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Review: The Motorola Droid Ultra is ultra-average

Armando Rodriguez | Aug. 23, 2013
The Motorola Droid Ultra may have all the same features and specs as the Moto X, but the phone lacks the personality it needs to differentiate itself from the crowd.

Unlike the Moto X, though, the Droid Ultra comes with a small amount of bloatware. Aside from the usual cavalcade of Verizon-branded apps, you're saddled with unremovable versions of the NFL Mobile app and Amazon's suite of apps. You'll also find the new Droid Zap app, which acts a lot like the AirDrop feature in the upcoming iOS 7: By swiping two fingers up the screen, you can send content to other phones nearby that also have the app installed. It's useful if all your friends are using Android phones and are willing to download the app--but the truth is, you'll probably just email or text the content to them instead.

The Droid Ultra ships with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, but Motorola says that the phone will be updated to Android 4.3 sometime in the coming months.

The camera leaves us feeling blue
The 10-megapixel camera on the Droid Ultra is the same as the one on the Moto X. It has an RGBC sensor that uses an especially clear pixel to let in more light than traditional smartphone camera sensors, a technology that is supposed to help take better photos in low-light environments. The photos we took in our tests weren't very impressive, however, and many of them had the same issues we encountered on the Moto X, producing a bluish tint and lifeless low-light shots.

The camera app is a departure from stock Android and lets you capture a photo simply by tapping the screen. You can bring up the camera menu by swiping in from the left edge of the screen, but the gesture didn't always work for me, and sometimes it caused the camera to take a picture instead. The phone records video in 1080p, but the video quality is mediocre at best and probably shouldn't be used for anything other than Vines and YouTube videos.

Bottom line
Seemingly designed to put carrier interests first, the Droid Ultra feels like the antithesis of the Moto X. Its cold and uninviting design does little to make the device stand out from the countless other black slabs that rival smartphone makers have released, and it lacks the personality and charm of its Google-influenced cousin. Their shared specs and features serve only to further underscore the idea that the Droid Ultra is a Moto X without a soul, and it lacks a lot of what makes the Moto X so endearing.

This phone is so mediocre that I have to wonder whether Motorola purposefully created a bland smartphone to make the choice between this and the Moto X that much easier. With both phones retailing for $200 with a new two-year contract, I see no reason why you'd choose this one. If you go with the Moto X, what trade-offs you make in screen size and thinness you get back with much less carrier bloat and a design that's more comfortable to use. Skip the Droid Ultra and pick up the Motorola phone you'll enjoy using more.

 

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