Motorola DROID 4 Review: King of the QWERTY

February 10, 2012
13

We can finally say hello to the Motorola DROID 4, available starting today from Verizon Wireless. Being the first DROID slider with all the essential main ingredients: dual-core, 4G LTE, and obviously a slide-out QWERTY hardware keyboard can this rule them all? Or will it just be another DROID like the rest? If you love a hardware keyboard or are a die-hard fan of the original DROID you'll want to stay tuned for the verdict.

When the original Moto DROID landed it was a huge success that has slowly lost wind with large screens, improved on-screen keyboards and thin designs. Motorola has held true to what made them so popular and their latest release might be just what you've been waiting for. Lets start with our Droid 4 hands-on and unboxing.

Hardware

The DROID 4 contains an impressive 4.0" qHD display with a 540 x 960 resolution. Same as the larger screened but extremely similar DROID RAZR. Making the screen a little sharper and crisper but it's hardly noticeable. The chassis is larger than most but given the internal specs and the awesome keyboard that is to be expected. While slightly fatter than the DROID 3 it has that all important 4G LTE. Other than the impressive 5-row QWERTY keyboard with an edge-lit LED design, the rest of the goods are under the hood. That is a 1.2 GHz dual-core OMAP 4430 processor, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage and then 4G LTE. We do have a micro-SD port for extra storage, but that is both hidden and extremely difficult to access. Powered by Android 2.3 Gingerbread and Motorola's ever-changing interface overlay.

That isn't all either. Motorola's slowly made huge strides in their camera performance and the 8 megapixel rear and 1.3 front cameras on the DROID 4 are above average to say the least. Definitely better than the horrid camera inside the Bionic, that is for sure but more on that below. Now regarding size the D4 comes in at 12.7mm thick, being about the exact same as the DROID 3 before it while still packing in 4G LTE. Put it next to the 7.1mm DROID RAZR and it feels extra fat, and extremely heavy -- which it is. The extra weight stemming from the QWERTY keyboard, LED lights and added bulk of the larger screen.

Keyboard

First since this is on everyone's mind I want to mention the new keyboard -- it is awesome. It truly has impressed me for the few days I've been using it and I've became extremely quick and efficient on it. Keyboards aren't really for me, but this is almost making me rethink it -- if only it weren't so fat and heavy. The edge-lit keys are impressive and the light sensor automatically turns the backlight on or off depending on the situation. Not only does this save battery but it works well and is extremely responsive.

the 5-row keyboard is nicely spaced, and has a perfect sense of height and motion during use. With a PC-like chicklit design and layout you'll be comfortable right away. The amount of response from the clicks feels great and you won't ever be wondering if you've pushed hard enough. Comparing it to the DROID 3 keyboard I'd say Motorola has made huge improvements to the design, layout, feel, and durability.

It's safe to say the Motorola DROID 4 is the new king of QWERTY smartphones.

Software

On the software side of things we are graced with Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread and the usual array of apps from Motorola, Google, and Verizon. Motorola's added their visual changes and are almost identical to the DROID RAZR. The new UI seems slightly more polished with glowing lights and fancy widgets. The usual Motorola and Verizon app bloatware is included but they've also been improving the Moto Webtop that is installed. The D4 will work with the latest Motorola Lapdocks via the micro-HDMI and USB ports on the bottom side.

From MotoCAST, MotoACTV, Verizon Video, Slacker Radio, Netflix and NFL Mobile you'll have plenty of things to keep you busy out of the box should you choose. Overall if you've used any of Motorola's recent devices the performance of the software is about the same. Things are smooth, stable, and overall quite fluid. I'm not the biggest fan of the Motorola UI changes but the last few updates are slowly growing on me. We'll see how that all changes with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich later this year.

Performance and LTE

Performance with the 1.2 GHz dual-core processor and 4G LTE are exactly as we'd expect. The dual-core power provides plenty of gas for this phone and you wont see any issues. In Quadrant Advanced the benchmarks were favorable scoring just under 2800 completely stock. Higher than Tegra 2 devices and almost all 1.2 GHz Qualcomm powered HTC handsets.

While 4G LTE results are subjective to the location, market, and signal with two bars here in my local city of Las Vegas I saw decent speeds that weren't the highest, but not the lowest I've seen. Averaging around 9 MB/s down and 7-9 up. The signal seems to be more stable than the Galaxy Nexus, but that is an entirely different story for another day.

