Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
When we did our unboxing of the Motorola Photon 4G we mentioned that it featured SprintID but otherwise was stock Android (as previous SprintID devices have been.) We jumped the gun on that though, as the Photon 4G definitely runs Motorola’s customized version of Android. This isn’t quite Blur, but the widgets and icons are taken straight from what we’ve seen from Motorola in the past. They have their own style for sure, love it or hate it.
There isn’t anything too different about what Motorola has done with the software. The dock has 4 icons, 3 of which are user customizable with the fourth being the app drawer. In there the apps can be grouped into pre-existing or customized groups. There is also a static link to the Market while the app drawer is open. There are seven homescreens with the familiar Motorola widgets available, and they can be viewed in a consolidated view (like we originally saw in Sense) by double tapping home. Unfortunately there has been no customization to the notification drawer like we have seen from Samsung and HTC.
We’ve seen an effort by Sprint to reduce bloatware on phones, and not only is there very little on the Photon 4G but most of what is there is uninstallable. Motorola has added some of their own apps like a task pad, task manager and their familiar Social Networking app. There is a generous 2GB available for app storage.
SprintID allows the user to download alternative ID pack themes which replaces the wallpaper, installs pack-specific apps and sounds. It isn’t a bad product for lower-level devices that play to a less tech-savvy crowd, but we have a feeling most Photon 4G buyers won’t be installing too many IDs.
The Photon usually flies through whatever you throw at it, and Quadrant Standard scores were pushing 2700 which is pretty good. Benchmarks aren’t the be all and end all though, and every now and again it hung up, and while we can’t quite put our finger on why but it feels like the phone should be faster. Maybe it’s just the enormous expectations from a device like this, but it isn’t as buttery smooth as we usually see from top-tier devices like this. We’re admittedly picky though, so chances are most people won’t notice these small hiccups.
Connectivity and Internet:
The Motorola Photon 4G is one of only a handful of Android world phones, and the first available from Sprint. Throw in 4G data speeds over Sprint’s WiMAX network and the Photon 4G is arguably the most connected phone ever made. Other standards like Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR and GPS are along for the ride as well.
The browser is extremely quick, maybe one of the best stock browsers we have ever used. Double tap to zoom works exactly how it should and pinching is very fluid. We didn’t having any problems loading complex pages, and being Android it handles Flash content just fine.
Though we didn’t have one to use, the Photon 4G supports the Motorola Webtop dock that we saw with the Atrix 4G which turns the phone into a pseudo-laptop. It is also compatible with Motorola’s HD dock.
Motorola Photon 4G’s 8-megapixel camera performed very well, especially in strong light. Details were crisp, color reproduction was accurate. We were particularly impressed with the macro shots the Photon 4G produced. The dual LED flash performed about as well as you can expect from a cell phone but has a tendency to wash out close subjects. Keeping with Motorola tradition the controls are very limited, but thankfully the camera produces images just fine on its own. The camcorder does quite well also, recording at a max resolution of 720p. We would have liked seeing 1080p though.
Motorola Photon 4G Sample Video:
Motorola’s music player is a step up from the standard Android player. It integrates your music, podcasts, internet radio and FM. The integration is nice but unfortunately it does not work with Google Music Beta, so if you’re using that (or the Amazon MP3 store) you’ll need to use those other options. It handled all of the various formats and sizes of movies we threw at it. With the Tegra 2 dual core processor the Photon 4G is capable of 1080p video playback. The Photon 4G supports DLNA, enabling you to stream all of those videos to other compatible devices around your home. If your TV doesn’t support the wireless standard don’t worry, you can use the micro HDMI port to connect to your HDTV.
1. The_Miz (Posts: 1496; Member since: 06 Apr 2011)
Wow, an Android phone that may actually be worth owning and *GASP* it's made by Motorola.
34. Thump3rDX17 (Posts: 2160; Member since: 10 May 2010)
that Motorola made a phone on Apple's level before.
41. JayQ330 (Posts: 13; Member since: 15 Jul 2011)
uh oh, here comes iphone man! always ready to throw iphone into the mix. even when a comment has nothing to do with the iphone! your a hero to all fanboys all over the nation mr.The_Miz... **smh**
19. snowgator (Posts: 3149; Member since: 19 Jan 2011)
That was both respectful and unexpected. Thanks for the open mind, Miz.
