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Motorola set the cell phone world alight with its Razr range back in the mid-2000s. Up to that point, all cell phones were pretty robust in their design. Slimness was never really much of a consideration, given that phones weren’t actually that big by that time.
When the first Razr was released, it lived up to its name completely. A clamshell or flip top design, it was thinner than any device seen up to that point. The range was such a success, selling hundreds of millions of units within 3 years, that it made Motorola a major player in the cell phone market. Unfortunately, as the world moved from feature phones to smartphones, Motorola relied on the success of the Razr for just a little too long. By the time the company realized its mistake, Apple, Samsung, LG and others had taken control of the market. Although Motorola’s fall from grace wasn’t on the scale of that suffered by Nokia, it was great enough that losses hit the billions by 2009.
In 2011, the company was split into two halves. The main business remained as a successor to the original Motorola company, but the handset division – now called Motorola Mobility – was sold to Google. Despite the resources of Google, sales of Motorola branded cell phones continued to fall. Eventually, Google sold Motorola Mobility to electronics giant Lenovo in 2014. In recent years, the brand has finally started to become a presence once again in the smartphone industry.
Introducing the Motorola Droid Ultra
The Droid Ultra was one of the last devices produced during the period of Google ownership. As such it is something of a transitional smartphone. Finally, things looked like they were starting to change for the Motorola brand, and the Droid Ultra was a big step forwards towards make the brand competitive once again.
The spec list was above average for the price point, and it’s ultra-slim, lightweight design meant it was very portable and very attractive to a wide range of users. The Droid Ultra is a definite signal to users that Motorola have spent quite long enough in the technology wilderness, and that they wanted to mix it again with the big boys.
However, having the desire and having the ability don’t always go hand in hand. Which is why we decided to see what our reviews team think of the Droid Ultra.
You can buy the Motorola Droid Ultra for $99, unlocked and brand new.
Scores for the Motorola Droid Ultra
The Motorola Droid Ultra achieved a score of 4.3/5 from our team. This is broken down according to individual categories as shown below:
- Design (4.2/5)
- Build Quality (4.5/5)
- Display (4.4/5)
- Cameras (4.2/5)
- Hardware (4.2/5)
- Software (4.2/5)
Although all aspects of a smartphone matter, and need to do so in order to be competitive, there are always compromises made on some in order to benefit others. Fortunately, with the Droid Ultra, it’s clear that the display has seen the benefits of investment, which is a good thing for any smartphone.
|Size||5.41 x 2.80 x 0.28 in|
|Display Resolution||1280 x 720 px|
|Cameras||10MP / 2MP|
|MicroSD Card Slot||No|
|Battery Life||28 hrs Talk time / 320 hrs Standby|
Design and Build
As with any consumer product, the design of a smartphone is very subjective. Just as much as someone can love the look of a phone, so someone else can hate it. It so happens, however, that many smartphones are almost indistinguishable from each other, even across different brands.
Motorola have decided to do things a bit differently with the Droid Ultra. Front on, it looks like any other smartphone with everything where you’d expect it to be. Turn it side on, though, and it starts to look a little different. Motorola market the Droid Ultra as a very slim smartphone. We’re more used to seeing the word “ultra” used nowadays in device names to indicate they are bigger than average. Here, though, it’s all about the slim design of the case.
There are quirks with the case, though. Although it is very slim, it isn’t the same thickness from top to bottom. The back case gets slightly thicker towards the camera lens. Where many phones simply have a hump around the camera, the Droid Ultra actually has a thicker case all across the width. It’s not a bad way of doing things, and certainly doesn’t seem to add any weight.
The case itself is a shiny Kevlar construction. Kevlar is that material from which bullet proof vests are made, and helps to add a certain strength. The Droid Ultra is not a rugged phone, but the case will probably never be in any danger. At just 4.83 ounces, the Droid Ultra is also one of the lightest around.
Often, in even mid-range smartphones, makers limit the resolution of the display. The screen is one of the more expensive components, and is seen as a potential way to keep costs down. It came as a very pleasant surprise, therefore, to see that Motorola had included a 720p HD display on the Droid Ultra.
Not only is the display a respectable pixel count, but Motorola have done a terrific job of squeezing the best out of every one. The 5″ display of the Droid Ultra is clear and sharp, with excellent colors. It provides a very satisfying and fatigue-free movie and gaming experience.
When the display is asleep, any movement detected by the phone causes the time to appear, along with key notifications. This is a very useful feature which has since found its way into many devices.
The Droid Ultra has a rear camera of 10MP and a front selfie camera of 2MP. Performance of the selfie camera is, admittedly, fairly basic but does produce decent quality images as long as the light is reasonable. In darker conditions, images are no better or no worse than most mid-range or budget camera at the 2MP mark.
The rear camera has an impressive 10MP sensor which works very well in almost all light conditions. Only when conditions became particularly dark did we start to see a noticeable deterioration in the quality of the images produced. Up to that point, the images were sharp, crisp and very pleasing.
Video can be recorded by the rear camera at 1920 x 1080p Full HD resolution. This, again, is further than many phones at this price will go. The video recorded is very good quality for the most part, but does seem to suffer a little more than still images in low light.
Overall, as mentioned in the intro section above, the hardware specs of the Motorola Droid Ultra is pretty impressive for a phone costing less than $100. The dual-core processor copes well with all tasks, and responds quickly and smoothly. Battery life is excellent from the 2130 mAh battery. Motorola promise more than a full day’s talk and nearly 30 days standby.
Unfortunately, there is no Micro SD Card Slot, but there is a reasonably generous 16GB of internal storage provided. This will be plenty for most people who may not need to carry movie files around. 16GB is a lot for music and images, especially if you have backups of the pictures.
Quite impressively, the Droid Ultra also has the fastest dual-band WiFi 802.11 ac speeds available. 4G, GPS, NFC and Bluetooth are all present, so there’s nothing missing in the Droid Ultra specs.
The Droid Ultra ships with Android 4 and is upgrade-able to Android 5. Motorola have kept any additions to a minimum, meaning you get a near-bare Android installation. This helps everything from responsiveness to battery life.
Many manufacturers do pack their smartphones with a suite of their own apps which hardly anybody wants. They also often set them up to bombard the user with unwanted notifications. That the Droid Ultra eschews all this in the name of user satisfaction is a very welcome situation.
Although something of a no-frills smartphone, nor is the Motorola Droid Ultra lacking anything at all. Component quality is good, and the display is excellent. Battery life is incredibly good, and the range of connection options is also very good.
For $99, it’s hard to see what else you could get for your money which would out-do the Droid Ultra.