Battery Life and Camera

The DROID 4 comes with a built-in (non-removable) 1785 mAh battery that should last plenty long -- but it's no RAZR MAXX. During regular usage the first day I received around 8 hours of medium to heavy usage of calls, texts, gaming, and updates. Lighter days 11 hours was pretty common so it's safe to say you'll be able to go an entire day on a single charge. The battery however, just like the bootloader is under a lock and key. A tiny and easy to lose key comes in the box (pictured below) for removing the back. Which also houses the micro-SD card. If you need to change it on the go -- good luck. I think this design is a bit ridiculous but to each his own I guess.

Back to that camera. Motorola has finally stepped it up with the camera. The focus is fast, same goes for the shutter speed and the results are no longer fuzzy and over-exposed. They could still use some work but here's a quick example with more in the gallery below.

Wrap-Up

This is the best DROID yet but when it all comes down to it the hardware is great, but the overall space for this phone in the market is not. With RAZR thin phones, quad-cores on the horizon and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich already on the market this phone is a few months too late. Not to say it doesn't have upside because it does and can still be considered a top-tier smartphone. If you want a hardware QWERTY keyboard with your smartphone the DROID 4 is absolutely hands down the best device on the market and will make ANY owner happy. If you want the latest and greatest this wont be for you, but it sure comes close. For me the choice is DROID 4 or the Galaxy Nexus -- and I own the latter.

If you have an aging DROID 2, DROID Charge or many other Verizon devices and would like to get into a great smartphone the DROID 4 is an excellent choice. You'll just have to decide if the added bulk and weight from the keyboard is worth it. As long as Verizon doesn't release a DROID 5 this summer I see this being the best QWERTY smartphone for months to come.

Enjoy the rest of our photos from the gallery below and check out the timeline for more details regarding this device.

[device id=2148]


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  • Anonymous

    Your review says 8Gb if internal but 
    Device Specifications and Information says 16Gb

    • Spdstr280z

      Good question…. Mine shows 8 gig as well, what the….

      • wanorris

        8 GB is allocated to the internal “SD” storage, the rest seems to be allocated to OS and app installation partitions.

  • http://twitter.com/btershana Ben Tershana

    Nice write up! … I’m on a droid OG w/root and liquidsmooth GB…750 ocz… it’s a great rom but it’s a battery monster… 

    I like either the D4, Maxx or nexus … really want to upgrade but just can’t figure if I want the extra battery life, keyboard or the nexus goodness …  

    will D4 get a legit ICS at some point?

  • Shtiksh

    The Droid 4 screen is identical to the Droid 3 screen, not the Razr screen.
    Basically the Droid 4 is the Droid 3 with: 4G LTE, edgelit buttons, and a bigger and uglier chassis. I would have bought it today if it looked like the Droid 3…

  • Spdstr280z

    Picked up one yesterday, have been waiting on it since it was a rumor. I had the OG Droid, and have been using an iPhone 4S for the last few weeks since the Droid was stolen. Right now I like the D4, I don’t love it. On paper, not having the AMOLED screen is disappointing, but in the real world the D4 screen is crisp and clear. When held next to the RAZR the difference is obvious, but that is the only time I have noticed it. Honestly the colors on the D4 screen seem more true to life while the RAZR has the AMOLED over saturated unreal look on photos. The styling I can take or leave, it is style for the sake of style, I like the originals unapologetic industrial look better. Performance is no problem, hasn’t hiccuped once, and 4G is amazing so far. The keyboard is the difference here, and other than a slight plasticy feel, it is amazing. The edge lit keys and 5 rows are what the mobile keyboard should be, solid win here. What bothers me is the feel… I read several reviews about the quality feel of this phone, and I expected something that felt as nice as the original, it just doesn’t…. I had to pick up several other phones in the store to realize that this really is one of the better feeling phones out there now. Only the RAZR and iPhone seemed to feel better in my opinion. Just not happy right now going from solid aluminum no nonsense design with a solid feel, to plasticy, rubbery Battlestar Galactica inspired style…. Seems Motorola is cutting costs and sinking a little closer to the lowest common denominator again. A positive to this style though, the back does fit the hand a lot better than the OG.

  • Fittechinc

    I’m sorry, but was this actually tested or reviewed on the specs only? You say “The DROID 4 contains an impressive 4.0″ qHD display with a 540 x 960 resolution. Same as the larger screened but extremely similar DROID RAZR.” Did you actually look at this screen? I went to a Verizon store to get one of these for my wife, who insists on a real keyboard, and once I saw how bad the screen looked, I left without it. I had my Bionic with me and while both were bright, but the Droid 4 was extremely washed out. I’m pretty sure both have the same screens so I’m confused how Moto could have screwed the pooch on that one.

    To use the Razr and the Droid 4 in the same sentance is a insult to anyone with a working set of eyes. When it comes to screens these phones don’t compare. The rest of the phone is nice, but all these manufacturers need to wake up and step it up big time in the display department. Our phones are mostly visual devices, and the screen is the first thing that attracts us. I don’t wanna just settle for an okay screen , I want to be blown away by the phone…. I want to shake my head in amazement everytime I wake the screen up, I have yet to get that feeling from any phone.

