In 2009, Motorola and Verizon announced the original Droid — a highly popular device which kicked off, thanks to Verizon’s Droid campaign, a revolution in which not only geeks had Android phones.
The Droid 3 is the latest model in the line, and we have the review for you. It still has the Motorola Droid “tail”, and a slide out keyboard, but more has changed than has remained the same. How does it compare to its Droid siblings? Read on for the full review!
Other than the phone, the Droid 3 box contains very little in the way of accessories. Manuals, a sync cable, and a USB wall adapter are all you get. It is important to note there is no microSD card included either.
A dual-core 1GHz OMAP 4 processor lies at the heart of this newest member of the Droid lineup. In addition, 512MB or RAM, 16GB of built-in storage, and a 1500mAh battery fill out the rest of the basic specs.
The standard complement of accelerometer, GPS, Bluetooth, WiFi, are here, but noticeably absent is a gyroscope. A bonus feature found of the Motorola Droid 3 is the capability to add an inductive charging back for wireless charging.
In hand, the Droid 3 is hefty, but solid. Weighing in at 6.49 ounces, it’s one of the heaviest Android devices available today, even if it is one of the slimmest with a slide-out keyboard.
The screen looks fantastic in almost any lighting situation, as long as you don’t look to closely or start analyzing the color accuracy. The four-inch 540×960 (qHD) Gorilla Glass covered screen is PenTile technology, and thus suffers from the same issues all PenTile displays seem to have: noticeable pixels, and ghosting during fast panning.
The back of the device is a smooth soft-touch plastic, which does attract its fair share of fingerprints. The branding logos are very unobtrusive, and the door fit is clean and tight.
The speaker, rear microphone, and 8MP camera (plus flash) are found in the usual spots as well.
Heaven help you if you have to remove the battery cover for any reason. The fit is so tight, one feels like they might break the door before it finally flexes and unsnaps. Reattaching the cover is easy enough.
Beneath this vault of a door is the microSD slot, SIM card (GSM supported, but not in the US), and 1550mAh battery. There is an optional BF6X 1930mAh battery and extended cover available.
The keyboard on the Motorola Droid 3 is quite the upgrade from its predecessors. With five rows, including the dedicated number keys, the buttons are nicely spaced, have a nice tactile feel, and have a backlight that reminds me of Indiglo on Timex watches. The one complaint with this keyboard is due to the “tail” on the Droid 3. This extension to the far right of the keyboard causes your hand to be slightly offset from a natural typing position, leading to many missed keystrokes.
There is an interesting texture on the keys which produces some swishing noises as you drag your fingers from key to key, but once you get used to the sound, it’s not terribly distracting. Just don’t expect your in-meeting texting to go unnoticed.
As for the slider, the movement is a little stiff, but loosens up with use. In the original hardware tour, I spoke of the screen getting stuck in one particular location, but the replacement device we were sent no longer suffered from this problem.
Once you reach full extension, the screen locks nicely in place. Unfortunately, the opposite is true when the phone is closed. Often times, when pulling the phone from my pocket, I would find the keyboard slightly extended.
As mentioned in the hardware tour, the smallish power button is in an unusual position compared to other devices on the market, but as my fingers memorized the location, it was easier to find.
The headphone jack is also located on the top end of the phone.
To the left and near the bottom of the Droid 3 is the mini HDMI, USB, and just between the two, a small charging indicator which lights up when connected to power.
Why have the USB/HDMI ports in such a position? Simply put, for the dock accessories available from Motorola. It may make for awkward charging position when using the default cable, but when you attach the Droid 3 to its car dock, it locks in beautifully, and even launches the appropriate application.
On the opposite side and near the top is the simple volume rocker. Missing from the right side is a dedicated camera button, which, as we will discuss below, would have been an important feature.
