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Motorola DROID Bionic Review – Verizon

This weekend, after more than a week with the DROID Bionic, I felt it was finally time to put my thoughts on the device together in one of our standard reviews.  Since most of you know the story of the Bionic, there is no need to rehash all of those bad times, so instead, I will just jump right into this.  This device was supposed to be game changing.  Is it?  In some ways it most certainly is.  But is it game changing enough for you to buy it now instead of waiting the month to see what may be the beginning of an era of smartphones that we never dreamed would come.  Let’s find out.  

The Good:

  • Call Quality:  I don’t find myself highlighting call quality all that often during these reviews, but in the case of this phone, it had to be mentioned.  Motorola sure does know how to make a call sound spectacular.  If you were looking for a phone that essentially tops them all for making calls, this would be it.
  • Speed/Power:  With its dual-core 1GHz processor and 1GB of RAM, this phone flies.  While it runs essentially the same version of Blur as the DROID3, it definitely does not suffer from those same slowness issues that over time plagued that phone.  From day 1 to now this phone has been fast.  It processes multiple apps at a time, jumps between them, and rarely (if ever) finds itself bogged down.
  • Design:  Some are fans of the Moto hump, some aren’t.  I’m one of the fans.  It’s different that anything anyone else is doing and I like that about it.  Other than the hump though, I’m a fan of the black and metallic exterior, the smooth lines, light grey speaker highlights and big ol’ soft keys.  Another well designed phone, right here.

  • Hardware:  I’ll just list it all out and you tell me what phone on the market matches up to it.  1GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 4G LTE, 4.3″ qHD screen, 8MP camera that shoots 1080p video, front camera for video chatting, HDMI mirroring, 16GB of internal storage, and a pre-installed 16GB SD card. Can’t think of another device that matches those specs?  That’s because there isn’t one.  There are no other dual-core phones with 4G LTE connectivity.
  • Screen (at times):  This is one of those sections that I’m coughing while writing as someone who in the past has absolutely trashed on Motorola’s qHD PenTile Matrix screen choices.  So what are my “at times” thoughts on them now?  I’ll just say this – the brightness is unmatched.  If you use a blue background, it looks fabulous.  And as long as I try and avoid looking at greens or straight lines with black in them, I can live with it.  It’s definitely not perfect and I would prefer a Super AMOLED Plus, but I can at least admit that the screen has grown on me over the last couple of weeks.
  • 4G LTE:  I had been using an unlocked Samsung Galaxy SII for 2-3 months because I found the HTC Thunderbolt to be one of the buggiest messes of a phone in I don’t even know how long.  So while I love my SGS2 still to this day, I most definitely missed having 4G LTE.  With this phone bringing me specs similar to the SGS2 but with LTE tacked on, I have found myself back in a very happy place.
  • HDMI:  This has become a standard with most high-end phones these days, but having an HDMI port that allows for full mirroring to an HD screen is pretty fun.  Gaming, watching home videos, or showing slideshows of the pictures you just snapped, are tasks that are all easily completed with the Bionic.
  • Front Camera and Google Talk:  I really wish Motorola had tossed in a 2MP front camera like Samsung did with the Galaxy SII, but that’s just not the case.  The VGA (0.3MP) shooter won’t be used any time for taking stills, however, it works just fine while video chatting on Google Talk.  Speaking of Google Talk with Video – it’s such a fantastic app.  I can’t wait for every front-camera’d phone to get it.
  • Battery Life (sort of):  When compared to other 4G LTE phones from Verizon, the Bionic is king.  While it may not be world beating when compared to non-4G LTE phones, it’s at least showing us that this technology is headed in the right direction.  I saw anywhere from 8-10 hours of normal use on the standard battery and 14-16 on the extended big dog.  I should point out that standard use for me is checking emails, Twitter, Google Reader, and potentially browsing through some favorite internet spots. If you start gaming, watching video, or doing other intensive processes, you’ll get far less than those numbers I just gave you.  Don’t forget to take a look at our battery hands-on which included both the extended and inductive (wireless) cover.
  • Accessories:  The accessory options for the DROID Bionic are really unmatched by any other phone at this time.  The webtop experience – which is sort of shaky at this point – is something that has a ton of potential.  And with 4 different options for you to experience it at a variety of price points, I’d say that Motorola is on the right track.
  • Root:  The phone was rooted before it even became available to the public and that makes all of us happy.  It also has a bootstrap app that can put a custom recovery on it.  And CM7 is getting closer to being released.

