Aug 24 AT 4:40 PM Sean Riley 51 Comments

Motorola DROID MAXX first impressions


The new DROID lineup (mini, Ultra, MAXX) hit Verizon stores this week, and we’ll have reviews of all of them for you soon. But after about 24 hours with the DROID MAXX, we thought some first impressions were in order.

When taking the MAXX out of the box, it’s immediately recognizable as a member of the Motorola DROID family. The DROID branding on the back is kind of a dead giveaway. Beyond that, the carbon Kevlar fiber backing that wraps around the front and sides of the phone has been a hallmark of the DROID line for the last couple years. The camera placement, both front and rear, the flash and even the logos for Motorola and Verizon all more closely resemble previous DROID offerings than what Motorola has done with the Moto X.

The phone has a fantastic soft-touch feel, and at least in my case, fits well in the hand allowing for easy one-hand usage. The MAXX has naturally slimmed down from the RAZR MAXX HD of last year, but it is still perceptibly not the thinnest of phones. The illusion of thinness is improved upon this year with smooth curves wrapping from the back of of the device to the front as opposed to the metallic band that separated the front and back on the RARZ MAXX HD. Like its predecessors, it has slightly more heft to it than you might expect, which rightly or wrongly, gives the phone a slightly more premium feel to me.

Powering the phone on, you are first greeted by the Motorola logo (“a Google Company”) and then the rapid flashing red DROID boot up that ends with the familiar red eye. I realize most of us rarely if ever turn off our phone, but the boot time seemed fairly quick with about 22 seconds from dead stop to the phone being usable.

My initial impressions of the somewhat contentious 720p screen are that it isn’t something that most people will care about. While I wouldn’t turn away a 1080p screen, it also isn’t something that I find crucial to my usage.

droid-maxx-1 droid-maxx-2 droid-maxx-3 droid-maxx-4 droid-maxx-5 droid-maxx-6

Now I won’t get too much into the software side of things, as that’ll be covered in the full review next week. And, given the great deal of shared DNA with the Moto X, you’ll be hearing about much of it in that review soon. I’ve had Google Glass for a couple months now, so I’m already fairly accustomed to a device that is basically always ready to take action on what you say. I haven’t had enough time with the DROID MAXX yet to decide how valuable I find that ability on a phone. As with Glass, if I’m in a crowded or noisy environment I’m naturally not inclined or even able to use the voice commands. I guess it depends on how often you find yourself in that sort of situation. If you have your own office or spend a lot of time in the car, it might be of tremendous value to you.

The voice recognition for the “OK Google Now” command has been spot-on in my experience, so far. I’ve had a few other people try to wake it up to no avail. This is a welcome change from Glass, which has no loyalty at all and will take commands from anyone around me.

I was thinking it goes without saying, but the battery life is fantastic. I haven’t been beating it up by any means yet, but the battery life after a little over 24 hours of mixed usage is at 44%. I’ll do some more standardized tests for the full review, but suffice it to say that if battery life is on top of your smartphone checklist, you aren’t going to beat the MAXX.

While the Moto X has been getting all the limelight now, it’s been the DROID line that kept Motorola somewhat relevant for the last few years. I have enjoyed the direction the company has taken with the hardware since the RAZR, specifically. Motorola has also continued to step back its software overlay. While the MAXX isn’t the virtually pristine Android install that the Moto X is, there isn’t a lot of oppressive bloat that I’ve experienced.

I’m really enjoying using the MAXX and have been having fun with the Motorola software additions, like the touchless controls and active display. I’ll let you know whether that impression holds up in my full review next week.

If you have any questions about the MAXX that you would like to see addressed in the review, just let me know in comments. If it’s something quick I’ll go ahead and answer it as soon as I can.

Sean has been with Android and Me for over 5 years and covering mobile for the last 6. He occasionally muses about gadgets and tech outside of the Android universe at Techgasms.

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  • Kris

    Thanks for the personable review. I enjoyed your non-biting, non-snob remarks. Refreshing.

    • Sean Riley

      Much appreciated Kris.

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  • charley

    we are tired of all you phone companies, you make the same shitty phones with similar functionality and sell them at a higher price

    • V338

      The Droid Maxx It is by far the best phone I have had. It is fast, I mean rally fast, smooth and rock solid. Is it perfect, No. It will be a hell of a lot better then what you are upgrading from.

  • scott

    How do u get your Google now to say good afternoon and your name?