23. rican (Posts: 132; Member since: 02 Jul 2011)
i played with phone today and its by far the best phone ive ever played with. its smooth and very very well built, ive never liked blur but launcherpro fixes that, i would get this over the 3d anyday but im still waiting on the galaxy s
71. jake (unregistered)
I fail to see your excitement over any apple phone. I looked at the iphone4 and came to the conculsion that it was really just an ipod touch, both incapable of making calls. I suspect the iphone5 will remain the same dimensions and the "big" improvement will be that the phone will actually be able to make calls....................
2. Deacz (unregistered)
Yea maybe not since its a Motorola and that = horrible customer support. Slow updates on the software.
8. KingK (unregistered)
Actually they have quick software updates just depends on the carrier. Verizon is always fast with theirs for Droids.
You must be in some non-US country to complain.
3. Immolate (Posts: 239; Member since: 17 Jun 2011)
A 9? Wow. It doesn't look that impressive from the specs. Doesn't even do 1080p. Are we prepping the battlefield so that you can give the iPhone 5 a 10 in the event that its numbers aren't cutting edge?
4. xenover (Posts: 171; Member since: 27 May 2011)
I'd give it a 8.5 for 720p video recording. An 8 mpx camera SHOULD be able to do it not to mention it has a dual-core processor.
5. Sniggly (Posts: 6400; Member since: 05 Dec 2009)
What do you want to bet that the 1080p recording will come in a software update like it did for the Atrix?
12. remixfa (Posts: 13901; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)
it probably will, but at this stage in the game it shouldnt be an Update. Especially since its so far after the Atrix and that has already gotten the update.
That said, I like the way the phone looks.. just enough to be different without looking nutty.
BTW, the kickstand issue is easily fixed, u had the phone upside down on the kickstand.. it actually goes the other way. :)
14. ngo2dd (Posts: 755; Member since: 08 Jul 2011)
with a 4.3 screen you will not tell the different between 720p and 1080p. 720p on a DSLR will a 100x person then one on a camera phone. So what is the point of having some like that?
24. Immolate (Posts: 239; Member since: 17 Jun 2011)
HDMI mirroring to your HDTV will take advantage of 1080p. Agreed it's a small thing, but curious for a beasty phone from a manufacturer that has shipped many models with 1080p.
29. ngo2dd (Posts: 755; Member since: 08 Jul 2011)
You better have a TV better then 32 in. HD recording suck big time compare to real camera. My friend DSLR take great look 720p video and I will put money that his 720p video is better then any 1080p video on a camera phone.
27. megamrambo (Posts: 37; Member since: 19 Jul 2010)
Most average consumers do not know the Difference between HD and Full HD. All they car about is the HD. That is where phonearena is coning in at. And if the quality of the HD video is good then who cares. It actually works fine then!
50. JayQ330 (Posts: 13; Member since: 15 Jul 2011)
most phones with 1080p recording are always recording @ 30fps but its always stuttering & jumpy,detail in the background are always grainy & shows alot of noise in complex detailing like tree leaves & buildings *bricks* it turns out to be a gimmick & can be seen in recordings in youtube to see what i mean, cars pass by too fast for the recording to catch the video in every frame you get a frame skipping effect. try & find the youtube videos with the options of "1080p & original format" for those that would say its youtubes compression that degrades the video. also those DLNA & MHL connections with HD video output can only do 720p output so dont expect to watch 1080p videos from your phone unless you have a micro HDMI port. heres where it gets interesting for those that say *720p! they better catch up!* do some research & youll notice that the upscaling of 720p *which is a higher resolution than DVD format* & dvd are just as good as original 1080p depending on the upscaling software or hardware. so when recording @ 720p you dont get any frame skipping or stuttering nor any shaking effect,because the hardware & dualcore cpu's can actually handle the 720p's lower bandwidth processing & with the upscaling you get with the photon it turns out to be better than the 1080p that you get from these phones that stress out there hardware to levels that it cant sufficiently reach for 1080p thats worth recording. and of course most people fall for these gimmicks because they sound good & companies will put features that phones cant do properly,*gimmick* (3D isn't a gimmick!) they just want your money so why not? consider what i said & realize not only do you save battery,storage & get better video recording quality & detail..but you also have a company that actually cares about their reputation & there customers. build quality is always on the top list of motorola phones & were the only other phone makers besides nokia to use real xenon flash for there camera's although theyre both switching to the dual led setup.look back threw moto's past phones & youll see innovation,the moto razr was the first mobile phone to be a "fashion gadget" before iphone ever thought of thin,aluminum & glass, motorola had it & look at there smartphones...the only ones with built in touchpads & fingerprint scanners for unlocking your phone with security in a single swipe. sometimes there innovations are crazy but at least they try,the 1 year old *maybe older* atrix still has specs that are just being used on the latest super phones & even at that they dont use security & ease of fingerprint scanning for unlocking with password in a single swipe. i give motorola respect for being there from the beginning & after all this time they kept up with innovation.
