buttons, over the Back button -- but only noticeable in a dark room
- the Maxx pixels per inch (PPI) display density works out to 296 PPI across the 5" screen. The Gnex screen was slightly smaller (4.7" -- less if you consider on-screen buttons took up some of that space), so despite it being the same resolution, would have been 316 PPI -- except for its shared-pixel Pentile display. I've seen the case made that the Pentile display dropped the effective PPI down to the 200 range. I can't say I ever took issue with that screen by Samsung, but I could see jaggies on certain websites, and those just aren't present on the Maxx -- this display, overall, appears sharper.
There's going to be an adjustment period for me, no doubt, but despite some of the negatives I've listed, I don't consider any of these to be deal breakers.
I mentioned the capacitive buttons. Versus the on-screen buttons found on the Moto X and Gnex, these ones are ever-present. Accessing Google Now takes a slightly paused press of the home button before swiping up, vs. the simple swipe motion (no hold) of an on-screen home button. And some older apps still call up the 3-dot menu button which takes up a whole 'nother row (a black "menu bar" across the entire bottom of the display). On phones with the virtual buttons on-screen, the main three (Back, Home, and Task) would simply make room for the skinny 3-dot -- making it all the more obscene that when it appears on the Maxx, it takes up its own row. To get around that, I can go into Settings and enable a "long press of task switcher" option. That gets rid of the wasted screen, but now I have to remember which apps use this long press to access the menu (and some apps only do this on certain screens). This should be less and less of a problem as developers update their apps, as I believe the standard for the OS v4.0 and higher is to display the menu ellipses at the top right corner of the application.
+++ Speaking of OS, my phone came with Jelly Bean 4.2.2, but units shipping now ought to have KitKat 4.4 installed (or otherwise readily downloadable via an easily access "Check For Updates" selection in the Settings > About Phone > System Updates menu). If you're coming from a Gnex, KitKat is basically the same, only snappier. If you're coming from Ice Cream Sandwich or Gingerbread, I guarantee you'll be impressed with the smoothness and overall look/feel of this operating system.
I'm still setting up my various apps and checking them for compatibility. I'm not going to attempt to generate a comprehensive list of what does / doesn't work, but here are some quick notes:
- /// As of the 4.4.4 update, on-againg/off-again FoxFi is no longer compatible for WiFi tethering. You'll have to resort to USB tethering instead.
- >>> As of 11/12/13, FoxFi is compatible for tethering. It *requires* a PIN-enabled lock screen (not pattern) due to some VPN nonsense that I admittedly don't completely understand (FoxFi was great on the Galaxy Nexus, and didn't require this)
- +++ Google Wallet tap-to-pay IS supported with as of the KitKat OS -- an app I've been running on the Gnex since about week one. Cruel irony, my purchase of the Maxx was my last Google Wallet NFC transaction before the KitKat update (Verizon clerk: "Oh, I've never seen THAT before!" as I swiped my Nexus across her payment terminal)
- YouTube updated me to version 5.0, which I was not yet able to access on the Play Store from my Gnex or my TF700T tablet
- Swype keyboard is working A-Ok, and pops up nearly instantly when called
- +++ Nova Launcher is working A-Ok; mic icon in "persistent search bar" (shortcut to Google Now) calls up the voice recognition screen nearly instantly; [new KitKat option for transparent notification bar works as demonstrated on Nexus KitKat devices]
- Sound Profile app by Corcanoe is A-Ok without any of the problems / workarounds experienced by Galaxy S4 users
- The stock Android dialer app has been enhanced to allow dialing by first or last name, or partial phone number -- nothing new for users of skinned versions of Android (Touchwiz, Sense, Motoblur) or other OSs, but a feature requiring an aftermarket app for stock Nexus users; alas, no updated 4.4.4 dialer as seen on Nexus devices
- +++ "OK Google Now" is quick, responsive, and pretty awesome... but less so with a lock screen [New with KitKat: with user permission, the phone allows certain voice commands to process even if the phone is locked; actions requiring an unlock allow the user to speak the PIN code]
- "Set alarm for ten a.m." used to take me directly to the stock clock app, even though I had alternate alarm applications installed. No longer; I'm now given the option to default to whichever one I choose (tested with Timely and Alarm Clock Xtreme); no such luck with "set timer for three minutes", which still just sets an alarm for whatever time is closest to 3 minutes from now
- As expected, logging in with my Google credentials automatically downloaded all my apps and contacts, with the exception, oddly enough, of Facebook
- Not exactly an app, but the brightness slider from the main pull-down menu is very picky, doesn't like switching back to "Auto," and times out quickly -- but works fine from Power Control widget
- +++ There's a bug in the task switcher where not all open apps appear -- including the app I'm currently using (this originally was the same with the Gnex, but was changed in a recent OS update). [This seems to have been partially resolved with KitKat -- it still happens, but less frequently.]
- +++ [Settings > Apps now has a dedicated "Disabled Apps" view to allow me to see all the unwanted Verizon pre-installed goodies I've exiled from my app drawer. They used to appear at the bottom of the lists.]
