Droid Bionic: Most expensive Droid yet (review)

Droid Bionic: Most expensive Droid yet (review)

Summary: The Droid Bionic from Verizon is a solid smartphone with good features, including the ability to power an optional laptop dock. It is expensive for what it offers.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Telcos, Verizon
19

Verizon has been all over the airwaves with ads touting the mysterious birth of the Droid Bionic. The latest Android phone is another smartphone designed to tap into the high speed of Verizon's 4G LTE network. Motorola is the company behind the Droid Bionic, so I guess you could almost call it Google's own phone. The Gingerbread packing Bionic is an outstanding piece of hardware, and may be the best Droid from Motorola to date. In spite of the plusses, it is hard to justify the $299.99 Verizon is charging even with a two-year contract.

The hardware

When I first took the Droid Bionic out of the small box, the handset looked awfully thick and felt heavy in the hand. That is an illusion aided by the shape of the phone, as comparing it to the thin Nexus S 4G shows the Bionic is not much thicker than the other. The weight is similar to the Nexus S, too. The thicker hump around the camera on the Bionic no doubt adds to the impression of a slightly clunky-looking phone. After using it a while that impression is dispelled as the Bionic feels comfortable in the hand.

Check out the Droid Bionic in photos


Image Gallery: Droid Bionic using 4G LTE from Verizon Image Gallery: Charge Image Gallery: Charge
The Bionic is the latest phone equipped to work on the speedy Verizon 4G LTE network. It is not a world phone, so international travelers will want to give it a pass.

Specs:

  • Processor: Dual-core 1GHz
  • Memory: 1GB RAM, 16GB internal memory, 16GB internal microsSD pre-installed
  • Display: 4.3-inch qHD (960x540), Gorilla Glass
  • Cameras: one front, 8MP rear (auto-focus, LED flash, 1080p capture)
  • HDMI out for 1080p playback
  • Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth, CDMA (3G), LTE (4G)
  • Battery: 1735 mAh
  • OS: Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)
  • Dimensions: 2.6 x 5.0 x 0.4 inches, 5.6 ounces

The Bionic has the standard four Android buttons on the front bottom of the phone, which are touch sensitive. The front of the phone is otherwise devoted to the 4.3-inch display, with the front camera in the upper portion of the display, to the left of the Motorola labeling.

The left side of the handset has the microUSB used for charging and PC connections, and the HDMI port for connecting to a TV. The volume controls are on the right side of the device. The bottom of the Bionic has no controls whatsoever, and the top of the phone a 3.5mm headphone jack and power button.

The entire back of the Droid Bionic is a one piece cover that removes to provide access to the battery and memory card. This back has a raised portion around the camera which makes the phone comfortable to hold. The 8MP camera is in the upper left of the back, with the LED flash to the right of the lens. There is a tiny speaker on the lower edge of the back for speakerphone operation of the phone.

Software

Verizon is pushing the Bionic as a business ready phone, and has Citrix Receiver preinstalled to that aim. The ZumoCast app is also included which provides for wireless streaming of files to and from the phone. The MOTOPRINT app enables printing to Wi-Fi enabled printers directly from the phone.

All of the standard Google Android apps are installed on the Bionic as expected. Software support for Verizon services such as Verizon Video is included out of the box.

Like all Motorola Android phones, the Droid Bionic has MotoBlur installed. This latest version is very subdued compared to earlier versions, and is not as cumbersome as those. The interface is close to that of regular Android, with minor modifications.

The Droid Bionic has optional docks to extend the usefulness of the phone, including a laptop dock like that on the earlier Atrix 4G. Software to work with this dock is preinstalled on the phone enabling plug-and-play usage. Interestingly, it appears the microUSB port is flipped from that of the earlier Atrix, so I don't believe that laptop dock can be used with the Bionic as a result.

Operation

The performance of the Droid Bionic is snappy thanks to the dual-core processor. It is a fast Android phone, with all aspects of the operation showing good speed. The display of the phone is very good, with colors that pop and the high resolution nice to work with.

The Bionic works fine as a phone, although some calls had less than sterling audio. I would rate the call audio quality as adequate but nothing special. I did not experience any dropped calls while using the Bionic.

The battery life of the Droid Bionic is typical for phones working with the Verizon 4G LTE network. I was able to get 6 hours out of a charge with the 4G enabled, which means buyers will likely need to pick up a second battery. Access to the battery is easy to do by popping off the back cover, which is important to swap in the second battery to last all day. Buyers may want to keep the 4G turned off when not in use to stretch the battery to last an entire day.

