Today Motorola and US carrier Verizon rekindled their old romance, releasing three new phones under the Droid brand. We have the Droid Ultra, a high-end phone with a razor-thin build (but no Razr branding), and then we have the Droid Mini, which offers a smaller form factor without skimping much on quality. The one that really turned our heads, though, was the Droid Maxx, with an advertised battery life of 48 hours. Let's put it side-by-side with the Samsung Galaxy S4, and see how they compare.
The two phones are nearly identical in size. The only significant difference is that the Droid Maxx is nine percent thicker than the svelte GS4.
There are heavier phones than the Droid Maxx, but a featherweight it is not. It tips the scales at a full 28 percent heavier than the Galaxy S4.
The Droid Maxx sticks with the kevlar build that Motorola has been using for its Droid Razr line for the last couple of years. Here it's covering more of the phone than ever.
Both displays give you the same spacious 5-inch layout, but the Galaxy S4 is much sharper. The Droid Maxx's 294 pixels per inch should make for a pretty sharp screen, but that's still a fairly low number for a high-end 2013 smartphone.
The Motorola X8 is the branding for the system-on-a-chip in the new Droid phones, but the processor is (according to Ars Technica) a slight variation of a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro, which was featured in several high-end handsets in late 2012.
So the GS4 wins this round. But let's keep this in perspective: both phones blow away the fastest phones from just a couple of years ago, and will be plenty fast for most users.
Both phones pack 2 GB of RAM.
The Galaxy S4 offers more options for storage, along with expandable storage via its microSD slot. But the 32 GB offered in the Droid Maxx should prove ample for all but the biggest data hoarders.
This is the Droid Maxx's killer feature: insane battery life. Verizon estimates 48 hours of uptime with "average" use. That number can obviously vary, and we haven't had the chance to verify these claims. But nobody has ever claimed that the Galaxy S4 can last anywhere near that long.
One potential advantage for the GS4 is that its battery is removable. The Droid Maxx's unibody design prevents any swapping on the go.
No skimping on wireless speeds, as both phones max out on LTE networks (if available on your carrier and in your area).
We haven't yet put the Droid Maxx's camera through the paces, but a 10-megapixel sensor is a good start. Just don't get too swept away by megapixel mythology.
Both phones run Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. The Galaxy S4 has Samsung's TouchWiz UI in tow, along with its overflowing bag of features (some kinda useful, many more leaning towards gimmickry). The Droid Maxx almost runs stock Android. Just a few minor tweaks separate it from pure Google, which is quite a discrepancy from the overpowering TouchWiz.
However, the Droid Maxx does have several unique new software features of its own. Want to snap a picture with the Maxx? Shake the phone twice, then tap the screen. Need to share something with a nearby friend? A two-fingered swipe up on the screen uploads it, and a two-fingered swipe down from your friend downloads it. These features might be a little gimmicky too, but we could also see them coming in handy for some.
Hands-free voice control
Okay, technically the Galaxy S4 will let you control a few functions with voice commands, but the Droid Maxx takes this to a new level. Your phone can be asleep, with its screen off, and you can say "Okay, Google Now" to trigger a variety of voice actions. The idea is that it's a new way of using your phone. Expect more on this front from the upcoming Moto X.
The Galaxy S4 is sold in a variety of price points on carriers around the world, but the above numbers are for the Verizon (US) version, being that the Droid Maxx is a VZW exclusive. If Motorola follows the same pattern from previous years, though, non-US smartphone shoppers will see a (non-Droid branded) version of the Maxx in the coming months.
These prices, as you'd expect, are with a two-year contract.
Wrap-upIf you don't need a phone with cutting-edge resolution or a benchmark-shattering processor, then the Droid Maxx can remedy one of smartphone owners' longest-lasting complaints. If its battery life is anywhere near as long as the advertised 48 hours, then it shatters all previous expectations for smartphone uptimes. That and the expansive voice control are probably the two biggest reasons to consider the Maxx.
But remember that this is simply an initial spec-based look at the new handset. It's usually wise to wait for more extensive hands-ons before throwing down US$300 and making a two-year commitment.
For more on the Galaxy S4, you can check out our in-depth comparison to another popular Android phone, the HTC One.