- /// I've been using the LEEF microSD card reader for added storage; with 4.4.4 USB OTG means this reader is natively supported (using your preferred file manager such as Astro)
+++ The Camera [post 12.15.15 update & post KitKat observations]: I'm now super happy with the camera. Images were always as sharp as can be expected from a cell phone, with good, natural colors. There's no longer a problem with highly contrasted scenes (original firmware couldn't handle bright backlighting, such as under a canopy of trees with a bright sky in the background). I'll continue to rely on my compact camera outfitted with an Eye-Fi Mobi when I'm looking for best clarity and dynamic range, but the Maxx's results are definitely suitable for everyday, in-the-moment type shots. Under KitKat, Tap-To-Focus has been replaced with "Drag-To-Focus:" drag the focal bracket anywhere on the screen to set the focal point and exposure; tapping anywhere on the screen releases the shutter. Holding my finger press captures a multiple exposures at a rate of one frame per second (and displays a convenient counter), great for automatic GIF animation by the magic behind Google Plus (which I have set up to auto-upload my pics). The updated camera UI moves the mode dial to a large arc along the left edge, and utilizes that nifty "twist yer wrist" technique to pop directly into camera mode from sleep, like the Moto X (and no unlock PIN required). There's also a half-decent slo-mo video mode, which is fun for well-lit scenes of fast moving objects, or just a honey bee landing on a flower. The HDR mode is incrementally improved with OS 4.4 -- still not on par with true 3-frame HDR post-processing, but an acceptable substitute for scenes where compromised lighting would otherwise challenge these rinky-dink sensors. As of the 12.15.15 update, the camera software now appears to be updated as an app in Google Play, which ought to mean no more delays waiting for Verizon to vet the software via their "slowest in the biz" OS update process.
The flash is dimmer and yellower than what I've become accustom to on my Nexus, but this is only evident when I'm using it as a flashlight. In flash-filled photos, the camera's white balance is adjusted appropriately for the non-exactly-white LED, and as long as my expectations aren't too high (i.e. subjects are within 6-10 feet of the camera and I'm not trying to light a whole room), the photos seem to be adequately focused, and in a matter of only a second or two. But don't expect you're going to freeze any poorly-lighted motion with this shooter, and expect to see a good amount of noise at full rez. This isn't a Nokia, after all!
The operating system is pretty dang close to stock Android. Motorola threw some extras in there for the camera and photo sharing, plus a widget or two, and of course there's a whole bevy of Verizon bloat including NFL, MyVZW, visual voicemail, VZW nav, etc... even a caller ID service that sneakily activates, then tries to enroll the user for monthly billing. But with 32 gigs of memory on board, a little attention paid, and the ability to quarantine these apps, they're hardly a bother. The phone's interface is pure Google.
In that list of apps up above, I pointedly mention the delay-free call-ups of the Swype keyboard and the Google Now microphone icon. Launching these actions had been increasingly bogged down on my Nexus, I believe due to memory management issues. Androids TRIM memory management in Android 4.4 should prevent that on this phone.
+++ The "OK Google Now" voice wake (well, really, it works when the phone is already awake, too) is shaping up to be more than a gimmick. After an initial "voice training" session in a quiet place, I OK Google Now'd my phone where it sat on the passenger seat cushion. "Navigate to work" (work already being defined in my Google Now account) and, bingo, I'm hearing Google's familiar, clear directions. Same with text messages to my wife, and setting an alarm. One step closer to hands free. With KitKat, many actions such as Navigation or alarm settings can be voice-initiated without entering a PIN or Pattern unlock. If I dictate a text to my wife, after voice-composing the message and verifying the recipient, the Maxx will prompt "Say or type PIN code" before sending, for a true hands free interaction!
+++ Although regarding pin/pattern unlock, the Maxx offers up a cool option (excuse me if this is old news -- new to me) to recognize trusted Bluetooth devices, and gives the option to leave the phone unlocked as long as it remains in range. Think car, smartwatch, a generic USB dongle in a home or office PC, etc. -- the phone will only lock down when it "walks away" out of signal range of one of these trusted Bluetooth devices. [However, I've deactivated this built-in feature for a paid app called SkipLock, which does the same, but with WiFi, too, and it works extremely well.]
Oh... face unlock makes a reappearance, too. I actually used that a bit on the Gnex.
I can't post this review without mentioning the all-important connectivity. The radios are great -- both 4G & wifi.
- In my basement, where I've struggled to pull a 3G signal on the Gnex, I maintained a 4G connection on the Maxx, which allowed me to download apps (initial phone setup) while watching an HD video on YouTube
- On the main floor of the house, where my signal would flip between 3G and 4G on the Gnex, the Maxx operates decidedly in 4G territory
- At work, one room in the office far removed from the wifi antenna would consistently go to zero bars (yet, frustratingly, not lose it completely and therefore would not switch over to the strong 4G signal), I now have at least one wifi bar accompanied by a usable flow of data
- Overall, switching between wifi and 4G on the margins seems improved vs. what I had before, though even with "ignore weak wifi connections" checked, the Maxx at times seems indecisive about switching from one to the other. If I have one wifi bar that's trickling data, and a 3-bar 4G signal available, the choice should be obvious
- No problem with Bluetooth connections; I'm stoked that I now have full integration with my Ford's Sync system, with artist/track tagging from Pandora, and read-out-loud messaging with canned replies
- Voice call quality overall is excellent. This is one of Motorola's strong suits, I hear. I'm impressed.
