Motorola Droid 4 impressions: Finally, a 4G LTE phone with a decent keyboard

Motorola Droid 4 - CES 2012

With a Google merger on the horizon, Motorola is playing it cool at CES this year. The Droid 4 is the only truly new product announced and it has been so heavily leaked that we thought it was going to launch on Verizon in December.

After some brief hands-on, I can easily say that the Droid 4 is the phone that the Droid 3 should have been. This is the phone that owners of the original Droid have been hoping for all year (I know you’re contracts are about to renew, or already have). It has a thinner profile than the Droid 3, a dual-core processor, LTE connectivity, and what might be the best slide-out QWERTY keyboard I’ve ever used.

The keyboard

The market is moving away from QWERTY keyboards. Few smartphones have them anymore. Instead, we routinely sacrifice 2/3-3/4 of our screen real estate to onscreen keyboards. Many people are okay with this, but I suspect there is still an audience for a phone with a fast slide-out keyboard. The Droid 4 appears to be this phone.

Motorola Droid 4 - backlit keyboard

The original Droid’s keyboard was bad, but Motorola has improved the design quite a bit in the last few years. Like the Droid 3 (review), the Droid 4 has a comfortable 5-row keyboard, complete with a number row up top, which eliminates the need to hold Alt and then press a button to write an address or anything with numbers.

Subtle improvements have been made to the design. Though it’s been a while since I used a Droid 3, the keys on the 4 seem to have a more comfortable snap to them. In addition, each key appears to be made from a higher quality plastic and now has its own backlight, meaning the keyboard lights up in a more consistent fashion. I found the keyboard to be the most intuitive and pleasant QWERTY slide-outs in recent memory.

LTE and accessories

Aside from its excellent keyboard, the Droid 4 doesn’t skimp on mandatory specs either. The phone runs on a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, has 16GB of internal storage (with Micro SD card slot), a 4-inch 940×540 pixel display (not AMOLED), 1GB of RAM, an 8MP rear camera, and a 1.3MP front camera. Motorola claims that the 1785mAh battery has a talk time of about 12.5 hours before needing a recharge, though the standby time is lower than some competing devices, which often sport 2-3 weeks of battery life, if left on standby.

Unlike the Droid Razr, the Droid 4 is also compatible with most of Motorola’s accessories, which you can view below. 

Motorola Droid 4 accessories

And there’s also Motorola’s Webtop. The Lapdock 500 is also compatible with the Droid 4 (and every other Moto phone). 

Motorola Lapdock 500 Pro

Honestly though, the Droid 3 had all of these things. The only thing it lacked was 4G LTE. Luckily, Motorola has finally come around. The Droid 4 will have full 4G LTE connectivity. Combined with a thinner profile and updated design, the new Droid is finally a phone that doesn’t require keyboard lovers to make big sacrifices on connection speed or processing power. Motorola even claims that an Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) update is on the way sometime in the next few months.

We don’t yet know the price or release date of the Droid 4, but Motorola says it will be released “in the coming weeks” on Verizon. We look forward to reviewing it.  

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