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Why I chose the Droid Maxx

A few years ago I purchased a Galaxy Nexus on Verizon, and it’s been an awesome phone.  However, with newer operating systems, bigger apps, and wear and tear, it’s been time to get a new phone for a while.

Being on Verizon made this an interesting decision, as there are two very different sides to them:

Verizon’s Network

Their network is amazing.  AT&T makes some crazy claims about their network, but in reality it’s not even close.  AT&T loves to mix and match their “4G” network (which is essentially their 3G network with a new name) and their “4G LTE” network which is quite fast but not in many cities yet.

Verizon’s network thrives on the fact that their 4G LTE network is in a ton of cities across the US.  Case in point, I spent some time with my wife’s family in south Georgia over the summer.  We were about 15 minutes outside of tiny Dawson, GA, in the middle of nowhere, and I was getting three bars of LTE and smoking fast.  It was impressive.

Verizon’s phones

On the flip side of Verizon’s awesome network is their pitiful selection of phones.  I’m a big fan of the stock Android experience; I don’t care for the junk that companies like Samsung and HTC pile on the phones.  Give me clean Android and I’m happy.  The problem is that Verizon loves all of that junk — stock Android phones are difficult to find on their network.

Recently there have been special edition versions of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC ONE that run stock Android, but they only work on AT&T and T-Mobile.  When the “Nexus 4” came out last year, Verizon didn’t pick it up.  It’s been frustrating.

Enter the Moto X

When details about the Moto X started coming out, it sounded like the perfect phone.  It’s a mostly stock Android experience, but with three innovative and useful new features:

Active notifications: When you have a notification (new email, etc), the phone will “breathe” every few seconds with info about it.  Because of the screen technology being used, it consumes incredibly little battery power to make this happen, but it’s a great feature.

Gesture-based camera: Motorola claims you can go from sleep to shutter in less than two seconds.  Just twist the phone in your hand twice and the camera will come up, then just tap the screen to take a photo.  I’m not sure I can do it in under two seconds, but I can certainly get there very quickly.

Touchless controls: This is probably my favorite feature — you can talk to the phone without even pressing a button!  Just say the magic phrase (“ok google now”) and it’ll start listening to you.  At that point it’s similar to existing Google voice actions (or Apple’s Siri), but the ability to do it without having to press any buttons is amazing (especially in the car).  They have a separate low-power processor dedicated to this task, which means it can be listening for you 24/7 without using much of the battery.  In addition, it detects your voice so that friends can’t easily mess with you.

This video does a great job of showing off those new features:

The Droid Maxx

So if I love the idea of the Moto X so much, why did I purchase a Droid Maxx instead?

Verizon recently launched three new devices: the Droid Mini, the Droid Ultra and the Droid Maxx.  The mini is essentially the Moto X (but a bit uglier), the Ultra is a nice device, and the Maxx is the same as the Ultra but with a bigger battery and better styling.  So ultimately, the Mini and the Ultra are pretty much useless and the question is between the Moto X and the Droid Maxx.

From there, for me, it was a simple choice. With the Droid Maxx I get all of the cool features of the Moto X, but with a bigger display and a huge battery.  What’s not to like?

My only big concern is that the Moto X may get software updates before the Droid Maxx, but with Verizon that seems unlikely.  With my Galaxy Nexus the updates came from Google very quickly, but Verizon would hold and “test” them for months and months before finally pushing them out to us.  I expect the same with the Moto X (fast updates from Google, pitifully slow releases from Verizon), so both phones should be about the same.

The Moto X is still solid

That said, the Moto X might be the device for you.  The Droid Maxx is a big phone; if you want something a bit more “normal” sized, the Moto X could be a great way to go.  If you’re an iPhone user on the fence about switching over, I’d hold off until Apple’s new iPhone unveiling on September 10 so you can make an informed decision.

iPhone won’t get these features for years

The interesting part about some of these features is that Apple probably won’t be able to easily copy them.  In particular:

Active notifications: The key to the successful active notifications is the fact that it’s using an AMOLED display.  Because of that, the screen can turn on only those pixels that are needed, thus saving battery life.  iPhones use an LCD, which requires that the entire screen be turned on even just to show a few pixels.  This is a battery killer.

