What Motorola's Droid Turbo lacks in style, it makes up for with awesome performance, excellent battery life and great features. If aesthetics don't sway you, you've got a killer business phone on your hands.
The Turbo has almost everything you could want in a premium handset, including a super-sharp, 5.2-inch (13 centimeters) display and the biggest battery I've seen in any U.S. smartphone. Its impressive longevity will also really benefit business users. Plus, the Turbo is rugged enough to withstand drops and dings with no need for a case. But with so many great flagship smartphones on the market this holiday season, is the Droid Turbo the business phone to buy?
The Droid Turbo looks like a phone that was built to be durable, not pretty. Its design is undeniably utilitarian. It comes in two varieties: one with a back made of ballistic nylon reinforced with aluminum, and another made from metallized glass fiber with a Kevlar cover.
The back of the device curves gently on either side, so the phone fit easily into my palm. The metal rim around the phone's front is a nice touch. Still, the Turbo lacks the charm of Motorola's other flagship phone, the Moto X, which looks meticulously designed and can be ordered in a huge variety of colors and materials. In comparison, the Turbo isn't exactly ugly, but it is boring.
The good news is that the Turbo seems like it can easily withstand short drops, dings and flexing. That will benefit business users, since a durable smartphone is a reliable smartphone. I tested the ballistic nylon version in black, and it felt like one of the sturdiest smartphones I've touched all year. I wouldn't think twice about briefly sitting on it when it's in my back pocket, for example. The front of the device, meanwhile, is made of scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass. You can't submerge the Turbo underwater like you can the Galaxy S5, however. Note that Motorola doesn't make any claims about this phone's durability, such as giving it a Mil-Spec rating; my observations about ruggedness are purely subjective.
It's a good thing you won't need a case, since this phone is so hefty on its own. It tips the scales at 6 ounces (170 grams), which is noticeably heavier than the 5.1-inch (13 cm) Galaxy S5 (5.1 ounces, or 145 g) and even the all-metal, 5-inch (12.7 cm) One M8 (5.6 ounces, or 159 g).
Unlike most modern Android phones, which have virtual, on-screen navigation buttons, the Droid Turbo's buttons are built right into the bottom bezel. The advantage of this setup is you don't have to deal with a navigation bar hogging part of your phone's display. The bad news is that you do have to deal with a larger bezel; the Turbo is taller than the average, 5.2-inch smartphone. That makes it a bit harder to reach the notification drawer at the top of the screen, especially if you have small hands. Another minor downside is that the buttons don't rotate when you're holding the phone sideways; I occasionally hit the Recent Apps button when I meant to hit the Back button.
The Droid Turbo's display is big and beautiful, without being so large that the phone becomes unwieldy. The Turbo has a 5.2-inch quad-HD screen with an eye-popping resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixels. A high-resolution screen is a big perk in a business phone, since it shows you more content on screen at once.
The Super AMOLED panel also delivers rich, saturated colors. Unfortunately, it's not as bright as its peers, making the Droid Turbo harder to use in direct sunlight. The iPhone 6 Plus gets almost twice as bright at its maximum setting as the Turbo, and both the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8 outshine the Turbo, too.
If you ask me, the Turbo's 5.2-inch display strikes a near-perfect balance between size and usability. It provides plenty of real estate for screen-intensive tasks like editing a document or spreadsheet. Even browsing your email inbox is really comfortable on a screen this big and pixel-dense. Plenty of phones offer bigger displays, from the 5.7-inch (14.5 cm) Galaxy Note 4 all the way up to the 6-inch (15 cm) Google Nexus 6. Those devices are fine if you don't mind using your smartphone with two hands, but personally, I find those phones to be more cumbersome than they're worth.
The Droid Turbo boasts a massive 3,900-mAh battery, and this showed in our tests. The phone lasted an impressive 9 hours and 30 minutes in our battery test, which involves continuous Web browsing over 4G. The Turbo easily outperforms the smartphone average (8:22) and beats the Samsung Galaxy S5 (8:25). No, it's not the longest-lasting smartphone; the HTC One M8 ran for 9:52, and the iPhone 6 Plus lasted an amazing 10 hours. Even with the Turbo's huge battery, it seems that this phone's super-sharp display is a bit of a battery hog. Among smartphones with quad HD displays, however, the Turbo is unrivaled for battery life.
