Motorola is back with the third version of their very successful Droid family of devices. They kicked off the series with the original Droid that had a physical keyboard and D-Pad for easy navigation. The second version dropped the D-Pad and ushered in a larger keyed physical keyboard that still only had 4 rows of keys. Now we have the Droid 3. The ultimate in QWERTY Keyboards with it’s beautifully laid out 5 row keyboard with dedicated row of numbers. The Droid 3 is not all about a keyboard however. Packing a dual core Tegra 1 GHz processor, 4 inch qHD screen, and 8 megapixel camera, the Droid 3 has got some horsepower to take on any tasks thrown at it. Motorola also aimed to please with making sure the Droid 3 had the latest Android operating system with Gingerbread 2.3.4. Motorola was not done there either, they added their own twist with MotoBlur.
There are a few things missing like 4G LTE on Verizon’s network. How could Big Red and Motorola leave this off? And how would the camera and video preform with the dual core processor? Those questions and more are answered as I review the Motorola Droid 3 from Verizon Wireless. So check out my complete review on the Droid 3 below.
UNBOXING THE DROID 3
So after opening the package, the contents of the box are pretty simple, just an AC Adapter that is used in conjunction with the sync cable supplied. Other than that and some manuals, that is all you get. I think a really nice value added touch would have been to include a HDMI cable, but because of the crazy low subsidized pricing, it makes sense that the carrier is going to need to try to take some cost out of the product. Also, most people are changing phones a lot more frequently and to continue to add earphones, extra cables, and a case that most people don’t use, the added cost doesn’t make sense.
I always like to focus on the first thing that strikes me about a phone when I first pick it up and in the Droid 3’s case it is just how thin and solid it felt. The slide out keyboard is really well done with 5 rows of keys, and to make the thickness of this device 1/2 of an inch is amazing and still keep the solid feel and hinge strength.
The capacitive buttons are all laid out in typical Android fashion with four icons (menu, home, back, & search) stretching across the lower part of the screen section. It’s my personal opinion that I am not wild about the way the bottom portion of the device extends past the screen section on top. Verizon makes excellent marketing use of the space by putting their logo across it, but I prefer a squared off device.
The Verizon Motorola Droid 3 comes equipped with a 1GHz dual core processor, a 4 inch qHD (960 x 540) Screen, 16GB of internal Memory that is expandable to 48GB with a 32GB microSD card, 8 megapixel camera with LED Flash, 1080 HD Video Capture, and a 1540 mAh battery.
The Motorola Droid 3 packs a Tegra Dual Core 1 GHz Processor which I found to be very fast. The device out of the box scrolled through screens beautifully and apps fired up without delay. I think a lot of the performance gains I saw over the predecessors to the Droid # have to do with not only the dual core processor, but Gingerbread itself. Even after loading a lot of apps and running multiple games, the Droid 3 seemed sufficiently powered to handle more.
The screen on the Droid 3 is where things start to get sideways for me. I must admit I was truly excited to check out my first dual core processor powered qHD screen device. The Droid 3 has a 4-inch qHD touchscreen display (Quarter High Definition; 960 x 540 pixels) with accelerometer plus proximity and ambient light sensors. Even though this was as I say, my first qHD device, I have been using the Retina Screened iPhone 4 as well as used several Super AMOLED Samsung devices to make the following determination, Motorola as a lot more work to do perfecting the qHD display. I found the display to be quite pixelated and really bad in sunlight. The colors at time were pretty decent, but then at other times came across blurry. Even though this is a qHD display and better than other WVGA devices, the Super AMOLED Screens as well as the iPhone Retina Display are miles in front in the HD Screen category.
The Droid 3 comes with 16 GB of internal storage and has an memory card slot to expand your total memory by up to 32 additional GBs of storage. The droid 3 however does not come equipped with one so this would be an optional purchase for the buyer.
