Review: Motorola Droid Turbo 2 and Droid Maxx 2 are two sturdy Verizon smartphones

A look at Motorola's new Droid Turbo 2 and Droid Maxx 2, a couple of durable Verizon phones that boast flagship Android features.

The Motorola Droid Turbo 2, and to a lesser extent the Droid Maxx 2, captured attention because their screens can withstand a drop onto a hard surface. Durability is just one feature defining these phones, though. They borrow from other Motorola creations and are built to Verizon Wireless' specifications to run its software on its network.

Let's take a look at both.

Droid Turbo 2: Verizon-branded flagship with a microSD slot

The Turbo 2 looks and feels like it was derived from the acclaimed Moto X Pure Edition, and it resembles it with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. The Turbo 2 is powered by the faster octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor. A microSD card slots supports up to 200GB of storage.

See also: Like the Droid Turbo 2, the Droid Maxx 2 survives shatter tests

The powerful hardware specs foretold what testing confirmed – apps load quickly and respond to gestures and scrolling without delay or stutter. The 5.25-inch 1440x2560-pixel screen at 540ppi is bright enough to be read easily in peak, cloudless sunlight.

A 21-megapixel rear camera, another shared feature of the Moto X Pure Edition, generally takes great photos that would compete with those from the best phones on the market. The exception is low-light situations, like photos taken at night time, because the dual-tone flash will have trouble creating light.

The burly 3760-mAh battery is another useful feature that, along with a shatterproof screen, should appeal to the practical user. Testing proved Motorola's claim that the battery stores enough energy to power the phone through a second day when the user forgets to connect it for a regular overnight charge. Both fast charging and wireless charging increase the convenience of keeping the battery charged.

The Turbo 2 inherited Motorola's most highly touted flagship features: power-efficient active display notifications alert the user without lighting or unlocking the screen, hands-free mode turns on automatically when motion sensors detect the user is driving, and trademark motions launch the camera with a twist of the wrist and turn on the flashlight with a chop.

Turbo Maxx 2: Verizon joins the mid-priced frenzy

The Snapdragon 615 processor, 2GB RAM, and 16GB storage squarely bracket the Maxx 2 in the midrange. The processor won't win benchmarks against flagship phones, but in tests it proved to be responsive, with quick app load times and smooth gestures and scrolling. A microSD slot expands storage up to 128GB, relieving the 16GB storage limit from the bulge of videos and music collections. The 5.5-inch display is clear and easy to read at a resolution of 1080x1920 pixels at 403 ppi. Given its strong drop test performance, including two teeth-rattling drops down concrete stairs, it is hard to believe that the phone is protected by just Gorilla Glass 3.

The Turbo Maxx 2 has a big 3630-mAh battery that should get the average user through two full days if he or she forgets the daily recharge routine. It also has fast charging if the battery needs to be topped. It doesn't have wireless charging.

The Maxx 2 shares the same 21-megapixel camera with the Droid Turbo 2 and Moto X.

Two sturdy co-branded Verizon-Motorola phones

No one will complain about either phone's design or capability, and certainly not their shatterproof sturdiness. Verizon has priced them at the top end of each phones' category: the Droid Turbo 2 costs $649, the Maxx 2 $389. Built into the price may be a durability premium. Apple charges a $120 repair/replacement premium for a two-year Apple Care plan, plus $99 per incident to repair a broken screen, putting a real value on the durability of the Turbo 2 and Maxx 2.

Verizon never trades on price, though. Price-conscious consumers are more likely to choose lower-priced T-Mobile, Sprint, and MVNOs. So Verizon will find buyers from its customer base who will pay the co-branding and durability premium, especially if Verizon gives these phones prominent shelf space in its stores. However, those who do some research will find many phones with equivalent hardware at the same or lower prices, such as the Galaxy S6, the Moto X, and the Nexus 5X and 6P, though they are not shatterproof like the new Droid line.

Loyal Android users will want to swap the Verizon-ware tied to Verizon's ecosystem for the Android/Google's ecosystem. Verizon has promised an update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but Verizon has a reputation for trailing other networks' delivery of over-the-air Android updates. If Verizon wanted to justify the co-branding premium, it should join Google in its new initiative to push monthly updates to devices.

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