Touchless controls: This would be a great addition for Siri, but I don’t see how they can do it.  The Moto X it uses a special chip on the phone to handle it so it doesn’t kill your battery.  To add that feature to an existing phone (which has already been done) is certainly possible but will absolutely destroy your battery life.

The exception is if Apple has already been considering features like this and has added that kind of hardware to the new iPhone being unveiled next month.  It seems unlikely, but you never know.

Competition is great

Whether you’re an Android fan or an iPhone fan, phones like this should make you happy.  The innovation coming from both sides is leading to better devices for all of us!

What is your next phone going to be?

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Mickey Mellen

Co-Founder and Technical Director

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    • Yeah, AT&T makes it a tougher call. I’d be inclined to wait and see what the Nexus 5 brings. As a Verizon customer, I just don’t think we’ll get it at all so it was time to pull the trigger on something.

  1. My AT&T iphone contract is up in October. I was pondering switching to Verizon because of the dropped calls. I was on the phone with AT&T this weekend adjusting my data plan to their Mobile Share over all my devices. While on the phone with the rep, what do you know….a dropped call. Knowing my contract is soon expiring, based on my long time residency with AT&T and the dropped calls, she gave me $100 credit on my bill on top of lowering my total monthly bill. So, I guess I was bought. I’ll stick with them.

    I’m a creature of habit and I will, of course, be staying with iPhones and get the new iPhone5s or whatever it will be called. I adore Siri. Just yesterday she hooked us up with a great restaurant while we were in an unfamiliar area and she was a perfect traveling companion when we were recently in Arizona. She never got us lost. But she did take up some data….hence the reason I was calling to switch to the Mobile Share so all my devices can share one pool of data.

    • Siri is certainly awesome. The “Google Now” voice actions are equally (if not more) powerful, but they’re very dry. I love that Siri has a personality and I wish Google’s did as well.

      However, on this phone it’s amazing to be able to talk to it without having to press a button first. I expect Apple will do the same at some point, but it may be a couple of years until they can.

    • Great marketing, for sure, but likely useful from a technology standpoint as well. With the phone “listening” 24/7, the phrase needs to be long and unique enough so that there aren’t any false positives from background noise/conversation during the day. So far, it works quite well.

  2. Perfect post for me. I am forwarding to Jay as we are LEAPING out of Sprint in November and have been leaning towards Verizon. This really helped me seal the deal. Okay, question. Have you synced your email to the Maxx? The current HTC I have has been really difficult to sync and since I only have a couple more months on this plan I have given up.

    • I have my Gmail and Google Apps accounts synced to it and they work great!

      However, it sounds like you’re already on Android, so if you’re having email trouble I’m guessing it’s a non-Google account. While the Maxx is running a newer version of Android and should be a little better, the issues you’re having now will probably be there on any of the new phones as well.

  3. I am so deep into ATT that I am not sure how to climb out of the committment hole but posts like this make me want to find a ladder!!! The iphone certainly has its advantages but the battery life is a killer for me. And, funny that you mention the oversize phone in the Droid Maxx, I sat next to someone with that phone yesterday and it is quite impressive. Looks like a smaller, mini ipad. Very cool!

  4. After a bit of comparing – it came down to the Moto X or the Droid Maxx – I opted for the Maxx for the same reasons you did. My previous phone was a Droid X which I adored and used for 3 years. The Maxx is knocking my socks off! Gorgeous screen, insane battery life and the Verizon network can’t be beat. My office is on the ground floor of a library and everyone not on Verizon has to go outside to use their cell phones.

    LOVE the “Find my phone” feature. Don’t need it much because I’m glued to my Maxx, but it’s fun to diss iPhone users with.

    • Cool, glad you’re enjoying it! My only frustration is the lack of marketing around it. It’s a stunningly good phone, and it’s not being promoted much at all.


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