Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) is nothing if not loyal to its signature Droid smartphone, cranking out two iterations of the Android handset since July 2011.
While the Droid 3 boasted a 1GHz dual-core processor and a fifth row of keys dedicated to numbers, Motorola has upped the ante for the new Droid 4, which Verizon Wireless began selling last week for the industry-standard $199.99 on contract. This device, easily the best-performing Droid QWERTY slider on the market, pairs Verizon's 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) network with a 1.2GHz dual-core CPU.
The device, which possesses a soft, yet textured and rounded back for a cozy fit in your palm, runs Android 2.3.5 (Gingerbread). Motorola assured me the phone would get the Android 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich, upgrade this year.
For a phone as big and clunky-seeming as the Droid 4a half inch thick and more than 6 ounces in weightthe gadget absolutely smokes for data and application processing. I've been using the Droid 4 as my primary phone since Friday, Feb. 10, and I spent 70 minutes using it on a train ride to Manhattan Feb. 13.
Calls were crisp and I can report no drops during the train travel, which is always a boon when you're making the phone a moving target for Verizon's cell towers.
I watched YouTube videos, watched some TV on Netflix, and downloaded a handful of apps with ease. Apps downloaded in 5 to 7 seconds, which is a nice, speedy clip compared with download times on 3G handsets.
Motorola continues to tweak the Droid keyboard, and this model offers the best yet. Not only is it edge-lit to help users nimbly type in the dark, but the layout approximates that of a PC. For example, there are keys for caps lock, tab and shift commands on the left of the physical keyboard.
Typing on this Droid was a joy, and I'm not fan of physical keyboards on smartphones. I spend enough time typing on a PC each day, so I find touch-screens preferable to QWERTY keyboards on my smartphones.
However, the phone is also imbued with 4-inch quarter-high-definition (qHD) technology, with a 540 x 960 resolution thin-film-transistor LCD, which was very crisp and responsive to my less-than-nimble fingers.
The camera is vastly improved over previous Droids, offering an 8-megapixel shutter in the rear and a 1.3MP camera in front for serviceable video chats via Skype, Qik or other chat apps.