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Motorola Droid 4 Review

When the Motorola Droid hit the scene, the whole Android landscape changed. Since then the marquee device has fallen from the spotlight, but it’s back in a big way for the fourth installment. The Motorola DROID 4 continues to improve upon the design of the QWERTY-slider handset, upping the specs yet again and adding in a first for the line, 4G LTE. Motorola has again made strides to improve the keyboard and has added in a few new software twists to round out the latest edition of the Droid. Is it the best Droid yet? Read on to find out.

Hardware

At first glance, the Motorola Droid 4 could be mistaken for a much fatter Droid RAZR (Droid RAZR MAXX MAXX?). Its 12.7mm thickness — same as the Droid 3 — won’t hold a candle to the RAZR’s 7.1mm profile. At a millimeter thinner than the original Droid, the line isn’t doing much to slim down. The silhouette of the Droid 4 features the same angled corners found on the RAZR and XYBOARDs, an element that seems to define Moto’s current Android crop. A 4.0-inch display holds par with the Droid 3, which was the first in the line to move up from the 3.7-inch screen size. It’s qHD (540×960 resolution) in this case.

Inside the Droid 4 rests a dual-core TI OMAP 4430 processor clocked at 1.2GHz, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage. The phone sports an 8MP camera with LED flash and 1080p video recording and a 1.3MP front-facing camera. Also found are microUSB and microHDMI ports, a volume rocker (but no dedicated camera key), and 3.5mm headset jack. The hardware alone makes this the most powerful member of the QWERTY Droid branch of phones, and it definitely counts. Gaming and web rendering hardly lag and navigating through the phone’s UI is a breeze.

The phone’s 4G LTE connectivity was nice and zippy, just like we have come to expect from Verizon’s network. Call quality was good and connectivity was a non-issue. 3G/4G network switching showed no hiccups.

The Droid 4 does feature removable microSD storage (my review unit came with none pre-installed) up to 32GB, which is accessible by removing the phone’s back cover. A special key, provided in the box, is needed to gain access. The phone also utilizes a microSIM for 4G LTE connectivity, which can be found in the same location. The battery, however, is not removable. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the 1785mAh battery installed is a far cry from the 3300mAh of the Droid RAZR MAXX. The ability to swap in a fresh battery or install an extended one will be missed, especially with extra elements such as keyboard backlighting drawing even more juice.

Keyboard

Because this is a Droid phone, we should dedicate a special section to the ever-improving keyboard. I am on the record as someone who actually liked the original Droid’s keyboard and missed the D-pad when they did away with it, but I can’t deny that Moto keeps making this thing better and better. The Droid 4 carries over the five-row QWERTY from the Droid 3, dedicating a full row for the numbers and other symbols. The layout is the most similar to a computer keyboard yet, carrying over many of the same keys and leaving them in their familiar places.

Keys are isolated (no membrane keyboard) and each press results in a satisfying click. Ample spacing really lets the thumbs fly without much fear of hitting the wrong key, but you will need to adjust your strokes slightly. The whole keyboard feels a bit off-center. The left-hand thumb needs to reach out a bit to hit the space bar. In fact, most keys seem shifted just a bit too far to the right. After getting used to the layout, this shouldn’t be a huge problem.

Software

In the software department, the Motorola Droid 4 again takes plenty of cues from the Droid RAZR. The phone runs Android 2.3.6 with the most recent version of Motorola’s custom interface on top. Nothing is incredibly new about the interface, which should be immediately recognizable for anyone who has used a recent Motorola handset. There is enough in common here with other Android interfaces that things won’t feel too foreign to most users. What you get is Moto’s custom look with a selection of widgets for social networking, favorites, and more. You will also find two features Motorola is emphasizing in their latest product releases, Smart Actions and MotoCast.

Smart Actions are designed to automate certain functions in order to achieve things like better battery life and profiles for home and work. For starters there is a list of pre-defined actions, but new ones can be created based on specific criteria. The phone will also learn from your interactions with the handset and suggest new automations. Turn your WiFi off every time you leave the house? The Droid 4 will suggest a Smart Action that uses GPS to detect when you leave home and then automatically switch off WiFi. We’ve seen the functionality in previous third-party apps, but the ability for Moto’s app to learn new actions makes it particularly intriguing.

