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Motorola Droid Turbo 2 review: Drop-defying: This phone's screen won't shatter on impact

Verizon's durable, long-lasting Droid and custom design options will lure you to Big Red, but beware the trade-offs.

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Sean Hollister
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Sean Hollister

Senior Editor / Reviews

When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.

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14 min read

I've never broken a phone by dropping it. Dings and dents, sure--but I've never experienced that sickening crunch. I've never screamed in frustration at the earth's gravitational pull, and my clumsy hands, for turning a gorgeous touchscreen display into a shattered mess on the pavement. The Droid Turbo 2 is the phone to buy if you're tired of broken glass. It's got a screen that doesn't crack when you drop it.

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8.4

Motorola Droid Turbo 2

The Good

The Motorola Droid Turbo 2 has a tough screen that won't crack. Plus, it has top-tier performance, solid battery life and the ability to design your own phone at Motorola's website.

The Bad

The Turbo 2's camera lags behind the best you can buy, and the shatterproof screen comes with some trade-offs. In the US, it's exclusive to Verizon.

The Bottom Line

The Verizon-exclusive Droid Turbo 2 delivers on its promise of an uncrackable screen -- and it's a great all-around Android phone, too.

I don't think I can overemphasize this point: the screen doesn't shatter. It doesn't matter whether you drop it on an edge, a corner, or face-first into the pavement. You can step on it. Run over it with a vehicle. (Yes, we actually did that! You can watch us do that and more in this torture test video.)

It's so durable that Motorola guarantees the screen won't break for four whole years -- a longer warranty than the entire rest of the phone. Note, however, that neither the phone nor the screen are indestructible: you can definitely puncture the screen on purpose, particularly if you use tools. And if you "accidentally" throw the phone off a six-story building, you'll probably end up with an unbroken screen surrounded by a wreck of a phone.

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You can step on the Droid Turbo 2. No kidding.

Josh Miller/CNET

But that unbreakable screen isn't just a gimmick -- the rest of the Droid Turbo 2 is excellent through and through.

As you'd expect from a flagship Motorola Droid -- the name of a sub-brand sold exclusively with Verizon Wireless in the US -- it's absolutely packed with specs, including a brilliant 5.4-inch quad-HD AMOLED display, a top-shelf Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, and 3GB of RAM. It's also got a big 3,760mAh battery with fast charging and two different forms of wireless charging, making it extremely convenient to refill in the middle of your day. It's even got a microSD slot built into the SIM card tray, so you can expand its built-in 32GB or 64GB of storage in a snap.

And for once, you don't need to look like you're carrying a tiny Terminator in your pocket if you want a Droid handset. Unlike past Droids , you're not stuck with a single militaristic, black-and-red phone; you can customize the Droid Turbo 2 at Motorola's own Moto Maker website with a whole variety of finishes, from gunmetal gray with a ballistic nylon rear cover to a white handset with a leather back.

Of course, the Droid Turbo 2 isn't perfect. It's big, and pricey ($624, or $26 a month), and limited to Verizon Wireless in the United States -- with all the carrier hassles and bloatware that can entail. It's a shame, because a lot of people would benefit from a crackproof screen. It also doesn't come with the latest version of Android (6.0 Marshmallow), and while it's on the way, we're not sure when it might arrive.

And honestly, most of this Droid's best qualities aren't unusual for a phone this size and price. If you aren't worried about dropping phones, you should really consider the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 , which boasts similar performance, better battery life, a fingerprint reader and a larger, more vibrant screen. Or the Google Nexus 6P , if you simply want a powerful phone that saves you some money.

But if you want a phone with a practically indestructible screen, keep on reading.

Up close with Motorola's shatterproof Droid Turbo 2 (pictures)

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Availability

The Motorola Droid Turbo 2 is a Verizon Wireless exclusive in the United States--though a practically identical phone, the Moto X Force , will ship globally later this year.

In the US, you can buy the phone either direct from Verizon or through Motorola's Moto Maker website. Either way, you're looking at an upfront payment of $624 (or $26 a month for 24 months) for the basic version with 32GB of storage, or $720 (or $30 a month for 24 months) if you want 64GB of storage instead.

