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Droid Turbo review: A sturdy phone with serious stamina

JR Raphael | Nov. 5, 2014
It may not be the most elegant-looking device, but Motorola's new smartphone is brimming with power.

Call quality on the Turbo has been perfectly fine for me, as have data speeds with Verizon's LTE network. It's worth noting, however, that you can't currently use mobile data while on a voice call with this device; that capability will apparently become available sometime later this year when Verizon enables support for its new voice-over-LTE feature.

The Droid Turbo gives you either 32GB or 64GB of internal space, depending on which model you select. There is no micro-SD card slot for external storage expansion.

Superb software, with a couple of caveats
The Turbo may be a Droid, but it is also a Motorola phone -- and by and large, it sticks to Motorola's excellent "stock-plus" approach to software. As such, you get a near-stock Google Android user interface along with a handful of legitimately useful feature-oriented additions.

There's not a heck of a lot different here from what you'll find on the Moto X, so I'll refer you to the software section of my Moto X review for a more detailed analysis. In short, the UI is clean and intuitive, without the heavy bloat other Android device-makers tend to bake into the operating system. And you get all the same handy tricks offered on the Moto X, like Motorola's magnificent always-listening voice control (with the ability to set your own customizable wake-up phrase) and the "pulsing" display that periodically flashes pending notifications. You can even wave your hand over the screen while it's off to see the current time and notifications.

Verizon has introduced a handful of tweaks, most of which range from "completely inconsequential" to "mildly annoying but easy enough to ignore." A few icons in the system have been altered, for instance, and there's some Verizon Cloud silliness integrated into the software here and there. The standard share of Verizon-added bloatware is on board, too, as is a rather pointless sharing app called Droid Zap that you'll probably never use. Oh, and there's a custom clock and weather widget that's actually pretty nice.

The most significant deviation from the norm is with the Turbo's system buttons: Instead of using virtual on-screen buttons, as has been the standard for Android since 2011, the Turbo uses capacitive keys for the Back, Home and Recent Apps functions.

That setup makes the screen seem slightly bigger, as the buttons don't take up space on the display, but it also comes with some noteworthy downsides: First, since they're static physical keys, the Turbo's buttons don't rotate with the screen and change or disappear based on context, as their virtual counterparts do. They also need to be illuminated in order to be visible in dark conditions -- and if a room is dim but not completely dark, they sometimes don't light up and are consequently difficult to see.

 

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