As we said, the Droid 4 runs on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), which has been modified and tweaked to look a bit different. Motorola calls its custom version of Android “NinjaBlur.” We’re not huge fans of its look and don’t feel it enhances Android much at all. With that said, there are a few nice widgets present, and thanks to the bump in RAM, and maybe a few software tweaks, the new Droid is far snappier than its predecessors. We do love speed.
Those hoping for an upgrade to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) will have to wait until sometime in the second quarter of 2012, but Motorola says that an update will come.
The apps preloaded are plentiful and range from helpful business apps like GoToMeeting to crappy Verizon preloads like Blockbuster video. Most of these seem to be removable, which is good. Motorola has also included a few of its signature apps, like MotoPrint, MotoActv, Task Manager, and the helpful Smart Actions, which lets you program your phone to do perform actions that you want. For example, you could set your phone to automatically turn off data and switch to Wi-Fi whenever you enter your house or apartment. Or you could set it to automatically turn off GPS when the battery is getting low. It’s a very unique and interesting app. We look forward to how Motorola enhances it in the future.
Though it appears Motorola has made some nominal enhancements to the 1.3-megapixel front camera and 8-megapixel rear camera, the new Droid still can’t match up to the camera quality present in Nokia, HTC, Samsung, or Apple devices. The shutter speed is slow, as is the autofocus, and most pictures appear washed out, sometimes even a bit discolored. No smartphone camera on the market takes fantastic pictures (you need a DSLR for that), but Motorola’s phones continue to disappoint in this area. We should note that the pictures taken indoors and in dark areas are a bit better than devices like Motorola’s Droid Bionic. And did we mention, when you snap a photo that old familiar sound of a flash recharging has been added?
The dedicated camera button is also still missing in action, as it was on the 3. Hopefully Motorola will consider re-adding it a future Droid. Until then, you’ll be snapping pics using a button on the screen.
Video quality is decent and seems to get the job done. It suffers from the same issues as the camera, but doesn’t seem to be as choppy as some devices, when recording at high resolutions like 1080p. In a pinch, this phone could help you record that moment when you see Darren Criss in line at the grocery store. Just don’t let him see you.
Call quality and data speed
Like previous Droids, the Droid 4 has no problem with reception. Roaming around New York City, we haven’t had any reception issues yet. Call quality is pretty standard. We had no issues hearing or being heard in the conversations we’ve had on the phone. The speakerphone does its job as well.
4G LTE speeds have also held up. In our latest Manhattan tests, the device was getting 10Mbps to 20Mbps down and 6Mbps to 7Mbps up. Speeds vary, but Verizon’s network usually doesn’t skip below 5Mbps or 6Mbps on the download.
Unlike the Droid 3, Motorola has removed the GSM world-roaming capabilities from the Droid 4. It only runs on Verizon’s CDMA and LTE bands, meaning you’re out of luck if you travel outside of the US, most likely.
We’re still testing the battery life on the Droid 4, but it’s currently about on par with the Droid Razr. It seems to get about a third more life out of a charge than the Galaxy Nexus, which should get most of you through a full day. For us, the Galaxy Nexus has been extremely disappointing where it relates to battery life. Even with an extended battery, it can’t make it through a day on moderate use. Droid owners shouldn’t have that issue, though if battery life is your main concern, we might recommend the Droid Razr Maxx, which has a monstrous 3,300mAh battery, as compared to the 1,785mAh battery in the Droid 4.
There are two good reasons to consider the Droid 4: A solid keyboard and 4G LTE. If you want a phone that can tap into Verizon’s 4G LTE network (trust us, it’s like going from 3G to your home Wi-Fi) and you prefer a physical keyboard, then you can’t go wrong here. Motorola’s typical weaknesses, the screen and the camera, are still problems, but both can probably be overlooked for those who really want a keyboard and LTE. And for anything bad we say about the Droid 4, you will not find a better keyboard on the market. Sadly, at this rate, soon you may not find any other keyboards on the market. The smartphone with a slide-out keyboard is a dying breed.
- Amazing slide-out keyboard with number row
- 4G LTE connectivity
- Solid battery life
- Did we mention the keyboard?
- Poor screen quality
- Camera takes washed-out pictures
- NinjaBlur UI is ugly
- Power and volume buttons are awkward to press