If you design your phone at Moto Maker, you optionally add a pebbled leather back for an extra $24. The 64GB version also comes with a "design refresh," which lets you trade in your phone for a new design of your choice within two years of purchase.

In the UK, the Force will ship this November for £499. We don't have pricing or availability for Australia yet.

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Lesser phones would crack after suffering a drop like this.

Josh Miller/CNET

Shatterproof screen

  • 5.4-inch, 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution plastic AMOLED display (540ppi)
  • Integrated screen protector to absorb scratches
  • Four-year warranty against cracking and shattering

A screen that doesn't crack when you drop it. It seems too good to be true. But the Droid Turbo 2's shatterproof screen really is shatterproof. It's not just some marketing baloney: we put it to the test. I've dropped this phone dozens of times onto hard surfaces. I've stepped on it. We threw it off a tall ladder.

Each time, the screen survived without so much as a tiny fracture.

So we decided to do some nastier things -- like dropping giant metal toolboxes on the phone. Running it over with a vehicle. Even when we put a nasty bend in the handset (we thought for sure it would break) the screen barely seemed to notice. We had to drop a sharp, heavy metal construction tool onto the screen before it saw its very first crack -- and the phone still worked after.

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Watch this: We finally killed the Droid Turbo 2
We finally killed the Droid Turbo 2
3:07

That doesn't mean the Droid Turbo 2 is completely indestructible, though. Even though the screen stood up to a nasty beating, the rest of the phone can still take damage. Repeated drops onto rough stones left all sorts of dents and dings. We cracked the metal rim right near the Micro-USB charging port, too. And when we tried to puncture the screen, we actually wound up piercing the battery and setting the phone on fire. ( Don't try this at home.)

In short, you might still want a case if you drop your phone on the regular.

And you also shouldn't expect to get the Droid Turbo 2's durability without a few trade-offs. While that screen takes drops like a champ, the protection comes with a cost: instead of your typical big, bright, beautiful glass screen that resists scratches and scuffs, the Droid Turbo 2 actually has a smaller plastic screen with a built-in, factory-equipped screen protector that I found would attract lint and dust.

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Other phones around this size have bigger screens, but the Turbo 2's display still looks great.

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Honestly, it's still a pretty great screen, and I doubt you'll even notice the difference in optical quality between the glass screens you're probably used to, and this plastic one. The 5.4-inch quad-HD AMOLED screen is crisp and colorful, and even if it's not the equal of the gorgeous panels you'd find on a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, it does the job beautifully. Both in terms of size and optical quality, it's more than enough screen for me.

But I have to admit, it's weird to need a screen protector again. I'd really gotten used to modern smartphones with Gorilla Glass screens, which are extremely scratch resistant and super-easy to clean. Now, I'm back to a phone where my fingerprint smudges show up much more readily. I've already put a few noticeable scratches in the screen protector without even trying, and I can see it's a component I'll eventually need to replace. (Motorola will sell replacement protectors for $30.) Oh, and I wouldn't recommend that you remove the screen protector -- it's dreadfully easy to scratch the plastic display underneath.

For many, the screen protector won't be a huge deal, particularly if they need the durability the Droid Turbo 2's screen offers. I just want you to know that the screen comes with some trade-offs.

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Multiple bevels on the Turbo 2's metal edges make it easy to grip.

Josh Miller/CNET

Design and build

  • 5.90 by 3.07 by 0.36 inches (150 by 78 by 9.2 mm)
  • 6.0 ounces (169 grams)
  • Customizable design

I wasn't a big fan of the Moto X Pure Edition , released earlier this year. Why do I bring that up? The Droid Turbo 2 is an alternate reality version of the same phone. It's a streamlined, turbocharged, ruggedized Moto X designed around the new shatterproof screen. Only it feels way better too, if you ask me.