    • DblHelix

      It randomly decides what to show on screen. Sometimes it says hello and your name. Today mine said please speak up it is noisy. Also, for the guy who thinks this phone is not top of the line I am coming from a Galaxy S4 and this phone is better in every way except the camera.

    • Sean Riley

      DblHelix nailed it, but yeah it has probably a dozen or maybe a couple dozen things that it will say to you depending on the time of day and whatever else might be going on. And you give it your name as part of the initial setup.

  • EH

    Thanks for the review! Was in the Verizon store today, and the Droid Maxx took about five seconds to change from landscape to portrait view (or the other way around). Everything else seemed to be snappy (camera, scrolling, etc), but changing the orientation of the view literally took five seconds. The Ultra that was right next to it didn’t have that problem. The Verizon rep in the store recommended that I wait a week to see what reviewers say. Have you noticed this issue with your unit?

    • V338

      I totally agree it is better than the S4. Hopefully a software update can fix/give a little more control and options to the camera.the keyboard is the best I’ve used I had swype and SwiftKey deleted them both and just use the stock one now. As for the keyboard switching mine is lightning fast no problems at all.

      • DblHelix

        Same here. Mine is almost instant to rotate.

    • Robert Cerrillo

      My droid Maxx takes about 1.5 secs to change orientation. This phone is a beast! Battery life is as advertised! Love it!

    • snowbdr89

      Yes there is a major issue its a Verizon phone which means LOCKED!

      • donger

        It’s how its going to be if you buy a Verizon phone.

    • Sean Riley

      Hi EH, I haven’t noticed that. Were you experiencing it in any particular app? I just tested it out in the camera, the browser and gmail and in each case it switched in a second or less.

  • Jbeezy

    Hows the miracast live stream to tv?

    • Sean Riley

      Jbeezy, I don’t have anything that supports miracast to test that on, but I’ll see if I can track something down to check it out for the full review or if Nick could maybe do that for his review of the mini or the Ultra.

  • nick

    Thanks for the review. I’ve had a Razr original… yes, the very first one… for over 2 years now. Needless to say, I’m ready for a new phone. One reason I hesitate to pick up the Maxx is the worry about the Navigation and over heating issue. My RAZR, and other Maxx/Maxx HD versions (pre Droid Mini, Ultra and Maxx family) have had the same issue where the phone gets extremely hot when using the GPS and Navi on the phone. This needs to be tested over long distances, usually with it running for over 2 hours. I’m wondering if the new Droids has the same issue? Can you test and respond back? Very curious…

    • Sean Riley

      Hi nick, I’ll see if I can test that out before I do the full review. I have no doubt that it’s going to heat up given that running GPS and passing through differing coverage will do that, but I take it you are saying that the phone gets uncomfortably hot. Do you usually have the phone plugged in as well?

  • Richard Richard

    It’s Kevlar not Carbon Fiber as described. Please use accurate information when reviewing. The experience the individual had with lag in orientation likely had to do with the demo software preloaded on the device. It is heavy and will run constantly. I use the ultra as my daily driver as the MAXX has the exact software and anyone who didn’t know quad/octa core performance would easily believe this was the more powerful and responsive of leading smartphones.

    • Sean Riley

      Hi Richard. Right you are on the kevlar fiber rather than carbon fiber. It’s been corrected.

  • binary

    Motorola DROID MAXX first impressions: Ugly like hell!

  • Decimus

    Just wanted to make sure that you were going to test the battery over a wifi signal streaming movies and also over the 4g streaming movies for your upcoming full review, at varying levels of brightness…extensive battery drain test anyone?

    • Sean Riley

      Decimus, I’ll definitely do some tests along those lines. After burning through 60% of the battery in about 25 hours or so I managed to go through the next 40% in about 13 hours as I streamed video over wifi for about an hour and then was taking a bunch of pictures and video with it at the end of the day. I don’t want to read too much into any of that though as it was my first full charge of the device and I want to do at least a couple cycles before I do any “official” battery testing.

  • TAN5150

    Bought mine day one. Return the GS4, and can’t be happier. I had the iPhone 5 as well. The DROID Maxx has been solid, no lag and battery last all day and more with heavy use. I will try the moto x but like the screen size on the Maxx.

