Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android smartphone OEMs have pumped out so many handsets based on the open-source operating system-more than 300 varietals worldwide-that many of the latest handsets offer incremental improvements over their predecessors.
Since Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZW) launched the Motorola Droid in November 2009, it has released two Droid updates, each time offering incremental improvements over the first smash-hit Motorola (NYSE:MMI) Android phone. Verizon’s popular Motorola Droid X begat a Droid X 2 earlier this year.
It’s not a Droid X, but Verizon’s Android 2.3.4 “Gingerbread”-based Motorola Droid Bionic could certainly pass for one, possessing a similar hardware design, albeit with an improved aesthetic.
The Droid X and Bionic both have 4.3-inch screens for big multimedia consumption. Both weigh about 5.5 ounces and, at 0.43 inches, are thicker than the average smartphone. The sides of the devices have similar features, including the curved neck of each handset to allow for the 8MP bezel, and micro USB and HDMI output ports. Well, the Bionic has more of a curve, while the Droid X has an awkward bump, anyway.
It’s what’s under the hood that blows the doors off of any comparison. With a 1GHz, single-core processor on Verizon’s 3G network, the Droid X is not a bad handset. That is, until you pick up the Bionic, power it on and begin accessing applications.
Powered by a 1GHz dual-core processor on Verizon’s 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE), network, the Bionic proved twice as fast for downloading and accessing applications as the Droid X. I easily saw 10M-bps to 12M-bps download speeds, and 5M-bps upload speeds with the Bionic, which also has a mighty 1GB of RAM.
On the Bionic, I downloaded, installed and opened Google+ for Android in 22 seconds, compared with the 44 seconds to get the app up and running on my Droid X.
YouTube videos loaded fast and looked great, thanks to the Bionic’s Quarter High Definition (qHD) 960-by-540-resolution display, which was vastly superior to the Droid X’s own WVGA screen, with a resolution of 854 by 450.
Bionic Is a Powerful Android Smartphone
While the Droid X seemed like a great multimedia handset to me last summer, the Bionic puts it to shame, and not just for the app download speed. This device sheds the stuttering issue the Droid X’s camera had early on, causing unfortunate latency between photo snaps, to take beautiful pictures.
The video camera boasts 1080p HD and audio scene selection, compared with just 720p video capture with the Droid X. The front-facing camera capably enables video chat over 4G LTE, 3G or even WiFi. Voice calls were clear thanks to the dual speakers positioned at the top and bottom of the handset.
The Bionic also comes preinstalled with a few cool business-oriented apps, including the Citrix GotoMeeting Web conferencing app and Citrix Receiver remote desktop app for Android, as well as Motorprint for letting users print from the phone to any WiFi-enabled printer. These apps worked as advertised, though Web conferencing was never intended for smartphones.
On the consumer front, there is ZumoCast, a cool, new Motorola app that lets consumers stream their music, photos and videos from their computer to the Bionic. Yes-over the cloud, which is one of the fortes of Android handsets.
The handset also follows the Motorola Atrix 4G and Photon 4G in including a Webtop app with a full Mozilla Firefox 4 Web browser to flash phone files, dialer and other apps on a special Motorola Lapdock or HD Station.
I did not test the Lapdock on the Bionic, but have on the Atrix 4G. The problem with the Lapdock is that it costs $299.97, but consumers can get a $100 rebate if they buy the phone and Lapdock at the same time and sign up for a minimum $50, 5GB a month data plan.
What won’t you like about the Bionic? Like the Droid X, the rectangular, boxy shape of the Bionic resembles more a miniature tablet than a smartphone for most people. If you like that, great. If not, go for something more rounded, such as the Samsung Droid Charge or even the HTC Thunderbolt, both muscular 4G LTE phones from Verizon.
Also, while I think the Bionic’s 1,735-mAh battery would prove a powerful power provider for a 3G phone, it burns out quickly thanks to the combination of Verizon’s 4G LTE network and the dual-core chip. It just takes a lot of power to fuel application performance this good. I got maybe 3.5 to 4 hours of hardcore multimedia use. Try watching the Netflix app for Android: You can watch one 2-hour movie before requiring a recharge.
And the Bionic, which does offer 32GB of memory, is not cheap. At $299.99 on contract, it’s as expensive a subsidized phone as you’re going to find on the U.S. market today, joining the Droid Charge when it was launched earlier this spring at the same price. Have no fear though-if the Bionic doesn’t sell quick, expect Verizon to chop it by $50 or $100 or even more.
If power and speed are the most important things for you in a smartphone, the price likely won’t matter. Again, this is the fastest smartphone we’ve ever experienced on Verizon’s charged 4G LTE network.