Do you remember the iPhone 4's "death grip" problem? It seems that in marginal 4G areas (like that signal-quashing basement I mentioned), turning the Droid Maxx to landscape mode and holding it with both hands causes it to show a drop of 5 to 10 dBm off the signal strength meter (Settings > More > Mobile Networks > Network Type and Strength). If I'm already in the (low strength) -115 to -120 range, this results in me completely losing 3G and 4G connectivity. Releasing one hand brings the signal back to life. Where my 4G signal is strong, the signal drop is there, but my connection remains intact.
I've taken GPS accuracy for granted for a few years, so I was surprised to notice the Maxx's sense of direction may be slightly off. I use Google Nav frequently, and on a couple of occasions, the Maxx seemed to think I strayed off course onto the streets vs. getting on the freeway on-ramp, or exited when I really stayed on the highway, and as such gives me a fast re-route and impossible directions. It (well, Google Nav) then quickly corrects itself. I'd chock this up to accepted errors in compacted urban driving environments, except that the Gnex, previous Garmin devices, and Ford GPS simply don't exhibit this behavior. It would only be a problem if I already screwed up and missed a turn, but this nevertheless results in confusing instructions. Though other than those relatively minor blips, location setting is fast and mostly accurate, even in many indoor settings.
Another point to mention: Heat. My Galaxy Nexus often ran hot. When it did, I knew it was busy with something that was burning through the battery. This phone has run even hotter, both times in the car plugged in. The first was just downloading apps, the second was also running Nav with the screen on the whole time. But I've yet to see it run this hot outside of the car, and in fact, in the car running Nav but not plugged in, and not downloading apps, is was perfectly cool (and only lost 4% of the charge over about 20 minutes of Nav + screen-on time). So I'm guessing the heat comes from the 4G radio and processor working overtime switching cell sites, transferring data, and unpacking / installing applications, though again, this isn't the case when it's doing those same tasks sitting still in the house (and on 4G).
Check back. I'm sure I'll have some more detail to add to this already too-long review as I get to know this phone, particularly with respect to battery life, application compatibility problems & successes, and more observations on the radio switching & possible "death grip" issue.
But in summary, I'm sticking with my title -- this phone may have some issues here and there, and it may not be the fastest/biggest/most beautiful/polished specimen out there this late summer and fall, but in my opinion it's the first suitable contender to supersede the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, and betters that phone in a number of key areas. I have a great deal of confidence in Motorola at this time -- both in their tie to Google, and their strong affiliation with VZW. Thankfully, if you're tied to Verizon, you've suddenly got a few good choices after a long drought.
/// The 4.4.4 update continues with minor "polishing" and not much in the way of big features -- some supposed camera improvements, some slight bug fixes, and couple of minor UI tweaks, and the switchover to the ART runtime -- which I'm seeing is resulting in a couple of apps not running, but should result in snappier performance for those that have addressed this. What I'm not seeing yet? Device mirroring Chromcasting (none of the Droids are on the compatibility list), and an upgrade path to Android L (again, not on any lists I've seen). This continues to be a good phone, and a good buy at a discounted price. We're at that point where the device is stable and mature, but there are new options on the horizon, so although my rating stands, it's probably time to look at newer or up-and-coming phones.
on August 27, 2013
Like the first reviewer here on Amazon, I was moving from the Samsung Galaxy Nexus to...something with a battery that lasted more than 8 hours. Overall, I liked the GNex, but I had gotten to the point where I had to charge the phone mid-day even if I hadn't taken the "darn" thing out of my pocket. And sometimes it got HOT in my pocket, again even though I hadn't pushed a single button. I had a total of four batteries for the phone because if I was traveling, I could easily go through three in a day.
I had not intended to pick up Droid Maxx on release day. I figured I would wait and see what the reviews were like, but I stopped by the store anyway to check it out. And I was hooked. BTW, Motorola Migrate is awesome. It would be even better if it also put on the same apps you had on the old phone, but moving my pictures and music with my contacts was a big bonus.
Battery was issue #1 and I knew that it couldn't get much better. My wife has the iPhone 4S and both my boys have Droid Razr Maxx phones. All those phones are pretty good when it comes to battery life. I hate the iPhone because I don't find it easy to use and Siri is an idiot compared to Google.
Anyway, I immediately went on a trip to Washington DC with the new phone and despite HEAVY usage pretty much all day long, I still had 32% battery at the end of that first long day (it is my work station on the road). The next two days were even better since I wasn't downloading so many apps. BTW, the Moto rep was in the store when I got the phone and talking to both the rep and the technical specialist, they twisted my arm to get the wireless charger. I don't think I will ever go back. It is supposed to be the best charging method and you don't have wear and tear on the charging port. It is really sweet!
I love the screen. Despite the fact that phone is nearly the same size as my GNex, the screen is larger. It is clear and I don't have any issue with the colors. I let the phone auto-adjust the screen brightness to save battery and it works well. I am not a screen purist, so others may disagree.
We routinely spend weekends in a area that ranges between one bar of 3G down to no reception. My GNex would be dead in about three hours while it struggled to get a signal. The Maxx had 62% battery at the end of the long day.
Signal reception is excellent. Like I said in our trip to the sticks, the other phones in our party had little or no signal. The Maxx had better reception than all other phones. The GNex always had a very weak signal (often zero G) in my office, while the Maxx has three bars of 4G.