MotoCast is Motorola’s version of a personal cloud. You set up the devices on your network by installing certain software and designating shared folders to gain access to your files from your mobile or vice versa. You can share audio, video, and photos directly or share files such as Word documents or PDFs. Forgot to forward that important spreadsheet to your work email? Grab it via MotoCast. It’s pretty simple to use and depending on network speeds quite fast.

Motorola’s stock web browser isn’t the fasted we have ever used, but on the Droid 4 there were no complaints. It was able to quickly render web pages and scrolling showed little lag. Particularly impressive was the phone’s ability to play a YouTube video within a page’s content while scrolling and zooming the page. The video didn’t skip a beat.

Other included software ranges from Blockbuster to a demo for Madden NFL 12, which looked great and ran smoothly. There does seem to be an abundance of pre-installed applications, which some users won’t mind and some will take a distaste to.

Overall the software didn’t do much to blow us away, but it felt solid. Things worked how you would expect them to work and were helped along nicely by the phone’s strong hardware.

Camera

The Droid 4′s camera was surprisingly impressive. After a bit if fiddling around I managed to snap off a few nice shots. The 8MP camera doesn’t knock you over with its quality but the images had a certain look to them that was aesthetically pleasing. Pictures were snapped almost instantly and the phone’s auto-focus did a pretty good job of reeling in the photo’s subject.

The camera features a macro mode among others plus a selection of effects to spice up your pictures. Also included were modes for panorama, multi-shot, and timed photos.

Video left a bit to be desired, but its 1080p quality at 30fps was more than adequate. Don’t expect the Droid 4 to become a go-to HD camcorder, but for capturing a YouTube video or one of life’s random events it gets the job done.

Conclusion

Is this the best Droid yet? In many ways, yes. But it won’t revolutionize the phone landscape in the same was as the original. The phone doesn’t feel quite fresh enough to get us raving about it, but it doesn’t do much wrong at the same time. Given its similarities to the Droid RAZR, many will want to compare the two and see which is right for them. For the text addict that isn’t too concerned about having a thicker phone with a bit more heft to it, the Droid 4 is just the ticket. For those looking for something with the same functionality but in a thinner form factor, the RAZR may be a consideration. The QWERTY Droid has become a stalwart of Verizon’s line and looks to be a real workhorse in its latest revision. We’d like to see a bit more innovation with the form factor on Motorola’s end, but the Droid 4 proves that the line is here for the long haul.

 

 

Continue reading on the Motorola DROID 4 forums, see the specs, or find news and reviews.




  • yewslus

    “You lost me at Moto.”

  • polarbehr76

    and you still bothered to post, bravo

  • T4rd

    Pretty much.  I think his “review” holds some slight merit though.  He should have posted this as a “first impressions” article and waited a few days for the review in order to post battery statistics and what issues he’s had with the phone as a daily driver.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mohib.ali1 Mohib Alejandro Ali

    yeahimkindaofadick – you really are a dick

  • ViolinistMD

    Good Riddance!! 

  • Konnor

    If it had a removeable battery I would be all over it. Been spoiled with my extended battery on my thunderbolt.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1359390083 Sodiq Awokoya

    Honestly, the only phandroid reporter i respect is Chris Chavez. I didn’t read the review cause 1st this phone just came out and you know damm well you didn’t spend a least a week to give it  proper review and the typo’s that phandroid is known for is crazy annoying, you have been down ranked in my bookmarks bar. 

    • http://twitter.com/raremage Rick Boza

      Thanks for sharing.  Can I have that 30 seconds back that I just wasted reading your post?

      • jshaffer21

        same here

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

      While I’m always a sucker for a compliment, I definitely don’t appreciate it at someone else’s expense. Not only that, because we’re a pretty big Android site, we have contacts — both OEM’s and carriers — who send us phones days/weeks before they’re released. When it comes to the Droid 4, there’s no way you could honestly know when we received the phone so your comment is misguided.

  • Dave

    I’m going to miss that cutaway upper lip. That made it easy to watch YouTube videos.