Verizon, you have surprised me! Again, while I’m not against folks using Bing, or really care about the search results of Bing in general, it was nice to see that Bing wasn’t forced upon the user for this particular phone. Also notable was the fact that we could uninstall some of the included bloatware (although not all of it).
As for the Motorola this-is-not-Blur launcher and widgets, I could really find little to complain about, especially considering the interface was almost completely lag free. You can always replace the launcher with one of your own choosing, but it was nice to see a workable and simple configuration that even your mother could navigate easily.
By default, the Droid 3 is set to 6MP widescreen format (as you can see in the cloud photo above). Motorola’s 8MP rear camera takes decent enough photos, but suffers from a few major issues. First, the majority of photos had a very strong blue tint (note the textured concrete image above should be a very neutral gray). The front facing camera does not suffer from this same issue, however. Of course, you could fix this post capture, but ultimately, it should be right out of the box.
The second issue we found with the Droid 3’s camera was the lack of focus control in rooms which weren’t well lit. The continuous autofocus would struggle with finding an appropriate place to focus on, often causing us to lose the shot we were wanting to take in the first place.
Finally, the actual capture time is extraordinarily long. I had to start compensating for the delay when preparing to take photos, and even then, was always disappointed with the hesitation. While a dedicated camera button may not really alleviate this issue, it certainly would have given better access to start the shot off.
There are other issues such as easily blowing out highlights if the focus wasn’t on those spots (example in the white flower shot above), but they are small in comparison to the items above.
Video, although recordable up to 1080p, suffered from the same issues as the still camera. Poor focus in dark areas, focus hopping when moving quickly from place to place, and a slight blue tint.
That’s not to say the capture was horrible, though. In fact, the audio was fantastic, and really the results would be outstanding for making quick vids to upload to social media networks.
Again, the Motorola Droid 3 was very snappy, locking up only a very few times. The only time I had to forcibly close an app was to run the following performance tests (killing off Touchdown, a 3rd party mail app I use).
Smartbench 2011: Productivity 2699, 2489 Games
LinPack Single thread: 43.709 MFLOP, 1.92 Seconds
LinPack Multi-thread: 49.754 MFLOP, 3.39 Seconds
CALL QUALITY/NETWORK SPEED
There were very few complaints regarding the call quality on the Droid 3, and when there was, it often had to do with coverage vs the phone suffering from a problem. No calls were dropped and if I had any signal at all, the calls would go through. The blessings of Verizon’s network. Seeing the GSM portion of the device isn’t compatible with US networks, we were unable to fully test this functionality.
3G speeds averaged 800-900kbps up and down – as one would expect with a Verizon device such as this.
Battery life on the Droid 3 has been outstanding. Especially considering the battery is the same size as my Epic 4G, and with similar usage patterns would last at least twice as long, easily. Without my heavy usage pattern, I would consistently see 2+ days of power before the device reached 15%. What really strikes me as interesting is the display is often listed very low on the usage scale, whereas other devices typically feature the screen very high on the battery scale. Frankly, most users would probably give up the color accuracy and deal with pixelation if it meant their device could last even one whole day, let alone two.
PURCHASING AND AVAILABILITY
The Motorola Droid 3 can be purchased, with a two-year contract, for $199 from Verizon.
+ PenTile display in bright sunlight
+ Battery life is great
+ Updated 5 row keyboard
– PenTile display ghosting and color accuracy
– Camera focus and capture issues
– Difficult battery cover
While not a perfect device, the Droid 3 is certainly a phone we could recommend. Great battery life, a screen that is easily seen bright sunlight (even at the cost of color accuracy and ghosting), and with a slide-out keyboard. It was a pleasure to use a Verizon device that wasn’t bogged down by the carrier as well. What about 4G you ask? At this time, I can’t say the lack of 4G is a con with this particular device. It would simply eat into the battery life. In all, the Motorola Droid 3 from Verizon is a major upgrade from its predecessors and well worth the price.
We rate the Motorola Droid 3 a 3.5/5.