7. Irad123 (Posts: 31; Member since: 01 Aug 2011)
A great phone. would've got it if it wasn't for my atrix, which is not that fast as the photon
9. sniperace (Posts: 95; Member since: 20 Aug 2009)
News flash great phone ,but it only has 8 gigs of internal storage. How do you review a phone and not even check? and only 2 of the gigs can be used for storing apps.but still a good phone.
10. miikeyroks11 (unregistered)
As an owner of the phone is is still 16gbs of storage, but like every other smartphone with internal storage not all of it is user available- my Photon has 8.92 gigs of internal storage for media plus 2.9 gigs of app storage- so in all reality there is 11.82 gigs available to the user after all the UI customizations.
15. annonymous (unregistered)
it has 16 gigs, but 8 are dedicated to the phone and 8 for storage. of those 8 for the phone, 2 are for apps
11. Synack (Posts: 632; Member since: 05 Jul 2011)
If this phone came out with a single core processor, nobody would even look at it. That's how unimportant this phone almost is.
21. kstagg (Posts: 7; Member since: 04 Jul 2011)
What about Outlook Exchange Support? Worldphone capabilities? Yeah, you really thought that comment out.
16. theBankRobber (unregistered)
It's a very nice phone, I also like the fact I can use the webtop dock which at the Sprint store was fantastic. It looked like a Windows setup, it had a box you could minimize and full screen that is just the Android homescreen, and the rest of the screen was setup for whatever else like the web browsing. Really looked like a Windows OS setup, very nice in my eyes. The phone felt very solid and since you can pair the wiimote to the phone without root or changing the Rom is a deff plus in my book. But sadly I still have to wait until November for my next damn upgrade. Well enjoy the phone.
18. Thump3rDX17 (Posts: 2160; Member since: 10 May 2010)
obviously this thing is faster than an EVO 3D but as far as the smoothness they exhibit the EVO 3D does win on that one luckily because it seems the Photon didn't get the extensive version of the Applications Platform that the Droid 3 has. my Droid 3 feels just as smooth as a EVO 3D and it puts out better benchmarks. why Motorola didn't put the more updated interface on the Photon i don't know, maybe it's a Tegra II issue. maybe it's a Verizon thing, i don't know but it's an injustice.
22. roddeyp (unregistered)
I have the phonton and i love it...
25. ILikeBubbles (Posts: 278; Member since: 17 Jan 2011)
My question here is isn't the Photon supposed to be Sprint's version of the Bionic? if so i wonder how this will impact that release... my boyfriend desperately needs to replace his Droid X as it's been constantly plaguing him with random reboots.... i WANT so badly to get him the Motorola Bionic but i'm incredibly hesitant. What do you guys thing?
26. Sniggly (Posts: 6400; Member since: 05 Dec 2009)
Wait, you're a girl?
Relax guys, she's only fourteen. Dirty pedos.
Anyway, it depends on whether Sprint works well in your area and whether you're okay with not getting the absolute fastest data speeds available on any wireless network. If those aren't deal breakers for you, the Photon will work fine. Heck, if screen size doesn't matter to you, you could even get the Atrix right now and save a hundred bucks while you're at it. But then there's the question of whether you are okay with AT&T. If you are, and if you're okay with the smaller size and 5 mp camera, then the Atrix is a great buy as well.
28. Thump3rDX17 (Posts: 2160; Member since: 10 May 2010)
for all we know the Bionic could be coming out with a 1.5GHz OMAP4440 after all this time. Samsung is supposedly bumping Exynos to 1.4GHz in their Galaxy S II around the same time frame so it would make sense that Moto would want to stand up to that with such an upgrade.