  • Chris

    I’m worried about the choice of processor and longevity of the phone’s smoothness/speed. What do you think? I’m between this and the Lg G2, which also should have pretty good battery life. The Lg is comforting in that it has the new 800 Snapdragon, which should be more promising in terms of performance longevity. I know nobody has much experience with the G2, but what would you do? I also kind of want to see what the Nexus 5 brings, if it is in fact based on the G2. Confusion! Then there’s always the boring but reliable iPhone…

    • redraider133

      If you’re worried about updates I’d go with moto since lg isn’t good at all with updates. I mean they still haven’t updated the options g and haven’t said anything about future plans. The processors in today’s phones easily can handle apps even a year or two down the road. Remember this uses the same GPU that’s in the s4 and HTC one which all were considered top of the line only a few months ago.

  • Alido Borrero

    I love this phone, the screen is very nice, this is an RGB AMOLED not Pentile,very sharp. My only gripe is that the hardware buttons are always on and very bright even when watching a video, its really distracting. If anyone knows how to fix this please let me know, but besides that it’s incredible!

    • Snooze

      I can’t speak to a specific way to do for the Maxx but I use an app called “Screen Filter.” The screen on my S3 is too bright at night and this allows me to dim it to where I like. But one thing it does is disable the hardware lights.

      May be worth a try.

  • Andrew

    Is there going to be a Maxx developer edition?

  • aholland1

    Decided to roll with this phone on launch day to upgrade my beloved GNex after reading lots of reviews on other sites. As others have said, it really is a great phone and makes one question the existence of the Ultra. The battery really is epic and the fact you can crush it all day without fear of needing a charger really is quite liberating. I’ve also yet to make it stutter and the touchless controls for Google Now are awesome. I even like the Moto Assist while driving and the active notifications which all look great on the display (lack of 1080p is proving to be a non-issue coming from the GNex as it still looks better). The fact too you can use trusted paired bluetooth devices to keep it unlocked is a very under-hyped feature that should be which I can only see getting better once they allow it to stay unlocked in a trusted location like home or work as I read might be coming to Android.

    The only qualms I have are with the bloatware and locked state, though I’m really hoping someone will crack it soon like the last gen Droids which will allow for a cleaner ROM and maybe even a version of CM that incorporates the new features. Thankfully most of the crap apps can be disabled so they’re out of sight, out of mind. I also hope they build out the Assist feature while driving a little more and allow for voice prompts after an incoming text has been read to allow the user to compose a reply and send by voice rather than a canned response which is currently the only option.

    I also really miss the deep level customization that Cyanogenmod provided, especially with the quick-tile settings for things like hotspot, a flashlight, or an App kill-switch, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed with setting shortcuts on the home screen.

    I’d definitely recommend this phone to anyone looking to upgrade with battery life as a priority and am taking the optimistic approach there will be enough interest to crack it soon to open it up to development. Even if it doesn’t see root though, while I’ll miss tinkering I can live without constantly flashing a new Rom in exchange for the reliability this new phone is delivering, and at the end of the day I still have the GNex to play with if I need a CM fix :)

  • Rob

    I’ve been going back and forth betwwen the Maxx, HTC one, moto x and iphone 5s. After having the Maxx HD ive sorely been missing a quality camera. When it comes down to it though, i’d rather have a slightly lower quality camera that won’t die by the end of the night because of battery.

    Sean- im sure you’ll cover camera in the review, but have you noticed a significant camera upgrade from the maxx hd? The 8 to 10 mp jump isnt huge but im hoping the improvement in sensors and software will make it a worthwhile upgrade for me.

  • Aber

    Manual for new Droid Maxx shows input keyboard in landscape mode. Can you use input keyboard in portrait mode to prepare e-mail, text messages, searches, set appointments, etc?

  • Jimmie Dean

    I am concerned about the camera as well. Not so much quality of pics as long as the quality is on par with other decent phones or better than previous moto phones in pic quality. But what I am concerned about is the quickness of snapping photos. My wife’s I phone 5 snaps photos almost instantly. I have a bionic and when I snap a picture I can wait a few seconds before it snaps and gone is the moment. Can you say irritating! How quickly does it actually take pics compared to other top phones?

    • V338

      Camera is fairly fast. Seems be about as fast as the iPhone. The quick launch is very cool.

    • V338

      Camera is fairly fast. Seems be about as fast as the iPhone. The quick launch is very cool. The wireless charging is the best thing since sliced bread, but you do have it by the pad. I got the LG puck style from Verizon, works perfectly even with a car on it.

  • Katie

    how does the wireless charging works? does it come with the charging mat or i need to buy it separate?