Call quality has been excellent. There is a tiny bit of hiss when the other party is talking, but otherwise there is no background noise at all. I've not got the best hearing in the world, but I can hear the other party quite well.
The final battery test was at work. If I had minimal phone use during the day, my GNex would be at 10% battery by 7pm, sometimes less (even with a higher capacity battery I purchased at Amazon). After a full day at work, the Maxx was at 82% battery. That sealed the deal for me!
on September 3, 2013
This phone integrates elements designed by Google/Motorola and Verizon. I can definitely see which company has its act together and which does not. (hint: VZW should stick to building networks)
+ Battery life is truly amazing, and is actually as advertised. 2 days without recharging. Moto has done really well. This is by FAR the biggest selling point of the phone - and it's a very important one. It's as transformative to the phone's usefulness as broadband was to computers.
+ The wifi and LTE radios are much better than my wife's iPhone 5. Cleaner switching between multiple 2.4G and 5G access points throughout the house, and better rural LTE reception. Also amazingly, the LTE radio doesn't drain the battery at the pace other phones seem to experience.
+ The 720p AMOLED screen is great, contrary to what others say. I can't see pixels on even the smallest text. It's bright enough in daylight, and can go to a blacker black than others I've owned.
+ The ROM is pretty close to stock, with the exception of Verizon stuff (see below).
+ The voice control is wonderful. I can say "OK google now, play a song by Adele", even in the presence of background car noise while driving, and without touching a thing it'll start Spotify and play Adele. (I don't like the Google Play Music stock app but it lets you select which app is used for auto audio play).
+ The UI is buttery smooth irrespective of apparent CPU load. Finally, an Android phone as responsive as an iPhone.
+ The case and screen feel good to touch and hold. I won't be (voluntarily) testing how strong the Kevlar is, but it looks solid. The phone overall is bit too wide to hold comfortably, particularly with the nav button on the lower left which causes one's thumb to have to really reach for any backup action on a web page, for example.
+ Motorola has free live human tech support for this phone for any questions. People on web chat, backed up with good searchable documentation. Very responsive, minimal waiting.
- It's full of Verizon crapware. NFL football, VZW Navigator, VZW Backup Assistant Plus, VZW Tones, etc. These can be disabled in most cases (except Backup Assistant Plus), but cannot be uninstalled, at least with the stock ROM. Backup Assistant Plus crashed the phone repeatedly to the degree that I had to do a complete factory reset - 3 hours after having got the phone. Seriously, when will VZW learn that their apps suck and if people want them they can install them themselves. This is by far the most negative aspect of the phone and I nearly returned it because of this. There are Amazon apps also installed into the ROM by default but I don't mind these - I'm an enthusiastic Amazon customer so I'd have installed them anyway, and their apps actually function, in contrast to Verizon's.
- Even though it has NFC, Verizon has again blocked Google Wallet. They haven't provided an alternative because their Isis service hasn't been launched yet. So they are shutting off the market till THEY are ready. Shouldn't there be an antitrust case about this? I find it preposterous. I should be the one deciding what service I use to pay with my money, not Verizon. If their Isis service is compelling when it's launched, I'll use it. But don't block me from using a service that is running now, that I like, and that is supported by a device that I paid for in full. All this does is to make me distrust Verizon.
- The Miracast screen sharing and "Droid Zap" file sharing apps that are hyped in the ads are gimmicks. Miracast sucks anyway, Google Chromeplay is better and I can't see why they didn't opt for that. Droid Zap (a simple file sharing technology) requires a receiving phone also of the Motorola persuasion, so that's unlikely to be useful to most people.
- The back is not removable (probably to accommodate the battery shape required for its amazing capacity). So you can't keep spare batteries for long business trips, but you won't have to. There is no SDcard slot. But it's got 32GB built in so that's OK for most uses. Frankly I'd rather have the battery capacity.
- Brightness for the navigation buttons cannot be changed. They're permanently bright, even if the screen is dimmed, so these act as an involuntary flashlight shining in your eyes when you watch a movie, for example. Brightness control apps like Lux cannot control them either. You have to root, which I don't want to do with a new phone (and there aren't ROMs out yet that can use the voice control anyway).
- The presence of special features such as always-awake voice control via that custom low-power chip means that this phone will probably not have that many custom ROMs written for it in the future. At least not ones that include all of the phone's nice features. Which means that one would rely on Verizon for ROM updates - and they have a terrible track record for updates. The Verizon Galaxy Nexus "toro" phone for example lagged 4 releases behind Google, despite their promises that it would stay up to date with Android releases as a Nexus phone. I don't trust them to update this phone competently so I have to be happy with the ROM being static the way it is on release day, even though Google will continue to release improvements to Android.
on November 21, 2013
I'm not going to go over every spec of the Droid Maxx, as better reviewers have done so, but I do want to describe my overall experience with moving from an iPhone to the Maxx.
I have been an iPhone gal since smartphones burst on the scene. It was time to upgrade, so I had an iPhone 5s on order. But the shipment got messed up, so the Verizon guy suggested I try out a Droid Maxx while I waited. Despite being an Apple gal, resistant and entrenched in that ecosystem, he bet me I would end up getting the Maxx. You know what? I did!