    Here’s my other beef, I’m not quite understanding by the manufacturers are going in the way of the non removable battery. This is been one of android phones positives, to be able to remove and replace the battery and now for some reason, in there infinite wisdom, they’ve chosen non removable units? Perhaps there’s a logical reason, like the removable version is a thicker battery and will not allow them to make the phone as slim? If that is the case, then all these non removable batteries should be 3300ma and above like the Razr Maxx.

    At the end of the day, I think all these reviews should be completely honest or just stop doing them. If you see a feature that disappoints you spit it out. If you can’t admit Motorola went backwards in screen quality since the last phone they released , then I question your review ability, or your vision.

    • wanorris

      Personally, I’ve owned this for a couple of weeks now, and I don’t have any complaints about the screen.

  • 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?

  • Snap

    Too bad it will probably never get ICS if it’s still in Phase 1.

  • Pavelll

    I would like to thank to Motorola for continuing and evolution of the Droid/Milestone line of communicators, but :) It has taken too much time (without assurance it will be sold and supported in all European countries) and so 2 months ago I bought SE Xperia Pro. And I am quite impresssed and satisfied by this model. The ratios power/weight and prise/weight are amazing in case of 140 g Xperia Pro. After several QWERTY models of Nokia it’s very nice to be able have the phone in the pocket without losign the shorts ;-) Btw, my last Nokia E90 weight was 210 g. Neverthemind I look forwards to have Milestone-4 in my hands and test it. Maybe …

  • http://www.freearticlesreading.com/ Fletcher S. Jensen

    I came from the droid x and really hate the virtual keyboard. The phone was OK other than that but i really did not like not having a physical keyboard. I got the droid 4 for vday although i was really worried at first as a lot of people had negative things to say about it based on what info was already leaked as far as the screen and the battery. I def am glad i made the switch as this phone is immensely superior than the Droid X . I have a habit of always carrying a charger on me at all times and also of course have a car charger so although yes def the battery drains quick when you browse and stuff i have yet to have the phone actually die on me.

    Also one thing to note which i just started getting into with this phone is the “smart actions.” When i first got the phone i over looked it but soon realized its potential. For example you can set up a trigger, one i have is that when the phone gets to 25% battery capacity i have certain things turn off automatically like the auto sync and all other extras like that (bluetooth etc.).

    Other smart actions i have set up is a home one so when im home the screen automatically gets brighter and it automatically switches the ringer on if its off…then at work i have it automatically turn to vibrate as well as some other features (also like the dif screen savers that change between profiles if you choose to do so). And these smart actions automatically switch on depending on your location its not something you have to switch to. The other complaints that i hear and heard were about the screen quality…the screen def is not the same as the Droid X and unfortunately sometimes you can see the pixels themselves…now taking this into consideration it really does not bother me and i have not really had it cause issues while web browsing as some other people have stated in the reviews…i even upload movies from my computer onto the phone to watch at work on my breaks and it really is not that bad at all, something i can completely without a doubt live with.

    Again the major thing for me with this phone was, in order, the key board, 4g, and the dual core processor. The keyboard is completely awesome (i actually got a case at the verizon store that fits it perfect and blocks thesleep button which i read another person have issues with when typing where he would press it all the time, this has never happened to me due to the case). The processors make the phone very fast and not laggy which i did get a little bit of with the Droid X. and then of course if you have ever used 4g after using 3g it is incredibly faster. In the store i downloaded the app “speed test” to run a test on the demo model while at the same time running it on my Droid X and the results speak for themselves.

    Other than that i really have no complains, my call quality has been good and i haven’t dropped a call yet, the speaker on the phone is pretty loud (external and phone speaker), and one small thing that i love is how you can go to the camera from the main screen while swiping your finger (the screen before you unlock it). Oh one small complaint…no idea why when listening to your music you dont have music controls when you lock the screen like i did on my Droid X…that was kind weird. All in all if you need a keyboard and hate the virtual ones and want to experience 4g this phone really has it all.

    If i had listened to all the negativeness (which seems to stick out to people more than the positives) then i would not have gotten the phone, but if given the chance to make my choice again hands down i would get this phone again.

    I hope this review helps someone like me who was on the fence as that is my goal and hey if you’re on the fence you have time to return it if you don’t like it. So give it a try!

    *Note, if you’re will buy this Motorola Droid 4, I suggest you have to check for best deal before you decide at: http://androidphonesdeals.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/motorola-droid-4/

    Good Luck!