Motorola has unveiled the latest versions of its Droid smartphones yesterday -- the premium Droid Turbo 2 and the "value" Droid Maxx 2 -- and they don't look bad at all. But in today's developing smartphone marketplace, where more and more phones are becoming available unlocked and unlimited, will any one-carrier phone attract high-end buyers?
I spent a little time with the Droid Turbo 2, which has all the elements that make up a high-end Android smartphone. It's powered by a Qualcomm 810 Snapdragon processor with 3GB of RAM and offers 32GB or 64GB of storage (along with an SD card slot for up to 2TB); a 5.4-in. AMOLED display Quad HD display; a 21-megapixel rear camera with a plethora of features, such as Quick Capture, Burst Mode and video stabilization; and a 5-megapixel front camera. The 3760Ah battery is promised to last up to 48 hours and TurboPower charging should restore up to 13 hours of battery life in 15 minutes.
There are a number of innovative features as well. The Droid Turbo 2 has a new display tech called Moto ShatterShield that is guaranteed (according to the company) not to crack or shatter — at the press gathering, Rick Osterloh, president and CEO of Motorola, obligingly dropped his Turbo 2 on a cement block in order to demonstrate its hardiness. I haven't tried to break the review unit -- I'm going to pass it on to our own JR Raphael and don't want to take the chance; maybe he'll want to throw it around a bit. However, CNN put the phone through a variety of tests on New York streets and it apparently came through with flying colors.
In addition, the Turbo 2 now joins the Moto X in being extremely customizable: You can use the Moto Maker (previously only available for the Moto X) to choose the case ("soft grip" plastic, ballistic nylon or pebbled leather), back color, accent, etc.
And the Turbo 2 isn't bad to work with. The "soft grip" plastic has a nice feel to it; the phone seems a bit heavy, but not uncomfortably so (although I still prefer the Moto X's more rounded form). I've seen some complaints of muddiness as far as the display is concerned, but I didn't experience that at all; in fact, the screen image seemed quite bright and the phone itself was extremely responsive.
However, despite these admittedly impressive features, there is something almost uncomfortably old-fashioned about the Droid — or, rather, with the Droid's marketing. The Droid Turbo 2 and the Droid Maxx 2 will be sold solely by Verizon, unlike several of the more recent phones that have shipped — such as the Moto X, the Nexus 5X and 6P, and the HTC One A9 — which are all being offered as unlocked, choose-the-carrier-you-prefer devices.
They are also available at a reasonable price. The Moto X Pure Edition starts at $400 for 16GB of storage and $450 for 32GB; the Nexus 6P starts at $499 for 32GB; and the HTC One A9 is currently $399, going up to $499 as of November 7th.
At the press introduction, however — which was sponsored by both Motorola and Verizon — the price of the Turbo 2 was given as $26/month for 32GB and $30/month for 64GB on a 24-month payment plan. This is as close to a contract as Verizon can get nowadays while still claiming to be "off contract." That works out to $624 and $720 respectively; presumably, there will also be a slightly lower price if you want to pay it all up front -- and, of course, if you choose to leave mid-lease, you can do it by simply paying up on the remaining cost of the phone.
So here's the question: Even with the shatterproof display, the high-end features and the Moto Maker design options, will educated consumers — those who are no longer psychologically tied to the apparently lower-cost subsidized sales model — be willing to tie themselves to a two-year lease at a single carrier? Especially when they can now get equally interesting unlocked, carrier-agnostic phones at a lower price?
You tell me.