10
Feb
thumb

A little over two years ago, a phone hit the scene that changed Android forever. That phone was, of course, the Motorola Droid. It almost single-handedly put Android on the map. Its QWERTY slider made it one-of-a-kind, and Android 2.0 was the hottest thing smoking. Fast-forward two years and three keyboarded QWERTY Droids later, and what do we have? The newest generation of Does, the Droid 4.

While some may argue that past Droids have been a letdown, The D4 fulfills many, if not all, of the requests made of the Droid line (on paper, at least). It's fast. It's sleek. It has LTE and a full gig of RAM. The slide-out keyboard that made many users fall in love with the Droid line is back and better than ever. There's no doubt - this is the most powerful Droid to date.

wm_IMG_1066

Here's a closer look at what this new Moto flagship has to offer:

  • 4-inch qHD display with Gorilla Glass
  • 1.2GHz dual-core OMAP 4430 processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 16GB internal storage, microSD card slot
  • 8MP rear shooter with 1080p HD video capture
  • 1.3MP 720p HD front-facing camera
  • 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • 4G-LTE
  • 179g (6.31oz)
  • 2.8 (w) x 5.0 (h) x 0.5 (d) inches
  • CDMA 800, 1900 EVDO REV A/LTE B13 700
  • 1785 mAh battery
  • Android 2.3.6 (will be upgraded to Android 4.0)

Fortunately, the D4 review unit landed in my hands this morning. I'll spend the next few days putting through its paces to see how it holds up as my daily driver before writing a full review. In the meantime, I want to share my initial impressions with you.

Unboxing, Build Quality, And Pre-Boot Impressions

wm_IMG_1052 wm_IMG_1060

As soon as I cracked open the box and looked at this device, it was like déjà vu; it honestly felt like opening my OG Droid all over again. I don't mean that in a bad way either - that was a great feeling. Little did I know at the time that the OG Droid would change my life the way it did (I wouldn't be where I am now without it). I'm not suggesting that the Droid 4 is a life-changing device, merely that getting it out of the package was more exhilarating than I expected.

wm_IMG_1073

wm_IMG_1074 wm_IMG_1075

As soon as the device hit my hands, the first thought that came to mind was wow, this is solid. It feels great in-hand - well made and tough as nails. As expected, though, it's quite heavy. Well, heavier than my Galaxy Nexus, anyway. Users planning on upgrading from the OG Droid shouldn't feel much impact from the increased weight, however; it's a negligible difference from it's older oldest brother (169g vs 179g, respectively).

In terms of thickness, I will say one thing: my previous assumptions of the D4 were completely wrong. It's only a hair thinner (1mm) than the OG Droid, so it's nowhere near as thick as I imagined based on previously leaked images. In fact, the thickness isn't bad at all - it's not much bigger than my Galaxy Nexus whilst in the Seidio Surface case.

Initial Use

wm_IMG_1065 wm_IMG_1068

In the interest of objectivity, I'll say this about the display: it's not awful. It's not as good as the display on the Galaxy Nexus (not even close), nor is it as good as the display on the OG Droid. While the resolution is decent, the colors are just too washed out (thanks to PenTile, no doubt). Whites aren't white. Greens aren't green. Colors are just ghosts of their normal selves. Honestly, it's a bit disheartening. 

Transitioning between homescreen is pretty fluid, but I notice a bit of choppiness, blur (no pun intended), and ghosting when navigating from screen to screen and while in the app tray. Similarly, all text and images becomes badly out of focus while scrolling, be it on a web page, homescreen, app tray, or anywhere else. Comparatively, the screen on the Droid RAZR suffers from none of the aforementioned afflictions  - the whites are more dull on the RAZR than the D4, but that's the only aspect where the D4's display outshines the RAZR. I feel like Moto took four huge steps backwards by returning to the old display format instead of sticking with the AMOLED of the RAZR.

Opening and navigating between apps is insanely fast. When you tap an icon, the app is there in an instant. Similarly, when you return to the homescreen, there is no waiting period. However, I haven't spent enough time using the device to launch several apps and get a lot of multitasking going, so this could change over time. I'll definitely address this in the full review.

Speaking of apps, let's talk about bloatware, because there's a lot of it. I counted 22, yes twenty-two, pre-installed apps, not counting proprietary Moto Blur or Google apps. If you want to add Blur apps into the mix, you're looking at roughly 31 pre-install apps. Thirty-one! That's pretty outrageous, if you ask me. Here's the full list:

  1. Amazon Kindle
  2. Apps (VZW)
  3. Blockbuster
  4. Device Setup
  5. GoToMeeting
  6. Guided Tours
  7. Help Center
  8. IM
  9. Let's Golf 2
  10. Madden 12
  11. Mobile Hotspot
  12. MOG Music
  13. MOTOACTV
  14. MOTOPRINT
  15. My Accounts
  16. My Files (this one is actually useful)
  17. My Verizon
  18. Netflix
  19. NFL Mobile
  20. Quickoffice
  21. Slacker Radio
  22. Slingbox
  23. Smart Actions
  24. Social Location
  25. Social Networking
  26. Task Manager
  27. Tasks
  28. V Cast Tones
  29. Verizon Video
  30. VerizonSurf
  31. VZ Navigator

wm_IMG_1058

Lastly, I want to talk about the physical keyboard. In a nutshell, it feels great. The transition from touchscreen to physical keyboard is a bit odd (I haven't used a slide-out keyboard in many months), but the adjustment period was minimal. The keys are very easy to press, large enough to hit without tapping the keys on either side, and you can easily feel each keypress. This is, hands down, the best physical keyboard that I've ever used. Thus, if there's one thing that I'm one-hundred percent certain of, it's that users upgrading from the OG are immediately going to love this keyboard.