30. Henrick (unregistered)
The Samsung Galaxy SII continue to be the best Smartphone out there & I´m sure not even the upcoming Iphone 5 will surpass it.
A very difficult handset to beat.
I own one very proud.
31. MTSMega (Posts: 9; Member since: 18 Jul 2011)
This phone normal. Very large internal memory 16gb
35. RORYREVOLUTION (Posts: 2842; Member since: 12 Jan 2010)
Even with 1gb of RAM its still petty laggy. This thing would be a beast if it was running stock android.
36. Dr.Peanut (unregistered)
I would prefer this over the EVO 3D if it did not have that pentile display. This would be a much better phone if they used the same qHD displays that HTC uses.
37. gallitoking (Posts: 4630; Member since: 17 May 2011)
Is the only phone in the Sprint line up that would love to get... and no surprise.. is from Moto....
38. biscutbob (Posts: 82; Member since: 08 Jul 2011)
This phone looks super badass. It should pull a lot of attention to sprint.
39. Illusionist (unregistered)
i wonder why all present smart phones are tending to have the same shape,colors and look??
without the logos of manufacturers, they are the same!!
40. MotoDango (Posts: 1; Member since: 04 Aug 2011)
Respectfully, the Con "Awkward microUSB port placement" in the review is inaccurate. The phone kickstand is made to allow the phone to be placed on EITHER side. The phone will flip the display either way. So, you can have it freestanding and connect to the charger at the same time.
42. JayQ330 (Posts: 13; Member since: 15 Jul 2011)
i have to say that in the back of the photon 4G's box it says that the phone uses sprint's 800/1900 mhz network & im getting reception where i wouldnt with my evo 3D *ex evo 3D* & even my t-mobile vibrant...even the evo 3D while on roaming on verizon's 800 mhz channel i would only get 2 bars in the concrete & glass building im living in now. now i get a full 6 bars where i would roam or get no service/signal at all...in the 3rd floor of my building i get all 6 bars as well! i wouldnt even be able to roam off verizon's service in that area because there was too much concrete in the walls,i can get 4 bars in the basement with the photon!. the building i live in is a 30 story tower which i stress because i wouldnt get signal at all, no one could! but this phone does & it does with all 6 bars which is crazy, im sure it cant be just a "good antenna" even if it was such a good antenna im sure that the 1900 mhz wouldnt penetrate threw because the closest i use to get to service was roaming & that was on the 1st floor only,not the 3rd floor where i now get all 6 bars. could it be that the sprint 800mhz SMR frequency is already in use? the box says so in the back fineprint that it uses sprints 800 & 1900 mhz as i said before. can it be smr? or is smr still i know the evo 3D will start using it in a couple of months, but motorola still owns i believe it is 24% or 48% of nextel, so maybe theyre using there iden channel before anyone else? also i remember with my nextel phone years back you would get the echo effect that everyone hated allot, well i experienced that today...alot of things are pointing to smr. anyone have same experience post it up i want to compare.
43. UncleD (unregistered)
After this site's horrible review of the Palm Pre and perceived (mine) iOS bias, I find all your comments (pros & cons) more useful for this phone. I'm dying slowly with the Pre, and need to make the jump to Android. I'm premium Sprint & have the $$ off on a new phone annually. Mostly business user - calls & email - but look forward to some apps. Would you pick up the Photon now or suffer a bit more with the Pre waiting an unknown amount of time for the S-II?? Staying with Sprint, so no other option. Thanks for your input.
44. thatoneguy.... (unregistered)
used both phone and i got to say this is a good phone but not worth it giving up my 3d.
46. mj (unregistered)
I think the word you used about Sense 3.0 was "buttery." It sure is, and I really wanted an HTC phone for that. But, no single phone on the market today has everything I want, and the fact that I can travel overseas with the Photon was the tipping point. I'm really surprised you don't mention the fact that this is a world phone in your list of "Pros." This is really a huge plus for Sprint customers, and for people thinking of switching.
