Motorola Droid 4 Review: Better Than Ever
The Droid 4 will entice you with a nice keyboard and LTE, but its big size and flawed software doesn't stand up to the competition.
The Droid used to be Verizon's bread and butter contender against AT&T's iPhone. When Motorola released the original Droid in 2009, it became an instant hit. Since then, every iteration of the Android line held the flagship status until Verizon started selling its own iPhone last year.
Now, the Droid lacks its former premium draw. And the low point in the series, the Droid 3, was a major disappointment -- it lacked 4G, a vital lifeline for a multimedia-focused device. Now, the Droid 4, after several delays, hopes to make amends with a dual-core chip, excellent keyboard and finally, 4G LTE service.
The Droid 4 looks a lot like its siblings, the Droid Razr and the Razr Maxx. They all feature a dark outer shell, glossy bezels, curved edges and a large touch display. But it doesn't have the aesthetic appeal of the iPhone, or rather, it offers a massive size that's fit for a workhorse.
At six-plus ounces, it's very heavy, so don't think you'll slip it comfortably into your jeans pocket. If you don't mind the girth, the matte plastic back feels nice and doesn't attract smudges in the same way some overly shiny phones do. Of course, all that bulk exists for a reason, since the bottom half slides out to show a keyboard -- and it's a stand-out keyboard. The numbered buttons along the top -- and the directional keys on the bottom right -- are laid out well so you can type quickly. Once you memorize the layout, your fingers will fly like ninjas.
I have one complaint: considering the wide size, the rubber keys are too cramped. Typing just isn't as comfortable as on, say, a BlackBerry Bold. But it's still easier than typing on a touch screen like the iPhone. But if you'd rather type on the touch screen, the Droid offers that too. Android comes with Swype, so you can move one finger around instead of tap away. But the pull-out keyboard is easier to use -- just stick to that, otherwise, find a smaller phone.
The 4-inch display takes up the front. And at 940-by-540 pixels, the resolution is so clear you can't really distinguish individual pixels unless you get up close and personal. Colors are bright and vivid too, so the included Spider-Man trailer looks vibrant and sharp. I was particularly impressed by the high brightness levels, registering 505 lux -- substantially more than rivals like the Galaxy Nexus. If you want one of the best displays, this isn't it -- go with an AMOLED option. But if you want a decent screen to watch movies and browse the Web, the Droid is adequate.
The camera is more than adequate. On the back, the 8-megapixel lens is superb, capable of recording 1080pvideo. The color saturation is especially impressive because it is precise and very true-to-life. If you take photos in dim lighting, though, photos tend to wash out. But unless you plan on having a photo shoot in a dungeon, you'll be happy with the coloring. The 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera works great for video chat, and that's about it. You can keep plenty of pictures stored on your 16-gigabytes of storage -- and boost it up to 32-gigabytes with a microSD card.
Unfortunately, the Droid runs on outdated Gingerbread software. Google is shipping phones with the ICS, which offers a smoother interface, and Motorola tried to dress up Gingerbread with its own skin, but it makes it worse -- bogging down the performance.
Oh, there's one software benefit: Motorola includes "Smart Actions," an incredibly helpful app that can help you save battery and get the most out of the phone. It uses your location and what the phone is doing to make changes to the settings. For instance, you can set it to recognize when you enter your office, and put your novelty ringer on silent. That means no one you work with will ever find out "Who Let the Dogs Out" is still your ringtone.
Even though you have to navigate the ugly skin to access your messages, Motorola Messaging helps pull all of your social media, e-mail and SMS interactions into a single stream. Other than that, you'll get five uninspired home screens, and that's about it. Overall, Motorola's custom interface is a poor trade-off for the lack the polish of ICS.
The 1,750 mAh battery keeps the Droid fired up throughout the day, but using 4G will drain it in short time. The Droid 4's battery life is nothing like the Droid Razr Maxx, which is in a league of its own, but it's still better than competitors like the Galaxy Nexus -- you can get a full day's worth of juice, but expect to charge it daily.
Beyond the hardware, the main draw is Verizon's LTE. You'll be able to surf the Web at a speedy 5- to 12-megabits per second. In addition, the Droid is generous -- you can share that connection with eight other Wi-Fi-enabled devices and use it as a hotspot.
