Aug 27 AT 8:45 AM Nick Gray 16 Comments

Motorola DROID Ultra, DROID Mini first impressions

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If you want to buy a new Motorola phone, you have two options: the Moto X and the new DROID. OK, technically, the new DROID is really three new phones. But who’s counting? The Motorola DROID Ultra, MAXX and Mini may sound quite different, but the three phones are actually nearly identical. We’re working on full reviews for each phone, but I thought I’d share my initial impressions of the DROID Ultra and DROID Mini, as Sean has already done with the DROID MAXX.

In the specs department, the Motorola DROID Ultra and DROID Mini are identical in every way except for screen size and battery capacity. The Ultra has a 5.0-inch 720p display and a 2130 mAh battery versus the Mini’s 4.3-inch display of the same resolution and 2000 mAh battery capacity. So far, battery life has not been much of a concern on either device. The Mini does appear to have a slight edge over the Ultra when it comes to longevity, most likely due to the difference in screen size between the two devices. Everything else is completely identical. Both phones feature Motorola’s X8 Mobile Computing System, which comprises a 1.7 GHz dual—core application processor, 400 MHz quad—core GPU, natural language processor and contextual computing processor. Each device also sports 2GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, 10MP camera, NFC and the usual combination of WiFi, GPS and other senors that have become standard in today’s smartphones.

The specs of the two phones may not be that impressive when compared to the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One or even the new LG G2, but they do get the job gone. Motorola seems to be gambling on the notion that the smartphone spec race is over. Out of curiosity, I installed Samurai versus Zombies Defense 2, Fieldrunners 2 and KingdomRush to see how the devices fared under pressure. To my surprise, the dual-core processors inside these phones had enough power to play through each game I threw at them. Performance wasn’t optimal (initial load of games and levels was slightly slower when compared to the HTC One), but game play was silky smooth. I’m sure performance degradation in games will creep in over time, but it’ll probably be at least a yer before a DROID Ultra or DROID Mini owner starts to notice that the latest Android games do not perform as optimally as they could.

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For some reason, I can’t figure out why Motorola likes to toy with our emotions. Android enthusiasts are typically passionate about amazing specs and stock Android. As I mentioned before, these two phones don’t come with all the bells and whistle in the specs department. But, Motorola’s build of Android is as stock as they come these days. Motorola has taken the liberty to customize a few app icons and add in some additional features. Features like always listening Google Now that’s trained to activate only to your voice and Active Notifications, which pulse onto the screen temporarily to show various pending notifications.

While subtle, the software tweaks inside Motorola’s Android build make the two devices more useful and engaging. I find myself saying “OK, Google Now” at random, asking for the weather conditions or dictating notes. I do that with my HTC One a few times a day, but not having to touch the phones somehow makes Google Now more useful.

So far, everything I’ve covered for the Motorola DROID Ultra and DROID Mini (besides battery capacity) has been identical to what the DROID MAXX has to offer. But now it’s time for the stories of these phones to diverge. While Sean praised the soft-touch texture of the Kevlar case on the MAXX, the ultra-gloss coating used by Motorola on the Ultra and Mini is egregious. No matter how hard you try, it’s impossible to keep these devices clear of fingerprints or smudges.

I’ve only used the Mini and Ultra for a few days, but it’s clear that Motorola is stepping up its game under Google’s control. We’ll be exploring the two devices in more detail in our full reviews in the coming weeks. If you have any specific questions you’d like us to address in our full review of the two phones, let us know in the comments below.

Nick is a tech enthusiast who has a soft spot for HTC and its devices. He started (the first HTC blog) back in 2007 and later joined the Android and Me family in the summer of 2010.

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  • Tim

    I agree with Google/Motorola in that a user’s desire for higher specs is largely unfounded. The usage pattern for the Android OS, even under load is that there are only two processors that actually get heavily used. So when you have a quad core or octa core, you have extra processors that serve mostly as a battery drain. Throwing more hardware at this problem is not optimal. Instead they chose to dedicate processors for certain roles so that they do exactly what they should and do not have to depend on the prioritization of the OS itself. Example, the always on natural language processor. If you just let this type of task up to a quad core to just do whatever and whenever, it would drain your battery in a hurry. Also, you may have to wait for other processes before it would actually take your command. With this architecture, it is always dedicated to listening to you as a first priority. Not to mention 4 dedicated GPU’s. As for the display specs, I also agree with Google/Motorola. This race has gotten a little crazy. The human eye can only discern about 300 ppi. These phones have about 315 ppi, which is more than you can see with your naked eye. Anything more also serves as a battery drain. For these reasons, it is able to stand up to the HTC One or S4 performance wise. It just wont look very good on paper when you do a side to side of the specs. I think this is what people traditionally have done. So, you are right, it is a bold move to attempt to change people’s way of thinking.

    • jon d

      Spot on. Powerful processors can mean big battery drain by many phones.

      I am going to disagree that 300 ppi is somehow the most pixels that can be seen by the human eye. I’m a graphic designer, and in my experience this is used a general print standard (300 dpi) because it is good enough for most print jobs after accounting for factors such as printer accuracy, dot gain, and color calibration – to be viewed at a farther distance than most people hold their smartphones from their face.

    • Karen P. Perkins

      my best friend’s mom makes $68 every hour on the computer. She has been without a job for 8 months but last month her paycheck was $19895 just working on the computer for a few hours. Here’s the site to read more… C­­A­­F­­E­­4­­­4.â…­­­­O­­­â…¯


    I have a question. Besides screen size and motomaker, what is the difference between these and the Moto X? It seems to me that Verizon is selling 4 similar phones that have minimal differences.

    • Nick Gray

      You are correct. Screen, battery size and casing are the only things which differentiate the Moto X, Droid Maxx, Ultra and Mini. all other specs are identical.



      • GTurnage

        There are apparently a few other differences between the Moto X and the Droid phones. One that was mentioned on the Droid Maxx Motorola Owners’ Forum was that the Droid phones won’t work with the “Skip Tags” recently marketed for the Moto X.
        This is a minor thing for me, but it does illustrate that there are unseen differences.

  • Christopher St. John

    Beyond reproach means too good to criticize.

    Otherwise, I enjoyed the article.

    • Nick Gray

      Thanks for catching that.

  • CTown

    Motorola has been busy lately: The Moto X, these three Droids from the article, the Droid 5 is coming out soon, a lower end phone for the pre-paid market should be announced soon, and of course the upcoming Nexus phone.

    That makes seven devices that Motorola made just for the last half of 2013. Hopefully, they don’t do this every year.

  • Androiduser

    Appreciate the early review. Not a big fan of ultra large screens and phones and thought the Droid mini has the best specs of all the other mini phones out there (HTC One, S4) and nice feature set. It does seem plasticky and certainly lacks much physical style, but I think will serve as a good workhorse phone for the duration of a two-year contract. Ordered mine today and should be in tomorrow.

  • jenni1

    my neighbor’s sister makes $68 every hour on the internet. She has been out of work for 5 months but last month her pay was $12387 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on this web site…….

  • Michael Athas

    Got the Droid ultra live it!

    • Michael Athas

      Love it!

  • donger

    Longer battery life is always a welcome.

  • GaryW

    Would like the droid mini to own. But will it ever come to the UK? Droid is a specific carrier brand. Nexus 4 owner – perfect phone. Just too big!