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First Impressions of the DROID 4 – Great Keyboard, Poor Display and Surprisingly Decent Battery Life

droid 4 keyboard edge lit

The DROID 4 has been in my possession for almost 2 days now (unboxing and hands-on), which means I definitely have some thoughts on it that I’d like to share. Since our full review won’t be out until next week, I wanted to at least toss out some initial impressions for those that are considering picking this device up this weekend. Worth the $199 price? How about they keyboard – best yet? Let’s find out. 

Keyboard

The selling point with the DROID 4 is obviously the keyboard. Is it any good though? As someone that ditched physical keyboards over a year ago and never looked back, I can say that I’m actually impressed by this one. I wish their was a SHIFT key on the right side of it, but something like that can be worked through. The edge-lit keys are beautiful to look at when the lights are low, they are soft and easy to press, and the dedicated number row makes typing passwords a breeze. I’m still working up to being a decent typer on a physical keyboard again after taking such a long break from them, but I’ll get there. Nice work on this, Motorola.

Screen

Ummm, yuck. Moto chose not to use the Super AMOLED Advanced screen that was included in the DROID RAZR and instead reverted back to the poor LCD that was used in the DROID 3 and Bionic. It’s not pretty, folks. If you flip between screens (especially the app drawer) you will see ghosting everywhere. If this isn’t one of the worst screens to come out on a smartphone in the last year, I’d love for someone to show me what is. In a time when other phone manufacturers are pushing nothing but HD resolutions and high pixel density, we aren’t sure what the hell Moto was thinking with this one.

Click on the image above and you will understand what I’m talking about.

Performance

With its 1.2GHz dual-core processor (same one that’s in the RAZR) and 1GB of RAM, I haven’t noticed any performances issues. The phone doesn’t zoom around quite like the RAZR does and I’m not sure why since it’s almost identical in specs, but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t fast. And who knows, the lack of ultra-smoothness could just be an optical illusion thanks to its crappy display.

 

Battery Life

Unplugged the DROID 4 with a full charge yesterday around 5PM and woke up this morning with around 20% left. That’s not bad for a first charge and a decent amount of use. Smart Actions were already kicking in to help extend life at night, so I can’t help but give it high marks here. Will put it through some real heavy use this weekend though just to see how it holds up going forward.

Overall

Not a bad phone by any means. It’s not the RAZR, Galaxy Nexus or Rezound, but if you need a keyboard, this phone appears at first to be the option to consider. A great keyboard mixed with LTE and better than average specs should help this phone get you through a contract. Assuming you can deal with the screen technology, that is.

  • http://www.essence-wellness.com/ Michelle Gilbert

    I’m here to gripe about battery life.  Day 1 with the D4, I got 8 hours.  Yeah, that’s right… eight.  Yes, I know about the Task Manager.  No, I didn’t watch YouTube the whole time.  All I did was read incoming emails and try to tweak a few settings.  I’d say I spent a total of an hour using the thing, if that.  VERY disappointed.  I can’t even worry about the display quality… I’m too busy throttling the thing down so I can get through my day without it dying on me. Anyone else having trouble?  I’m rather shocked, and back to the Verizon store it may go.   

    P.S.  As to the whole “who needs a keyboard?” discussion, I’ll tell you who: Someone with carpal tunnel.  Tapping a touchscreen is downright painful.  

  • Dolphfins2000

    For the people who are looking to buy the Droid 4 & look here for info & not cry about the screen here’s my review on it so far. First thing, I love the phone. Its finally what i have been waiting for. I use a lot of different phones in the past & i just needed that boom. The Droid 4 overall size & feel in your hands is perfect. The SCREEN….I don’t have any problem with it at all. I don’t use a magnify glass or hold it 3 inches from my face so i don’t see any problems at all. Out in sunlight i can see everything the same way i did in my house without even needing to turn brightness up. The keyboard is the best one i ever used. The feel & press of the keys are great, LED back lit is even better in the dark. The camera is fast, you see something you want a pic of in 3 5seconds your good. The speaker for music & ring-tones on this phone is super loud & clear. I love that, i need to be able to hear my phone in a loud environment, no problem here. Lock button is NOT like the one the Razr has but its better then the Droid 3, (didn’t like the droid 3’s) HDMI mirror mode works like a charm. It is super fast, have not had any lag, force closes or reboots. Moto Blur isn’t bad but its not the greatest. It lets you hide a lot of stuff you don’t use or don’t want to see from the app drawer. Will root it when the time comes tho. Last thing the battery life shocked me, After the first full charged i got 15 hours out of it & barely put it down, I was doing everything from installing apps, browser, texting non stop, places to calls for over 2 hours, playing music, watching youtube clips & just fixing my home screens a little better to how i like it. I may try ADW Launcher EX or Go Launcher with a ICS theme on it just to see how it works out.

    • Thorp

       I’m sure by now keyboard users aren’t going to expect any serious info on the D4. Many GNex and non-GNex commenters are constantly talking trash about physical keyboards. Heck, even Kellex is in on it.

  • Anonymous

    I’d say Blackberry screens, especially on later devices are really nice ones.

  • http://twitter.com/JohnnyACE562 GRAND MASTER SEN$Ei {{-_-}}™

    Swing and a miss. {{-_-}}

  • Joediver

    I really don’t understand the fact that they kept the droid 3 at the same $199 price point. Why would anyone buy the older model?