  • reiththestud

    “…which is accessible by removing the phone’s back cover. A special key, provided in the box, is needed to gain access.”
    -da FUQ?!

    • cbkcc1

      paper clip works

  • AnjunaSpeak

    I will be owning one of these soon. You had me at Motorola… I almost puked at the sight of yet another $am$ung failure called the galaxy nexus. HTC had a great device with a good fan base. Motorola hasn’t gotten a nexus to us yet, but I would still rather a moto than a $am$ung.

  • JulianZHuang

    dude, it just a droid, same as other 3 models… nothing really changed…. 

  • hemipw54

    What about battery life ?
    Can you go a full day without recharging ?
    Forget the fluff and give us the real world usage stats .

  • cbkcc1

    um… knowing that he only had it this long, maybe you should have asked him to move review one space over and put Initial in front of it.
    i think anyone here knows this is not a ‘i had this phone for a long time and am giving you my opinion on it’ article, but for some he might have needed to spell it out apparently.

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

      The guy had no idea how long we’ve had the phone. He’s obviously upset about something but I guess we’ll never know..

  • y0_momma

    I love the keyboard!  But a locked bootloader and no extended battery options?

    I’ll keep my tbolt.  Nice try though.

  • Khalid.H

    Why is there no Menu and Search keys in the keyboard? Personally, without these two keys, the keyboard is useless. having a thumb to reach the search/menu touch buttons near the screen to pull off a keyboard shortcut would be a pain for sure.

    What annoys me even more is that they decided to put Tab and Caps lock instead of Menu and Search. Seriously, WHY? is it so hard to press Shift twice for capslock? And who uses the tab key on a phone? Then again, from what i’ve tested, keyboard shortcuts function very poorly in ICS, so there’s no point complaining. :/

    from the video, it looks like motorola moved away from pentile, which is good! If they release this phone internationally, and add the menu and search keys, this WILL be my next phone. Until then, i’m sticking to my LG GW620.

  • jshaffer21

    after having a droid x for so long, i  cant imagine going to a phone smaller than 4.3″ again. also,no ice cream sandwich,and i dont trust the timetable for updates when it comes to android phones. the keyboard does look nice,as does the camera, but i really think that the OS just ruins it for me.

    • Cipher Zero

      I’m not being a smartass, but have you ever actually used ICS? It isn’t the Holy Grail of Android like a lot of people would have you think. I wouldn’t call it horrible by any means, but I definitely think it is overrated.
      Of course, YMMV, and everyone has their own likes and dislikes (personally, encrypted bootloaders are far more of a deal breaker for me than what the out-of-the-box-OS is, but that’s me).  I wouldn’t write something off out of hand simply because it’s on GB.

      • jshaffer21

        honestly, i haven’t yet. but i guess that since i currently have a droid x that is still working perfectly fine, i can afford to put off the upgrade for as long as i want. because of this,i think im being more picky than usual. i can afford to wait for a great phone to come out,and thats what im trying to do. 

        i guess im just waiting for that phone that comes out that just blows me away,and really makes me want to buy it,and that phone hasnt come out yet.

        • Tess

          If you don’t care much about a keyboard, this isn’t your phone. The Razr Maxx might be enticing, or you might want to wait and check out the quad core phones coming later this year, all of which are likely to ship with ICS.

        • Cipher Zero

          I agree 100%. I’ve been waiting on a phone that really wows me, and it hasn’t come out yet. I’ve had the GNex for a week and returned it. As it stands right now, I’m actually quite happy with my Thunderbolt as a daily driver. I don’t know where this “4-hour battery life” comes from, but I generally get 10-12 hours of moderately heavy use. To be fair, it’s rooted and heavily customized, so I don’t know how they run on stock VZW bloatware, Sense 2.1, etc.
          Again, I wasn’t insulting you or trying to be condescending by any means, it’s just that I’ve seen quite a few people IRL who rushed out, got a GNex (or Bionic, or, ‘fill in device here’),and it didn’t live up to their expectations, and most of them don’t know how to root and tweak the OS. For me, personally,  I’d actually rather have a handset running GB until ICS has more of the kinks worked out. ICS definitely has the potential, but I wasn’t very thrilled with the execution of the UI, amongst a few other things, and I’ve got GB tweaked quite nicely on my current DD. It goes without saying that if you’re interested in a device, play around with it for a week before buying it, if possible. Good luck, and I hope the phone that has that “wow factor” that we’ve been waiting for comes along in the next few months.