The Motorola Droid 3 comes equipped with a 1540 mAh lithium-ion battery is rated at up to 550 minutes (9.16 hours) of talk time, and up to 300 hours (12.5 days) of standby time. I used the device at the beginning on the review with only moderate use and limited video and audio usage and managed to squeeze it though a full day. There is no hope of walking past a power outlet several times of day if you are going to hammer the Droid 3 with media content playback .I will say that this Gingerbread device did much better than any of the Froyo devices I have used before, but battery life remains an issue.
CAMERA & VIDEO
The Motorola Droid 3 comes with a 8-megapixel camera with LED flash, touch-to-focus, face recognition, and panoramic modes. Taking video in HD 720p resolution (30 fps) was not as good as expect, but I will touch on that in a minute. Finally, the Droid 3 comes packing a front-facing VGA camera for video chats. Really, only VGA? I would have liked to have seen a 1.3 megapixel camera at least as front facing camera and still see many high end devices being left with a VGA front facing camera. Hopefully this will be the last of the VGA front facing cameras.
Picture taking was not bad with the Droid 3. I thought the colors especially the reds were quite vibrant. The camera takes fairly quick pictures and did not seem to lag at all. I still much prefer my iPhone 4 camera over the Droid 3 but I think the pictures are still very good and will make sure those special moments when needed do not disappoint.
The video capture however on the Droid 3 was not nearly as good as the camera mode. Several times the video recording would freak out and get blurry. While I thought the colors where once again pretty good, the choppiness of the video recording overall were not good. The following is a video I shot outdoors in an action environment with kids playing baseball.
DESIGN & KEYBOARD
I got to kick things off here with one of my favorite parts of the the Motorola Droid 3 and that is the keyboard. The original Droid, that used a 4 row full QWERTY Keyboard and had a D-Pad to the right of the smaller keyboard. Personally, I never used it and would have much more preferred larger buttons to accommodate my bigger fingers. The Droid 2 evolved from the original Droid and axed the D-Pad but remained with a larger button 4 row keyboard.
Which brings us to the current version Motorola Droid 3. There is a saying that the third time is to charm, and that is exactly what has happened on the Droid 3. Gone is the D-Pad and the painful 4 row keyboard. New is a beautifully laid out 5 row QWERTY Keyboard that has a dedicated number row across the top. The keyboard is thinner and the tactile response is second to none. The keys are easy to feel and slide from one key to the next without losing your sense of placement on the keyboard. The backlighting worked as expected and the major win for me is the dedicated number row across the top. From the former champion of all mobile QWERTY keyboards I have ever used, the Touch Pro II from AT&T has finally met it’s equal. As it turns out I liked the Droid 3 button placement much better as well as the feel of the buttons themselves. The Touch Pro 2 had separation between the buttons which I had always thought to be the best until now. Also the Touch Pro 2 had function plus action required before being able to enter a number.While I got very proficient at this, the dedicated number row across the top which I at one time criticized, not seems to be the more logical choice as numbers are more frequent than the symbols I had once thought more important.
As a slide out QWERTY Keyboard device, there is often limited space for screen size. That is not the case here as Motorola saw fit to cram in a 4 inch qHD display for our viewing pleasure. The size change from the original Droid and Droid 2 caused some changes to the Droid 3 overall measurements as well. The Droid 3 now measures 4.9 x 2.5 x 0.5 inches and weights 5.9 ounces. It feels solid and even with a full keyboard, is thin and very pocketable. What is even more amazing is how thing the keyboard is. The Droid 3 has a much more appealing look with the thinner keyboard and looks so much more different than the girth of the Touch Pro 2 and devices from the past.
The Droid 3 maintains the typical 4 Android buttons at the bottom of the screen. On the right hand side of the device you will find the volume up and down buttons which were easy enough to operate. The left side of the devices towards the bottom is where you will find the charging micro usb port as well as a mini HDMI out jack. The top of the device is where the power button is located and not the easiest in the world to depress. For me it is kind of a necessary evil as I hate accidentally turning on a device. Also on top is the 3.5mm audio jack hiding to the right hand side. The back side of the Droid 3 is a nice rubberized finger print proof coated cover. The 8 megapixel camera and 1080 video recording hardware are located with the LED Flash on the upper left side. The bottom of the device contains nothing and follows the Verizon Droid lineage of the kicked out bottom.