  • Anonymous

    Samsung Stratosphere would be a better option. Pretty pathetic…. at least its SuperAmoledPlus.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah the Stratosphere has a better screen….problem is around that screen is a wholly inferior more than a year old device.

  • jake creed

    think i’ll wait for whatever droid comes out after jha is removed as ceo of moto…  he’s the one pushing for multiple devices (D3 then 6 months later D4) and motoblur while not making any major changes beyond a small spec bump and different housing and he’s against vanilla android, and it seems he’s behind screwing D3 owners out of ICS. 

    D1 was perfect but under jha the DROID from moto line has fallen.  I read google has his replacement in mind and he is a fan of vanilla android. I have a D3 now I’ll hold on to it until jha is replaced and hopefully moto returns DROID to vanilla android.

    the D4 other than using a fatter LTE chipset and having LTE has no clear advantages over the D3… I’m hopeful Droid 5 is without JHA’s influence but at this development pace it’ll be out in July with his hands all over it. Guess i’ll wait on Droid 6.

    • q`Tzal

      D5 “Jet” was originally scheduled to come out Q1 of 2012; D4 was bumped back to this time frame.
      Motorola’s Sanjay Jha CES 2012 announcement said that they are planning to slow down new product roll out.
      If the “D4 Maxx” smack is any bit truthful the D5 will not likely hit the store shelves until 2013.

  • Sacmsnasty

     Assuming (as I shouldn’t) that this blog is supposed to be professional, intuitive and one that reviews android products and services with an unbiased impartiality that is befitting one who (should) possess a modicum of grammar, syntax and correctly spelled words (which seems to elude the OP) 

    ….Reading each and every subsequent review/post (from the next) really irritates the holy eff me balls out of people like me who value a solid read (which is seemingly devoid from this blog) is sopha king pathetic it’s not even sad anymore but just outright decrepit in its worst context imaginable.

    Needs improvement.

    • http://fujibayashi.jp/ Gasai Yuno

      They’re way too busy bashing Motorola and swooning over Samsung to pay attention to “minor” details like grammar, spelling, or syntax.
      And I wholeheartedly agree with you there.

  • BPinkel

    My battery is barely lasting 8 hours with pretty light use…its had two full deaths and charges and it is still draining quickly. Is this really how it is going to be? My original droid became this bad and that is why i was so excited to get the 4. Any help/advice would be appreciated.

    • Brian

      Oh no! My original Droid is also at the end with the battery, but I was still on the fence between Droid 4 and Razr Maxx. I’m done with carrying chargers around, so this might swing it for me. Shame, because I’d really like that keyboard…

    • Blackmagick20

      My first initial charge lasted me 18 hours before it died with light use. I only sent several hundred texts, updated a few apps, set up the new apps that came on the D4, and watched 1 episode of South Park on it. I just check to make sure there aren’t any apps that are constantly using data/synching or anything. I’m very impressed with the battery life of mine. Currently…I’m still on 90% charge after 2 hours of strictly LTE, and 45 minutes of that is constant Pandora Radio.

      • BPinkel

        That is incredible to me. I am not anything close to that. Does anyone think I could just have a bad battery?

        • Anonymous

          take it back and exchange i would

      • LionStone

        That’s pretty good!

  • Blackmagick20

    I also don’t know if anyone mentioned this, but the speaker is also the best I’ve ever had in a phone. It sounds fantastic and gets loud! I only have it about 3/4 of the way up to hear Pandora while showering. All the rest of my phones could be turned all the way up and I could never hear them

  • It’sacardigan

    What’s funny is that the Bionic actually has a lock screen that seems to add to the pixelation. I own the Bionic and previously owned the DX with a Fascinate in between. I can honestly say that the Samsung screen is way better than the Moto screens. Now if Sammy could just get their radio issues solved then they would have the complete package. Or visa versa Moto gets their screen issues fixed and ICS.

  • Lewis

    I ordered mine online today. Hopefully it gets here on Monday. I’m going to test if the Sandisk 64 GB microSD card I bought on sale for $80 a few weeks ago works. I know it works for some other Android phones already which supposedly only supports up to 32 GB cards.

  • Shawn

    Ok – so hows the camera?  Is it quick?  Image quality?  

    • Blackmagick20

      I’m pretty impressed with the camera so far. It’s much better than my D3 was out of the box and the pictures are taken pretty quickly. I’m sure a camera snob will tell you how crappy it is compared to something else, but it’s the best camera in any phone I’ve had so far. This is also only the second day the phone has been out in the wild, so I’m sure this thing will only get better over time. I love everything about the D4 so far and the nice camera was icing on the cake

  • Guy

    Love the Droid4.

    As to the screen – It looks fine and crisp to me. I do notice some ghosting during app drawer paging, but it’s not a big deal. Unless I read some of these comments about the issue I wouldn’t have even noticed.

    Coming from the Droid1, this is a no-brainer upgrade. HUGE upgrades on speed and keyboard. 

    My only issue so far is that I feel like Motorolla could have squeezed some extra screen size in there without actually increasing the physical width of the phone. Their bezel border doesn’t need to be so pronounced and I feel like the screen could be more flush with the edge. 

    • Blackmagick20

       I honestly didn’t notice the ghosting until I read some posts on here. I guess that doesn’t really matter much to me, since I don’t read things while scrolling.

      I definitely agree about all the extra plastic that seems pointless and takes away from screen real estate.