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

    As someone who works in the tech blog industry, you should know better than to make assumptions. You have no idea when we received this phone. 

    You have no idea how “lucky” were. Kevin could have been rocking this phone since CES after he met with someone in back alley who sold it to him for $300 in poker chips. 

    That being said — the phone is a Droid RAZR with a keyboard. He probably could have posted the Droid RAZR review again and then added — “Oh yeah, it has an awesome keyboard.”

    Oh, and you should probably add: “whomakesbaselessassumptions” at the end of your screen name if you want to make it 100% accurate. 

    • Cipher Zero

      …and Kevin couldn’t have defended himself for what reason? I’m not implying that I necessarily agreed with the OP of this sub-thread, but you really look like a little girl when someone is running to your defense and removing disagreeable posts and then flaming them in your stead. -smh-

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

        I can’t speak for Kevin but it’s possible he never saw the comment. 

        But if your’e referring to me removing the post, I had nothing to do with it and just like the OP, you’re assuming.  
        We have numerous moderators who make their way here from time to time so they might have removed it. But whether or not it warranted a removal wasn’t up for me to decide. 
        If anything, Kevin is a better man than I, taking the highroad and not responding to ignorant commenters. So kudos to him. 

        • Cipher Zero

          Agreed, I certainly believe that Kevin has never seen the comment, since he is the only Phandroid blogger who never seems to check mistakes in the past few weeks (maybe he has other stuff going on in his life? I don’t know, I hope all is well with him). He stated in a recent article that the Nexus One was the “first phone to Android 2.0″ (it was the OG Droid; the Nexus One was the first to 2.1, and when several people pointed it out, it was never edited – so keep in mind that I just comment on things, I’m not the guy writing the blog). People make mistakes, we’re human. Am I saying he is stupid, ignorant, or anything else? Certainly not. I also didn’t attack anyone or “make assumptions” about anything. Did I ever say “Chris, you removed the comment”? No, I did not. The comment *was* removed – about the same time your comment was posted. What I DID say was “…when someone is running to your defense and removing disagreeable posts and then flaming them in your stead”. Where “someone” (not Chris Chavez specifically) is the operative word here…which is what is called an “assumption”.
          As for “ignorant commenters” and “making assumptions”, I suggest you re-read my comment and take each word into consideration and context, and do the same with your replies in the future (of course, you don’t have to, nor do I even care, actually) . Take this as constructive criticism, and don’t get all offended because I pointed out the flaws in your reply.
          I would also like to point out that I do enjoy your blogs, and Phandroid in general, and if you actually go back over the past several months, I’ve defended pretty much every blogger on Phandroid at one point or other – including yours when some ass decided he was the grammar police and flamed you. I *will* point out non-grammatical technical errors without being insulting, which is a lot more than I can say about a lot of the commenters here. I never say a word when you guys put apostrophes in the wrong places – I don’t care, this is supposed to be a fun site (at least, that is what I thought). I am also one of the few truly objective commenters Phandroid has.
          I’ve also never said anything about his review, which I thought was pretty good, and again, I agree, they’re RAZRs with a keyboard. How about we keep everything in context and not get all offended and bent out of shape? If Kevin didn’t feel the need to justify himself, then that should be that.
          My only point was that if Kevin – a grown man – actually needed defending (which he did not, in this blog, IMO), it just looks silly and when someone else is doing it, and when I say “silly” it’s because I’m trying to keep this PG-rated.
          Have a good one :)

  • Bill Gates

    Droid 4 Maxx coming in 2 weeks.

  • http://www.motoask.com Motorola Atrix

    Let’s say I thought Motorola could commando-ize it, give it a larger
    battery, NFC, and a more secure slider “click” to lock, and this baby
    would dominate.  Would you call me Savvy?