Not only is the price, screen size, standard memory size (32 gb) and battery life much, much better on the Maxx, this phone is way more useful and comfortable than I could have imagined. Even though the initial switch was somewhat terrifying and quite time consuming compared to an iDevice, the Android platform lets you customize absolutely everything. By most accounts, the allure of the iPhone is that it's the most elegant and easiest-to-use smartphone, and that may remain true, but you can change very little on it, and for me, suddenly having access to the world of Android phone customization and free mega-storage through Google+ pulled me further from Apple. Especially as I could easily migrate all of my own music from iTunes over to Google, getting free cloud storage of 20,000 tracks for my personal music burned from my own cd's-- iCloud stores only iTunes-purchased content for free.
Once I got familiar with it, the Maxx' especially tight integration into the Google world (Google owns Motorola) made navigation, voice control, notifications, weather, etc. all flow together in much the same way that Apple's services/features overlap. And I actually found that Google Now responded and behaved at least as well as Siri, if not better. It's also very cool to be able to wake up or find my phone with just my voice, even if I'm way across the room. Three times already I've located my lost phone in very strange places that would have eluded me!
I still love the simplistic beauty of Apple's hardware and software, but honestly, in the end, I skipped this iPhone 5s cycle because the Droid Maxx did do what I needed it to do (lots of web surfing, music/video playback, email use), on a screen big enough to actually see, for a very, very long period of time between charges, all with product features that matched, or bested the iPhone 5s. In every way, that is, except for the camera, unfortunately. Despite a 10mp capability and a recent software tweak by Motorola, the camera is still inferior to many smartphones'. The update did improve performance in low light conditions, and outdoors shots are fine, but the indoor flash balancing is still quite substandard. I personally have found the camera to be just fine for my needs, but if camera specs are critical, this phone won't stack up. Maybe the announced update to KitKat will include more fixes?
In the end, though, I would definitely recommend the Droid Maxx to anyone thinking of leaving Apple right now. The Maxx stands up in just about every way to the iPhone 5s, and then some.
on November 15, 2013
This phone is way better than some of the other reviews make it out to be. I was between this and the LG-G2... and I am so happy I chose the Droid Maxx.
1) Battery: I am a moderate smartphone user. I work in a hospital where I get calls/texts/pages on my phone. I text, call, use e-mail, calendar, do quick searches on medical apps, and listen to Pandora in my car. When I unplugged my phone the first morning, I had 85% at the end of the first day, left it unplugged overnight, 50% at the end of the second day, unplugged overnight again, and ended up with 25% around 2:00 at which time I plugged it in. The battery really does stand out in this phone.
2) Reception is great. 4G LTE all around the hospital, and even still good 3G reception in the basement. No complaints.
3) Stock Android 4.2.2 with VERY minimal Verizon bloatware, and the Motorola specific features are mild, and even useful. The Chrome texting extension is nice to respond to text messages while I sit at the computer.
4) Snappy, snappy, snappy. I had an HTC EVO 4G LTE (Sprint version of HTC One X) that had a 1.5 dual core, and the Droid Maxx's 1.7 dual core (X8, whatever) processor really holds up much better. Google Maps/Navigation snaps right up on screen, finds the address. Browsing is quick. Switching tasks is seamless. Pandora starts right up with no wait or lag when selecting options.
5) Unlocked. You can use this phone with a SIM card you buy abroad. Or with an AT&T SIM, whatever. Travel a lot? Get this phone.
6) Nice screen. The screen is the typical over-saturated AMOLED screen, but honestly it was strange to me for about 5 minutes. I'm used to the colors, and actually prefer them. The HTC had a more "natural" Super LCD screen, but it's NOT a factor in my opinion.
7) The AMOLED screen allows for "Active Notifications" which is actually a really nice add-on to this phone. Basically, the phone senses when it is taken out of a pocked, picked up off a table, shifted to be used... then it pops up the time and any notifications onto the screen with minimal battery use. You can then delete the notification, or open it up right then and there. Sounds silly, but it's a really nice, elegant feature. The screen is pretty close to "edge-to-edge", though not like the LG-G2... but it's really not that big of a difference. Difference between 720p and 1080p is SO hard to see on a screen this small, that I'm surprized people actually care. Less pixels=less strain on the GPU/CPU, lower battery consumption. I don't need super-high def to read an e-mail, high def is overkill anyway. Period.
8) Solid build quality. The back of the phone "probably" isn't Kevlar, but the soft-touch/rubberized backing is really, really nice. So much so, that I have decided not to get a case for the phone since it looks so nice, and doesn't attract fingerprints. The backing is very similar to the TPU cases you buy here anyway. The phone has got some solid heft to it, but I like that.
9) Camera is ok. There are probably better cell phone cameras, but I don't take a ton of pictures on my phone. It's really good enough for those times when I find something funny to show my friends... you know, once a month MAYBE. I wouldn't say it's bad, I'd just say it fine. Similar to the HTC One X.
Well, that's it. I'd highly recommend it. Actually, I already did... to my co-workers. They're impressed, as was I. I'll keep you posted on anything that changes, but I'm sticking to it that this is a great phone.
Had this phone for about two months now, and it has only gotten better.