PHONE & WIRELESS
From the minute I picked up the Droid 3 I wondered why Verizon and Motorola did not include 4G LTE into this device. Really it is the only thing missing that keeps it out of flagship contention and locks it up securely in a niche market segment. I used the Droid 3 in several states while I was traveling and did not have a problem with the call quality that a lot of other reviewers had experienced. I did find that the speaker quality in the headset and on the speakerphone setting were not as good as other devices I have used. Data speeds were still quite good and youtube and pandora streamed nicely over the Verizon 3G network. I was quite surprised in fact how good the Verizon network performed in rural areas. My daily driver phone uses the AT&T network and in the same rural area and does not have the same speed that Verizon did during my testing. While AT&T still has a death grip on rural areas in the South where I live, the Droid 3 did quite well during my time with it,
Bluetooth version 2.1 is included on the Droid 3 and pairing the device was as expected along with WiFi usage. Connections to my work network and home were established without incident and performed well.
OPERATING SYSTEM & SOFTWARE
The Motorola Droid 3 comes with the most current Android flavored operating system Gingerbread 2.3.4 which is actually quite surprising because of the lack of 4G LTE and weirdness of the display hardware. Included also with Gingerbread is Motorola’s MotoBlur user interface. Even though MotoBlur does not require the painful sign in as it did in the past, MotoBlur is something I could see retired from Motorola’s next Droid device.
Booting up with the Droid 3 is faster than previous versions and Motorola lets you know you are packing some dual core processing power during boot as well. Configuring your Droid 3 is not too tricky and you are soon up and running. I personally like a lot of 3D animations and the screen scrolling will not please the purist who prefers getting the job done with no flash. I did not notice any slow downs while scrolling and the dual core processor seemed to handle the burden well.
Basic surplus of apps coming courtesy of Android is: Browser, Calculator, Calendar (Google or Corporate), Camera, Clock, Contacts, Email, Gallery, Messaging, Music, News & Weather, Phone, Settings, Video Player, Voice Dialer, Voice Search, YouTube. Google is going to hook you up with: Gmail, Google Search, Google Voice Search, Google Latitude, Google Maps, Google Places, Google Talk and Google Maps Navigation with spoken turn-by-turn directions showing real-time traffic and 360° views of the destination. As mentioned above Motorola is forcing MotoBlur on you once more and Verizon would like you to enjoy it’s V CAST™ Media Store, VZ Navigator, V CAST Tunes, Music, Videos, Media Manager, Hotspot, as well as My Verizon Mobile.
I think the Motorola Droid 3 by Verizon is a good choice for customers wanting to do a lot of texting and emailing. The QWERTY Keyboard with 5 rows of keys is second to none and make texting a pleasure. Screen rotations and speed of the device is fats with the dual core processor. I also really enjoyed the larger screen which made landscape mode and using the QWERTY keyboard a lot nicer than previous version of the Droid by Motorola. Gingerbread was also a very welcomed addition and makes me really start looking forward to the next Android OS, Ice Cream Sandwich.
The things I didn’t like with the Motorola Droid 3 were of course MotoBlur. It’s time to scrap this and move on to a more stock style layout provided by Google. The Camera was good and bad for me and I thought it did a decent job at taking pictures but video taking was not where it needed to be to compete with other high end smartphones. The same is true with the Droid 3’s screen. So much excitement at the qHD 4 inch screen left me underwhelmed with the experience. As I mentioned earlier, the screen is better than the current HTC WVGA offering, but definitely not up to par with Samsung’s brilliant Super AMOLED screens or Apples iPhone 4 Retina Display.
The Droid 3 again has got some issues, but the build quality and excellent physical keyboard just might overlook those issues for some folks.
Check out Verizon’s Droid page here for more information.