At first, the Turbo 2 and Pure look much the same -- the same as any of Motorola's recent handsets, to be honest. Both have a solid metal ring around the edge of the phone, a Micro-USB port at the bottom, a headphone jack up top, and a nice ridged metal power button and volume rocker on the right edge of the handset.

But where the Pure's tall, smooth, rounded frame could feel a little unwieldy, the Turbo 2's distinctive beveled edges and flatter back fit far easier into my hands. They look sleeker, too, if you ask me, and I like the way the phone's camera module and fingerprint divot are flush with the phone's back. Those components tended to jut up awkwardly in previous Motorola handsets.

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Josh Miller/CNET

And though I'd never call the Turbo 2 a beautiful phone, the array of different materials you can choose from at the Moto Maker website can make it a pretty handsome one. We tried a few, and I'm particularly partial to the optional black pebbled leather back with the silver rim. It's a nice contrast.

I can't say I'm a big fan of Turbo 2 designs with the white front, though. Not only can you see all the ugly little sensors jutting through the front of the casing -- on the black version, they're hidden opaquely underneath -- but the white design really serves to highlight how small the screen is compared to the phone's casing. The new shatterproof screen is notably smaller than the one in the Moto X Pure, and it makes the Turbo's bezels look pretty big. I also don't like the way dirt can easily get trapped in the cracks of the rubber rear panels.

Speaking of trade-offs Motorola made to fit that shatterproof display, here's one more: unlike other top-tier Motorola phones, the Droid Turbo 2 has a single front-facing speaker instead of twin stereo speakers. At least it's nice and loud! I definitely didn't mind watching TV shows with the single speaker, even if I prefer stereo.

You also won't find a fingerprint reader to help you securely log into the phone.

Software and apps

  • Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
  • Hands-free voice control
  • Moto Actions gesture controls
  • Moto Display

Unlike the new Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X , the Motorola Droid Turbo 2 doesn't come with the latest Android 6.0 Marshmallow operating system, and we don't know when that will change. While Motorola tells us it's working as fast as possible, history has shown that Verizon phones can take a long time to get updates.

Yet I don't think I'd let that stop me if I needed a new phone today. For one thing, Android Marshmallow simply doesn't add a whole lot of extremely desirable features. But for another, the software load that ships on the Droid Turbo 2 is one of the most unobjectionable sets of phone makers' custom software that I've seen in a while.

While Verizon does include a small array of apps you can't uninstall (NFL Mobile, for instance) and a bunch of cutesy little games I'd rather do without, swiping through the operating system felt fast and fluid.

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You can issue voice commands like "OK, Droid Turbo, remind me to feed the meter in an hour."

Josh Miller/CNET

What's more, the few features Motorola does add are genuinely useful. Like its Moto X predecessors , the Droid Turbo 2 will automatically turn on the camera if you give it a vigorous twist. You can shake the phone twice to turn on the flashlight, or wave your hand above the display to check the time and your incoming notifications. Record a set phrase like "OK, Droid Turbo" and you can issue voice commands. And all of these things work even if the phone's asleep. (My favorite use is in the car: "OK Droid Turbo, navigate home" to get turn-by-turn voice directions, no matter where you are.)

New for 2015 is "Discreet Moto Voice," which is pretty handy as well: Instead of speaking commands out loud, and having the phone reply out loud, you can simply raise the phone to your ear and talk at a normal volume. It felt weird the first few times I tried it...but perhaps a little less weird than talking to an inanimate object in public.

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The 21-megapixel camera takes great pictures... in good light, anyhow.

Josh Miller/CNET

Cameras and video

  • 21-megapixel rear camera with f/2.0 aperture
  • 5-megapixel front camera with its own flash
  • 4K video at 30 frames per second, slow-mo video
  • Video stabilization

Motorola has had a troubled history with smartphone cameras. They just haven't been very good. Earlier this year, the Moto X Pure Edition introduced a new 21-megapixel camera, and...it was a bit better, but still not close to the best smartphone cameras on the market.

Well, the 21-megapixel camera in the new Droid Turbo 2 looks to be identical to the one in the Moto X Pure.