The 8MP camera of the Bionic takes decent stills and video. It can even replace basic point-and-shoot cameras with decent results, although there is nothing really special about the quality of the photos taken with the Bionic.

Conclusion

The Droid Bionic is a solid effort by Motorola, soon to be Google, but there is nothing special enough to justify the $300 price tag with a contract. Owners of previous Motorola Droid phones will probably like the Bionic a lot, as it is a solid piece of kit that improves on earlier models.

Topics: Telcos, Verizon

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

19 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Droid Bionic: Most expensive Droid yet (review)

    I found the camera to be cumbersome and not quick to focus and take shots. The jury is still out on the Bionic since I still have my HTC Thunderbolt which does an amazing job on photos.
    RamonWOW
    • RE: Droid Bionic: Most expensive Droid yet (review)

      @RamonWOW <br>I agree with you about the camera of the BIONIC I just got my phone yesterday and tried to take a few shots and it took forever to auto focus. My old samsung omnia the piece of crap it is focuses in less time than the $300 piece of juggernaut. The time it takes the bionic to focus I could have taken 3-4 shots ith my omnia by then are recorded start recording a video. Motorola we waited 8 month after the original unveiling and you still couldn't get it right. I've not discovered any other flaws yet since I've not had much time to play with this phone but for now FOCUS Motorola (auto) focus.<br>& @ CNet Reviewers How did you guys miss this in your review. No one mentioned this camera flaw.<br>@James Kendrick<br>You repeatedly state in your article the bionic has dual led flash but it does not it has a single (1) led flash. Do you mean dual core processor instead, because that it has? Please edit your article and get the specs correct.
      SomeITDude
      • RE: Droid Bionic: Most expensive Droid yet (review)

        @sperrytop@... The dual-LED listed was indeed a mistake and the change has been made. As for the slow focus, it's true that the Bionic focus is slow but I have seen that on many Android phones so it wasn't that big a deal for me. As always, YMMV.
        JamesKendrick
  • RE: Droid Bionic: Most expensive Droid yet (review)

    Just a quick question. Why is everyone (in every review I've read) complaining about the cost of the phone cost on a 2-year contract??

    1. It's a new phone not a phone that's been out for 6 months.
    2. It's specs are pretty much better than any other phone
    3. I costs the same as the Droid Charge and $50 than the HTC Thunderbolt when it came out. (with a 2-yr contract)

    The "Full Retail Price" might be the "most expensive" but with all the deals for this phone people can find with a 2-yr contrac,t how can people complain about the price?? Verizon hasn't just came up with these prices, we all have paid the same price before for the latest and greatest.

    And just FYI, if i had the money to pay full retail or if I was due for an upgrade, I'd definitely get the phone. Like others I've been waiting since January too.
    -Rome
    iday25
  • RE: Droid Bionic: Most expensive Droid yet (review)

    I'm getting tired of these reviewers reaching around their back-sides to poo-poo bionic. It doesn't cost any more than iphone 4 did, so why moan about it?

    http://cellphones.about.com/od/wheretobuy/f/how-much-does-iphone-4-cost.htm

    I paid $269 with a lotyalty discount and I kept my unlimited data plan.
    javaprog
    • RE: Droid Bionic: Most expensive Droid yet (review)

      @javaprog Agreed - Not to mention you're paying close to $100 a mo (or $2400 over 2 yrs) for your phone plan anyway, so is an extra $50-$100 really a deal breaker?
      Bruce Banter
    • RE: Droid Bionic: Most expensive Droid yet (review)

      @javaprog And you can always find a better deal than Verizon. I just picked it up from here for $279 with an extra battery and charge, docking station, window mount, and car charger.

      http://membershipwireless.com/index.cfm/go/shop/do/PhoneDetails/productId/4751/utm_source/internal/utm_medium/feature3/utm_campaign/Bionic
      Otakulad
      • RE: Droid Bionic: Most expensive Droid yet (review)

        @Otakulad WOW! <br><br>I got abused... I got a bluetooth keyboard, the $35 webtop adaptor and an hdmi cable too. Suffice to say that I approached $400 by the time I got out of there. They did give a 25% discount on 3 or more accessories. Oh well, no regrets.<br><br>By the way:<br><br>The Motorola bluetooth keyboard for Android devices (like XOOM) works perfectly with this phone. It is a slick piece of hardware and it has many hot keys that all... just work.
        javaprog
  • Autofocus speed

    I just picked this up yesterday & am thrilled with it. Not sure what you guys are talking about with the autofocus speed, I literally just snapped some photos in my office & it focused in milliseconds - much faster than my point and shoot digital camera.

