Review

Review: Droid 4, it's all about the keyboard

The Motorola Droid 4 is the successor to the Droid 3, Droid 2 and of course, the Original Droid. If you can think back to when the OG Droid launched, it was a product designed to be Verizon’s answer to the iPhone (at the time). Moving forward several years and we are now on the 4th iteration of the Droid and it continues to build upon what made the previous devices attractive; a solid full qwerty keyboard.

The specs of the device are relatively modest but there is nothing to hide here as the Droid 4 is a upper-midrange device that rings up the register at $199.99 on a two year contract. Considering that Motorola recently brought out the Droid Razr and Razr Max (reviews here and here) that took styling to a new level, it’s good to see Motorola has not forgotten its roots and has produced a device sporting a full QWERTY keyboard.

Design:

The Droid 4 has a lot to like, and some to groan about, but one thing is for certain, the device does not feel like a brick in your hand. Yes, it is noticeably thicker than some other devices but compared to previous iterations, it feels quite solid in the hand. The rounded edges help to hide its girth and the quality materials keep you interested once the device is in your grasp.  

It’s not hard to see that this device looks a lot like the Droid Razr with a slide out keyboard and considering we liked both of those iterations, we find that to be a good thing. Everything else is relatively standard affair with a volume rocker on the side, power button up top, headphone jack in the usual location; the device hits all the basic needs of a smartphone.

Keyboard:

If you are buying this device, you are buying it for the keyboard and on that front, the Droid 4 delivers. The keyboard is spacious, the buttons have the right amount of travel and are firm but not stiff. The additional spacing between the keys makes hitting the right key easy and there is enough grip on each key to keep your fingers firmly planted on keys.

The sliding mechanism was a bit sticky on our unit but we chalk that up to it being new and fully expect that over time the device will come into its own. Other than that little hiccup, there is not much to dislike about the keyboard and should please anyone who purchases this device solely for that reason; the keys are also backlit that makes it simple to use at night.

Display:

Motorola has stuck with the same display as the Razr and Razr Maxx and for that, we still desire something a bit better. For those who are not overly particular or have not gotten used to higher quality displays, you will most likely not be disturbed by the screen. For those who don’t notice the small defects such as poor off angle viewing and the slight distortion of PenTile displays, the screen is a modest inclusion on an otherwise satisfactory device.

Battery:

Let’s put it bluntly: we got spoiled by the Droid Razr Maxx 3300 mAh battery, so when we see the Droid 4 has 1785 mAh battery, our hearts are let down a bit. We know that Motorola can not cram the 3300 mAH battery in to every phone (yet) but we can still dream.

The Droid 4 comes in at the middle of the road for duration as we saw a consistent 7.5 hours with moderate use over several days time. This is the minimum of acceptable but should allow most users to go an entire day without needed to carry a charger with them but expect to plug this device in each night.

Call Quality:

The Droid 4 is very similar to call quality of that of the Droid Razr and Razr Maxx (not unexpectedly). The speakerphone was a bit tinny when turned up and offers some room for improvement but it will suffice and not impede use. All other aspects of calling were acceptable and should not present a barrier to use.

Camera:

The rear shooter performs well in natural light but does introduce a bit of noise in artificially lit conditions. The front facing camera is standard for the course as it will allow for video calling but does not lead or lag compared to others in the field.

Conclusion:

The Droid 4 is for one type of buyer and one type only, those that need a physical keyboard and if you fall in to that category, the Droid 4 is a fantastic device. If you do not need a physical keyboard there are better devices out there from Motorola including the Droid Razr Maxx. So the question comes down to if you want a keyboard? If so, then buy this device, as the keyboard is exceptional but know that the device does come up short in other areas.

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18 Comments

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PLEASE GO AND BUY IT. I wanna laugh so hard at you. In two month would be another and late of this would be another one.

ThePitt said,
PLEASE GO AND BUY IT. I wanna laugh so hard at you. In two month would be another and late of this would be another one.

I believe the language of Neowin is english.

I've got a Droid 3 - and I bought it for the keyboard. I'd get a Droid 4, but being in Aus, I'm told the specs for the Droid 4 don't include 850MHz UTMS, which rules me out.

