I moved to the Turbo from last year's Droid Maxx. My prior phone was a Galaxy Nexus. Strung together, these phones represent a continuation of Google's post-Gingerbread aesthetic, when the Android OS really began to take user interface design seriously. Each of these devices run close-to-stock versions of Android (unfortunately 4.4.4 KitKat for the Turbo at launch), without the heavy, increasingly unnecessary skins by the names of Touch Wiz, Sense, Xpria, and MotoBlur.
Construction: The Turbo is somewhat unremarkable, and maybe plain, but ugly? Eye of the beholder and all, but... No. It certainly doesn't have the fashion sense of the Moto X, nor the industrial refinement of the HTC One. From the front, it's very similar to the Maxx. The primary visual differences are the smoked chrome bezel, and the front-facing "eyebrow" speaker that easily goes unnoticed. The always-present capacitive buttons were a conservative, questionable decision by Verizon, and like 'em or hate 'em, the phone will be stuck with them and be "instantly outdated" upon the update to Lollipop, when the button design will be changed to a Playstation-esq triangle, circle and square.
The back of my 64 GB model is the "ballistic nylon" textured finish. First, I don't really believe that this is laid-up weave integrated with the phone. The pattern is too precise, too "aligned and centered" for me to go along with that -- I believe it's simply a back made of plastic (ok, fine, nylon, polymer, whatever...), with the simulated weave pattern molded in, replicating a heavy canvas-like material.
I expected this textured finish to be "grippier," i.e. less prone to slipping and dropping, than the smooth Kevlar back of my Droid Maxx, but quite the opposite is true: with the gentle way we hold, no, *cradle* our phones, maybe there's less surface contact between the fingertips and phone's back, but whatever the reason, the Turbo is more prone to sliding away. If you're at all clumsy and not planning to encase this device, it's worth checking out in-store. As it is, the ballistic nylon is the only option if you're opting for the 64 GB model.
The 64GB model is void of any Verizon branding, other than a sensible DROID logo on the back (a Verizon trademark). Even the classic "angry red" Droid boot animation and default background has been toned down. No longer does the phone croak a robotic "Droooooiiid" during boot.
Phone: Call quality is exactly what I expect from Motorola. The sound is clear, the mics seem good judging by what the people I'm talking to are saying (it's not, "You're scratchy -- say that again?"). No problem with the Bluetooth functionality in my vehicles.
The dialer is the recently updated white background, Material Design-themed version, and it's really snappy and responsive. It's funny to say that about a dial pad, but it really stands out to me how quick it is to respond to my finger press, and more importantly, my finger release -- previous dial pads have always had a bit of lag when I lift my finger to move to the next key. It sounds minor, but is in reality a big improvement in usability.
Screen: While I don't spend a lot of time ogling my phone, I *DO* look at my screen. The Maxx took a lot of heat last year for its 720p screen, when 1080p devices were all the rage. Personally, I found the 720 screen to be quite adequate, and I'm sure it helped with the battery-sipping properties of that model. However, I'll have to admit that the QHD display is absolutely stunning on the Turbo, even when watching 720p content on YouTube.
But the extra resolution doesn't do me a bit of good on certain web sites where I hoped to most take advantage of it -- for instance, my local newspaper's web app, which only generates lower-res images of the paper for browsing.
However, on text-heavy sites such as ARS Technica, where white text is displayed against a black background, GONE is the effect of the letters dimming when the screen is scrolled. Clearly, the technology driving this AMOLED screen has been refined.
If you've fooled around at all with Google's "Cardboard
" virtual reality goggles, this high res screen translates well, with individual pixels just perceptible enough to let you know they're there, without ruining the illusion. (Unfortunately, the magnetic switch on the goggles doesn't play well with the Turbo.)
The screen, it's worth mentioning, has proven to be extremely oleophobic. My Maxx's screen was constantly obscured by finger smudges, while the Turbo stays very much unimpaired. I don't know if this is a coating that will eventually lose effectiveness, or is an innate property the glass, but I'm happy have it.
