Motorola Droid 4 Review

If you want a phone that can tap into Verizon's 4G LTE network and you prefer a physical keyboard, then you can't go wrong with the Motorola Droid 4.
If you want a phone that can tap into Verizon's 4G LTE network and you prefer a physical keyboard, then you can't go wrong with the Motorola Droid 4.
If you want a phone that can tap into Verizon's 4G LTE network and you prefer a physical keyboard, then you can't go wrong with the Motorola Droid 4.

Highs

  • Amazing slide-out keyboard with number row
  • 4G LTE connectivity
  • Solid battery life
  • Did we mention the keyboard?

Lows

  • Poor screen quality
  • Camera takes washed-out pictures
  • NinjaBlur UI is ugly
  • Power and volume buttons are awkward to press

Do you remember the Droid 3? It came out last July, bringing a fine update to the Droid line in almost every way. It had a dual-core processor, a slick new design, new software, and a new five-row keyboard. Unfortunately, Motorola underestimated the importance of one essential feature: 4G LTE. Without it, the Droid 3 quickly slid to the back shelf of Verizon’s sales efforts, replaced by devices like the Droid Bionic, HTC Rezound, Droid Razr, and Galaxy Nexus. Just seven months later, Motorola is attempting to revive the Android handset series that brought it to the mainstream. The Droid 4 runs almost identical specs to its predecessor, but with one key addition: LTE. Is it enough?

Video overview

 

Design and feel

If you’ve ever picked up a Droid, you’d know that they’ve never been the thinnest or lightest handsets on the market, mostly thanks to their large slide-out keyboards and metal construction. The Droid 4 is a step up and down for the brand.

We’ll leave it up to you to decide if it looks good or not, but the Droid 4 follows the design aesthetics of the new Razr handset and Xyboard tablets. Gone is the metal casing, rubberized backing, and signature Droid antenna bump on the bottom of the handset. Replacing it is a new plastic frame (half an inch thick) with tapered edges and corners, giving it the hint of an octagonal shape (or maybe a phone out of Battlestar Galactica). The plastic design doesn’t give it a particularly cheap feeling, but we have to wonder how well some of the silver paint will hold up after a few months in and out of your pockets.

motorola-droid-4-review-design-screen-angle
motorola-droid-4-review-design-front-keyboard   motorola-droid-4-review-design-front-screen-keyboard   motorola-droid-4-review-design-bottom-side   motorola-droid-4-review-design-keyboard-angle   motorola-droid-4-review-design-rear-camera
motorola-droid-4-review-design-unlock-screen   motorola-droid-4-review-design-side-keyboard-extended   motorola-droid-4-review-design-side-keyboard   motorola-droid-4-review-design-side   motorola-droid-4-review-design-rear-extended

For those who are bothered when things aren’t flush, the Droid 3’s protruding camera issue is mostly absent from the new model. The camera sits exactly where the Razr’s camera is, and even has the same trapezoidal mirrored glass finish around it.

The button and port placement, on the other hand, are identical to the Droid 3. The power button is centered on top of the handset and the volume toggle is on the upper right side. The placement okay, but both buttons are a bit too thin and short to stand out and feel comfortable to press. This is a problem with the Razr as well. The main speaker is on the bottom left on the back, and the audio jack is up top, right next to the power. Micro HDMI and micro USB ports are both on the lower left side of the handset.

Keyboard

We’ve been bellowing on about the design of the phone, but honestly, it’s the feel of the QWERTY keyboard that matters. Nobody buys a Droid because of its looks. Luckily, though the rest of the handset is a bit of a mixed bag, we can safely say that the Droid 4’s keyboard is much nicer than the Droid 3, which was previously our favorite keyboard on a major carrier. This is our new favorite.

Like the Droid 3, the new keyboard has a dedicated number row, so you no longer have to hold the shift key to type out an address. The key layout remains mostly similar to the Droid 3 as well, though Moto has made some smart choices, like removing the odd secondary ALT functions of the standard keys. Instead, those functions have moved those to the number buttons, much like a standard laptop keyboard (Shift + 4 will make $, Shift + 5 will make %). This unclutters the look of the keyboard. A Symbol button brings up an onscreen menu for selecting other strange characters. The direction keys and OK button are also intact, which is nice.

motorola-droid-4-review-keyboard

Perhaps the most impressive part of the keyboard is how well it lights up. At CES, Motorola representatives told us that each key was individually lit. Honestly, we believe it. The entire keyboard illuminates brightly and each key has a glowing edge. It’s great.

The slide-out mechanism is much like previous Droids. There’s a bit of a snap when you open and close the QWERTY, so you know that it’s fully extended or hidden. The buttons also have a much better click to them than any previous Droid. With a bit of practice, Droid 4 users may be the fastest typists on a mobile device.

Specs

The processing power on the Droid 4 is par for the course. Unlike its predecessor, Motorola has upped the RAM from 512MB to 1GB. The processor has also switched from a 1GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 to a 1.2GHz dual-core Texas Instruments OMAP 4430. Internal storage still sits at 16GB, but there is a microSD slot, something the iPhone 4S and Galaxy Nexus do not have. Of couse, it also has all of the standard smartphone perks like an accelerometer, GPS, digital compass, barometer, and Bluetooth.

