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Motorola PHOTON 4G Review

Motorola PHOTON 4G 9

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Interface and Software:

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.

The interface of the Motorola Photon 4G - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
The interface of the Motorola Photon 4G - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
The interface of the Motorola Photon 4G - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
The interface of the Motorola Photon 4G - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review

The interface of the Motorola Photon 4G


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.

Dialer - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
Contacts - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
Messaging - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
Motorola PHOTON 4G Review

Dialer

Contacts

Messaging

 

On-screen keyboards - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
On-screen keyboards - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review

On-screen keyboards


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.

Social Networking app - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
SprintID - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
Quadrant Standard - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review

Social Networking app

SprintID

Quadrant Standard



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. 

Web browsing with the Motorola Photon 4G - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
Web browsing with the Motorola Photon 4G - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
Web browsing with the Motorola Photon 4G - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review

Web browsing with the Motorola Photon 4G


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.


Camera:

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.

Camera interface - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
Camera interface - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review

Camera interface


Outdoor samples made with the Motorola Photon 4G - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
Outdoor samples made with the Motorola Photon 4G - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
Outdoor samples made with the Motorola Photon 4G - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
Outdoor samples made with the Motorola Photon 4G - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
Outdoor samples made with the Motorola Photon 4G - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
Outdoor samples made with the Motorola Photon 4G - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
Outdoor samples made with the Motorola Photon 4G - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
Outdoor samples made with the Motorola Photon 4G - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review

Outdoor samples made with the Motorola Photon 4G


Strong - Indoor samples - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
Medium - Indoor samples - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
Low light - Indoor samples - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review
Darkness with flash - Indoor samples - Motorola PHOTON 4G Review

Strong

Medium

Low light

Darkness with flash

Indoor samples



Motorola Photon 4G Sample Video:




Multimedia:

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.

68 Comments
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posted on 01 Aug 2011, 06:41 15

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.

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 07:25 8

6. Sniggly (Posts: 7305; Member since: 05 Dec 2009)


The DROID X got a 9.5 last year.

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 11:24 11

17. Thump3rDX17 (Posts: 2160; Member since: 10 May 2010)


shh shhh...let him come to us.

posted on 02 Aug 2011, 07:11 1

32. The_Miz (Posts: 1496; Member since: 06 Apr 2011)


So did the iPhone 4. What's your point?

posted on 02 Aug 2011, 10:07 4

34. Thump3rDX17 (Posts: 2160; Member since: 10 May 2010)


that Motorola made a phone on Apple's level before.

posted on 05 Aug 2011, 12:14 4

41. JayQ330 (Posts: 60; 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**

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 11:53 7

19. snowgator (Posts: 3601; Member since: 19 Jan 2011)


That was both respectful and unexpected. Thanks for the open mind, Miz.

posted on 02 Aug 2011, 07:12 2

33. The_Miz (Posts: 1496; Member since: 06 Apr 2011)


i give credit where credit is due.

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 12:57 3

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

posted on 30 Aug 2011, 14:55 2

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....................

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 06:51

2. Deacz (unregistered)


Yea maybe not since its a Motorola and that = horrible customer support. Slow updates on the software.

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 08:05 5

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.

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 07:06 2

3. Immolate (Posts: 310; 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?

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 07:12 3

4. xenover (Posts: 174; 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.

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 07:24 8

5. Sniggly (Posts: 7305; 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?

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 09:47 3

12. remixfa (Posts: 14255; 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. :)

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 10:34 2

14. ngo2dd (Posts: 896; 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?

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 15:12 4

24. Immolate (Posts: 310; 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.

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 21:34 1

29. ngo2dd (Posts: 896; 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.

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 19:37 1

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!

posted on 15 Aug 2011, 16:24 2

50. JayQ330 (Posts: 60; 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.

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 07:34

7. Irad123 (Posts: 32; 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

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 08:07

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.

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 09:07 3

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.

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 10:45

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

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 09:26 1

11. Synack (Posts: 677; 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.

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 10:32 1

13. ngo2dd (Posts: 896; Member since: 08 Jul 2011)


wow you can say that about any phone

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 12:17

21. kstagg (Posts: 7; Member since: 04 Jul 2011)


What about Outlook Exchange Support? Worldphone capabilities? Yeah, you really thought that comment out.

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 11:05

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.

posted on 01 Aug 2011, 11:34 2

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.

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Display4.3 inches, 540 x 960 pixels (256 ppi)
Camera8 megapixels
Hardware
NVIDIA Tegra 2, Dual-core, 1000 MHz
1 GB RAM
Size5.00 x 2.63 x 0.48 inches
(126.9 x 66.9 x 12.2 mm)
5.57 oz  (158 g)
Battery1700 mAh, 10 hours talk time

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