Motorola DROID 3 Hands-on and Impressions

In case you’ve forgotten, the Motorola DROID 3 is now available in stores after a brief period of online exclusivity. It’s a dual-core OMAP4 device with Android 2.3, the latest version of BLUR (or whatever they want to call it), 1080p video recording using an 8 megapixel sensor, a 4 inch display and an improved QWERTY keyboard. We’ve just received our review unit and we’re eager to go hands-on, so let’s do it!

Worthy successor?

Yes, yes and yes. If you are still rocking a DROID 1 because you didn’t think the DROID 2 was worth upgrading to, then the DROID 3 is for you. An improved 5-row keyboard makes typing easier and smoother than ever, the 4 inch display gives us a good amount of room to work with, and the dual-core processor is every bit as powerful that Texas Instruments said it was. It’s a significant upgrade not only from the original, but from the DROID 2 in every way.

Keyboard

5-row and a lot roomier. The only thing that kept me from getting the original DROID was its keyboard. The DROID 2′s, even with the lack of that monstrous d-pad, wasn’t much better. Motorola’s gotten it right here. There’s still no spacing between the keys, but they have just enough “hump” to provide good track and feel. Pressing them is effortless, too, and I had no problems with my fat fingers inadvertently pressing other buttons. I love it.

Dual-core

OMAP4 is awesome. Period. It’s extremely fast and runs this version of BLUR without much effort. Switching between applications and scrolling through lists and webpages is a very smooth experience. I don’t know if it’s because this version of BLUR is better coded or if it’s all processor juice, but this thing isn’t as sluggish as Motorola’s other phones.

Camera

This phone’s camera is very capable. After snapping a few quick photos and a video with this thing, I think it’s safe to say you can trash that point-and-shoot you have sitting around. I haven’t looked at the content on my PC yet, but early thoughts are extremely positive. Motorola’s done a fantastic job with the sensors here. The front camera isn’t bad, either.

Hardware

As with most Motorola devices, the hardware is very solid. It feels premium and it will stand up to the test of time. It may get scuffed up over the course of a couple of years, but I don’t see this thing wearing down over time with proper care. The display is 4 inches and qHD and remarkably better than the one found on the DROID X2 and ATRIX 4G. I don’t know if they’ve ditched pentile here, but things are crisp and vibrant looking.

Inside is 16GB of internal storage, the aforementioned OMAP4, 512MB of RAM and radios for use around the world. We would have liked more RAM afforded to us, especially when comparable Motorola handsets are getting 1GB, though we can’t say if this is a negative considering we haven’t had time to install more applications and see how it stands up to heavy multi-tasking. We know the processor can, at least. You’ll also get an empty microSD card slot, a SIM card slot for use in other countries and both a microUSB port and microHDMI port.

Software

Android 2.3.4 with the latest version of BLUR. Yes, I know, you don’t like Motorola’s skin. But this version of BLUR (which they’re not actually calling BLUR) is actually quite good. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the best skin we’ve seen and it certainlty isn’t our favorite, but relatively speaking it’s a huge improvement over the previous versions of BLUR and a step in the right direction for Motorola.

Things are a lot smoother, there are some features that people will actually appreciate and it doesn’t look too bad visually (though you’re more inclined to like it if you are a fan of blue). Things are very polished here and we couldn’t ask for a better version of BLUR. We’d still prefer an unlocked bootloader to install something else at the end of the day.

Overall

First impressions are overwhelmingly positive. It’s a great device and a worthy followup to the second “great” Android phone (the first being the G1, of course). We still aren’t big fans of BLUR, but this rendition of it is quite usable and, in some cases, pleasing to use. Motorola’s finally made enough changes to get us to stop calling it BLUR because it’s nothing like we remembered from all those phones launched in 2010 and early 2011.

The keyboard on the DROID 3 is leaps and bounds better than those on the DROID and DROID 2, and the good-looking 4 inch display provides ample room for typing if that’s your thing. Look out for a full review and more coverage in the coming week or so as we sink our teeth into this thing and give it a good look. Full gallery of images is below.

Continue reading:




  • RedPandaAlex

    I played with this in the store and there’s a LOT of bloatware on it. I think there were something like 60 apps preinstalled total. The hardware looks fantastic, and if the bloat is using up any of the processor/ram, you certainly can’t tell, but it looks like there’s a lot on there that you can’t get rid of without rooting.