The Not-so-Good:

  • Screen (a lot of the time):  I know that I just got done semi-praising the screen on this phone, but that doesn’t mean I’m in love.  After coming from the incredibly vibrant screen on the Galaxy SII, it has been a struggle to get myself to a point where I can almost accept the one on the Bionic.  It has moments of brilliance, but for the most part, the grainy mess that appears far too often is unacceptable in today’s mobile landscape.  It’s time to switch it up Moto.
  • Camera:  We had heard all sorts of rumors about the Bionic’s new shooter and how it was so much better than anything Motorola had used before.  Well folks, it definitely did not live up to that hype.  While it may not bring us that nasty blue tint like the DROID3 did, it has enough other downfalls to make even a novice photog frustrated.  It takes waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too long to focus on anything.  Doesn’t even know what to do in dimly lit areas.  And even struggles at times to create non-blurry shots in pristine lighting conditions.  Here are some of the best photos I was able to take:

 
 

  • Headphone Jack:  What’s with the obnoxious hissing noise?  Moto, Verizon, anyone – please fix this immediately.
  • Bootloader:  It’s locked.  Only a miracle would get it unlocked.  Still no word on when Motorola is going to start unlocking bootloaders either, but rumors would suggest that this phone could be one of the first. We are getting close to 2012 and were told that we would start to see this happen some time in the “end of 2011″, so stay tuned.
  • Battery Life:  Back on battery life for a second.  We are aware that this phone bests the other LTE offerings in battery life, but still want to point out that this phone struggles to get through a day with even semi-moderate use.  I know that cell phones these days have multiple tasks going on and we rely on them more and more, however, the fact that none of them (including this one) can get you through even 24 hours is saddening.  We can do dual-core and quad-core this and that, but we can’t make battery tech that lasts longer?  Time to refocus some efforts into some other areas, I’d say.
  • Blur:  Skins, oh skins.  This version of Blur has improved greatly over past releases, yet it still drives me nuts.  In order to make this thing acceptable, I had to turn off those ridiculous 3D transitions and animations and then put in GO Launcher EX and Widget Locker immediately.  I do like some of the polish that this build has, but it still has a long ways to go before I’ll even think about not doing my own customizing.  The dock bar is nice, the shiny gloss over widgets is fun, and the paginated app drawer is cool.  It’s still too much though.
  • Lock Switch:  We actually ran a poll over whether or not people preferred to have a top left or right lock switch and the majority of you share my thoughts.  The left switch on this phone is in the wrong damn spot.  As someone that uses my phone mostly in my right hand, that top left button is almost impossible to hit.  This may seem like a minor thing to be complaining about, but when you are constantly locking and unlocking your phone, this can be quite the nuisance.
  • Signal Issues (not widespread?):  There are known signal/hand-off issues with this phone that have plagued a number of you.  It doesn’t appear to be widespread, but we have heard from enough readers now that we made a separate post about it.  According to our sources, Verizon has an update in the works to hopefully address it.
  • Phone Thickness:  I love the styling of this phone, but would love for it to be thinner.  After using the Galaxy SII for so long, it has taken me a bit to get used to a phone this big again.  It’s thinner than the other LTE offerings from Verizon, yet still isn’t thin enough.

Gallery:

Benchmarks:

  

To see how it compares to the Galaxy SII and DROIDX, check out this post.

Hands-on and Unboxing:

YouTube Preview Image

Video Sample (1080p):

YouTube Preview Image

The Verdict:

I’ll try to make this quick, although I don’t know if that is possible when it comes to this phone.  I will say this though – I’m liking the DROID Bionic more and more each day that I use it.  The 4G LTE connectivity is something that every smartphone user on this planet should experience.  Even in the 2-bar area that I happen to live, it’s still almost faster than my home WiFi connection.  The specs are beefy enough that you should be able to use this phone for a long, long time.  In a world that is filled with 2-year contracts, I can’t imagine that this would not still be cruising along nicely at the end of one.  There is a vocal group of Android enthusiasts out there that would have you believe that this phone is garbage – they are 100% wrong.  This is actually a really excellent phone.  It is hands-down Verizon’s best at the moment.

But will it be able to compete with a couple of devices that could be here within the next month and a half, the Vigor and Galaxy Nexus?  Who knows.  Just remember, that when those come out, we will be asking if they can compete with the Motorola Dinaras and Galaxy S3s of the world.  And then after those, we’ll be asking about the rumored devices to come after them.  We are in this time period where mobile technology is evolving at such an incredible pace that many of you are nervous to pull the trigger; afraid that you will be locked in for 2 years on a device that turns out to be a dud.  The DROID Bionic does not appear to be a dud.