    The video camera is top notch & the LED makes it plenty bright to shoot videos at night.

    Processor & ram are super fast, no lag whatsoever on anything so far. I've mostly been on wifi since I got it so I haven't had a chance to test the 4G speed yet.

    its 9:41 AM and I've had the phone powered on without being recharged since about 5 pm yesterday, and I'm at 50% battery. Again this is probably due to being on wifi for the most part.

    I downloaded the HBO GO app and was very impressed with the video quality.

    No regrets paying $250 for this phone (the actual price if your upgrading as an existing VZW customer)
    Bruce Banter
  • RE: Droid Bionic: Most expensive Droid yet (review)

    @James
    Thanks for the edit and yeah I guess because this is my first android phone I didn't know that this is a common issue. If that's the case then this is an OS issue and not a device issue - correct? I've seen even a Win7 phone with better focus performance that my bionic. I notice that theis even worse if you try to focus on something that is close-up. I found setting it to macro focus instead (thats the flower) reduces the focus time - @Bruce focusing is slow. I must say though regardless of that the phone is fast, very fast especially web browsing when connected @ 4G speed - which I am in the range of @home but not @work ??? go figure.
    SomeITDude
    • RE: Droid Bionic: Most expensive Droid yet (review)

      @sperrytop@... I believe it's the camera app being used, as some phones don't exhibit the issue while others do on very similar h/w and OS level.
      JamesKendrick
  • RE: Droid Bionic: Most expensive Droid yet (review)

    I was getting 3-5 secinds per shot with the camera. The results were good, with white balance shading to the cool side. Then I got brave and tried the different scene modes... like Sport and Steady Hand. How about that... sub-second shots!

    Maybe you guys should use the phone before you dis the phone.
    javaprog
    • RE: Droid Bionic: Most expensive Droid yet (review)

      @javaprog
      I'm not dissin the phone I like it very much so far but what I'm saying is that for a state of the art piece of hardware why is that my 2 1/2yr old 5MP phone auto focus much fater than it in any mode. It shouldn't don't you agree?
      SomeITDude
    • RE: Droid Bionic: Most expensive Droid yet (review)

      @javaprog
      I'm not dissin the phone I like it so far but my decision isn't final on it as of yet too soon to tell. But I stand firm in my findings that my 2 1/2yr old 5MP phone auto focuses faster than my bionic under any setting and I don't think that should be the case for this state of the art piece of hardware. Don't you agree?
      SomeITDude
      • RE: Droid Bionic: Most expensive Droid yet (review)

        @sperrytop@... If you say you have compared them in every mode and you still prefer the results and usability of your ?? I believe you. I imagine the difference is relatively insignificant but I have nothing to base that opinion on. There are trade-offs between every different device on the market.

        Does this phone take better video?
        Is this phone better on low light?
        Is 8MP or 1080p important to you?
        Is a 1 second slower camera going to make a real difference in your quality of life?
        javaprog
  • RE: Droid Bionic: Most expensive Droid yet (review)

    Another thing to keep in mind is that Google just bought MotoMobile. That pretty much means that IC will come out for this phone first I was think.
    Otakulad
  • &quot;but there is nothing special enough to justify the $300 price tag&quot;

    Let's see:<br>1 - The obvious: First dual core Verizon LTE phone, ever<br>2 - It does everything the same priced iphone does (is iphone not worth $300?)<br>3 - WebTop capability (some will use it, and it is a standout technology)<br>4 - Its not an iphone
    javaprog
  • RE: Droid Bionic: Most expensive Droid yet (review)

    Which Android phone actually works best as a phone? Motorola used to have the reputation of having the best radios in their phone, is there somebody who has better quality phone connections?

    Thanks, and, I appreciate the review
    dave_a
  • RE: Droid Bionic: Most expensive Droid yet (review)

    How much do you think it cost Motorola to make one of these Bionics? I just read that it cost $188 per iPhone for apple. Just curious.

    Thank you
    illmatic636