Pity, I like the looks of it

Finally what seems to be a "successor" for the HTC Desire Z. Best damn keyboard phone you could get back the day.

Damn camera drivers

The Droid 4 comes in at the middle of the road for duration as we saw a consistent 7.5 hours with moderate use over several days time. This is the minimum of acceptable but should allow most users to go an entire day without needed to carry a charger with them but expect to plug this device in each night.

7.5 hours is totally unacceptable. Are you awake for 7.5 hours a day? No. If I work an eight hour shift, with an hours travelling each way and then some time at home in the evening, that's at least 14 hours I need out of a phone. 7.5 is absolutely pathetic and does not help Android's reputation for battery life at all.

what said,

7.5 hours is totally unacceptable. Are you awake for 7.5 hours a day? No. If I work an eight hour shift, with an hours travelling each way and then some time at home in the evening, that's at least 14 hours I need out of a phone. 7.5 is absolutely pathetic and does not help Android's reputation for battery life at all.


Note that battery included on other devices. Not entirely Motorola's fault.

Wake me up when Android 4 (and higher) has been standard on devices for over a year. It's at a 1% penetration level or something right now. New phones come out like this loaded with Android 2.3.x.

I'm a fan of CyanogenMod, and I'd want something open and totally under my control if I was using Android (not some cracked/rooted stock ROM). I'm not thrilled with the progress I've seen for devices slowly switching to ICS by manufacturers, or the issues CyanogenMod developers keep running into because of closed-source, proprietary drivers for things like video and camera.

That being said, I'd pick the Droid Razr Maxx over this. I'm not a huge fan of bulky, physical keyboards, but I love the idea of the huge battery the Maxx has.


I have a droid 3 (not impressed) and honestly the Droid 4 is barely much of an improvement as most of the components are identical it has twice the ram (which the 3 should have had 1Gb anyway) the camera, screen, and many other parts are the same. It is almost as though the Droid 4 is what the 3 should have been. However, i am disappointed that they are still using the same horrible screen in these phones.

However, its still a good buy if you are looking for a phone with a full qwerty keyboard.

FMH said,
That keyboard looks gorgeous.

That is an attractive keyboard. Motorola seems to be on a roll in terms of making attractive hardware recently.

Though I am in the same boat as CMG_90 with disliking keyboards on phones. I also question how many updates this phone will get seeing as it runs Android, but that's a whole different issue.

pickypg said,

Motorola seems to be on a roll in terms of making attractive hardware recently.

I quite agree.

I personnaly dont like keyboards. they add bulk and are there if you need them or not. On screen keyboards have feedback now too. This is something people really need to understand and be educated in.

CMG_90 said,
I personnaly dont like keyboards. they add bulk and are there if you need them or not. On screen keyboards have feedback now too. This is something people really need to understand and be educated in.

Some people "touch type" and you can't do that on a screen. Feedback from the two are completely different also.

CMG_90 said,
I personnaly dont like keyboards. they add bulk and are there if you need them or not. On screen keyboards have feedback now too. This is something people really need to understand and be educated in.

With a physical keyboard you can type faster, you don't even have to look at the keyboard or screen, you don't have to depend on auto-complete, and you don't have half of the screen taken up by a keyboard when typing something.

I have a keyboard now and my next phone will also have one, as soon as Sprint releases a new one. :\

no-sweat said,

With a physical keyboard you can type faster, you don't even have to look at the keyboard or screen, you don't have to depend on auto-complete, and you don't have half of the screen taken up by a keyboard when typing something.

I have a keyboard now and my next phone will also have one, as soon as Sprint releases a new one. :\

This this and this. The main thing about giving up my Blackberry and replacing it with the Nexus S was the fact that I would be losing the keyboard. So far, it has not been much of a hinderence. The digital keyboard is much more difficult to use, as stated by the reasons above. Also harder to text while driving now

CMG_90 said,
I personnaly dont like keyboards. they add bulk and are there if you need them or not. On screen keyboards have feedback now too. This is something people really need to understand and be educated in.

Complete fail. Physical keyboards will always allow you to type faster and more "naturally". Of course they add bulk but it is worth it.