Motorola also bundles in its Turbo Charger, which charges your phone faster than a standard micro USB cable. The company claims the bulky wall charger can give you an extra eight hours of regular use with just 15 minutes of charging. In our demanding test, the battery went from dead to 16-percent charged in 15 minutes, which translates to about 1 hour and 31 minutes of nonstop browsing — pretty good for such a short charge.
The Droid Turbo runs on a nearly stock version of Android that's mostly free of unwanted, pre-installed apps. Most Android phone makers ship their devices with heavily modified versions of Android that feature confusing interface changes, so I appreciate that Motorola keeps things simple. My review unit ran on Android version 4.4.4 KitKat, and the interface looked clean and beautiful. The Turbo does come with a few handy extras installed, though. For example, the Command Center widget on the home screen shows you the time, weather and your next calendar appointment.
The real advantage of Motorola's approach is that its phones get major software updates much sooner than other devices. In fact, the Droid Turbo is one of the first smartphones that will upgrade to Android 5.0 Lollipop this winter. This new OS adds interface changes and new security options, and can even extend your phone's battery life. Smartphones made by Samsung and other manufacturers can take a long time to receive big updates, as companies race to incorporate the changes into their own versions of Android.
On the other hand, the Turbo lacks some of the extra features you'll find on those phones. For example, Samsung smartphones let you use the Multi Window feature to run two apps at once in a split-screen view, but you won't find that feature on the Droid Turbo. However, Motorola did add some exclusive features of its own, such as always-listening voice commands and notifications that pulse on your lock screen (more on these features below).
The Droid Turbo is always listening for your command. Once you set a launch phrase (you'll train the phone to recognize only your voice), you can perform all sorts of actions totally hands free. Non-Motorola phones make you press a button or launch an app to initiate the voice command prompt.
I find it hard to overstate how useful this feature really is. For example, I love being able to say, "Take a note," then state my note to save it to the default note-taking app. Give it a try; this feature is so quick and easy to use that it makes note-taking applications feel really useful and relevant for the first time.
You can also use voice command to set a reminder, such as, "Remind me to call Cindy tomorrow at 2 p.m." You'll receive an alert when the time comes. Or you can say, "What's the weather?" to have your phone state the current conditions out loud. Commands like these are great because they let you save or access important information quickly, without pausing to fiddle with your smartphone. You can even instantly access turn-by-turn directions using voice commands. It's probably best to leave your phone alone while driving, but if you must get directions, the always-listening Droid Turbo provides a relatively safe way to do it.
And here's my favorite part: When you misplace your phone — say, it's hiding behind a stack of papers, or you left it in your coat pocket — you can simply say your launch phrase, and your phone will emit a loud tone to let you know exactly where it is.
The other standout feature of the Droid Turbo is Moto Display, which pulses notifications on your phone's display, even when the screen is turned off. Press and hold the alert icon to view more information about that particular alert, whether it's a new email, text message, calendar appointment or social media update. The feature is handy because it shows you what kind of notification you have before you even touch your phone, so you can see at a glance whether an alert is urgent or totally unimportant. Moto Display doesn't drain your battery, either, since only the pixels needed to show the alert icon are illuminated.
This is about as fast as smartphones get right now. The Droid Turbo packs a top-of-the-line, 2.7-GHz Snapdragon 805 processor and 3GB of RAM, so it delivers blazing-fast performance. Apps open and close in the blink of an eye, and switching between apps is just as quick and seamless. In other words, the Turbo provides more than enough power for daily productivity tasks. Other hardware highlights include 32GB of onboard storage in the base model, though you can upgrade to the 64GB version for an extra $100. There's no microSD card slot, so you can't add extra storage later.
In terms of features and performance, smartphones don't get much better than this. The Droid Turbo is a killer device that combines great performance, super-long battery life and excellent productivity-boosting software features. Unfortunately, it lacks the style and premium appeal of devices like the Moto X, HTC One M8 and iPhone 6. It's also a bit larger and heavier than its closest competitors. Otherwise, the Droid Turbo is one of the best business phones on the market.