Verizon’s Droid line of Android phones has been very prolific this year. We have reviewed the original Droid, the Droid Incredible, the Droid X, the Droid 2, and the Droid Pro. Although they all run on the Verizon network (in the USA) and use the Android operating system, each has a unique set of features. So when the Droid 3 appeared on the scene, we were happy to give it a thorough assessment.
The Droid 3 comes in the typical Droid box with a futuristic-looking red-eye logo, as shown in Figure 1. These logos are found on all the Droid boxes. All the logos are similar, but each is unique to the individual model. The distinctive red-eye logo shown on the box also is the basis for the animation that starts when the phone is turned on.
The contents of the box are shown in Figure 2. The Motorola Droid 3 comes with an AC adapter, a USB cable, and reference material. The SIM card and battery came pre-installed on our review device.
As you can see in Figure 2, the Droid 3 is a typical candy-bar touchscreen phone. Like other Droid phones, it has a solid build and a good solid feel. It measures 2.5 x 4.85 x 0.5 inches (64.1 x 123.3 x 12.9 mm). It is slightly thicker than some other Droid phones because of the side-out keyboard. Although the keyboard adds some heft, it is not as much as you might think. The Droid 3 weighs in at 6.49 ounces (184 grams), whereas the original Droid weighs 5.47 ounces (155 grams) and the Droid X weighs 6 ounces (170 grams).
[nextpage title=”The Hardware”]
As shown in Figure 3, the front of the Droid 3 has the speaker in the center near the top of the phone. To the right is a notification light and the front-facing camera.
The Droid 3 features a 4-inch (960 x 540) qHD display. Although not as detailed as the iPhone’s Retina display or the Samsung’s Super AMOLED, this display is crisp and clear and doesn’t disappoint in any way. It performs better in bright sunlight than displays of previous Droids like the original Droid and the Droid X.
In the black area of the screen on the bottom of Figure 3 you can see the four main Android icons: Menu, Home, Back, and Search. These icons are lighted when the phone is in use in a low-light situation. At the bottom is a lip which is part of the slide-out keyboard.
The left side of the Droid 3 is shown in Figure 4, where you can see a Micro USB connector for charging and a Mini HDMI connector. The HDMI connection works in a mirror mode, so you can see everything that is on the phone on an HDTV or larger display.
Figure 5 shows the Volume control which is the only mechanism on the right side of the Droid 3.
The top of the Droid 3, as shown in Figure 6, features the on-off switch and a standard 3.5 mm headphone jack.
The keyboard itself is shown in Figure 7. It is a five-row QWERTY keyboard with a dedicated number row on the top. This is extremely useful; so much so that after you use it for a while, you may never want to go back to a keyboard without it. The Droid 3 also has dedicated arrow keys which are excellent for navigating the cursor when making text corrections. Another nice feature is that the keys are backlit. They light automatically when the room lights are dim.
The slider mechanism on the keyboard is a bit tight. Although that makes it a little more difficult to open, it does contribute to the solid feel of the phone. There is no wiggling or shifting when the keyboard is in use.
The keys themselves are a good size and are easy to press. The onscreen keyboard is also excellent, making this a good phone for those who do a lot of text entry. The onscreen keyboard supports SWYPE for those who like its ease of use.
[nextpage title=”Using the Droid 3″]
The Droid 3 is a 3G phone. This means slower data transfer, but it also means better battery life. The Droid 3’s 1540 mAh Li Ion battery is rated for 550 minutes of continuous talk time and up to 300 hours of standby time. The Droid 3 easily got us through a day of average use.
Although it does not support 4G LTE, it does have the advantage of being a world phone with SIM card included. Figure 8 shows the back of the phone with the cover removed where you can see the battery and the SIM card. A slot for a microSD card up to 32 GB is just below the SIM card. Unlike some of its Droid predecessors, there is no microSD card included with the Droid 3. It does, however, have internal storage of 16 GB.
The Droid 3 uses a dual-mode technology so that it runs on Verizon’s CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A network in the US, but will automatically switch to a GSM network when overseas.
The Droid 3 runs on a 1 GHz Texas Instrument OMAP 4430 dual-core processor with 512 MB of RAM.
The dual-core processor produces better graphics rendering than some
older Droids with single-core processors. This is especially noticeable when playing games and when you attach the phone to an HDTV for video output. As noted earlier, the HDMI port works in a mirror mode, so you can use an HDTV to display whatever you see on the phone’s screen.
Our Droid 3 came with Gingerbread preinstalled. This is the most current version of the Android operating system, and it adds some excellent functionality to this phone. You can tell at a glance that Gingerbread is installed by looking at the main screen which is shown in Figure 9. The two rows of icons on the bottom are one of the features of Gingerbread, as is the square (all apps) icon at the lower right.
Gingerbread brings with it many enhancements that the user will notice such as better word selection, copy and paste implementation, enhancements to the camera and music applications, and a simplified visual theme.
There are also behind-the-scenes enhancements like improved power management, a native application manager, and an improved download manager. As you can also see in Figure 9, the Droid 3 comes with a data usage widget, a help app, and a guided tour video, all of which will be beneficial to a new user.