    • eric

      Wireless charging works great. You just set it on the charging pad and you’re set. It does not come with it though. I have my droid maxx in a otter box case and the wireless charging is not affected.


        where did you get your Otterbox for the Droid Maxx .. I went on the Otterbox site and it said they were not out yet?

  • Debbie

    Very curious about camera quality and lag time. This is the only reason I haven’t upgraded to Maxx yet. Please help Thanks :)

    • Nate

      It isn’t good. I have an S4 and HTC One (camera is VERY important to me). The camera alone is the reason I returned the Maxx – it’s improved from previous Moto devices, and fast *at times*, but still can’t hold a candle to the HTC One, S4, or iPhone 5 – it’s a very inconsistent experience.

  • Nate

    I loved everything about the phone… EXCEPT the camera and the “touchless” experience. The camera is self-explanatory… it’s not bad, and better than Motorola’s previous devices (or at least faster), but extremely sub-par for a brand new, top-tier device.

    The “touchless” experience is fun, but after the initial wake-up command, much less intuitive than S-Voice or Siri. You can’t send a text without phystically hitting “send”. You can’t place a call without physically enabling the speakerphone – which I would think in most cases, if you’re calling by voice commands, you would want speakerphone on. You can’t set a calendar appointment without physically confirming it. You get the idea… Being able to wake your phone with the command is really cool, but in all honestly it’s kinda gimmicky and unintuitive at this point.

    It’s an awesome phone, and the UI is incredibly smooth and fast, but those two reasons (especially the camera) caused me to fall back to my S4 and/or HTC One (can’t decide which to stick with…).

  • Aimee

    I bought the Droid Maxx – coming from a very old Droid 3 and my husband has the droid Razr HD – loving this Maxx – only complaint is that in speakerphone it is very quiet – even when volume is turned all the way up. I make a lot of business calls and use my cell for all of them. I Like speaker when I am at my desk. However I am not having any issues with the screen interacting with my face when I’m on a call so thats a plus.
    Overall it is fast, not a lot of bloatware, quality screen good camera and LOVE the battery life. I am very happy. Wish it had an SD card but trying google+ for photos and music so hopefully that will replace my sd card

  • Tom Levine

    Got mine on the 21st, and I’m in love with this phone. Seriously, Google Now puts Siri to complete shame…It’s been spot on from day 1, and makes no mistakes that I can see. This is no apple toy, and when I am driving, having voice activation on command, reading me email, voice activated texting and calling, pulling up songs spot on out of the Google Listen library, instant NAV, without taking my hands off the wheel, I mean, this is a game changer. The 48 hour battery is AMAZING, and I have the pad that wireless charges. I tossed my alarm clock, just say “Okay google now, set my alarm for 7am”, put the phone down next to my bed, and zzzzz… Seriously, I want to give this phone a big huge hug. It’s kind of a perfect thing. Motorola-Google-Android, well done. I think we’re finally here.

    • kTz

      Is it possible to teach the phone another phrase instead of “OK google now” to wake up google now. e.g. “Hey mobile” or “wake up” or “I’m not schizophrenic I just speak to my mobilephone”.;)
      Just kidding, but joking apart. Is it possible to teach the phone any phrase? Or noises that aren*t even words?

  • V338

    I just have to say the the moto connect feature is about the coolest thing since sliced bread. Easy to set up and it is awesome to be able to see who is calling or messaging from you desktop. Moto has nailed it with this….

  • Beverly Smiff

    I read that there aren’t any colored notifcation lights that blink if you missed a call or a text message….or if you received an email. Will you check on this?

    Thanks for a great review!

  • Niels

    Ai.. im from europe and im waiting for this phone..
    but i geuss if it stays from verizon it will not come to europe! :( pity
    Im using a droird razr maxx now.. but its slow and still want more battery life then this.. Can’t wait! come to europe pls hello moto??!!!!

  • David

    I have a random question. I am currently using the Motorola Droid Bionic and my main gripe is texting. The keyboard letters are close together and i am constantly “miss hitting” letters I am trying to type. I can text on my wife’s iPhone no problem. It’s like my aim is off on my droid…. very frustrating! Is the new Maxx easy to text on.

  • shayla

    Hi. I’m having a lot of issues with my phone I have already gone threw 4 droid Max’s phone and only one of them I damage the first one speakers didn’t work second one nobody could hear me when I called them and now the one I have now keep saying its over heating and is always shitting off I have already done a factory rest 3 times and am still having issues I loved this phone at first but now I hate it cause its one thing after another….. How do I fix it so its perfect again?