    I’d probably get it if my contract was up, but I’d feel better about it if the bootloader was unlocked.

  • http://twitter.com/httpheaders David Duarte

    Now imagine that you’re in July 2012, you will look to that phone stuck with this version 2.3.4 for the eternity and will regret the moment when you got the amazing idea of buying anything made by motorola. They locked bootloader and don’t release any updates, it’s just ridiculous. Be smart and avoid moto, the software is terrible anyway. Why be locked to a rom that you already know it’s inferior?

    • http://twitter.com/binglut9 Brian

      Your crazy no updates the droid x was one of the first non google expeirence phones to have gingerbread…Moto hardaware is the best by a long shot…Someone is reporting that this thing has fastboot on it like the atrix developer phones and the x was locked but still found root and roms so dont mean much….I could understand if you had one of these phones but it seems like you never owned a moto device before because if you have you would know there are custom roms for most of their devices..By no means do I pledge my allegiance to moto but give credit where its do…This phone is really nice and a beast…Your comments show how unintelligent and closed minded you really are

      • http://twitter.com/httpheaders David Duarte

        You can call me unintelligent and closed minded, I really don’t care, I’m not a “mototroll”. I obviously have a moto device or would not made such claims. I got a Milestone 2 (the GSM version of Droid 2) and even to fix a keyboard bug (patetic) I’ve to 1) root my phone 2) Install an apk from xda forums. Droid 3 is here, very soon you will see a GSM version of that phone too, probably Milestone 3, and I don’t have a single service release for the old A953. You wanna buy this so called beast? Go ahead, I will pass any product from motorola. And it’s not a question of have the last Android version, it’s about fix bizarre bugs like the keyboard double-pressing or the atrocious sound quality on mp3 files. http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1058544

        • daveb123

          if youve got a milestone 2 then youll of course know that motorola have released THREE updates for it… with a fourth promised.. so saying that motorola dont update their phones is horsecrap.

          • AnGeLFaCe77

            moto released gb sooner to droid x than the thunderbolt

        • TalkingMoose

          Had you said that in your particular case, on your particular network, you haven’t seen expected updates then it would be hard to argue. But you made a blanket statement that they “don’t release any updates” and “the software is terrible anyway” the latter of which is highly subjective and the former downright false. You had a bad experience. Responding with hyperbole isn’t going to make you look credible and if you really want to warn people, credibility is kind of a key component.

        • AnGeLFaCe77

          Pass on it moto still selling good even with the unlock bootloader that is says alot

    • TalkingMoose

      Back in the days of yore (i.e., 2 years ago) phones didn’t get software upgrades unless there was a service affecting patch. Then came Android. The first two phones Moto did were a “Google Experience” phone and a “Moto Experience” phone. The team that did the latter still had the old mindset, and their version of BLUR was an unqualified disaster.

      But that was then. Moto has been good with upgrades since. Newer phones are getting regular updates to the software. No, they don’t get nightly builds, but there’s a lot of testing and approvals that go into being able to release an update, and they happen on the carrier’s schedule. Moto doesn’t do the updates; the carriers handle all that (with Moto support). And all this testing and approval would have to happen even if they used CM7 ROMs or a baseline Android build straight from Google. And in some cases, even if they could push upgrades twice a day, there’d a bunch who would comaplain that they weren’t happening three times a day.

      So all the Gloom and Doom is based on something that happened in (relatively speaking) ancient times, and often by people that would never be satisfied by anything, anyhow.

      • AnGeLFaCe77

        I agree they are a lot of people that hate moto the ones that invented the cell shame on all of them MOTO ALL THE WAY AND BRING ON THE BIONIC

    • http://profiles.google.com/statsprofessor Jakub Palka

      Stop crying, you are probably not in the US.

    • AnGeLFaCe77

      why do u want an unlock bootloader so u can data all day moto has the best phones and the best technology every year. we revived android with the droid atrix rocking the laptop deck droid 3 hdmi mirror good quality. Go play with your htc toys that’s how their phone look

  • GawkerRedesignSucks

    With no 4G and the locked bootloader I just can’t justify it. My plan for my next phone is to root and tether for some beautiful 4G goodness at home (where my current connection is less than 1Mbps).

    • schitzengigles10

      have fun on those tiered data plans

      • GawkerRedesignSucks

        How about instead I have fun being grandfathered in to unlimited data?

        Cuz that’s what’s gonna happen.

        • tehsusenoh

          Lucky. I have a feature phone, so no data for me.