Sound: Perhaps my biggest criticism of the Maxx was the rear-firing, over-tasked speaker. It sounded over-driven from day one, with just a bit too much distortion at full volume. By contrast, the front firing speaker on the Turbo is not only facing the correct direction, but its output is crystal clean. Love it! It doesn't pack the volume to fill a room, and struggles to compete with the sounds of my morning shower with the exhaust fan running. But around the house, it's excellent for personal listening, and I can listen to a newscast from a room away. The speaker is is audible for in-car navigation, even over the radio at reasonable volume settings. Just don't expect it to be LOUD.
Radios: I'm sorry to report that the cellular and WiFi radios aren't as strong as those in the Maxx. I have a few reliable, repeatable "dead spots" in specific locations at home, work, and my favorite watering hole. Last year's Maxx surprised me and pulled weak but workable signals. With the Turbo, I'm back to no reception at these locations (one is a test of WiFi reception; the others of 3G/4G). This isn't a deal breaker, just a test of the functional limits of radio technology. But remember, the Maxx achieved the dubious notoriety as THE PHONE with the highest radiation output in 2014 -- if you concern yourself with that sort of data. I guess the trade-off there was exceptional radio range.
On the topic of radios, the Turbo won't currently do simultaneous voice and data over 4G (or 3G or CDMA). Apparently Verizon is transitioning to their voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) infrastructure, and at launch, the Turbo is caught in the middle -- with one less antenna compared to the Maxx, and no VoLTE firmware to allow this important function. Voice + data are a-okay in a WiFi environment, and according to various Android websites, the phone will see an "advanced calling" software update in December to address this shortcoming.
Battery: Let's just say that battery life claims should always be viewed with skepticism. That's why I was surprised when last year's Maxx pretty much met Motorola's claimed 48-hour target. It's also why I'm surprised that the Turbo doesn't. Despite having an extra 400mAh under the hood (3900mAh battery, vs. 3500 in the Maxx), it has to drive a screen with 4x the resolution. Different processor, different launch OS, different features -- however this tallies up, my Maxx is comfortably an all-day "plus" phone (and I have my share of 24-plus hour days), which can include an hour of GPS navigation, an hour plus of video, some audio streaming, and lots of web usage -- much of it in an LTE-only environment.
For my purposes, the all day battery is just great, but the Maxx (at launch) ran circles around the Turbo. The included Motorola "Turbo Charger" is the perfect solution to pumping another 16% into the battery in a mere 15 minutes, compared with a 6% boost from a non-Turbo charger from Motorola. At the discharge rates I'm experiencing, that's about 4 to 5 hours of additional usage time. Carried over from the Maxx is the built-in wireless charging using the Qi standard. Although you'll need to pick up a compatible charging stand separately, the Tylt Vu has no problem taking this huge battery from zero to 100 in less than 5 hours.
Camera: The out-of-the box camera experience is good, with some surprises. Moto's very useful "twist to activate" feature is present -- if you're not familiar, it's a simple trick to torque my wrist twice (like turning a door knob) to call up the camera app. Because of this, I live without a camera icon on my home screen, as the quick motion opens the app nearly instantly, even when asleep and locked. Overall, exposure, color, and focus are excellent -- I take no exception with the output quality, although I do call into the question the obscene 21 MP photo size. Long-pressing the screen to capture multiple shots in continuous drive mode results in a seriously impressive burst rate of 5 frames per second, but I am disappointed the first shot takes about 1.5 to 2 seconds to capture -- that's a bit slow, though I hope can be addressed in a future firmware update.
Performance: I'll leave it to the tech sites to relate benchmark data from the Turbo's chipset (which, from the ones I've read, show it on top of the heap of current devices). Here are some real life day-to-day observations.
Boot time is 26 seconds to lock screen, and 35 seconds to "ready to use."
Facebook initialization (after downloading a FB app update, for instance) was literally taking minutes on the Maxx (you can read users complaining about this in the app's reviews). On the Turbo, this "blue screen" initialization time has been reduced to less than 15 seconds.
In general, task switching and in-app page changes are instant. The hallmark of an overtasked processor is when I realize that I'm waiting for an animation to take place during a task switch or in-app page change. None of that here. It's an all-around fluid visual experience.
