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Motorola and Verizon take giant step backward with release of disappointing new Droid lineup

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Motorola Droid Ultra and Droid MaxxMotorola/Verizon announced their new Droid lineup yesterday and their heaviest hitters, the Droid Maxx and Droid Ultra, look to be a pretty big disappointments (a cute little Droid Mini was also announced). We can hope that good software engineering overcomes some of the disappointing hardware specs but don’t hold your breath. Verizon blew it this round and with the race tightening, now’s not the time to misjudge the marketplace.

While others are slamming 10+ MP cameras into their ever-shrinking chassis, the Droid Maxx and Droid Ultra settled for a 10MP rear camera. That being said, the camera is a f2.4 RBGC camera which is an unusual but welcome addition. It will undoubtedly improve low-light photography which is one of the biggest problems with smartphone photography today. The 10MP camera is accompanied by a 2MP HD front-facing camera. Beyond this spec however, it all goes downhill.

Don’t buy the 8-core hype that everyone else is throwing around. The Droid Maxx/Ultra sport a 1.7GHz dual-core processor with a Adreno 320 quad-core GPU (comprising Motorola’s new “X8 Mobile Computing System” arrangement), 2GB Ram, and 16GB on board memory (yep, no expansion slot) throwing light on a 5-inch 720p Super AMOLED display (you read it right, no 1080p). The other two “cores” that everyone is talking about are coprocessors (one for “contextual computing” and one for natural language processing). Motorola chose to invent their own standard for counting cores and market the Ultra as an 8-core beast. It’s not – at least not in the sense that the current market defines “processor cores”.

Regardless, Motorola stumbled out of the gate with this design – the Snapdragon 600 is already as fast and the 800 is on its way out the door. A variety of speed tests are already showing the new Droids are slower than the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One, both of which have been available on the market for quite some time.  Did we mention that the Droid Maxx and Ultra are rolling out with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean? We hoped to see Android 4.3 but at this point all we can hope for is that Google chose to demonstrate that they aren’t playing favorites with Motorola-designed Verizon phones and that they plan to offer an early upgrade to 4.3 on down the road.

The Droid Ultra is thin at 7.18mm and weighing in at 4.94 ounces, is very light too. The traditional Kevlar backing has been retained. The Droid Maxx’s selling point is its “48-hour” battery life (and arguably its increased 32GB on board storage capacity). The Droid Ultra comes with a 2130 mAh Li–Ion battery while the Droid Maxx includes a 3500mAh battery – non-removable but it does allow wireless charging.

Network-wise, we’re looking at LTE, CDMA/1xEVDO Rev. A (800/1900 MHz) and Global Network: EDGE/GSM (850/900/1800/1900), HSPA/UMTS( 850/900/1900/2100), HSDPA 42.2 Mbps (Category 20), HSUPA 5.76 Mbps.  Yawn.

We can only hope the new software and sensor features (e.g. Moto-X voice commands which provide always on voice control, Active Display which allows for notifications without having to wake up the phone, pocket to picture in less than 2 seconds, etc.) make it an easier sell for Motorola or that the upcoming Moto-X offers a bit more to look forward to.  The new Verizon Droid lineup will ship on August 20, 2013.