Android Phones

Motorola Droid 3 Review: A successor to Android royalty, the Droid 3 takes time to love

August 22, 2011 | by Ben Crawford

Android Phones, Android Phones and Devices, Carriers, Motorola, Reviews, Verizon, Video Reviews, Videos

Droid3

The Motorola Droid 3 doesn’t make a good first impression, but the Verizon Android phone eventually grew on me. Though the Droid 3 has a dual-core processor, it doesn’t blaze; though it comes with the newest Android version (2.3.4), it’s stuck with Motorola’s overlay.

I’ve never used the original Droid, and I’ve only heard good things, so the prospect of using an official Droid was exciting. The first week, however, I couldn’t get into the phone right away. I rarely took the Droid 3 with me because it seemed sluggish, but I finally buckled down to figure it out and came away modestly impressed with the third version of one of Motorola and Verizon’s most popular brands.

Hardware

The Droid 3 seems physically very busy. It looks like it has lots of ports and buttons, plus the slider that reveals a QWERTY keyboard, but comes with all the necessities. On the left side there’s a mini-USB port and HDMI-out slot, on the top it has the stereo jack and power button, and on the right side is the volume rocker. Trying to push either of the volume buttons made me slide the keyboard a little when I held it so that was a little annoying. The familiar lip is at the bottom below the Android keys. The Droid 3 has a solid weight that’s balanced and feels good in the hand; though some may dislike it’s weight, it’s the obvious trade-off of having the keyboard underneath. The sharp corners and sides made extended talking periods a little uncomfortable for my ear though.

The sliding keyboard is very solid (especially compared to my Xperia Play). I don’t feel like it would loosen very much over time or ever fall apart. Closing the slider has a very satisfying click, but opening it can take a little more force than some might like. The keyboard itself really helps me understand why people will only buy phones with a real keyboard. It’s great to press and type actual buttons. They feel good, and the buttons are big enough to type pretty quickly. The only question I have is why did they not put a back or home button on the physical keyboard? There’s a search key, but it would have been nice to have all four Android buttons on the physical keyboard. Yes, it’s easy enough to tap the on-screen controls, but it could have added to the convenience.

Screen/Camera

The camera on the Droid 3 deserves a little praise. It has an 8MP camera on back and records video in 1080p Hi-def. The pictures are sharp, if not vibrant. The camera app itself is very well done with a few features like quick upload and comments that adds a little value which I always like. What you never want to see in a camera app is sluggishness, and unfortunately, with those extra features the Droid 3 camera is a little slow. The 4 inch screen is a good size. All the fonts seem thin which makes it sharper to see, but a little smaller than most of us are used to. The color is not very vibrant, but it’s clear. This screen would rank above my Xperia Play, but well below the SAMOLED screen and just below the Incredible 2.

Software Performance

While having the dual-core processors helps speed up the system, I think running the latest version of Gingerbread is an even greater attribute. Many apps aren’t powerful enough to use the dual-cores or aren’t optimized for them so, to me, Gingerbread is more important to have right now for customers. I like the Droid’s unlock screen; it’s something different but looks nice (though, again, a little sluggish). The battery performance was two-faced. Some days I could easily go over a day with it, and other days I only got around 10 hours. So, decent battery regardless, but it might drain quickly with lots of widgets or intensive apps. I don’t really understand Motorola’s color scheme. It’s mostly a metallic blue with hints of the Gingerbread green theme. If this sounds like an odd combination, it is. They clash with each other and look weird combined together.

Motorola’s Blur (or whatever it’s called now) has an equally strange feature-set. When swiping across the homescreens, there’s a flash of light across the screen to highlight your screen, and I don’t understand why. It’s purely aesthetic, but it rubs me the wrong way as I “know” it’s slowing the screens down. The app drawer side-scrolls its pages and has a convenient Android Market button at the top right. Adding everything together makes it seem like Motorola just added multiple aesthetic features to get away from the Blur stigma without changing anything fundamentally.

App Performance

Like I mentioned, I didn’t notice a great performance difference between the Droid’s dual-cores and my Xperia Play. In general (and with root), my Play could hang with the Droid 3 in terms of opening speed and framerate for apps. That’s not such a bad mark for the Droid 3 as my Play is one of the speedier phones I’ve used, but with a dual-core processor, I expected a little more juice out of it. This just goes to show dual-core is still a little ways off for optimization, and the reason I would be happier with the latest version of Android than dual-cores. The lack of extremely speedy performance could also be due to Verizon’s decision to load 20+ apps that you can’t remove. Yes, more than 20 apps that aren’t even full versions of the apps. I understand this is the successor to Verizon and Motorola’s bread-and-butter device, and they need to make money, but it’s a little excessive.

Final Thoughts

I can finally understand people wanting a physical keyboard after using this phone. If you’re a fan of physical keyboards and feel like you can’t type without one, this is your phone, especially if you need a Global phone for business. It comes with the latest Android version which bodes well, and a good camera and screen. The dual-core processor should get more apps optimized for it which should make the Droid 3 a comparable phone for the next year or at least until the Droid 4 comes in the next six months like Verizon is wont to do. The Droid 3 is on sale at Verizon for $200 with a 2-year contract (I am legally and morally obligated to remind you this is tiered data), with a buy one, get one free offer. You can also find it at Amazon for $60 or at Wirefly for $120. Unfortunately, the Droid 3 looks backordered everywhere.