    • http://twitter.com/binglut9 Brian

      I dont think you can tether didnt they block that??? So now you have to pay with that 4g which cruises through data??? I might be wrong tho please let me know

      • GawkerRedesignSucks

        I tether for free all the time with my rooted OG Droid. Only certain apps are blocked.

  • http://profiles.google.com/daddy.holmes Tom Holmes

    After a week with this phone, I’m delighted. I don’t intend to stay with it over the long haul, being a big screen guy, but I have no major complaints and some major praises to heap on it.

    As for the bootloader–the devs are already following up on some potential exploits so I expect it will be rooted within a few weeks. I don’t think it will ever have the aftermarket of a Thunderbolt unless Moto and Verizon do an OTA patch to make the bootloader unlockable, but it will have enough. There’s nothing built like a Moto and you won’t find a better keyboard anywhere.

    • http://twitter.com/Koobie_2009 eibook

      They haven’t been able to root stock Gingerbread on the Droid X, so it may be longer than you think.

      • http://twitter.com/binglut9 Brian

        yeah but reports are coming out that moto put the fast boot in the droid 3 which will essentially make it easier….like the developer atrix phones that had the fastboot oem

  • King_James_The_Wicked

    So far I love my D3..
    The Screen seems great, I don’t know if they tweaked the pentile or just got rid of it but the screen is a beauty. The keyboard feels good in your hands and the new Blur is 12 X better than it use to be… It’s not horrid. The OMAP4 processor is quite impressive. I have done some benchmarking and the scores are off the charts.

    So far A+…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Josue-Aristy/540455542 Josue Aristy

    I like this phone, I hope the unlock the boot as soon as possible.

    This would be a best seller if this were shiped with an open boot!!

  • Tergiversator_Maximus

    I’ve never understood why everyone hates the D1 keyboard – I’ve grown quite fond of it. It has that nice feel that reminds me vaguely of an old Vtech child’s computer I had in the early 90s and the keys are raised slightly in the middle for good tactile feedback.

    • wanorris

      1. The difference between 4 rows and 5 rows is huge in practical terms

      2. Staggered keys yield a much more accurate layout for typing than keys on a pure grid

      3. The D-Pad takes up a ton of space and makes the keys a fair bit smaller than they are on a similar phone without a giant D-Pad.

      Those are the main ones.

      • Tergiversator_Maximus

        That all makes plenty of sense. I certainly appreciate the fifth row, but I
        hadn’t considered a staggered layout. I suppose you can get used to
        anything.

        Sent from my Motorola Droooid.

      • AnGeLFaCe77

        I love the droid 3 a lot do not get me wrong the specs are off the chart. I was a big fan of physical keyboard before i tried the droid x and let me tell you there is nothing better like virtual keyboard the best ones are swift and flex t9 and i have them both. I guess everybody have its own taste. This phone its a beasttttt

  • J Dub

    I think I’ll wait for root and to hear more about the Bionic.

  • http://twitter.com/gamercore Chris Chavez

    But does it have the Pentile? o_O

    • TalkingMoose

      The screen looks great, and uses a lot less power. Who really cares?

      • Cipher Zero

        Pentile vs. OLED based screens. Honestly, I think most of the people who bash pentile displays or OLED-based displays only bash them because they read an article/blog/opinion about how “superior” OLED-based displays are over pentile displays (or vice-versa). In 99% of cases it’s not because they can see an actual difference, but because of something they read. Much like people who buy Dyson bladeless fans because the commercials told them that fans “chop the air and create buffeting, which can be unsettling”, (it’s called white noise, most people actually like it). Suddenly, said people think “OMG! This fan has to go! I need to spend $200-$500 on a fan that won’t unsettle me!”.
        I have some friends with DIncs – a few with OLED, most with LCD. Once, we set up an OLED-based display and an LCD side-by-side with identical wallpapers and icons, and asked some of the people we know which one looked better. (We’ll have to do it again, but get it on video) The result? Most people couldn’t tell. Most of the comments were about color saturation, etc. (if anyone feels the need to respond with something silly like “yeah, but that didn’t have a UltraYottaSuper AMOLED Plus²!” you missed the point of this post – drop back and punt). It should be kept in mind that this is a world of rampant “lack of paying attention”-like behavior, reactionary responses, etc. Most (not all, so keep your shirts on) of the people who argue these things have never seen the two side-by-side. Another significant fraction will say one or the other rules/owns/kills/murders/rapes/assaults/destroys (pick a ridiculous adjective) the other one are the owners of the display in question. Much like people who automatically assume that an upcoming phone is going to be awesome or horrible because it says Droid/Galaxy/EVO, etc. on it, or because it has x cores or runs at x Hz. For me, personally, I may look forward to something, or be impressed by a product (or not) before it’s in my hands, but I never pass judgment until I’ve actually had a chance to use it myself, and I certainly don’t praise or dismiss a phone simply because of carrier/manufacturer/name, number of cores, etc.
        FWIW, I own phones that have both types of displays, they both have their pluses and minuses. It really is that simple.
        I would love to see phones in the future have display settings like a TV (sharpness, color saturation, color temperature, etc.) but it’s probably going to be awhile before that goes commercial.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NNOKRL7CMYSXWJRTTEQ7FT76M4 S M

