Review: Motorola Droid 4 on Verizon (Verdict: nice keyboard)

Review: Motorola Droid 4 on Verizon (Verdict: nice keyboard)

Summary: If you're a QWERTY keyboard zealot and have a need for (LTE) speed, then the Droid 4 is worth a look. However its thickness may be a turn off for the skinny jeans set.


Motorola Droid 4 Review - Jason O'Grady

Although I'm primarily an iPhone 4 user I dabble in 'droids. I also like to carry an Android device (or two) just to keep tabs on what's happening on the other side of the fence. This review isn't intended to be comprehensive but rather a peek at an Android phone from the perspective on an iPhone user.

Today I'll take a brief look at the Motorola Droid 4 running on Verizon Wireless here in the U.S.

Specifications are:

  • Processor: Dual-core 1.2 GHz
  • Memory: 16GB internal RAM,  microSD slot (up to 32GB)
  • Display: 4.0-inch (540×960)
  • Cameras: 1.3MP front, 8MP rear, 720p HD video capture
  • Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, 3G/4G LTE
  • Battery: 1785 mAh
  • OS: Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)
  • Dimensions: 4.98 x 2.75 x 0.50 inches, 6.31 ounces

Some have referred to the Droid 4 as a RAZR with a keyboard and that that isn't too far off the mark. It trades the sleek and svelte lines of the Droid RAZR for a very functional, slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Keyboards come at a price though, and that price is its 12.7mm thickness. While it's a hair thinner than the 12.9mm Droid 3, it's almost 80 percent thicker than the non-keyboarded Droid RAZR (7.1mm). By comparison, the larger battery Droid RAZR MAXX is 9mm thick and the iPhone 4S 9.3mm, so you've really got to want the physical keyboard to justify to added heft.

The keyboard is really the story of the Droid 4. It's excellent and easily the best of the previous keyboarded devices that I've used. By a long shot. The keyboard on the Droid 4 will be of interest to users that can't buy an iPhone because of its onscreen keyboard. (I'm faster on the iPhone keyboard, but that's strictly because I've become accustomed to it from extended use). If you're a Blackberry refugee or otherwise prefer a physical keyboard (I'm talking to you, SMS junkies) the Droid 4 would probably make an excellent choice.

ZDNET's own James Hendrick called it the best keyboard on any phone, and I concur. The keys are slightly raised, brightly backlit and have a satisfying click to them. Because of its landscape layout the D4 keyboard is extra spacious, which makes it good for fat-fingered users. It has a fifth row for numbers (which now host most of the symbols as well) and dedicated caps lock key which is nice, but it lacks a dedicated "@" key (you need to press Shift-2) which stinks if you tap out a lot of emails or tweets.

The biggest upside on the Droid 4 is its 4G/LTE radio. Sure, it'll gas the battery in a few hours if you push it, but you can turn it off when it's not needed. I'm a big proponent of 4G for sheer speed and this is another huge benefit over the offerings from our friends in Cupertino. Granted you've got to work or play in a city with 4G/LTE coverage, but the network is getting bigger all the time. I prefer Verizon Wireless to AT&T because it works best in my neck of the woods, but that's a regional preference and your mileage may vary.

The bottom line is that if you're a keyboard zealot and have a need for (LTE) speed, then the Droid 4 is worth a look.

If you want to take a deeper dive I recommend:

The Droid 4 is available from Verizon for $199 with a 2-year contract, full retail is $549 and it runs on the 4G LTE network.

QWERTY junkies, what do you think of the Droid 4?

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Verizon

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  • I don't understand why anybody would want a hardware keyboard.

    While they're a lot better than standard software touchscreen keyboards, they're not better than ones like Swype. Swype (and it's knockoffs of course) is so superior to any other input method it'd be silly not to use it.
    • soft keyboards

      Let me know how typing out something long (such as an actual email) or with a lot of symbols (such as anything done on a command line, ex. ssh) or even with a lot of "unfamilar" words (such as tech/scientific jargon) works for you on that software keyboard, then ask me that question again.

      Software keyboards are fine with quick text or short 1-2 sentence emails, but they don't cut it for anything that involves real typing.
  • Nice.

    Given a choice between tactile keyboard and 3300mAh battery in their MAXX version, I would be tempted by the keyboard - it's hard typing on a half-transparent virtual keyboard when you need to see what's underneath... even with the RAZR/MAXX, that happens...

    Still, that battery life is phenomenal...