Motorola Droid Maxx 2 (Verizon Wireless) review: Battery power you can afford

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The Good The water-resistant Motorola Droid Maxx 2 has built-in high-definition audio and video calling, a solid camera and expandable storage.

The Bad The handset has a lot of extra preinstalled apps you can't delete.

The Bottom Line Water resistance and a long-lasting battery make the Motorola Droid Maxx 2 a standout midrange phone, but it's limited only to Verizon customers.

8.2 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Camera 8
  • Battery 8

It has been an emotional rollercoaster getting to know the Droid Maxx 2. When Motorola first announced it'd be releasing a sequel to its 2013 Droid Maxx , a high-end device known for its enduring battery life, I was excited. And when I took into account the company's emphasis on handset customization, I got even more excited.

But during the first few days when I used it, some of my initial enthusiasm dwindled. First, the phone is essentially the Moto X Play (which is sold in Europe, Latin America, and Canada) dressed up as a Verizon Wireless exclusive. While there's nothing essentially wrong with that, the phone isn't as fast as I expected from the Maxx line, and even though the battery lasts long, it didn't last as long as its predecessor. It also comes with a bunch of apps that I personally wouldn't use, and there's no way to delete them from the device entirely.

Yet (and here's act III of this drama) I couldn't write the phone off altogether. It had one major saving grace that I couldn't deny: its competitive $384 off-contract price tag (you can also buy it for $16 a month for 24 months). I can easily see most devices of this caliber going for about $500 or more unlocked.

With all that in mind, the Droid Maxx 2 is indeed a quality phone worth considering, especially since it's a water-resistant device with a great 21-megapixel camera and a long-lasting (compared to other phones in its price bracket) 3,630mAh battery. Within Verizon's portfolio, the handset stands out as a reliable mid-range offering that comes with more than enough good to outweigh its bad.

Is it only available with Verizon?

Yes, the Droid Maxx 2 is sold exclusively on Verizon Wireless. But you can try to purchase its unlocked, international counterpart, the Moto X Play, and bring it to a carrier that operates on the GSM standard, which includes AT&T and T-Mobile.

How bad is the bloatware?

Aside from the handful of signature Motorola features like Moto Display and Moto Voice, the Droid Maxx 2 has a lot of preinstalled apps that take up memory (aka: bloatware). Not all of them can be uninstalled and Verizon included nine of its own preloaded apps. This includes its branded cloud storage, caller ID and navigation apps; a mobile sharing app called Droid Zap; apps to help set up your mobile hotspot and visual voicemail; My Verizon Mobile, which helps you manage your device's data usage and payments; and a security app called VZ Protect. Even the carrier's messenger app, Message+, is the handset's default messaging service, so if you don't want to use it, be sure to change it in Settings.

Then there are the five apps from Amazon, four games (these you can fortunately uninstall), the movie app IMDb, NFL Mobile and Slacker Radio.

Though some users don't mind having extra apps here and there, I personally find that having this much unremovable bloatware annoying. It takes up space in the phone and it's irritating to have to see apps I had no choice in installing appear everyday in my drawer.

Are there any software features you consider useful?

It's not all bad news though -- there are a few software features that I actually like. One is the control center widget, a mainstay in Droid devices, that displays the time, weather and battery percentage. It's useful and if you don't like it, you can remove it off the home screen.

The second is the fact that the Droid Maxx 2 is compatible with Verizon's advanced calling and high-definition voice technology for audio and video calls. In addition to having boosting audio quality, you can also start video calls (with another handset that's compatible with the service) without having to install a third-party chat client. Finally, there's the Loop app. Made by Motorola and only available for certain carriers, Loop lets you keep track of your family's whereabouts and activities, all through an attractive user interface.

Built-in video calling (left) and the Loop app from Motorola.

Lynn La/CNET

How long does the battery really last?

With its promise of a two-day battery life, the phone had no problem surviving the weekend on standby and with mild usage, it can last an entire workday without a charge.

However, when I ran our lab tests for continuous video playback, it didn't last as long as I expected. After two trials, the device took 12 hours and 33 minutes to completely drain. That's notably shorter than the 15 hours and 45 minutes the Moto X Play lasted on average, despite them being practically the same handset with the same 3,630mAh battery.

In addition, the Droid Turbo 2 lasted an average of 13 hours and 28 minutes with its 3,760mAh battery, making both Droids from this year fall behind its predecessors. For example, the original Droid Turbo had a 3,900mAh battery that looped video continuously for 14 hours and 43 minutes, and the Droid Maxx from 2013 had a 3,500mAh battery that lasted 15 hours and 50 minutes before it completely depleted.

That's not to say the phone is a slack altogether. Twelve and a half hours is still an excellent time to clock in, especially for a device of this price bracket. And when it comes to the real-world usage the Droid Maxx 2 will undergo with a regular user, its battery will have no problem enduring throughout the day.

Can I remove the battery?

No, it's embedded into the handset, a design that Motorola and many other phone manufacturers have begun to embrace. This helps keep the phone water-resistant as well.

Though it's non-removable, the battery does feature Quick Charge 2.0 technology from Qualcomm.

Josh Miller/CNET

Does it include wireless charging? What about quick charging?

The Droid Maxx 2's battery does not have wireless charging, but it does features Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 technology, and its stock charger is a specialized Turbo Charger from Motorola. Together, it means the device charges very quickly -- about 25 percent in 20 minutes and 100 percent in two hours from what I've observed).

What was your call experience on Verizon?

In general, call quality was good. I tested it in our San Francisco offices by calling a landline and my partner was clear and easy to understand. I also didn't pick up any extraneous buzzing or noise. Speaker quality was great as well; even though the sound quality thinned out a bit, volume range was appropriately loud. And while my partner did mention that voice sounded a little static-y at times, I didn't hear notable static coming in from the other line.

How were the network speeds?

Data speeds on Verizon's 4G LTE network were unusually slow. For example, the average download and upload rate, according to Ookla's speed test, was 3.26 and 3.92Mbps, respectively. Loading the CNET mobile site took 13 seconds and the full desktop version loaded in 21 seconds. Download and installing the 44.54MB game Temple Run 2 took 2 minutes and 44 seconds and downloading the 1.7GB movie "Gravity" in high-definition took an hour and 5 minutes.

As always with data tests, speeds differ widely depending on several factors such as location and time of day. What I observed here is just a minuscule sample and may not be what you experience in your location.

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