The Motorola Droid 3 is possibly one of the more heavily anticipated smartphones of the summer, and as the newest and most cutting-edge member of Verizon's flagship Droid line, it has big shoes to fill. Sporting an improved screen, dual-core processor, and a $200 suggested retail price, how does it stack up against other high-end phones out there? We bring you an in-depth review and analysis.
BUILD & DESIGN
The Droid 3 builds off the same basic design used by its predecessors, with a large central screen and a sliding keyboard. It has evolved a bit, however, growing a few millimeters wider and longer to accommodate a larger screen. Some of that extra space is also put into expanding the keyboard, which now features a dedicated row of number keys.
Beyond that, the design of the D3 is unremarkable to the extreme: a round-cornered rectangle with a protruding ridge along the bottom, which probably received all of twenty or thirty seconds of ergonomics testing. Don't get me wrong, it's not particularly uncomfortable to hold, but it's not particularly comfortable either. It's just there. Personally, I could very much do without the ridge. It was probably put there to make it possible for you to tell which end of the phone is "up" without looking at it, but other phones do this more comfortably using slight bumps on the back casing. Here, the ridge is in just the wrong place for the right hand while typing.
Overall though, the word I'd most associate with the Droid 3's design is "serviceable." It's not bad, nor brilliant, just workable. The build quality is solid, and it certainly feels hefty. Surprisingly, the screen isn't spring-loaded as most sliders are these days -- it's purely old-fashioned thumb muscles that slide it up to reveal the keyboard.
Like most devices, the D3 hides it's microSD card slot under the battery cover. Rather than coming with something like a 2GB card as many phones do, this one has no pre-bundled memory card, relying instead only on its copious internal storage. Honestly, I call this an improvement: most people will immediately pull those small cards anyway in favor of a larger one, and the D3's 16GB of internal storage is plenty to get anyone started out of the box. Of course, by adding a memory card of the appropriate size, you can easily get this device to carry around 32GB or even 48GB of storage, something that few other smartphones can boast about.
Here's the Droid 3's most visible upgrade. Its predecessors all featured a 3.7-inch screen at 854 x 480 (WVGA) resolution. The D3 has a 4.0-inch screen at 960 x 540 (qHD). While it's not the largest screen that you can find on a flagship phone, it's certainly large enough. Compared to the D2, it's a 26% boost in resolution, and 17% more screen area. Not a ton, but definitely enough to be noticed.
Even coming from someone like me whose eyes have been spoiled rotten by Samsung's Super AMOLED Plus screens, I must say that the Droid 3's LCD is pretty darn good. It has excellent contrast, and the colors are crisp, particularly the whites. And between the physical size and resolution, it makes for a great web browsing platform.
The D3's keyboard features the famous and elusive "fifth row": a dedicated set of number keys along the top, making phone dialing, calculator use, and life in general much easier on the casual typist. And they're good keys, too: the entire keyboard is very usable, even if the key travel isn't anything to write home about.
But it's the little things that stand out. For instance, something that I really appreciate about the D3's keyboard is that it includes a set of directional buttons in the bottom right corner. Since most Android devices have no directional controls, moving the cursor back and forth while editing an email or text message can be a lesson in sustained annoyance. Having directional keys makes it a snap, though.
I don't think I'd have any qualms recommending the D3 for a heavy texter or emailer. No one quality of the keyboard particularly sticks out, but overall I adapted to it quickly and had no complaints. Other than that for some reason my muscle memory kept having my fingers hit "N" instead of "M," for which I can hardly fault the phone.
Other Buttons & Controls
Besides the keyboard, the Droid 3 features only the minimum Android controls, without even a camera button to be seen: just Power, Volume, and the four standard buttons below the display (Menu, Home, Back, and Search).
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