DROID Bionic Specs | Other Bionic Coverage

  • http://www.motoask.com motorola droid

    Woah, awesome design on the review! I really love the graphics and your star ratings at the beginning. With a million new Android handsets coming out every day, it’s nice to have something quick to and easy to look at.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kyle-Collins/100000326942819 Kyle Collins

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who enjoys the Bionic.  I personally love mine.

  • http://twitter.com/TopAndroidAppz Top Android Appz

    razr

  • jon carey

    own one and have a new ripe since the mass outage my phone doesn’t want to got from 3G->4G anymore it just dies and looses all  data connections..  Not happy moto!!!

  • Silver91354

    Coming to Droid Life, I come for the latest going-ons and updates pertaining to anything Andorid as most of you do. What I don’t understand is why do some come on here bashing any post that pertains to The Bionic? If you don’t plan on getting a Bionic or have an iPhone or other, what does a Bionic post have to do with you? I have and love my Bionic and am happy to read posts here whether it be a review or update to the phone. By the way, if you scroll down on the right side of this page, the Bionic review sums it up well. Go away trollers.

  • http://www.motoask.com motorola droid

    Thanks for your review. I want to know why Motorola had to move all the
    buttons. I upgraded from a Droid X to the Bionic and am frustrated that
    Motorola moved the buttons , probably so you had to buy new windshield
    mounts and other peripherals. Most critical is the removal of the camera
    button from the side. Now, you have to push the button on the screen
    which of course, moves the camera slightly as you are trying to take a
    picture…retarded.

  • Mrjrome

    Every three months something better will be coming out so if the phone dropps to 149 then ill buy it but im not paying 300 for a phone and when it malfunctions they send me a referb as a replacement and be tied down for two years, no thanks im not getting caught up in the hype!

  • Robert Strowger

    I’ve had my Droid Bionic for almost half a year and it is by far the best phone I have ever had.  I can’t wait until the Ice Cream Sandwich hits that would be the ultimate for me.  This phone is a keeper.

  • Joey301

    i don’t think you used this phone very much. As a data phone, it is non functional.

  • jesus2.lopez

    Awesome review, thanks! I love that the Droid Bionic how runs on Verizon’s
    new 4G LTE network and has a dual core processor. This phone will be able to
    handle multitasking while you are watching YouTube. The Bionic will go great
    with my employee Sling adapter that I recently got from DISH Network. With the
    Sling adapter, I can stream live and recorded TV to my Android device
    everywhere I have 3G coverage or WiFi, it perfect for me since I have a hard
    time fitting my favorite shows into my busy schedule.

    • Ahsan

      Get the RAZR.

  • Anonymous

    Hmmm well now at first i never considered this phone, but seeing it on ebay for 325$ off-contract…now that is tempting. Been wanting to jump into LTE for a while now. might pull the trigger; I’ll wait until I see what Ebay prices are like for the GNex.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1625477640 Dave Martinez

    Lol, finish TPS report on the tasks calendar in the screenshot

  • Anonymous

    As far as the pentile screen goes, we can nit pick it to death, and yesbthere is visible pixelation when looking at greens but I have to tell you, that after playing with a droid x2 for a month and seeing how incredibly visible that screen was in bright sunlight, the pixelation was something I was able to live with.

    • Alexander Garcia

      I’m a proud and happy owner of the DX2 and I’m on the same boat as you regarding the display. The Pentile Matrix is definitely not as bad as what every nit-picky tech junkie out there have over-dramatically claim it to be. In addition to that, I love the full visibility of the display even under the overwhelming brightness of the sun.  :-)

  • http://twitter.com/J_Keough26 Jacob Keough

    Just wait until Galaxy Nexus and DROID RAZR… (:

  • Timothy Cregan

    You know what I like about the newest phones video recording capabilitites….?  Maybe now the big foot videos, UFO encounters, and Elvis sightings will be able to be substantiated, instead of grainy, blurry messes!  Oh yeah! Fun times ahead.

  • Shelley

    I would like to see some comment about volume on all phones that you review. I have a hearing problem and phone volume is critical for me. So far, the DROID1 is the only phone in the history of cellphones that has enough volume to allow me to listen comfortable to books and music. Please include a comment about volume in your reviews. Thank you.

  • Obsidian

    I understand everyone’s issues with battery life but just got buy and extra battery and even though it is a pain charge the extra and keep it on you… rarely do you even run out of battery in an area where you are far away from a charger but when it happens put in your spare and then charge them both again when you have time… its not a fix but it has worked damn well for me since the first smartphone came out… its nice they put a 1750 mAh battery in the Bionic over the 1500 mAh battery in the old Droid X

  • N Searcy 38

    bummed that mine has serious connectivity issues when switching from wifi to 3G/4G.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707166291 John Lee

    whoever filmed that video had some crazy blair witch thing going…got parkinsons?

