Motorola—which gave its new Droid Turbo 2 phone a shatterproof display that comes with a four-year breakage guarantee—may just have upped its game with smartphone owners who have broken or will break the expensive, often delicate display screens on their costly modern devices.
The Droid Turbo 2, which Motorola announced at the end of October, features a new Moto ShatterShield display that is built with five layers that are sandwiched together and designed to absorb shocks and not break.
At this point, the new design might be one of the toughest displays out there and could be attractive to users who have dropped their expensive smartphones and come away with cracked or shattered screens and devices that no longer even work.
So, will the Moto ShatterShield be a feature that causes smartphone buyers to line up to buy the tougher new handsets in droves or is it just a nice feature that could give Motorola a bit of a leg up on its competitors? Is it something that could force other smartphone vendors to include shatterproof displays in the next generations of their own phones just to satisfy the demand of consumers who want tougher handsets?
It depends on whom you ask, according to a sampling of mobile IT analysts who discussed the new displays with eWEEK.
“I think it’s an interesting development, but not necessarily a game-changer for Motorola just because they’re the first with a mainstream phone to have a ‘shatterproof’ display,” said Bill Menezes, a principal research analyst with Gartner. “You may remember all the talk a year or so ago about Apple planning to use the so-called ‘sapphire’ display with similar qualities; they haven’t done so yet, but it’s a sign that Motorola won’t be the only mainstream OEM with this for very long.”
At the same time, handset maker Kyocera built phones with sapphire screens and sold them several years ago, but the company doesn’t have a large presence in the United States, said Menezes. “If this turns out to be a game-changer for anyone, it will be the accessory makers. Once most mid- to high-end phones have this screen protection technology, you have to think the Otterboxes of the world will lose some sales. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said the shatterproof screens will resonate with certain customers, while for others, it may not rate as highly. “Those who are most interested with the overall total cost of ownership will gravitate to this feature for obvious reasons,” he wrote in an email reply. “They know that shattered displays are a major cost factor over the life of their smartphones.”
Moorhead said that Motorola may have erred by limiting the display warranty to only four years. “I wish Motorola would have made it a lifetime guarantee versus four years as it projects more confidence about the shatterproof nature,” he wrote.
Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, said that “as a stand-alone feature, it’s a great addition to the mix and a way that Motorola could stand out from the crowd. What would really be interesting is data on how much consumers and businesses pay annually to repair damaged displays. If I were Motorola, I’d be trying very hard to quantify that and use it to my advantage.”
On the other hand, wrote King, “any time a major vendor swims against the tide, it has a chance of either failing miserably or fundamentally changing the market. On the plus side, look what happened when T-Mobile killed off two-year contracts. Display fragility is one of the biggest problems with smartphones, and at this point, Motorola looks like the only vendor who gives a damn about the issue. Depending on how the company markets it, this could be a big deal with positive consequences.”
If Corning, the makers of scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass used by many smartphone makers for their displays, comes up with a competing product, “I expect it’ll be because of pressure from Motorola,” wrote King.
Rob Enderle, principal analyst of Enderle Group, told eWEEK that the overall success of the new Moto ShatterShield multi-layer display could also hinge on whether it is as clear and bright as traditional displays, despite all its layers.
“If it works, it would be on the list of things that would cause someone to choose one phone over another if they were aware of the feature,” wrote Enderle. “It is a big deal, but it isn’t magical. It won’t make up for a mediocre phone. The Droid Turbo 2 looks to be a decent phone. So, with the right marketing, this could drive folks to it. It is actually pretty cool. I’d definitely consider this phone where I might not have otherwise.”
Is Motorola’s Shatterproof Display the Next Big Thing in Phones?
Jan Dawson, chief analyst of Jackdaw Research, told eWEEK in an email that “no single feature has ever sold a significant number of devices by itself,” such as great cameras in Lumia phones or waterproof features on some Android phones. Instead, “people buy brands and people buy a complete package rather than a single feature,” he wrote. “That’s not to say Motorola shouldn’t try to differentiate itself in this way, but it has to be part of a complete package of features that will be compelling, and it has to get carriers in the U.S. and at least some other markets to sell their devices if they’re to be successful.”
Avi Greengart, a consumer platforms and devices analyst with Current Analysis, told eWEEK that the shatterproof screen in the new Droid Turbo 2 could ultimately make other phone makers take notice if customers react well to it. “This is definitely something Motorola’s competitors should be working on,” he said. “However, for now, this is a compelling feature of a single product, and in the U.S., it is limited to a single carrier.”
After hearing the thoughts of the analysts, I wonder if they are perhaps being too cautious about their expectations for the new shatterproof display.
Broken displays are one of the most aggravating things I hear about from users, and the large number of brick-and-mortar and online stores where consumers can have their displays replaced attests to how prevalent a problem this continues to be. When a display cracks or shatters from a simple fall, that is a flaw, and if it can be prevented by an innovative screen design, I believe that users will take a very close look at a device that offers one. If Motorola piled this phone with enough other good features, this ShatterShield innovation could be just what consumers clamor for as they buy new devices. We’ll have to see what happens with Motorola’s sales figures in the future to get clear results.
So what is the ShatterShield? It starts on the outside with an exterior protective lens that includes a proprietary hard coating designed to guard against dents and abrasion. Below that layer is an interior lens, which is a highly transparent layer that provides a clear protective shield that won’t crack or shatter. Under the interior lens is a dual touch layer that takes over touch-screen performance if the primary touch-sensitive layer is damaged due to an impact. The fourth layer is made up of a flexible 5.4-inch AMOLED quad HD display that also absorbs shock while providing excellent picture quality. The fifth layer of the smartphone’s display is a rigid aluminum chassis that provides structural integrity and durability, serving as a base for the ShatterShield technology.
The Droid Turbo 2 is now available through Verizon, starting at $624 ($26 per month for 24 months) for a 32GB version, or for $720 ($30 per month for 24 months), which lets owners send their phones back to Motorola for a full design do-over within two years that includes a bump-up to 64GB of internal storage. A leather device covering, if chosen, is an additional $24. The phones also can be purchased through Motorola.
The Droid Turbo 2 is a 4G LTE phone that features a 2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 octa-core processor; 3GB of LPDDR4 memory; a 21-megapixel rear camera with dual LED CCT flash, zero shutter lag and rapid focus; a 5MP front camera with flash and a wide-angle lens; and a water-repellent nano-coating to protect the device from moisture and spills. It also includes a microSD card slot that supports SC cards up to 2TB, a 3,760mAh battery that provides power for up to 48 hours on a charge and Turbo Power fast charging that can provide up to 13 hours of battery life in just 15 minutes, according to Motorola. The phone runs on the Android 5.1 Lollipop operating system, but will be upgraded in the future to Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
With the Moto X design service, users can pick the colors and materials used to build their personal smartphones, choosing from more than 1,000 different combinations of colors and materials. Verizon customers can design and order their Droid Turbo 2 devices online or in Verizon stores.