When you come down to the spec sheets, there’s not a lot of difference between the Motorola Droid 4 and the Droid 3. The D4 gets a slight processor bump to 1.2 GHz dual core CPU, the RAM is bumped up to 1 GB while the amount of storage stays the same, and it gets 4G LTE. Those are, really, the only notable specs upgrades from the previous model. That’s not exactly a lot of improvement, even given Motorola’s recent track record of less than stunning upgrades.
Of course while the D4 theoretically has 16 GB of overall storage, you’re not going to be allowed to fill more than 8 GB of it with your stuff. Of the full 16 GB, 8 GB is allocated to internal storage, 3 GB to apps, and the rest is reserved for the OS. That’s compared to 11.3 GB free on the Droid 3, meaning that the upgrade actually loses space for the user. There is one bit of good news here; part of the reason the Droid 4 has so much storage tucked away for the OS (not to mention 1 GB of RAM instead of the 512 MB that the Droid 3 had) is to accommodate Google Android OS 4.0. Currently the D4 runs the “old” OS 2.3, but it’s scheduled to receive an update to 4.0 — also known as “Ice Cream Sandwich” — some time this year, keeping it current with a number of the other Droid models that will be getting updates, like the RAZRs.
With nearly the same internal specs as the RAZR, it’s no surprise that the D4 performs almost the same, scoring an average of around 2650 in Quadrant Standard benchmarks; slightly less than the RAZR’s 2700 average, but close enough that it doesn’t make that much difference, and well above the ~2250 level that the Droid 3 sat at. It’s definitely a speedy device, and you should have little problem even if you’re planning to use it playing back video or games over the HDMI link to a TV.
There’s something else besides the removable battery that has been lost between the Droid 3 and the Droid 4: international roaming capability. The D3 had a secondary GSM phone built in, so that when you took it outside of the U.S., you could still have a phone as opposed to a paperweight. The Droid 4 dispenses of this, making it a “U.S. only” device. That’s probably a minor thing to most of us, but to business travelers, it leaves them without one of the few really good international options on Verizon. The ability to hop around the globe was one of the Droid 3’s biggest strengths, and enabled it to be unreservedly recommended for high-end business users. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with the new version.
In place of the GSM option, the Droid 4 now has 4G LTE capability, bringing it to parity with most of the rest of Verizon’s line. With 4G now being available on even entry-level devices, it hardly seems remarkable anymore that a high-end model like this one features LTE support, but the D4 is the first one of the “classic” Droid line to include it, after the D3 got criticized for not doing so at a time when 4G was the big new hype. Of course, now it’s eight months later, and they’re practically selling toasters and snowshoes that feature 4G.
The Droid 4 rounds out its communication and wireless package with the usual suspects: WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS, and then it tosses in a little bit of a wildcard with an FM radio receiver. I’ve never been much impressed by FM radio on smartphones, but if you ever feel like using it, it’s there.
The Droid 4 isn’t primarily marketed as a business device in the same way that it’s predecessor was, but it still makes sure to retain at least the basics. Besides the standard Android organizer and email apps, the D4 comes with the full version of QuickOffice for reading, editing, and creating Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, as well as viewing PDFs. That will go a long way toward keeping you productive when you’re out of the office.
On the face of it, this smartphone from Motorola looks great for entertainment software, but under the hood most of those apps are either free stuff like YouTube, or promotional materials pushing paid services. Anyone getting momentarily excited at the appearance of a Slingplayer icon will find themselves disappointed to discover that it’s just a video ad telling you how you can pay $50 up front for the hardware and then $10 a month for the privilege of using it. Oh, and of course things like that can’t be uninstalled, so they’ll just take up space forever.
Still, pre-loaded software aside, you’ve got lots of great entertainment apps on the Android Market, all of which can be easily routed to a TV thanks to the D4’s built-in micro-HDMI port, which is where the real story is. With support for resolutions up to 1080P, you’ve already got entertainment potential galore. And if you’re willing to spring for Motorola’s multimedia docks, you can do even more with it, quickly and easily connecting to a TV, external speakers, external USB hard drives, or any combination thereof. At a retail price of an extra $100 on top of the cost of your phone, those docks aren’t cheap, but they do offer unparalleled ability to connect your Droid to your home entertainment system, enabling the merger of your internet-based services like Netflix and Pandora with your regular home theater.
The 8 MP camera on the Droid 4 is fairly typical for a smartphone camera in every way; strong and fairly crisp in direct daylight, even during the winter, but progressively worse and worse as you get less light for it, such as indoors. T
here is of course the fairly bright LED flash to compensate for this — unfortunately, using the flash tends to give your photos a very pronounced bluish tint.
This is visible in one of my included sample photos, to the extent that an orange-mottled cat appears to turn almost green under the light of the flash. And even then, the focus isn’t quite right.
To combat the inevitable battery drain associated with using 4G LTE, the D4 sports a slightly upgraded battery — but only slightly. The Droid 3 had a 1540 mAh battery, which the Droid 4 boosts up to 1780, an increase of only about 15%. That’s enough to bring the D4 into the range of battery capacity sported by the original Droid RAZR and Droid Bionic, but you’re probably still going to experience less battery life on the Droid 4 than on its predecessor. The obvious response to that is to turn off LTE, although that may or may not be palatable depending on your plans.
Unfortunately, due to only having just a few days with the D4, I didn’t get to test out the battery life as thoroughly as I usually do, so you’ll have to do with my vague impressions more than any real serious testing. To that end, it seems comparable to similar devices like the Droid RAZR and Bionic. Which means not actually “good” when using 4G, but no worse than the average. Unfortunately, with the non-removable battery, you won’t have the option of replacing the standard one with a larger capacity if you don’t mind the size — one battery fits all, it seems, even if it doesn’t.