  • M_vd626

    Jesus dude you need to have your hands ran over by a steam roller so you can never do a phone demo again . Do you think maybe you could hold your hands still for longer than 1/10000 of a second I”ve never been so annoyed in MY LIFE watching someone demo a phone . get off the crack and try it again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  • FanDroid619

    Finally!!! An article that doesn’t trash this precious gem of a device. It is an awesome phone and it places 3rd on my list of best smartphones on the planet in my opinion…

    1.) Sammy’s Galaxy S II (the OG unlocked version, KING of all Androids)
    2.) Moto’s Photon (just wished it wasn’t on Sprint)
    3.) Moto’s DROID Bionic (for the reasons listed on this article)
    4.) Moto’s DROID X2 (Bionic sans LTE & FFC)
    5.) Sammy’s SGS2 Epic Touch (just wished it wasn’t on Sprint)

  • Anonymous

    I am in the group that is waiting for “the next best thing”. But I never hated this phone at all. I went and played with it when it came out and liked it very much. The build quality of this phone is great. It just feels good. It wasn’t slow or laggy at all for me. And what can I say about 4G right? The bionic is a solid upgrade from the og Droid. I would still be rocking mine but it was stolen so I had to get a replacement Incredible. Now if I was still on my og droid, I would most likely upgrade now. But considering I use an inc. everyday, I’m not hurting to the point that I need to go blow my wad on a new phone right now. I will respectively pass on this wonderful offering by Motorola. Like I said it is a great built phone, but I’m more of a software lover. No disrespect intended to the bionic or it’s owners. 

  • Anonymous

    Good review. I wanted this phone back in the Spring! I didn’t wait and has already been 6 months.
    I am happy I didn’t wait as it certainly doesn’t seem to be the “game changer” everyone thought it would be. That being said, it certainly seems to be a fantastic device.
    Lesson to be learned here is simple…stop wasting time waiting for something bigger and better and enjoy what is out at the moment. Tomorrow your new device is old news, its changing that fast!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1328222563 Simon C. Helm

    Good article, I agree with all you comments. I have owned the Bionic since it launched and am happy I waited. Verizon were getting impatiant with me bombarding me with ‘upgrade now ads’ wanting to renew my contract that was a year out of contract. I think I will get one for my wife.

  • http://twitter.com/bosephus61 bosephus61

    At 360.00 on a two year contract — it ought to be a great phone.   I remember when 199.00 was the “expensive” price point…  Seems like we aren’t riding Moore’s law all too well on smartphones :( 

    • Anonymous

      360? It is $249 on verizon for me and cheaper at radioshack and other third party retailers.

  • Smrzzy

    Is it me or does it take a long time to charge? I just bought mine yesterday, let it drain then full charged it. The first day it lasted 6hrs before having to charge it but then it took like 3 hrs to fully charge…

  • Granted

    Yep, just a reiteration of what I’ve said forever. Damn Johnny Come Lately’s.

  • Exodia

    I love my Droid Bionic, it just came in the mail on the 19th.  So far I have no complaints what so ever, it is super fast and the design is great!  The best thing about the whole deal is that I got it off Wirefly.com for $174.99 and it only took 2 days to get to me via Fedex.  Wirefly had a special promotion going on for 1 day with a promo code called BIONIC75 which saved me an extra $75 off there already reduced upgrade price of $249.99.  Anyway’s there in no other phone that I can compare it with becasue it is so fast and I thought me Droid X was fast! If you have the money get one, you won’t regret it!

  • http://www.youtube.com/lordstickmax Lord Stick Max

    I’m actually surprised you didnt’ mention the amount of freakin’ bloat ware on the thing.  verizon is getting out of control with this. i don’t mind that they come installed but at least let me uninstall them god damn it!

  • Dannyborst

    How can you say this phone is too thick? Any thinner and itll feel like your not holding a phone but a credit card. I like the thickness and the build, It makes me feel like im actually holding a phone.

  • Sabres4510

    Is anyone else having the issue with the my verizon app. I tried to login on my bionic and It said my password was wrong. I changed it and still got an error code. I logged online and change my password but my phone is now stuck on the forgot password screen and everything ive tried to remove it won’t work. Pulled the battery, Clear data tried to uninstall. Tried to update but still stuck on that screen. Verizon told me I had to do a factory reset any ideas??