With the Droid Ultra, Motorola continues its line of solid, workhorse smartphones for Verizon. The manufacturer refreshed the line with three new models: the Droid Maxx, Droid Ultra and Droid Mini.
The one we've got in our hands is the Droid Ultra, which is the thinnest of the bunch at 0.28 inches thick. Though it no longer bears the RAZR name, Motorola claims that it is the thinnest 4G LTE smartphone available today. Its 5-inch display and slim profile make it much bigger than the Mini, but its battery life isn't as good as the Maxx.
Motorola's Droid smartphones were never as eye-catching or popular as the Galaxy S3 or HTC One X last year, and they're likely not to reach the same status as the Samsung Galaxy S4 or HTC One this year. However, we refer to them as workhorse smartphones because they do just that. They work without any real hiccups, build quality is good and battery life is generally decent on the Maxx and non-Maxx versions, too.
There are a few new features that sets the new Droids apart from its competitors, and they tend to work quite well, for the most part.
The first is touchless control, which was one of the biggest touted features of the Moto X. Touchless control allows you to perform a number of tasks just by talking to your phone, even if it's sitting idle on your desk. You simply say, "OK Google Now," and the Droid Ultra powers on and awaits your command.
Another new feature is Droid Zap, and it's a little like photo and video sharing on devices like the Galaxy S4. However, we were unable to test this feature because it takes two Droid devices to make it work, and we only received one review unit.
With Droid Zap, you'll also have to install an app, and get your friends to do the same, if you want it to work.
In addition to photo and video sharing, the Gallery app has also been updated to make flipping through, organizing and deleting photos a little easier, but we'll get into more detail with that later.
Motorola's new, unnamed skin is also a nice touch to the Droid Ultra. It's a huge departure from Blur and Motoblur, names that Motorola would rather not remember or ever hear again, and it's not very intrusive. The company has learned that less is more in this case, and the result is a UI that is a little more intuitive and easy to use.
The Droid Ultra is an extremely thin, glossy 5-inch smartphone that doesn't really stand out much against its competitors. However, its slim profile and almost edge-to-edge display make it feel quite small in the hand. Then again, it depends on the size of your hands, too.
But for a 5-inch device, it doesn't seem too unwieldy. It has just enough curves in all the right places, and textured power and volume buttons that stick out just far enough to make them easily accessible without causing any accidental inputs.
The face of the device features the 5-inch, 1280 x 720 resolution display. It's not as sharp as the screens you'd find on the HTC One or Droid DNA, but at normal viewing distances it's just fine. Below the display are the back, home and application switcher buttons. It would have been nice to have a menu button in place of the app switcher button, but that's part of what fragments Android a little. Menu buttons within apps can help manufacturers do away with dedicated menu buttons, but whether it's better is up for debate.
Just above the display is the earpiece, flanked by ambient light sensors and a 2MP front-facing camera for selfies and video calling.
At the bottom of the device is the micro-USB charging port, and around to the right are the power/sleep/wake buttons and the volume rocker. There is no dedicated camera button, which would be nice on a device this size, but it's not a deal-breaker.
When you flip the phone over to its backside, you'll find the 10MP RGCB camera with LED flash and a speaker. The back plate is emblazoned with the Droid, Motorola and Verizon logos, just in case anyone were to forget the make, model and carrier for the device.
The back also has a carbon fiber/kevlar pattern to it, but it's covered by a glossy plastic. The entire device feels like a giant slab of plastic due to its glossy finish, and it does attract fingerprints.
If you're the type who likes to keep a device pristine and clean, the Droid Ultra may drive you a little crazy. We found ourselves constantly wiping the device with a microfiber cloth or our t-shirts.
Lastly, there is the thinness of the device. At its thinnest point--it's not a perfectly flat device--the Droid Ultra measures 0.28 inches. This allows Motorola to make the claim that it's the thinnest 4G LTE device on the market, but the device does get a little thicker around the camera module.
The camera doesn't take away from the slim profile of the smartphone, and it's not as pronounced as the camera modules of the Droid RAZR devices, but it's worth mentioning for the sake of clarifying Motorola's claims.
Because of its thin build and Motorola's decision to go with a Kevlar body, the Droid Ultra is relatively light at 4.83 ounces. Aside from its size, you really won't notice it much in your pockets, and it certainly won't add much more weight to your bag or purse.
If you aren't used to smartphones going over the 4.3 or 4.5-inch mark, the Droid Ultra may feel a little large to you. But if you've been using devices that have been reaching for the phablet realm, you'll be surprised how small this Motorola phone feels for a 5-inch device. In terms of hardware design, it's really tough to fault the Ultra, aside from its glossy finish, if we were to be nitpicky.