1) Touchless Control: I tried out the "touchless control" and it works really quite well (note: the phone has to get to know your voice, so if you have voice texted on an Android in the past, chances are the phone knows your voice well because it connects to Google, which learns your voice. If this is your first Android, it'll take about 10-20 commands for it to get good.) I am able to do a lot without touching the phone. HUGE NOTE: it will suck battery much quicker. I still can get two days, but it won't go into the second night and into the third day like it does with touchless control off. Hence, I keep it off.
2) Very stock Android. I mean really, none of that Touchwiz/Sense stuff going on here (although, Sense is pretty nice) but I will say, I really like the stock, snappy feel of this operating system. The nice thing is that with Touchwiz/Sense, some RAM is used up since it's basically a "skin" on stock android, here, you don't have that. Nice.
3) Battery. Still a big wow factor. Unplug my phone Friday morning, drive out to my friend's cabin up north Wisconsin... forgot my charger. Phone lasted till I got back Sunday night without going into the Red (granted I didn't use it much since I was having fun up north). Really useful when your group splits up at the bars late on a Saturday night, and you are confident your phone still has battery to call them. Way up in the sticks. Nice.
4) I got the Skinomi screen cover and it's really nice. The material doesn't attract fingerprints, and lets my finger glide on it (not stick to it like the glass screen). It isn't glass smooth, more orange-peely, but it's still SUPER clear. And, REALLY easy to make it perfect. No bubbles, perfect fit. (it's a wet application protector, so once it's on the phone, it can be re-positioned for a couple minutes as it dries so you get the perfect placement)
5) Like I said, I haven't gotten a case for it, and there are still no scratches to the back of the phone. Like mentioned, it's a rubberized backing material that honestly feels like a TPU case itself. I still don't think this phone needs the case, and I'm going to stick to that. (if you drop your phone a lot, that might be a different story, but I don't)
CONS: Not many at all, really. It's a really, really nice phone. This is what smartphones have been aiming for all along. Nice screen, battery, feel, reception, storage, etc... The only things:
- Home screen does't wrap around (so what, right? It doesn't bother me, but there you go)
- Running Applications button sometimes needs two attempts to get it to work. Maybe my fingers are too fat, who knows.
- Contacts' pictures don't sync with Facebook like they did on my HTC... really missed that, so I found an app that works REALLY well: HaxSync ($4, I think). Now all my contacts have HD quality pictures uploaded straight from Facebook.
- When connected to Bluetooth, it plays at full volume through my car stereo. That's good, but when I go to change the phone volume up/down, it gets quieter. It's hard to explain. Basically, I just have to use the car stereo to regulate the volume (duh, that's fine) not the phone. There is a setting that popped up the FIRST time I connected the bluetooth, and I just quick hit 'Accept' without reading it... that was probably the problem. Just FYI.
That's it! I really recommend this phone.
on November 8, 2013
This review is for the Droid Maxx, the phone introduced AFTER Google purchased Motorola, it does not have Motorola or Razr in the name. I upgraded from the Razr M, a device I really, really liked. The M is small with a good sized screen, and extremely tough. I had no case or screen cover on it and dropped in countless times and it still worked flawlessly. I upgraded to the Maxx because I was due, and I have kind of wanted a phone with a bigger screen ever since trying a Galaxy S3 a year ago (which I returned after a few days because I absolutely hated it). So enter the Droid Maxx. I know my way around phones, but am not an IT guy, so I'll bullet why I love the Maxx from the perspective of a 'regular guy' user:
-Screen feels huge, but the phone doesn't. Why? I have no idea. I lined it up with a Galaxy S4 and it's the same size, but it feels smaller to me for some reason.
-The operating system is pretty close to native Droid. It doesn't have a bunch of added stuff like Samsung and HTC put on their phones. What it means is the thing works flawlessly. One of the things I hated about the G3 was random applications would open for no apparent reason, and all the stupid tips and tricks loaded by Samsung felt like those old HP desktop computers when you first booted them up.
-Simple to get up and running. Two exchange mailboxes and one gmail was an absolute piece of cake to get going.
-Battery life is nuts, but by now everyone knows this
-Device feels really tough, like my old M. I can put it in my back pocket and sit on it with no worries. The S3 always felt about to break.
-Feels good in the hand, heavy but not too heavy. Yes it costs more, but I have no idea why someone would buy an Ultra for a tiny weight savings considering the battery life on this one.
-Google now. You program your own voice, then say "OK Google" and the phone will wake up and you can get directions, set appointment, call or text without picking it up. Very useful when driving
-Call quality is excellent (Verizon)
-Quirks: Has none. Not yet anyway. Doesn't randomly get hot like the Galaxy did, doesn't freeze up (like the Galaxy did on the 2nd day), etc. etc.
-I'm a gmail/Google guy, so if you have a gmail account, this thing synchronizes everything very well. Probably not unlike an iPhone with iTunes. It offers a lost phone/wipe service for free, which I really like. I had a third party one on my M, but it's nice having all this stuff linked to gmail. If I lose my phone, I don't have to remember what I did with the third party website, how to log in, etc.
