Though it wasn’t the first phone to run Android, the Motorola Droid is the handset that put Google’s mobile operating system on the map. Two iterations later we sit with the Motorola Droid 3, the latest take on the QWERTY slider with some of the biggest changes to the line we have seen to date. The Droid 3 brings double the firepower with a 1GHz dual core processor, increases screen real estate to 4.0-inches, and offers a vastly improved physical keyboard. While it doesn’t feature Verizon’s 4G LTE, the Droid 3 easily ranks among the carrier’s best.
The Motorola Droid 3 upgrades the hardware of its predecessors in nearly every way, and does it in a form factor that feels fresh while retaining the classic Droid look. A dual-core 1GHz TI OMAP 4 chipset runs the show here, offering superb speed and responsiveness. The 3.7-inch that became standard for the first two versions of the handset has given way to a 4.0-inch qHD display, offering more screen real estate while not adding much size to the device. It is only slightly larger around the edges than the Droids that came before it, and is in fact the thinnest form of the QWERTY slider yet.
The sliding battery cover has been replaced by a removable back plate with a cut out for the Droid 3’s 8MP camera. A physical camera key is absent but you will find a volume rocker, 3.5mm headset jack, HDMI and microUSB ports, and a power on/off/standby button. All of these things are pretty standard, and none quite stand out compared to the Droid 3’s show stopper: its greatly improved 5-row full QWERTY keyboard.
For the first time the Droid 3 features a fifth row of dedicated number keys. Thanks to the larger size of the device as a side effect of the larger screen, key spacing and arrangement makes for a delightful typing experience. The membrane keyboard of older Droid devices has been replaced by individual keys that respond with a satisfying click when depressed. Gone are complaints about flat keys or thumbs tripping over themselves. If you bought this phone for one feature and one feature alone, the keyboard would be it.
All of this hardware adds up to a device that runs Android 2.3 and Motorola’s custom user interface without a hitch. Speaking of which…
The Droid 3 features the latest version of MotoBlur, one which thankfully does away with a lot of the fluff and offers a fairly basic and traditional Android interface. You get a selection of widgets, apps, and optimizations to create what amounts to your average Android experience. And that is somewhat of a problem here, as the phone’s interface ends up feeling just a bit too average. A few small tweaks here and there (such as a power toggles in the notification dropdown) could have offered something beyond what stock Android offers, and we miss stock Android here. It’s hard to figure out why Motorola moved away from the stock interface after the wild success of the original Droid.
Pre-loaded software includes all of your standard Verizon goods, including V Cast apps, Kindle, Blockbuster, Slacker, and NFL Mobile. Most users won’t get much mileage out of these, but they do offer a rather nice software package out of the box that showcases the Droid 3’s power.
The Droid 3 features an 8MP camera with LED flash capable of 1080p video capture, a serviceable combination for the most part. Images didn’t come out as crisp and clear as we’d like from an 8MP snapper even after fooling around the phone’s settings. The Droid 3 offers a good amount of options for different lighting conditions and shooting scenarios, but compared to the camera offered by other devices settings still seem fairly limited.
Video easily impressed more than still photos, though again settings were just a bit too limited for our taste. This could easily be improved with a third party camera solution or a bit more care and attention in crafting shots. For spontaneous shooting or capturing life’s random moments, you won’t be disappointed with the results. But this one might not replace your standard point-and-shoot.
As with other devices with 4-inch+ screens and qHD resolutions, media and web consumption is one of the highlights of the Droid 3. If you have ever used an older Droid, you might agree that the 3.7-inch screen seemed just slightly too small in offering web content, but here browsing is just about as good as it gets. The phones hardware offers responsive and quick scrolling and zoom, and flipping to landscape mode to use the hardware keyboard offers an unmatched web experience. For the same reasons, viewing video on the Droid 3 is a pleasure.
3D gaming is on par with other handsets of its class. The Droid 3 comes pre-loaded with Lets Golf 2 and the game plays as well here as it does on any other device we have tried it on. 2D gaming went down without a hitch, and again the Droid 3’s keyboard offers great options for fans of gaming on their Android device. Hardware keys maximize screen real estate for games while offering a more traditional handheld gaming experience.
