Design and Ergonomics
The sliding keyboard necessitates a thicker design, and the Droid 4 is nearly twice as thick as the keyboard-less Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX. At a half inch, it's still slim for a QWERTY slider, and its dimensions are more manageable since it has a 4" display (height and width are less than the Droid RAZR and RAZR MAXX). The 6.3 ounce Droid 4 has similar lines to the RAZR family, but somehow still manages to look a little dull.
The slider is stiff in a reassuring way, but the battery door is flimsy plastic, unlike the higher end metal and soft touch materials used on older Droid smartphones. Since the microSD card slot is located under the battery door, you'll probably have to fiddle with that delicate door frequently, and one of our cover's tabs already broke off. I honestly can't believe Moto put that nasty back on this otherwise extremely well made phone.
It's not easy to avoid removing that back: we often resorted to a card reader for microSD card file transfer because the phone works with MotoCast software rather than mounting as a mass storage device. MotoCast has some cool features like remote access to your Windows or Mac OS computer's files over the network (USB works too), but you must install the software on each computer you want to use with the Droid 4. And the software down-converts higher quality video before transferring it to the phone, which isn't desirable given the Droid 4's ability to play 1080p content via HDMI.
The headphone jack is up top when held in portrait mode with the keyboard closed, but that translates to the lower left corner when held in landscape mode to watch video or use the keyboard. Your hand and the headphone cord will likely fight. The power button is up top and there are mics at the top and bottom. The micro USB and Micro HDMI ports are on the left side and the small volume controls are on the right. The Droid 4 works with Motorola's latest Lapdock models, the 10.1" $249 Lapdock 100 and the 14" $349 Lapdock 500 Pro. These turn the phone into a notebook of sorts. The Lapdock is a notebook shell with a display, keyboard, trackpad, stereo speakers, SD card slot, Ethernet port, VGA port and USB ports. The phone provides the brains.
Phone and Data
Like most Motorola smartphones on Verizon, the Droid 4 has excellent incoming and outgoing voice quality. Voice is clear, easy to understand and noise reduction works well to reduce background noise without distorting voice. The earpiece volume is average and the speakerphone is good but not awe-inspiring like the original Droid.
The phone has EV-DO Rev. A 3G and 4G LTE. It comes with the usual Mobile Hotspot feature so you can use the phone as a wireless high speed modem for a tablet, notebook or other WiFi device in need of an Internet connection. On our first day with the Droid 4, data speeds on Verizon's large 4G LTE network were lower than expected and were slower than the other Verizon phones on our desk, despite a stable signal. The next day things looked better, and we saw 10Mbps down and 3Mbps up with a 2 bar signal and 15Mbps down/5Mbps up with a 4 bar signal.
We didn't experience 3G-4G waffling where the phone bounces between the two networks when the 4G signal is poor, and the Droid 4 pulls in a stronger LTE signal than our Droid RAZR MAXX running on the same chipset. In fact, it's on par with the generally better Qualcomm chipset based Android LTE phones on Verizon, the HTC Rezound and LG Spectrum.
Performance and Multimedia
The Droid 4 is a capable performer thanks to its 1.2GHz dual core TI OMAP CPU. That's fairly state of the art (we've yet to see a shipping quad core Android smartphone), and it's the same CPU used in the Droid RAZR phones and the Galaxy Nexus. The phone feels responsive and apps run fluidly. 3D games play smoothly, as does locally stored 1080p MPEG4 content and streaming video (watch our video review to see these in action). Motorola doesn't mess much with the Android UI, so there's no heavy software overlay to slow things down. The Droid 4 does well on benchmarks, and we found it every bit as fast as other recent higher end Verizon Wireless Android smartphones.
Nenamark2: 28.1 fps
The Droid 4 has a gig of RAM like all Lapdock-compatible Moto phones and 16 gigs of internal storage that's divided between application storage (2.7 gigs) and file storage (almost 8 gigs). There's a microSD card slot under the battery door, but no card is included.
Verizon and Motorola claim an impressive 12.5 hours of 3G talk time, and we managed 11 hours. The beefy 1785 mAh battery has excellent stamina on Verizon's 3G network, and decent battery life on 4G. It lasted 6.1 hours on LTE, which isn't bad at all among Verizon's 4G phones, though not impressive compared to 3G runtimes. It won't outlast the mighty Droid RAZR MAXX with its immense 3,300 mAh battery, but the RAZR phones lack that lovely hardware keyboard. Oddly, you can look at the battery underneath the back door, but it's labelled as not user accessible. A not very sticky label covers it, and we peeled it back to see what looks like a fairly standard Lithium Ion battery with a computer-guts style connector rather than the usual phone battery connector.
If you're in need of a high quality QWERTY Android smartphone, the fourth, but probably not final entry in the Droid line is a strong choice. The Droid 4 is a solid evolution of the original Droid line, with LTE 4G, a fast dual core modern CPU, excellent voice quality and the best keyboard in the business. It's not super-stylin', but it's reasonably slim at 0.5" and has excellent build quality other than the cheesy battery door that's already falling apart on our unit. Reception is stable and beats the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Motorola Droid RAZR and RAZR MAXX, while staying on par with the HTC Rezound and LG Spectrum.
Price: $199 with 2 year contract, $549 without contract.
Websites: http://www.motorola.com/Consumers/US-EN/Home, www.verizonwireless.com