Overall, the Droid 4 is much improved over the Droid 3. But it's pretty expensive. The added bulk is a drawback, so the only reason to consider it is if you want a keyboard and 4G. Otherwise there are small options around like the One X and Galaxy S3 -- if you can wait. ♦
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QHD (Accelerometer / Proximity Sensor / Ambient Light Sensor)
April 13, 2012
Just What I Need
The keyboard is good. At first I thought it was a bit too wide -- the space bar and center keys are a bit of a reach -- but after using it for a few weeks, I got used to it. The Droid is the size of a brick too. When I first bought it, I thought it was too large and heavy, but again, after a few weeks I got used to it. Maybe it's just me, but you'll want to take a look at it in the store before you buy it.
The screen is sharp. Coming from the Incredible, it looks better, but it's also larger, so the resolution looks about the same. It can get washed out in direct sunlight.
The battery life is great. I can usually get around a day's worth with moderate use -- I travel so I use it quite a bit. But 4G tends to drain the battery -- around 20 percent faster. Still, you should have no problem charging it once a night.
Verizon LTE is fantastic. I can get rates up to 27-megabits per second. The slowest I've gotten is around 4-megabits. I tend to use 4G with my iPad three nights a week and go through around 4-gigabytes a month. I'm on the 6-gigabyte plan. I forgot to look up coverage in my area, but I lucked out. So don't forget to look at 4G coverage where you live.
Overall, I needed a phone with a keyboard and 4G and the Droid 4 met my expectations. Sure, it's a bit chunky, but after using it for a while, I hardly notice anymore.Was this review helpful to you?
56 out of 59 people found this review helpful.
February 12, 2012
An Excellent Phone
The Droid 4 is the best Droid yet. The slide-out keyboard is great -- the buttons have a rubbery feel that gives a nice "click." There's also shift and caps lock keys, as well as direction arrows -- just like on a PC.
Verizon's 4G LTE is the fastest network yet -- it's just awesome. In addition, the 8-megapixel lens is better than any camera phone out there. It takes great photos outdoors, but under indoor lighting, it's mediocre. There are apps online that can fix it, though. You can also 1080p video recording -- a definite plus. And the Droid includes "Smart Movie HD," so you can edit clips right on the phone.
The Droid runs on Android Gingerbread, but Motorola promised Ice Cream Sandwich in the future. The dual-core 1.2-gigahertz chip is fast and with 1-gigabyte of RAM, webpages load quickly and you can run a slew of apps at once.
It's even a water-resistant. It's not waterproof, but if you spill a drink on it, it won't short out.
The battery life is so-so. If you run a lot of apps, you won't get more than a day's worth of power -- perhaps around eight hours -- so plan to buy an extra charger.
Overall, the Droid 4 is a fantastic phone. If you don't need the keyboard, try the Bionic or Razr, since they're basically the same phone without the keyboard. But if you're like me and need a keyboard, this phone is it. Highly-recommended.Was this review helpful to you?
54 out of 58 people found this review helpful.
February 20, 2012
Gets Better With Time
They keyboard is outstanding. It really doesn't get any better than this.
At first, I was worried about the battery life, but the phone started to grow on me. I can browse the Web longer on the Droid 4 than on my old Droid X. You'll still need to charge the Droid 4 at the end of the day, but it'll last with heavy 4G use.
Verizon's 4G LTE service is super-duper fast and browsing is smooth and responsive.
The touch display is decent. I didn't really like it when I first got the phone, but after fiddling around with the settings, it's okay now. The screen is smaller than my Droid X, but it's not too bad.
The 8-megapixel lens isn't as great as I expected. But the front lens is a nice feature.
I'm glad I kept the Droid 4. The non-removable battery can be a pain, but despite the few flaws, it's a great overall phone that gets better with each passing day.Was this review helpful to you?
43 out of 47 people found this review helpful.
June 27, 2012
I love the phone. I am a keyboard person and this is the phone to have with a keyboard. It is fast and with Verizon, I never have problems of my phone calls being dropped. Great batter life as well.
I would like a bigger screen.Was this review helpful to you?
5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.
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