With the dual-core processor, responsive screen, and Gingerbread operating system, the Droid 3 is a pleasure to use. We found it to be fast and responsive with no glitches.
Call quality in our tests was excellent, and the speaker phone was loud enough to be useful. This phone has dual microphones with noise reduction which helped reduce superfluous noise.
While some other Motorola phones required a Motoblur account, the Droid 3 did not force us to do that. In fact, Motorola’s Motoblur overlay was not as obvious in this phone, which to us, was a good thing.
[nextpage title=”Other Features”]
Other phone features include the standard amenities like text and multimedia messaging, Wi-Fi, speakerphone, call waiting, call forwarding, conference calling, and voice dialing. Stereo Bluetooth and GPS capabilities are also included.
The Droid 3 can also be a mobile hot-spot for up to five devices with a Mobile Broadband plan from Verizon. This plan currently costs USD 20 per month for 2 GB of data with overage fees of 5 cents of US dollar per megabyte.
The Droid 3 uses the standard Android music player and browser. The stereo headset jack makes listening to music pleasurable. Although browsing was slower than when using a 4G LTE handset, we were able to browse the web without a hitch. The GPS also locked on quickly and easily.
There Droid 3 comes preloaded with more than 50 different apps. Besides the usual email, Gmail, clock, and alarm, there is also Amazon Kindle, VCAST apps, VZ Navigator, Let’s Golf 2, Slacker, and many others. For the business user, there is also Quickoffice and MOTOPRINT (that allows you to print from your Droid 3), GoToMeeting, and Citrix Receiver, a desktop virtualization application. Lack of applications is no longer a problem with an Android phone as the Android marketplace now has just about every app you can think of.
The Droid 3 has a rear-facing eight-megapixel camera and a front-facing VGA camera. The 8-megapixel camera produces crisp, still photos. Although colors were slightly washed out in bright sunlight, generally, color representation was good. There is no dedicated camera button and the auto-focus was a bit slow (especially in low light), so the Droid 3 won’t be terribly useful when you need a really quick shot. It does, however, do well when you have the time to setup the shot. The single LED flash seemed to be as powerful as many of the dual-flash units that we’ve seen.
The camera settings give you the ability to shoot in the full eight-megapixel resolution or a six-megapixel widescreen mode which fills the Droid 3 screen quite well.
The Droid 3 records video in full 1080p and our test videos turned out very well. This is a strong point for those who want to use the camera to capture motion scenes.
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the Motorola Droid 3 include:
- Dimensions: 2.5 x 4.85 x 0.5 inches (64.1 x 123.3 x 12.9 mm)
- Weight: 6.49 ounces (184 grams)
- Display: TFT (16M colors), Corning Gorilla Glass
- Screen: 4-inch; qHD (960 x 540)
- Operating system: Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)
- Networks: WCDMA 850/1900/2100, CDMA 800/1900, GSM 850/900/1800/1900, HSDPA 10.2 Mbps (Category 9/10), CDMA EV-DO Release A, EDGE Class 12, GPRS Class 12, HSUPA 5.76 Mbps
- Hearing aid compatible: Rated M4, T3
- Wi-Fi: 802.11 IEEE 802.11b/g/n
- Bluetooth: Stereo Bluetooth, Version 2.1
- Cameras: Rear-facing 8-megapixel, front-facing VGA
- Zoom: Digital 8x
- Flash: Single LED
- Video capture rate: HD 1080p quality, 1920 x 1080 resolution, up to 30 fps capture and playback
- Music formats: AAC, H.263, H.264, MP3, MPEG-4, WAV, eAAC+, WMA v10, WMA v9, MIDI, AAC+
- Continuous talk time: Up to 550 minutes
- Standby time: Up to 300 hours
- Battery type:1540 mAh Li Ion
- Carrier in the US: Verizon
- More information: https://www.motorola.com
- MSRP in the US: USD 200 with two-year contract (USD 350 early termination fee), plus a data plan (USD 30/month minimum)
The Droid 3 has three things going for it: the top-notch keyboard, the latest Gingerbread Android operating system, and it can easily be used outside the United States.
The well-thought-out keyboard with its offset keys, dedicated number row, and useful arrow keys is a wonderful addition to the Droid lineup. It surpasses any previous Motorola keyboards that we’ve seen. Add to that a good on-screen keyboard, the text-entry features of this newest operating system, and the Android voice recognition, and you have a phone which excels at accepting text data.
Although the Droid 3 is neither the thinnest nor the lightest smartphone available, it is fast, has excellent battery life, and performs most functions well enough to please the average user. Its biggest drawback is the lack of 4G LTE support. Even if you live in an area where 4G is not yet available, it may become available during your two-year contract for the phone. This makes it a little difficult to recommend a 3G phone at this time, especially a Verizon phone. However, if you do a lot of text entry and/or travel overseas, the Droid 3 may be perfect for you.
- Solid build
- Excellent five-row keyboard
- Gingerbread operating system
- World phone
- Dual-core processor
- Adequate dual cameras
- HDMI connector with mirroring
- No 4G support