Does that mean you won't take wonderful pictures with it? Not at all! In good light, it's a pretty capable little shooter for everyday photos, and I got some shots I really liked -- even if it doesn't have nearly the dynamic range of my Galaxy S6, which can pull out far more detail from the bright and dark regions of a scene.

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The automatic HDR mode brings out some of the bright blue sky and the shadows in this picture.

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You can see quite a bit of detail in these tiny purple flowers, but I had a tough time getting the phone to take a stable, focused picture.

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In very low light, pictures can get ugly fast.

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Here's the same perspective from the camera you'll find on a Galaxy S6 or Galaxy Note 5. Far more detail, although it appears to be a little zoomed in.

Sean Hollister/CNET

In low light, though, or for night shots, the Droid Turbo 2's image quality falls apart quickly, with lots of digital noise and graininess. There's an automatic night mode that can make low-light images look OK at a distance, but you'll see splotchy, ugly images devoid of detail if you zoom in. I also had some trouble focusing and finding proper white balance in low light, compared with my Galaxy S6.

Don't expect a manual mode in Motorola's camera app, by the way. You can set focus and exposure, shoot a panorama or turn on the self-timer, but that's about it.

While the Droid Turbo 2's camera doesn't have optical image stabilization -- probably one of the reasons low-light images suffer to begin with -- it does have digital stabilization when you're recording video, even at 4K resolution. That's a definite plus, as it means you'll be able to get much more detail from that 4K video while moving than you might with other phones.

Hardware performance

  • 2.0GHz eight-core Snapdragon 810 processor
  • 32 or 64GB storage, expandable to 2TB via microSD slot
  • 3,760mAh embedded battery
  • Two forms of wireless charging: Qi and PMA
  • Wired fast charging: 25 percent in 15 minutes

I feel like I shouldn't need to tell you that the Droid Turbo 2 is a blazing-fast phone. It's right there in the name. But truly, it's one of the fastest phones I've used. The 2.0GHz Snapdragon 810 chip and 3GB of RAM just scream through tasks, whether I'm simply swiping through the operating system, loading up websites or playing intensive games like Riptide GP2 with the settings cranked up.

There's nothing particularly special about that performance, mind you. Plenty of phones have the same Snapdragon 810 chip, and they're similarly fast. Ditto the Apple chips you'll find in the new iPhones (they're maybe a smidge faster) and the Exynos chips you'll find in the latest Samsung Galaxies.

3DMark Score (Ice Storm Unlimited) performance charts

Apple iPhone 6S Plus 28,080 4,240 2,403Motorola Droid Turbo 2 25,442 4,761 1,324Samsung Galaxy Note 5 24,589 4,939 1,488Google Nexus 6P 24,224 4,313 1,286
  • 3DMark Score (Ice Storm Unlimited)
  • Geekbench 3 Score (Multi-Core)
  • Geekbench 3 Score (Single-Core)
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

In fact, there's a downside to the Droid Turbo 2's speed: it heats up quickly. I'm not talking burning hot, but the left metal edge can definitely get unpleasantly warm after a bit. It's enough to feel through a jacket pocket. On the plus side, the heat seems to have a limit: it doesn't get much hotter when performing turn-by-turn GPS directions, or charging, than that "unpleasantly warm" level.

Battery life

Motorola and Verizon say the Droid Turbo 2 can last 48 hours on a charge. The truth: this phone has great battery life, but you won't be getting nearly two full days of actual use.

In fact, this isn't close to the best battery life we've seen from a phone. The Droid Turbo 2 lasted 13 hours, 32 minutes on our video rundown test. That's actually an hour less than last year's Droid Turbo , and an hour and a half shy of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 with its smaller 3,000mAh cell. (We've seen 16-hour showings from budget phones.)

But let's talk practically: the Droid Turbo 2's battery will not only make it to bedtime, it'll still have a significant charge the next morning. I saw the battery dip just 10 percent from midnight to 8 a.m. the following day. And when you wake up and realize that you forgot to charge your phone, you'll be able to plug into the included 25-watt TurboCharger power adapter while you take a shower. I saw 25 percent of the battery fill up in just 15 minutes, and 80 percent in less than an hour.

