As Motorola Mobility is prepping itself for a merger with Google (pending approval, of course), the mobile device maker is expanding its Droid series with an anticipated new release this week: the Droid Bionic.
Up front, the most obvious way that Motorola is raising the bar with this Android 2.3-based smartphone is with the price tag, which is set at a whopping $299.99 with the signing of a two-year service agreement with Verizon Wireless. Oh, and don't forget about the requirement to sign up for a minimum $39.99 monthly talk plan and data packages starting at $30 for 2GB of coverage.
There are a few ways to get that price back down to the average cost for a mobile phone with 16GB of onboard memory (i.e. $199.99), which includes a promotion for feature phone owners who want to upgrade. They'll get a $100 gift card towards the purchase of this device. Additionally, there is a deal on one of the accessories. Anyone who buys a Lapdock (which looks and operates very similarly like the one for the Motorola Atrix), will receive a $100 mail-in rebate when he or she subscribes to a $50 5GB data plan or higher.
Although, that Lapdock is $299.97 on its own. It's a fair price to pay if you're interested in using your smartphone to stand-in for a netbook or even a laptop depending on your computing needs. Of course, if you're going to be using a Lapdock, you'll probably need a 5GB data plan or higher to account for browsing, accessing Citrix Receiver to edit PowerPoint presentations, accessing remote files using Motorola's ZumoCast semi-cloud app, and streaming movies from Netflix.
The 4G-ready Droid Bionic is an impressive handheld device with dual-core 1GHz processors, 1GB of RAM, a 4.3-inch qHD Corning Gorilla Glass display, and a rear 8-megapixel autofocus camera that can shoot 1080p videos. Additionally, business and enterprise-minded users can utilize the Droid Bionic as a 3G/4G mobile hotspot while connecting up to five Wi-Fi-enabled devices, along with SD card encryption and Citrix GoToMeeting video conferencing using the front-facing camera that is supported over 4G, 3G and Wi-Fi.
There are also a bevy of accessories that can keep users productive while on-the-go, including the aforementioned Lapdock, as well as a vehicle navigation dock that comes in hand with Verizon's VZ Navigator and GPS functionality, an HD docking station with ports for attaching speakers and displays (as seen with the Atrix and the Motorola Photon 4G) as well as a simpler (and cheaper) Webtop adapter that does the same job as the HD Docking Station to connect the phone to a larger display, but without all the fancy ports for speakers and connecting wirelessly to Bluetooth-enabled accessories.
However, customers will have a few reservations before buying this device. Understandably, the pricing is the most obvious as this is one of the most expensive smartphones on the market as of this Thursday. Additionally, it will be hard to justify paying that cost depending on the battery life.
We all know by now that 4G activity is a major battery drainer for smartphones, MiFis and the lot of them that use LTE connectivity. On average, you can consider yourself lucky if you can squeeze up to six hours of battery life when browsing actively, which isn't really that much if you're using this for work.
When I asked Verizon reps about the battery life, the only specific time frames I learned were that the Droid Bionic's removable battery can last up to 650 minutes of talk time and 200 hours on standby when on 4G mode. However, when I asked about browsing, streaming and more, Verizon was reluctant to give any more specific numbers, citing that customers use their smartphones for a large variety of different purposes.
I don't think that answer is good enough, and consumers shouldn't either. It's an easy way to cover up that there's a problem with the battery life. If the battery life was decent, then the makers would be boasting about it.
There are ways to conserve the Droid Bionic's battery life. Users can opt to drop down to 3G connections when they want, and there are some options in the Settings menu. Additionally, Verizon and Motorola are selling an extra battery with a docking station that can charge both the extra battery and the Droid Bionic simultaneously for $49.99. After the device is available, we might see soon how necessary that extra battery purchase could be.
Check back for our hands-on review with the Motorola Droid Bionic later this week!