Dalvik runtime is the default at launch. I haven't tried ART on the Turbo, and will probably wait until Lollipop to do so, but I was running ART on my Maxx for the last few months without any hiccups.
Memory: Google has definitely stepped away from expandable memory via SD slots, as evidenced by the last few generations of Nexus devices, and it seems that Verizon and Motorola are both on that train. Like the Maxx before it, the Turbo has no expandable memory, but the 64GB option should make amends to SD diehards. At a $50 price premium, it's a relatively good deal considering most phones up to now charge that much to upgrade from 16GB to 32.
There is good news. The Maxx is OTG ("On The Go") compatible, via the micro USB slot. This means the phone natively supports my Leef microUSB reader, so I can still easily swap files should I have the need. The Leef device is postage stamp small, about matchbook thick, so it's not something that would be left plugged in all the time. But its presence wouldn't hamper watching movies on the airplane, or plugging in extra tunes in the car (except it blocks the USB port from accepting a power cable).
Operating System: These comments will lose their substance quickly, as I expect the Turbo to transition to Lollipop in short order. Additionally, as Motorola perfected with the Maxx, they have a great deal of control over various functions of the OS that previously would have been "baked in," requiring an OS refresh -- Moto has shifted much of that to the app side, and is able to make ongoing improvements through Google Play.
Case in point: "OK Google Now" commands were initially answered with, "Opening Google..." before reading or displaying results. Less than a week into ownership, Moto updated their Moto Voice app to eliminate that small annoyance. There have likewise been minor app updates to Moto Actions and Connect.
Present are all of the Moto goodies: Active display (notifications displayed on-screen while the phone is in standby mode), Moto Voice ("OK Google Now" or a phrase of my choosing to wake), Moto Actions (senses if I'm driving, sleeping, in a meeting, etc. and adjusts behavior accordingly, i.e. reading text messages aloud in the car and prompting me to respond by voice dictation). "Attentive Display" optionally uses the front camera to sense whether the screen is being looked at to remain on -- and it works well, but in practice is only useful with screen timeout settings in the 30 second to 1 minute range. "Trusted Devices" carries over, allowing the bypass of the lock screen when connected to a known Bluetooth device; alas, this feature still doesn't work with WiFi, so I continue to disable it and use the excellent SkipLock app instead.
The OS is devoid of any skin-over, and as Moto has been doing for the past two years, is about as close to stock Android as can be hoped for -- just a few minor tweaks in the Settings menu. Verizon got their bloatware, but it's only present in the form of applications, which can easily be disabled and hidden from view. You'll find the usual pre-installed Amazon, Audible, IMDB, NFL, Softcard (ISIS mobile payments) apps in there, in addition to Verizon's Cloud, Message+, VZ Navigator (really, Verizon?!?) and others -- I've rolled back and disabled 15 pre-installed apps in total, though they can't be completely deleted, so remain present in memory.
The apps I most use that potentially get "under the skin" of Android are all work without drama: Nova Launcher, Sound Profile, Skip Lock, and Swype keyboard.
Bugs: Thankfully, not too many. This mostly picks up where the Maxx left off. I've had the odd case of the clock, WiFi, and signal strength icons showing up upside down on the left side of my status bar. On occasion YouTube video playback freezes while the audio continues. There have been a few "low battery" shutdowns when I'm at 30% remaining, and launch something processor-intensive such as Google Earth, YouTube, or Cardboard -- but these have been isolated, non-repeatable instances where the phone picks right back up after reboot. All-in-all, I haven't experienced any recurring stability issues, random reboots, or missed calls.
Summary: If you're already a Droid Maxx user, or have the S5 or HTC ONE or newer, there is probably limited justification in picking up the Turbo.
The Turbo's upped screen res, fast processor, and forward firing speaker are nice, but the Maxx remains a very usable device, with a Lollipop commitment from Motorola.
The biggest knocks against the Turbo are notable: battery life is nowhere near what's claimed, and the camera is very slow to fire its first shot.
I'm wavering between 4 and 5 stars for my rating, but the truth is, I *love* the phone, despite the shortcomings I've listed. Added together, all of these refinements over the previous generation make for an appealing update to an already solid phone.