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Josh Miller/CNET

The Turbo supports both PMA and Qi wireless charging standards, too, which basically means you can buy pretty much any wireless charging dock or pad on the market, and it's extremely easy to top up the battery at work or at your local Starbucks.

So even though I can watch the battery drain if I keep my eye on the meter, I don't feel the usual battery anxiety that typically comes with a powerful phone. I've used the Droid Turbo 2 to play games, watch shows, and set it up as a mobile hotspot for my laptop, without worrying one bit about whether I'll make it back to the charger.

Call quality and data speeds

  • Verizon Wireless
  • LTE Cat. 4, bands B2, B3, B4, B5, B7, B13
  • Dual-band 802.11ac 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi

I'd rate the Droid Turbo 2's call quality somewhat above average. Motorola equipped this device with five separate microphones, active noise cancelation and a nice loud earpiece, plus HD Voice support. I had no unusual trouble carrying on calls -- although I had all the usual trouble that comes with calling people over a traditional cellular telephone network. I prefer VoIP services like Google Hangouts and Skype, which offer much clearer, crisper calls.

Similarly, data speeds were all over the map. In downtown San Jose and at CNET's San Francisco offices, I saw download speeds as high as 20Mbps and upload speeds as high as 12Mbps using Ookla's Speedtest.net app, but also as low as 3Mbps and sub-1Mbps respectively. Technically, the Turbo 2 supports LTE Cat. 4, which ranges up to 150Mbps, but we're not seeing speeds anywhere near the limit.

If we're talking cellular radios, the real limitation here is shoddy support for the world's wide array of LTE bands. If you buy this phone on Verizon Wireless, don't expect to be able to take it internationally or to another carrier very easily. It's missing key bands for AT&T and T-Mobile, for instance. Since the nearly identical Moto X Force supports those missing bands, it's hard to see this as anything other than an intentional limitation meant to lock the Droid Turbo 2 to Verizon's network, and Verizon's alone.

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The Moto X Pure Edition (left), which works on most any carrier, versus the Verizon-exclusive Droid Turbo 2 (right).

Josh Miller/CNET

Conclusion

The greatest compliment I can pay the Droid Turbo 2 is that I honestly, genuinely, truly wish it wasn't a Verizon Wireless exclusive. There are plenty of people who drop their phones and watch them shatter on the pavement, people for whom the Turbo 2 would be a breath of fresh air.

Yes, there are a bunch of tradeoffs that come with that durability -- but surprisingly, not that many. So many powerful phones drain their batteries too quickly -- but not the Droid Turbo 2. So many phones with long battery life phones have subpar screens -- but not the Droid Turbo 2. So many phones, period, are bogged down with unwanted software for no particularly good reason. Not this one.

In nearly every way, the $624 Droid Turbo 2 minimizes the trade-offs you have to make to get a great phone. At this point, the biggest tradeoffs are really just the price -- it isn't cheap -- and the fact you'll have to stay with Verizon if you buy it.

That price and carrier limitation, though, are worth considering because the US smartphone market has changed over the last year. Two-year cellular contracts are going extinct, and there are fewer and fewer reasons to be locked to a single carrier. Smartphones like Motorola's own $399 Moto X Pure Edition and Google's $499 Nexus 6P have shown that a single device can easily support all four US carriers and let you hop to whichever's offering the best deals, while still providing enough performance for your apps, for hundreds of dollars less than a top-tier phone.

If you're going to spend more than that, there should be a very good reason.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 , which costs around $720 (depending on carrier) offers some of those reasons. If you like the Droid Turbo 2, I think you'd probably like Samsung's phone as well. It's got a notably better camera, a bigger, brighter screen, similar performance and slightly better battery life, plus a stylus for drawing. You can get it on any major US carrier, with some limited ability to swap around.

But if you're dead-set on a screen that won't crack, I think you'd probably be very happy with the new Droid Turbo.

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8.4

Motorola Droid Turbo 2

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 9Camera 7Battery 8