Conclusion

wm_IMG_1077 wm_IMG_1078

So, how do I feel about the Droid 4 so far? Honestly, I have mixed feelings at this point. As much as I want to love this device, it's hard to get past the lackluster display, shoddy scrolling, and tons of bloatware. On the bright side, however, it's quite fast and the keyboard is fantastic.

I'll be spending a lot of one-on-one time with the D4 over the next few days, so watch for the full review and a much more in-depth look at what the D4 is capable of and how tolerable its shortcoming really are.

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, and musician. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6- or 7-string, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • stompsfrogs

    So it has MotoBlur.
    No Sale.

    • duplissi

      oh, wow. dont be so dramatic..... motoblur is now less intrusive and heavy than either touchwiz or sense. in fact the only thing i really dont like about it is the dark blue notification bar.

  • http://www.teamrou.com Phil Oakley

    Wonder if this will be released in the UK> I'd quite like to have a go with it if it is, it's the first QWERTY keyboard phone I'd consider buying...

    • bobby

      I'm very keen to find out if this is coming out in the UK, can't find a QWERTY device superior to my Desire Z.

  • http://www.adultswim.com/ Drew

    How's it's bootloader (now that Google owns Moto)? Unlocked_bootloader == who_cares_about_bloatware (and maybe even cm9)...

    • KaliKot

      Google doesnt own Moto yet until EU and US finalize the sale

      Bloatware doesnt bother me, but 20+ of them is RIDICULOUS

      • http://gadgetstip.com aatif

        still moto is not owned by google !!
        This droid looks cool

  • Pissed off

    Can VZ stop adding all these crapwares to their phones? At least give an option to the user to uninstall them. It's getting a bit ridiculous that a powerful phone winds up to be SLOW.

    Cameron: come on, I know you have the power/connection. Tell Moto and VZ to stop ALREADY! If they want to beat iPhones, stop pissing the customers off. Not everyone is techie enough to flash a custom rom.

  • GhostlySnow

    This would have been my phone if it had a better screen on it :( I currently have the Droid 2 global, and really am looking forward to an upgrade, but i guess this one isn't it. At the rate Motorola goes, there will be a droid 5 before years end and that will finally be what i really need.

  • http://vreeland.co Bob

    Just ordered the phone through the website and it'll be here on Monday... If the screen is anything like the current D3, then I am okay with it... Besides, I too have the D2 and this will be one hell of an upgrade. If the phone were priced at $299 (like some early reports had it), then it would be a different story.

    • David Ruddock

      I'd say the display is better than the D3, if PenTile doesn't make you go crazy with rage. Using it at CES, the display seemed much-improved over my BIONIC's. But that was technically a pre-production model. It may have gotten worse.

      • Cameron Summerson

        If this display is better than the Bionic's, then I don't see how you use your phone without getting nauseous. The ghosting on this is awful - the more I use it, the more I realize how bad it is.

  • Eric

    Could people please stop buying these?

    THIRTY ONE preinstalled pieces of garbage and a display worse than one on a 2 year 3 year old phone. STOP GIVING MOTO MONEY.

  • http://silverfang77.tumblr.com Silver Fang

    If you want to remove the bloatware, all you need to do is root the phone, install Titanium Backup Pro (you pay, but it's well worth it) and then freeze the bloatware apps. Don't uninstall them because they have to be present for OTA upgrades to work.

    • Rob

      Why should I have to root to make a powerful phone run decently?

    • sgtguthrie

      It's the principal of it. Most users would never even consider rooting their phone. My wife hates all the bloatware on her og incredible, so honestly if she got a d4, she'd probably return it and get an iPhone. Loading them up with bloat will piss people off and turn them away from android...

  • Tim

    They needed ti add the bloat to get the cost down to $199.

  • Mark

    MotoBlur and non removable battery? This is not the Droid you are looking for...

  • glodos

    Why all those Motos have so shitty screen? Even my 4 years old phone had better colors.

  • King Lo

    You can Hide any app in the drawer that you can't uniinstall( vz bloatware) and unistall the trials (bloackbuster lets play golf) Its annoying that they're there but at least you can gid rid of some of them and remove the other from your view. (out of sight out of mind)

  • duplissi

    i want the lockscreen app for my atrix 2! i like the idea of having cameral access from the lockscreen.