47. QWIKSTRIKE (Posts: 778; Member since: 09 Mar 2010)
I had the EVO 3D and the antenna signal sucked. In mid town Manhattan I got 1-2 bars, and that's when I knew there are phone issues. I took it back for the Photon because I need a phone to make, and receive calls on! Sense is way better than Blur, but I can live with it and launcher pro helps. Out side of 3D and Sense the photon is definitely a great phone. If antenna signal is an issue do not hesitate to get this phone unless you can wait for the Galaxy S2. EVO 3 D has Sense, and 3D viewing, weak speaker and volume. The Photon IMHO has better picture quality, way better antenna signal, a screen you can view from all angles, a stronger speaker with better volume. The EVO 3D is much smoother with sense, but seems to me that the rotation from landscape to portrait is smoother with the Photon. Blur will take time to get used to but a working phone supersedes smoke and mirror 3D. IMHO the 3D needs to be polished on the EVO and to trade up from the EVO 4G is a waste unless the 4G is broke. The EVO 4G has a wider screen, and better antenna signal, but is not as fast duh....it's older and should be slower......but my EVO worked better than MY 3D.......so I kicked the 3D to the curb. Sprint recognizes that there is an antenna issue just like many of the very first reviewers have made reference to....shame on you Sprint for ruining my experience with a faulty phone!
48. BadAssAbe (Posts: 434; Member since: 22 Apr 2011)
Will I be able to use this phone on ATT 3G network, as is?
51. Cell Phone Reviews (unregistered)
nice info.... my blog
52. yungmel0 (Posts: 25; Member since: 18 Jun 2011)
Today was the my first day with the device and i must say im in love with it!!!! I switched from the EVO 3D due to the headaches from the pictures or videos i took personally. Other than that i would of kept the EVO. I hate that i couldnt enjoy the 3D unless it was on a movie or a video game. I must say the pics that I took that didn't give me headaches was amazing. From a personal stand point I like how well the Photon 4G responds. its just as fast if not faster than the EVO. I would prefer SENSE over the MotoBlur/GhostBlur but its still a powerful and fast phone. I downloaded LauncherPro and that pretty much took care of all of that. While the phones stack up quite evenly on everyday use the Photon performs nicely. As for looks, When i whip out the Photon its attracts way more attention. People often call it a "Diamond phone". Im still downloading all the apps i previously had and am bringing the phone up to speed. I'm looking forward to buying all the accessories (Laptop Dock, HD Dock, Wireless Keyboard). With the functionally of the phone itself and all the upcoming accessories Im feeling like i made the right choice when turning my EVO 3D in.
54. abdulwahab (unregistered)
i would like to see a test for the (video recorder) and also (voice recorder) by record a sample from any song inside the car , and volume up the voice then volume down ,, to see the quality of the sound , many people like to record their favourite moments in the clubs :P , when they see what they recorded the sounds like s**t ,, i think the iphone is the best for recording videos and also voice ,, best quality of sound ...
57. photonuser (unregistered)
Well.. I got my Photon yesterday, and am not happy about the Muted Call issue.
A lot of people are having problems with trying to make a call, and neither person on either end of the call can hear anything. The call connects (and charges your minutes) but it's useless for talking. The fix is to pull the battery and reset the phone.
I talked with Sprint about this, and they admit the problem, but they say this is not a defect. DO WHAT???? The damn thing doesn't work for the main intended purpose.. MAKING CALLS... THAT is a defect.
Supposedly, a fix is being worked on, but Sprint and Motorola are being quiet about it, and when it will be released...
Otherwise, it blows my Droid X outta the water... but what good is a phone that you have to reboot ot make a call with?
58. photonuser (unregistered)
Oh... one added thing... running the phone on 4G all the time will kill your battery in a mattter of a couple hours.. Turn off the 4G and the battery seems to do really well. I've gotten to where I only turn on 4G when I need to get something off the web quick and don't have time to wait.
67. Chevy (unregistered)
I'll be waiting for ATRIX sequel.. It was damn handset cons for blur and locked bootloader. I find the finger print reader very innovative as no handsets has used this..
Moto Rocks... Samsungs are better but not better than the best of Moto..
77. paxmossss (unregistered)
Unfortunately, it is on Sprint.
82. Raki (unregistered)
83. cellularseller (Posts: 2; Member since: 07 Sep 2011)
i love my motorola photon. i had the htc evo 3d for 5 weeks before i got my photon, and needless to say, i am much more satisfied with my photon!
84. cellularseller (Posts: 2; Member since: 07 Sep 2011)
and the battery life is FAR MORE SUPERB than the htc evo, evo 3d, evo shift, samsung epic, or any other android out there. thank you motorola!!!