Review: Motorola Droid Ultra for Verizon Wireless
The Google Play Store is your one-stop-shop for music, movies, TV shows, books, and magazines. It addition to the Store itself, the Ultra comes with all the ancillary apps that are used to interact with each type of content (Play Music, Play Movies, etc.).
Of course, Verizon had to stick a few extras on board. You'll find Amazon Kindle and Audible for book reading, Amazon MP3 for music purchases, NFL Mobile for your football cravings, and Viewdini to search for online video content. All of these apps have been around awhile and work well.
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The Ultra carries over the exact same camera app from the Moto X. I don't care for it all that much.
The camera UI is bare bones. There are only two buttons: one for the video camera and another for the user-facing camera. (Every so often, a little "?" appears in the upper right corner. Press it to watch a helpful tutorial.)
All the settings and controls are accessed by swiping from the left side of the viewfinder towards the center. This opens the control dial that has all the options. The Ultra includes HDR (which can be set to come on automatically) and panorama shooting modes, and the flash, geo-tagging, shutter noise, and touch-to-shoot features can be turned on or off. It also has the shake-to-wake feature that opens the camera from idle mode when the phone is twisted.
An up/down swipe gesture zooms in and out. One thing I really like is that the camera has an always-on burst mode. Press the screen and hold, and the Ultra will focus and then fire of two shots per second until you take your finger off the screen.
The camera software is step up from stock Android, but barely. You can't adjust scenes, ISO, brightness, or white balance. It's rather limiting if you like to take creative control over the camera.
The Ultra has the same 10-megapixel sensor found in the Moto X and produced images of similar quality. That means that they were pretty good, but short of great. Shots I captured outdoors during the day were clean, in focus, and showed good exposure and color. Despite its claims to the contrary, the Ultra struggles with low light shooting. The images are accurate as far as exposure and white balance are concerned, but the Ultra can't focus at all in low light. It's a shame. The flash doesn't help it focus, either. At the end of the day, it is a serviceable camera, but there are much better ones out there.
The overall results from the video camera are better than those of the regular camera, mostly thanks to improved focus. The video camera produces sharp results, and manages to get exposure and white balance right most of the time, as well. There are better cameras available, but there are plenty worse ones, too. The 1080p HD results obtained with the Droid Ultra should appease most people.
The gallery app is the same one that comes with most Android devices. It doesn't offer anything new or different compared to other Jelly Bean phones. It's acceptable for managing photo albums and sharing photos with social networks. It also has a some simple editing features, such as crop, rotate, red-eye reduction, and filters that help correct color, exposure, and other issues.
There are a lot of Verizon-branded apps on board, as well as useless extras. You'll find Amazon, and Amazon App Store; Caller Name IS, IMDb, and QuickOffice; as well as My Verizon Mobile, Verizon Tones, VZ Navigator, and VZ Security. Most of these cannot be deleted, but there's still a fair amount of storage left on the Ultra for your own apps and content.
The Ultra's Bluetooth radio worked well. I was able to connect with an array of other gadgets and pass phone calls and music to mono and stereo headphones. Calls sounded great through my car's handsfree system. Music also sounded good via Bluetooth. Like the Moto X, however, the Ultra cannot push files to other devices. I was able to pair it with my PC and another phone, but was unable to send an image file to either device. Motorola hasn't said when this might be resolved.
The Ultra includes Google's Chrome browser. Chrome worked perfectly at rendering web sites over Verizon's network. Web sites were reasonably quick to load, for the most part, and web sites looked good on the Ultra's display.
Thanks to the Active Display feature, there's almost always a clock visible on the Ultra, even when the phone is idle. It could be a little bigger/brighter, but it can be read in most environments other than under direct sunlight.
The Ultra's GPS radio worked just fine. Both VZ Navigator and Google Maps are on board. You know the drill here. VZ Navigator is good for plotting routes, but costs $10 per month. Google Maps is also good at plotting routes, but also offers a wide array of search and navigation options that are excellent. The GPS radio was very quick; it pinpointed me to within about 15 feet in 5 to 10 seconds.
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