Name: Motorola Droid 4
Price: $200 (w/two-year contract)
The Back Story: Smartphones with physical keyboards not made by RIM have become an endangered species. Thankfully, Motorola has kept the old-fashioned keyboard alive (and relevant) with its signature Droid series. The Google-owned company has put out some of most powerful and fastest handsets on the market throughout the years, and have kicked off 2012 on a high note with the phenomenal RAZR Maxx. Looking to continue its hot streak, the company’s decided to pull the trigger once again on a newer version of the original Droid phone. After misfiring big time with the Droid 3, Moto hopes to rejuvenate its trademark handset by welcoming a trendy redesign, 4G speed, and an enhanced keyboard for its latest creation: the Droid 4.
Marketed as the “thinnest and most powerful 4G QWERTY smartphone,” the Verizon powerhouse has progressively built a buzz amongst the Android faithful with many labeling it the last great keyboard smartphone of this era. So with a couple of fresh upgrades and a sleek look, is the Droid 4 capable of living up to this moniker?
• Industrial design and upgraded keyboard: From the dark-slate finish to the contoured edges, Motorola’s newest baby sports the same streamlined aesthetics as the Droid RAZR (minus the Kevlar-coated rear). It’s considered the thinnest phone of its kind, boasting the slimmest profile of any QWERTY keyboard handset. Speaking of the QWERTY, Moto enhanced the keyboard with exceptional tactile feedback and durable buttons. Typing on the Droid 4 felt more comfortable than the last-gen model thanks to the smaller button layout and soft-touch keys. Composing emails, texts, and Facebook and Twitter updates seemed effortless. Plus with the edge-lit background, you’ll be able to see and type on the entire keyboard in dark environments. It's arguably Verizon's best QWERTY phone.
• Finally, A 4G Droid: With a handful of devices having adopted Verizon’s LTE network by mid-2011, reviewers were baffled to see the high-speed service excluded from the Droid 3. Motorola smartened up and eventually decided to bless its flagship series with 4G support. Our Speedtest.net analysis recorded download speeds of 15Mbps and 3Mbps download in Midtown Manhattan. Web browsing was instant as pages loaded fast, plus Android Market purchases transferred over in a matter of seconds: somewhere between 7 and 10 to be exact.
• Solid battery life: The RAZR Maxx isn't the only Android phone out there that can carry a charge past 10 hours on heavy use. All praises go to Motorola’s Smart Actions software—the energy saving feature that offers several energy preserving options. The same program can be found on both RAZR models (click here to see our breakdown). Moto's 1,785 mAh battery holds up well, pulling an average 11 hours during excessive web browsing and gaming sessions, while lasting an entire day on moderate use.
• Verizon's best call phone: It’s rare to find a 4G smartphone with impeccable call quality. Verizon subscribers have a gem on their network, as the Droid 4 delivers great audio. Screened calls were loud, distortion-free, and clear on both ends. Wireless reception was strong throughout the Tri-State area, resulting in no dropped calls. Motorola’s Elite Sliver Bluetooth headset worked well with the handset and did a good job picking up vocals. The speakerphone also served its purposes for hands-free calls.
• Strong processor and high storage capacity: Residing inside the Droid 4 is the same 1.2GHz dual-core processor found in both RAZR models. Benchmarks remain the same as the phone generates super-fast navigation, pinpoint touch accuracy, and launches apps quickly. Its multitasking capabilities are great, with all operations running smooth when having up to eight programs open in the background. Moto's spec sheet claims the device holds 16GB of memory, but only 8GB are available, along with 2.73GB for apps. That's still pretty decent. Plus there’s the option of stuffing a 32GB or 64GB microSD card in there. And with the MotoCast app capable of accessing documents and files from your computer, there's plenty of memory to go around.
• Another Droid with camera issues: Motorola’s track record with smartphone cameras isn’t the best. Some of the same flaws found on the Droid RAZR and Photon 4G are still present here, such as delayed shutter speeds and unbalanced focus. Pictures and videos also appeared dim and grainy, even in brightly lit settings.
• Disappointing visuals: We actually found the 4-inch qHD touchscreen on the last Droid to be one of the phone's biggest strengths. With the Droid 4 rocking the same screen, we had high expectations for solid picture quality. Not the case. Images and videos lacked sharpness, plus the color saturation and clarity was less than stellar.
• Non-removable battery and case removal annoyance: Moto’s recently become fixated with creating devices that prevent users from swapping out the internal battery. The Droid 4 falls into that category. But that’s nothing in comparison to the locksmith procedure necessary to pry open the back cover. The manufacturer requires users to place a tiny removal kit, which looks like a button with a small pin, into a micro-hole located on the top right of the phone and apply pressure to slide down the cover. They should of just given it the Kevlar treatment.
Final Say: The Droid 4 is a notable step up from its predecessor thanks to exceptional voice calling and an incredible QWERTY keyboard. Unlike the Droid 3's short run, the addition of LTE will serve as the phone's most vital attribute—assuring a longer shelf life. Besides those three attributes, the Droid 4 dishes the same specs and performance as the RAZR smartphones. The dual-core is zippy, all of Motorola’s corporate features are intact, and it’s compatible with all the company’s accessories (Lapdock, HD Dock, etc.). And at $100 cheaper than the RAZR Maxx, we find it to be the better purchase for energy hogs, though the former is the overall superior model. However, the Droid 4 also takes on the same ailments as the RAZR line. The built-in battery could be a major issue in the long run and the camera software needs serious improvement. In the end, the Droid 4 stands strong as the best QWERTY smartphone available now.