The two things about this smart phone that I suppose you could consider as negative are that it's not very exciting looking like the HTC One or S4. Looks like a garden variety, generic Droid. But I don't care. If you do, get a prettier phone. The second is the lack of an SD slot. This is a non factor to me though, as the device has 32G of memory. By the time I come close to needing that much space it will be several years, and I will have upgraded by then. In fact, to me native memory is easier than using an SD anyway. So in conclusion: The Droid Maxx is, in my opinion, BY FAR the best Droid device, and probably the best smart phone currently available. CNET calls it the best Droid, so they agree. My wife has an iPhone 5s and you can't compare Apple to Droid anymore. iPhones are great; they always work and are super easy, but from a technological and configuration standpoint there really isn't any comparison. And now that Google owns Motorola, I'll bet these devices keep getting better and better.
If you are an iPhone user tired of Apple's schtick, you could do a lot worse than a Droid Maxx.
UPDATE: It's been about three weeks, which is plenty of time to have discovered quirks or things I don't like. And I have found none. Not one. This smartphone is amazing. I bought the Speck brand case and a screen cover, and am absolutely thrilled. All the apps run great, and the battery is just plain crazy. I got three days out of it last week. Even when it is down to 8% or so, there is still plenty of time left for a few more calls. To get the three days I turned it off at night by the way. If left on, two full days is a realistic expectation.
on September 22, 2013
I have used a lot of different Android phones since 2009, and this is the best experience yet. After getting things set up I am really impressed with it. It really feels like a polished and premium phone experience. It isn't too heavy or thick, but feels a bit big in the hand compared to my previous Galaxy Nexus. The new Motorola features feel very well done and if I had to switch to stock again I would miss them.
The screen looks great! It is a huge improvement from my old Galaxy Nexus and it looks very hi res to me. It looks very similar to my iPad 3 with the retina display. The colors are rich and it is easy to read everything. I have seen my friends 1080 screen and I don't see any difference. The lower resolution means it runs more smoothly and it uses less battery. Great decision by Moto to go for the 720 screen. As for the size, it is plenty big. I would compare it with the HTC One or GS4.
I was not really expecting much after hearing that it was just a dual core processor. But after using it for a few hours I am VERY impressed. I move instantly in and out of apps, switch apps quickly, and I can still use the phone just fine even when I am updating lots of apps in the background. I have tried out the GS4 in the Verizon store a bunch and it has plenty of lag doing these things. Samsung has never put much care into optimizing Android for their phones.
It has a smallish Verizon logo on the back at the bottom with no logos or other BS on the front at all. This phone is a bit bigger than my Galaxy Nexus before this and takes a bit to get used to. It just feels bigger because there is not much curve in the corners of the device like there is with the Samsung smartphones. It doesn't have that awful design from the previous models where the device isn't an actual rectangle thankfully. I would compare it in size almost exactly to the HTC One.
The phone feels great in the hand and doesn't feel heavy at all for the size of the battery inside. In fact it feels plenty light. It is definitely lighter than my Galaxy Nexus with the extended battery (~2200 mAh) and much thinner too. The matte finish on the back is very nice and gives it a really quality feel. In the previous Droid Razr series the Kevlar back felt a bit much because it is much thicker. This new thin model has the best feel of any smartphone backing I have tried lately. I guess I am not a fan of the aluminum backing the HTC One has.
The biggest downer I had about this phone was the built in buttons as opposed to the on screen ones. On the older apps it shows a bar at the bottom of your screen with the menu icon. Then I found out you can hide that bar at the bottom and just hold down the multitask button to see the bar. I got used to it in a snap and now am happy to have the extra screen space.
As for the usual Verizon crapware, there is plenty of it on this phone. Thankfully with the disable app function I was able to kill all the ones I knew I would never use. Once I did that it was almost just like a clean phone, with the exception of a Verizon login and widget I couldn't get rid of.
This is a really cool feature. I wasn't expecting much here, but I was pleasantly surprised. When it senses movement or when you get a notification it fades the pretty looking messages and fades them away after a short period of time. It is very minimalistic so you won't be bombarded with a bunch of text or icons. Because they fade in and out you won't need to worry about screen burn in. You can select what apps are allowed to use the notification system. It really feels like it is a new stock Android feature, not just a Moto specific one.
This was a hidden easter egg for me. I didn't hear anything about it until I saw it on the phone. It is a Chrome extension that allows you to send and receive text messages, view recent calls, and receive notifications all from your browser. I installed the Chrome extension and I was up and running right away. It is very polished and well done for a first version. It has a very Googleish feel to it, like it was integrated into stock Android. Now that I have used it for a month I can't live without it. I can quickly reply to texts without breaking my stride doing work.
I am a pretty light user, but I have been really impressed with the battery life. To go over 2 days without charging with normal use and still have 44% battery life left is pretty amazing. Even on heavy usage days I have been very impressed with the battery life. I played a game for 2 hours straight and only saw a 4% hit in battery life. I downloaded over 20 gigs of music with less than a 10% hit.
I have gone from always worrying about my phones battery life to not even thinking about it anymore. I feel like we have finally reached where smartphone should have been all along. It is a great feeling to not need to charge your phone much at all anymore. For my business I needed a phone where I didn't need to worry about battery anymore. This phone passed test that with flying colors!
I have seen a lot of talk on tech blogs that this phone is overpriced. I am not sure the logic there because the iPhone 5/5s was/is $299 for the 32GB model. The Droid Maxx is less here on Amazon and has a battery nearly twice the size. For me it is a no brainer since the Moto X is $199 with only a 16GB option on Verizon and a smaller battery.