    I was all set to drop the coin for this phone… then I saw it didnt have 4G. At this point, that’s the dealbreaker. Oh well… maybe the Droid 4?

  • jroc74

    From what I’ve seen in videos….this newer version of Blur is really nice. The version on the DX1 wasnt too bad….the version that came with the GB update for the DX1 was better…and this version seems even better.

    Sorry..not Blur….Motorola Application Platform…lol

    • AnGeLFaCe77

      they are getting better and better i love moto

  • http://dkworldwide.com/techlife Dave Kaufman – Techlife

    Droid3 or MyTouch4G Slide….HTC vs. Motorola – Both have dual core, QWERTY, 8MP, 1080p, both have a layer on top Sense/Blur. (forget network coverage for a second)…which hardware is better? Thanks I’m debating these for my next device.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2KXAO3OA5HBST3TSRKBMA5ITYI Brent T

    Good review Q. I played with it today, and I it is a worthy successor, it is fast and thin. Motorola this improved over a lot of these Blur phones that they’ve been putting out. I hope the battery life is good.

  • james1972

    LTE isn’t ready for prime time as it pertains to battery life… I love my D3.

    • Cipher Zero

      It isn’t so much LTE as it is the display. Also, if you’re in an area where LTE is spotty, your phone will keep trying to get an LTE signal if it’s bouncing back and forth. I know that when I’m in an area that is completely covered in LTE, I get better battery life (for a smartphone). When I’m not, or if I’m in a “fringe” area, the battery life is shorter. I can run my Thunderbolt all day without a charge with moderate use. Actually, when I check the battery status, it’s invariably the display that sucks up most of the battery life, not the LTE (or 3G, depending on where I am).

  • RonMexic0

    So are there any other VZW qwerty handsets on the near horizon? I’m on Sprint and LOVE my Epic (still find it faster in day-to-day use compared to a lot of dual core phones) but my wife’s on VZW and not sure if she’s ready to go QWERTY free. This Droid sounds better but I was wholly underwhelmed with Droid 1/2.

  • http://twitter.com/grindsmygoat Rob Jeffrey

    “this thing isn’t as sluggish as Motorola’s other phones”

    So it is sluggish then, just not as sluggish?

  • http://twitter.com/ecb1171 ecb1171

    I have had the Droid3 for close to a week and I have to disagree with the hands on review. The keyboard is awesome and I really like the look and feel of the latest iteration of the Motorola skin as it’s the first Motorola skin to actually enhance stock Android. That being said, there is definite lag. I’ve noticed bad lag when doing the following:

    1) Opening camera app
    2) Exiting out of apps back to the home screen (it actualy takes around 10 seconds to redraw the screen
    3) Unlocking the phone (same issue with refreshing the home screen)

    Also, the spotlight search is very, very flaky. When searching for all items, applications are consistently excluded from the search results (I have to filter by application)

    I’ve been playing around with a Motorola Atrix with the Gingerbread update. That also has the new Motorola skin, but it performs much much better. The only thing spec wise is that the Atrix has 1GB RAM, as opposed to 512MB, so I’m wondering if there needs to be more software optimization to have everything run smoothly on the Droid3

    I could live with the software flakiness because I like the combination of Gingerbread and the Motorola skin and the keyboard is great, but the camera performance is bad. The main problem is that any picture taken with a flash has a horrible blue tint. Beyond that, the camera performance is just average..

    Overall, I think the Droid3 is a good option if a hardware keyboard is a priority but I think that there needs to be a software update before the phone performs as well as the reviewer implies it does.