There is a lot to like about the Droid 3, and for owners of older Droid handsets it feels like the perfect upgrade. Still, a lack of 4G LTE means this handset isn’t future proofed, and a two-year contract will keep you off of Verizon’s next-gen network for the foreseeable future. It’s a shame 4G is missing here, as the hardware keyboard and high-end specs offers a unique experience unmatched in Verizon’s Android lineup. You’ll have to weight the importance of the two for a final decision, but trust me, that is what it will boil down to.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Verizon put out a “Droid 3 LTE” before the end of the year kind of how they did the Droid 2 Global not long after the Droid 2. If I were due for an upgrade, I might hold off.
I would be soooo f-ing pissed if that happened
Surprised there is nothing negative about the qHD display or lag while opening apps (especially the camera app). I returned mine because of those things. If this had an OLED or comparable screen, I would have kept it. Loved the keyboard. Oh well . . Here’s hoping for a Galaxy S II with a keyboard.
Personally, I think the screen looks outstanding. Maybe there’s something about it that irks some folks, maybe other folks are seeing bad things because they expect to see bad things. All I can say is that, to me, it looks great and appears to use a lot less relative power, which is a big bonus.
I went to Verizon on the weekend prepared to buy one. (I have a D2G and like Motorola products) I’d read about the screen, but initially it looked fine to me. Then I switched the wallpaper to the included “Grass” live wallpaper that I use on My D2G. This is where is showed the pixelation people are writing about. It really looked awful next to my current phone. I understand the smaller screen will show this less, but that is the thing. If you are going to go up in resolution, the image should be improved. I’m sure there are other things that will bring out this negative. Was deal breaker for me.
If the grass was green, green and red are two things that make it stand out the most according to some tech sites.
What up BALTIMORE!
Will this thing ever come to Europe? Motorola’s answer to my e-mail wasn’t helpful.
You guys get the Samsung Galaxy S 2, while we in the US wait….. and wait….. and wait……., Trust me, you really don’t need the Droid 3, if you can go get yourself the SSGS2!!!
Not everybody wants a Samsung.
Correct, I don’t want a Samsung. I want a Milestone 3. I’ve seen other Motorola phones I’m interested in but it’s very unlikely if they will ever come to Europe.
wow another 3g phone sad
The blue photo bug makes pictures with the flash hard to handle, hope they patch that issue soon or update the camera app. Definitely look to remove some of the bloatware (GoTo Meeting, City ID, really?). Also Verizon installing undeletable bookmarks just takes the bloat annoyance even further.
I bought the D3 the day it came out and half the ram was bad in the phone. Made the phone slower than the D2… I liked the larger 4 inch screen but the 256mb RAM showing up in system was not working. Verizon took the phone back and tested it and said it was just a bad unit. But I have decided to wait and see if and when this HTC Vigor comes out. I really like HTC…
If the droid 3 screen is bad compared to most phones (I’m sure due to Pentile), won’t that mean the Droid Bionic will be even more pixelated due to the .3 in extra screen? Yes I due understand that there are benefits in battery due to pentile screens. But if the battery is that much horrible on a Great Screen then I’d rather just buy another battery or use an extended one. Better yet, why don’t manufacturers just opt for a good screen AND more mAH’s to their battery. No wait nevermind, that’s just too much common sense.
Speaking of Bionic, can Chris, Kevin or Quentyn post something in regards to it (preferably something that 10,000 other websites haven’t mentioned) before the weekend so I have something to ponder and DON’T have to wait until Monday? Besides my thought on the screen, I’m excited for more info on this phone. :P
I don’t know if this is really an issue, I’d like to see it as whiny rambling, but why so many jump cuts in the video? Couldn’t you have just rehearsed or wrote a script instead of cutting the the video bit by bit? It just makes the review seem…. so amateurish.
I actually like the cuts. It breaks up some monotony in the video.
The lack of 4G is enough for me not to bother. Great job, Moto.