Verizon’s new DROID Ultra line: Kevlar, bigger batteries, and software features

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I’ve just arrived at a local event for Verizon’s announcement of the latest in the Motorola DROID line of smartphones. The event is about to get started, but we already know that it is concerning the new DROID Ultra smartphone line.

The promotional material for the devices claims that the Ultra will be the thinnest LTE smartphone and longest lasting LTE smartphone. Verizon’s 4G LTE network is now being promoted as almost entirely complete, says that 50% of data traffic is through the LTE network. Preorders start today, with the device appearing in stores August 20 and 29.

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As expected, Verizon is announcing three new devices, at three price tiers. The DROID Ultra is the new flagship, and will come in three colors, red, white, and black. The DROID Maxx is the same smartphone, but with a larger “two day” battery life. The Maxx, as with previous Maxx devices, is the highest pricing tier because of the extra batter life. The DROID Mini is the lowest end device, and is compact and lightweight. It will come in black and white.

All the devices have Kevlar, but only the Maxx actually is Kevlar textured on the back. The regular Ultra and Mini have glossy coatings instead. Pricing from low to high is $99 for the Mini, $199 for the Ultra, $299 for the Maxx. Very sensible, and just about what we would have expected. All devices eligible for the new Verizon Edge payment plan.

The display is a 5-inch “HD” unit on the Ultra and Maxx, and 4.3-inches on the Mini. A resolution of 720p is now confirmed for all three devices. The claim is 24 hours of battery life on Mini and Ultra, 48 hours for the Maxx. The real specs are 3,500mAh for the Maxx, 2,00mAh for the Mini, and 2,130mAh for the Ultra. The Ultra, Mini, and Maxx have 10MP rear and 2MP front cameras, and all three include Motorola’s X8 pseudo-8 core processor. Essentially, the Ultra is the base device, the Mini a smaller package with a slightly smaller battery, and the Maxx the upgraded battery version. All devices otherwise retain the same software and internals.

There are quite a few of new software features included with all the devices. Touchless control is a new feature available in the form of always on voice control for Google Now, which is always on with the screen off. The trigger can be disabled, but by default is “OK Google Now” and should only respond to your voice.

Motorola Assist now replaces Motorola Smart Actions, but is roughly the same thing that I’ve covered before. Motorola Connect is a new Google Chrome application to synchronize the device with a desktop, and seems to be a combination of AirDroid and Chrome to Mobile. DROID Zap is a new Motorola sharing feature that appears to be compatible with all Android 4.2.2 devices. It allows you to share images and videos device to device without NFC over WiFi P2P connections or through the data network without NFC. The device still does include an NFC chip, though.

New camera features include press and hold to continually take images, as well as the entire display function as a shutter button. Camera QuickDraw uses the accelerometer. Two shakes will open the camera from any screen, even with the display off.

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The new “active display” feature leaves part of the display on for notifications as well as a clock. This is similar to an old CyanognMod tweak that would flash about four pixels of the display on devices without a notification LED for new notifications. However, the active display feature also displays the clock whenever you pick up the device or take it out of a pocket, in addition to flashing every five seconds when there are new notifications. According to the representative, the feature only lights up two percent of the display, so battery life isn’t negatively effected.

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The devices also include Mircast wireless HDMI display technology.

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While the Maxx version of the smartphone is thicker than the “regular” Droid ULTRA, it isn’t by much. The top device is the Maxx, while the lower device is the standard Ultra.

The official Verizon announcement page can be found here, but so far these devices look like a respectable upgrade to the DROID line. Still, it is interesting that Google/Motorola seems to be focusing more on software features, aside from battery life. It will be interesting to see what the Moto X includes to differentiate itself, but so far Motorola doesn’t seem to have changed anything too drastic.

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Aaron Orquia

Aaron Orquia is an associate editor at Pocketables. He has been using Android and Linux since he bought his first computer years ago, and his interest in technology, software, and tweaking both to work just right has only grown stronger since then. His current gadgets include a OnePlus One, a Pebble smartwatch, and an Acer C720 Chromebook.

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