This is a solid phone. I am really impressed. I would give it a solid 9/10 or even higher. This is the best Android experience I have used over the Nexus 4, GS4, HTC One, and Galaxy Nexus. If you have Verizon this is a must buy. If you are not on Verizon then just know that the Motorola X phone will be a great experience. The only downside there is the smaller battery size.
on September 26, 2013
Ordered the Droid Maxx in August on Amazon and received on Wednesday. Upgraded from a Droid X2. Battery was the #1 reason that I chose this phone. Received phone at 43% battery, activated, setup, and transfered all info from my old X2 and played with the new features for a couple hours before charging over night (phone was at 37%). Love the touchless controls (works way better then I thought it would) and active notifications. Speakers are very loud, free 6 month trial all access music is a plus. The camera is an upgrade over the droid X2, but still not good in low light/indoors. The camera is the only thing keeping me from giving this phone 5 stars, Video looks awesome, I streamed from youtube, netflix, and epix apps.Used this phone for full day today at 100% bright, wifi on, 4G on, no bluetooth(I don't really use bluetooth) and I am very impressed, 53% battery remaining after the folowing usage:
Screen time: >8 hours
Android OS: >1 hours
Phone Idle: <1 hour
Wifi: < 1 hour
Standby: < .5 hour
System: < .5 hour
Voice Call: < .5 hour
Mediaserver: < .5 hour
No FM Radio (I guess this is all phones now, but I miss it!!)
on February 1, 2014
I'm reducing my rating from a 3 star to a 1 star. This phone has a ridiculous amount of bugs, and it is barely 7 months old. Here is the list of crap I have dealt with since getting this phone:
*The screen randomly stopped turning, managed to fix it.
*The volume randomly comes back on and the vibrate option is not there.
*The volume randomly switches from phone volume to media volume even when there is no media app running.
*Regular crashes for no apparent reason.
*Texting software died about a month ago and was only resolved by a full factory reset.
*A battery draining bug appeared after the factory reset that DEMOLISHES the battery. We're talking going from 15-18 hrs heavy usage to 8-9 hrs of very light/no usage. The only way to get this bug to go away is to catch it in time (before it eats too much of the battery) and restart the device.
*Yesterday, while attempting to use the built in google toolbar, the phone crashed. When it rebooted, the power button no longer functions. I have attempted a forced restart, doesn't work since it requires the power button. I have also tried two factory resets, both to no avail.
For a phone that was purchased right before Christmas in December of 2013, this is ridiculous. The battery life isn't worth it. There are other phones out there now that have quality battery life, and hopefully they actually work. Try getting one of those instead.
I got this phone right around Christmas. I've had it a little over a month. At first, I loved it. The battery life was unparalleled. We're talking a 20 hour travel day that included constant connection to wifi, picture taking, listening to Pandora, using Facebook, internet, and all other apps and by the end of the day, I still had 32% battery life.
But recently, stuff has started going wrong. The other day, the sound randomly came back on (it had been on vibrate), and I couldn't get it to switch back to vibrate. No matter how low I turned down the phone, it still showed that there was sound. Then it kept crashing. It has crashed 3 times in the last week for seemingly no reason. And now the screen is not auto-rotating to the horizontal position when I turn my phone. When I googled this issue, I found forums full of people having the same problem, and there's a lot of "reasons" for it (none of which were what could have caused my phone to start having this problem), and even more "solutions" that don't seem to be working. I guess I could try a factory reset, but it annoys me that this phone is barely over a month old and it's already having so many issues that I'm going to have to perform a factory reset. If that doesn't work, I guess I'll have to pay a visit to my local Verizon store.
If the phone actually functioned like it was supposed to, it would be great. But with all these bugs popping up, I'm starting to be wary of the upcoming two years.
on August 30, 2013
Like the two reviewers ahead of me, I too am coming from the VZW Galaxy Nexus(launch day) and was not planning to upgrade at launch. As much as I loved that phone, it was time for a replacement. Over time the GNex was not able to go more than half a day without being charged and it began having signal problems. So in comes the Droid Maxx and so far it has been nothing but spectacular. Battery life and signal have been stellar. I was able to go a full day and half without having to charge it(with heavy use) and I have had no problem keeping signal. In fact, in the office I would never get a 4G signal, but with the Maxx it seems like it is always locked into 4G.
Other than the great battery life and signal, this phone really packs a punch. Thanks to the X8 processor, this phone really flies and can compete with any phone on the market. No performance issues so far. Also, all the extra goodies(touchless controls, 8 cores, active display, Zap, wireless charging) that Motorola has included in the Dorid and X phones are a welcomed addition to the Android world, before long I am sure that they will be standard features on the Android OS.
The build of the phone is also solid. I know many say that the current Droid's look ugly but I am a fan of the carbon fiber look, so to me the Kevlar looks great. Then again, looks are always subjective
To wrap it up, let's just say it's an awesome phone for anyone looking to upgrade or is just interested in having a great and reliable phone.
P.S. The GNex is a developer phone so it is easy to unlock the bootloader and go crazy with it. This phone is not mod friendly. Motorola has track record for not letting you unlock the bootloader. Meaning that rooting, Custom Roms, and any additional developer hacks will not be possible. I know I will miss all of that, but fortunately, the Android OS has grown so much lately that it is good just the way it is.