Screen issues

Though the Razr’s Super AMOLED screen showed promise, Motorola has relapsed. Like the Droid 3, Droid Bionic, Atrix, and Droid X2, the Droid 4 has a washed out, PenTile LCD display (read about it here). The 4-inch size and 540 x 960 pixel resolution (also known as qHD) of the screen is solid, though the Galaxy Nexus and HTC Rezound recently upped the bar with 1280 x 720 pixel displays. The problem stems from the cost-saving PenTile screen type Motorola has chosen. It just doesn’t measure up. While usable, the Droid 4 screen seems incapable of displaying vibrant, vivid color and a noticeable array of tiny black subpixels cover the screen, ruining the sharp fonts and icons that should come with a screen resolution this high. Some color banding can be seen in some situations as well.

motorola-droid-4-review-screen

Motorola has tried to cover up the screen’s problems with its NinjaBlur user interface, which re-colors Android 2.3 with a gray-and-dark-blue color scheme (these are two colors that actually tend to show up correctly).

We’ve been complaining and harping on Moto’s screens for months now. If you are like us, the phone’s lackluster display may cheapen your experience, but many of you may not notice it much at all. Until, of course, you see how colorful your friend’s new screen is. We recommend you try out the phone at a store and look deep into its screen. If it bothers you, move on.

Mobile

Google insists it’s doing what it can to purge Play Store of malicious apps

Google's efforts to provide a secure and safe Play Store for Android users resulted in the company rejecting 55 percent more app submissions in 2018 compared to a year earlier. But the challenge is ongoing.
Deals

Looking to upgrade? These are the best iPhone deals for February 2019

Apple devices can get expensive, but if you just can't live without iOS, don't despair: We've curated an up-to-date list of all of the absolute best iPhone deals available for February 2019.
Mobile

You can now get Google Fi SIM cards straight from Best Buy

Google's wireless service known as Project Fi, now goes by the name of Google Fi. The company also announced the service is now compatible with a majority of Android phones, as well as iPhones. Here's everything you need to know about…
Mobile

The Moto G4 Plus is finally getting the update to Android Oreo

We've reached out to every major Android hardware manufacturer and asked them when they will update their devices to the latest version of Google's mobile operating system, Android 8.0 Oreo.
Mobile

Moto G7 vs. Nokia 7.1: The battle for budget smartphone supremacy

If you're hunting for a reasonably priced smartphone, then you should definitely be checking out the latest devices from Nokia and Motorola. We compare the Moto G7 to the Nokia 7.1 to find out how they differ and which is better.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2019 Complete Coverage

Samsung's Galaxy Unpacked 2019 is going to be a big deal -- not just because it's the first one of the year, but because it's commemorating 10 years of the Galaxy S-series with the Galaxy S10 smartphone. It's also where we'll likely see…
Wearables

To be blunt, the Vuzix Blade smartglasses just don’t cut it

We tried out the Vuzix Blade to find out if it’s worth shelling out $1,000 for smartglasses. Are these augmented reality, Android-powered glasses really ready for primetime or just an expensive gimmick that no one really needs?
Mobile

Need a date for Valentine's Day? Cozy up with the best dating apps of 2019

Everyone knows online dating can be stressful, time-consuming, and downright awful. Check out our top picks for the best dating apps, so you can streamline the process and find the right date, whatever you're looking for.
Mobile

Love music? For audiophiles, the LG G8 ThinQ may be the best phone ever made

LG is expected to release a successor to the LG G7 ThinQ, possibly called the LG G8 ThinQ, this year and rumors about it are already spreading. Here's everything we know about it so far.
Mobile

Smartwatch sales soared in 2018, with Apple leading the charge

The NPD Group, a market research organization, has reported smartwatch sales soared in 2018. Apple is leading the charge, but it's clear there's still room in the market for competitors, as Samsung and Fitbit also did well.
Mobile

Love Playmoji pack adds animated Valentine’s stickers to your Pixel photos

Valentine's Day is here, and to celebrate, Google has added the "Love Playmoji" pack to the Playground feature on its Google Pixel camera. The new feature will add cute AR-driven extras to your Pixel photos.
Product Review

Nokia’s 3.1 Plus is an affordable phone that’s crippled by its camera

The Nokia 3.1 Plus is HMD Global’s first smartphone to be sold by a U.S. carrier in-store. It’s only available on Cricket Wireless right now, which underlines its focus on affordability. Should you buy a phone this affordable?
Mobile

Xiaomi Mi 9 will be one of the first phones with monster Snapdragon 855 chip

Xiaomi's next major smartphone release will be the Mi 9, and the company hasn't held back in giving us a good look at the phone, revealing the design, the camera, and a stunning color.
Wearables

Galaxy Watch Active isn't official yet, but you can see it in Samsung's own app

Samsung may be about to resurrect its Sport line of smartwatches under a new name: The Galaxy Watch Sport Active. Leaks and rumors are building our picture of the device at the moment.