Motorola DROID 3 vs HTC ThunderBolt

Introduction and Design

In a battle for the good fight, Verizon’s lineup is stacked to the brim with some quality Android smartphones that encompass every bit of the spectrum – so whether it’s data speed or processing power that you’re concerned about most, they have you fully covered. Naturally, the HTC ThunderBolt has been riding the wave of success as being the carrier’s very first 4G LTE enabled smartphone, but with anything technology related, its top tiered status will naturally dissipate over time. With that knowledge, the Motorola DROID 3 is coming from out of the shadows to take back the spotlight and shine it on the beloved original DROID line once again. So who’s going to come out on top with this one?


On the surface, the two appear to be quite similar with their conventional slate looks – albeit, the DROID 3 takes the QWERTY landscape sliding form factor. In all honestly, their industrial designs don’t come off as being drastically different from the crop, but the ThunderBolt feels considerably better to hold in the hand due to its rounded corners and curved edges. At the same time, we definitely enjoy their metallic like casings that are complemented tremendously with their soft touch coated rears, which enables them to look fairly clean at all times. Their overall size might be almost identical, but it’s impressive to find the DROID 3 actually sporting the thinner frame at 0.5” thick – especially when it’s packing a spacious landscape keyboard. Nevertheless, there isn’t any particular one that unanimously manages to capture our attention since they use the same solid construction and cookie cutter designs.

Rightfully so, the DROID 3’s display exhibits more detail thanks partly to its 4” qHD (540 x 960) display, which results in higher pixel density than the ThunderBolt’s 4.3” WVGA (480 x 800) Super LCD panel. Nevertheless, we’re accepting of their sharp details that allow fine text to be more than visible to the eye. However, we prefer the ThunderBolt’s color production since it’s able to pump out the more vibrant colors tones between the two. Just by a smidgen more, it’s evident that the DROID 3’s overall brightness output is stronger – though, we’re still finding ourselves shielding both devices outdoors with the sun around.

With its graspable lip, we pretty much have no issues in accidentally pressing the usual set of Android capacitive buttons on the DROID 3. On the other hand, we still find ourselves doing just that with the ThunderBolt since they’re positioned close to the edge.

As a whole, the DROID 3 utilizes prominent power key and volume rocker – but we’re not fans of their stiff response. Conversely, the ThunderBolt’s physical buttons are rather flat in stature, but at least they produce a better tactile feel when pressed.

Increasingly becoming prominent amongst top-end smartphones, we find the Motorola DROID 3’s microHDMI port especially gratifying seeing that it allows for quick and easy sharing of multimedia content – not to mention offering that ever so useful mirrored experience. Sadly, the ThunderBolt lacks this one particular element to shine its overall allure. Maybe next time around?

Some commonalities between the two include their front-facing cameras for video chat and taking those illustrious self-portraits, microUSB ports for charging and data connectivity, microSD card slots, and 3.5mm headset jacks.

Photo enthusiast will undoubtedly like the fact that the two smartphones feature 8-megapixel auto-focus cameras in the rear. However, the ThunderBolt complements things with a dual-LED flash as opposed to the single one on the DROID 3.

Blatantly, the two handsets deliver their own unique characteristics to separate them from one another. Specifically, text messengers will truly adore the spacious and absolutely useful physical keyboard of the Motorola DROID 3. And in fact, we still can’t stop throwing Motorola with adulation for refining its iconic looking keyboard! Oppositely, the HTC ThunderBolt enchants movie buffs with the aid of its flip out kickstand – giving us that hands-free experience while watching some of our favorite flicks. Sure it can keep the ThunderBolt up, but seeing that the DROID 3 has some sharp edges, we’re able to prop it upright on its side as well.

Motorola DROID 3 360-degrees View:

HTC ThunderBolt 360-degrees View:

Interface and Functionality:

Dreaming is one way of going about it, but we still can’t have it all with our smartphones, which is true as we meticulously look under the hood of both device. In the past, the HTC ThunderBolt’s single-core 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor was able to command the upper echelon of the spectrum, but now it’s merely perceived to be nothing more than a mid-range offering. Needless to say, it’s brazenly obvious that the Motorola DROID 3’s shiny new dual-core 1GHz TI OMAP processor garners a lot of respect amongst its brethren. Even though the two are fully equipped in navigating their homescreens with graphically intensive live wallpapers activated, the DROID 3 offers a tighter response with its performance. And  honestly, it shows off its raw power even more when various transition and 3D effects are in play throughout its interface. Regardless, you still can’t count out the ThunderBolt because it’s able to dish up a fine experience on its own.

Granted that it’s not sporting the most up-to-date version, the HTC Sense UI running on the ThunderBolt continues to feel like the more complete experience between the two. Actually, we love its set of customized widgets that vary in size to better accommodate the layout of the available homescreens. Not only do they increase the experience, but they actually enhance them as well by keeping you in place within the homescreen without the need to get into a dedicated app – and it helps that it looks oh so beautiful as well. Naturally, Motorola is heading in the correct directions with its customized Android experience seeing that it employs a heavy amount of 3D effects with its presentation. Likewise, we find its resizable widgets tastefully complementary by automatically modifying their layout to fit accordingly to its specified size. Nevertheless, HTC’s Sense UI continues to sport slightly more polished elements to make it the favorable one between the two.

Alright, we get that that Motorola DROID 3 is the handset to go with if you’re heavy into messaging because of its phenomenal keyboard. On the other hand, some would still rather resort to using virtual options instead, and to tell you the truth, the experience is going to be pretty similar on both devices. Mainly due to their generous real estates, their layouts are undoubtedly spacious. We’ve raved about the usefulness of the HTC Sense keyboard, but at the same time, the Swype and Multi-Keyboard options with the DROID 3 provide an equally functional experience as well. In addition, they exhibit a tight amount of responsiveness to satisfy even the fastest of typers out there.

Being the Android smartphones they are, we normally find them packing the same set of organizer apps. At their core, they naturally function in the same manner, but the enhancements we find with the HTC ThunderBolt are remarkably prevailing when using their associated widgets. For example, the instantly distinguishable HTC clock widget provides some brief information regarding weather, but tapping specific areas on it will either launch the full-blown clock or weather apps. Not only are we mesmerized by their proper presentation, but we do like the subtle effects in play with them – like its nifty looking weather animations. With the competition, the Motorola DROID mainly reserves in keeping the stock appearance of Android with its core organizer apps – though, we still like its customizable accompanying widgets.

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Internet and Connectivity:

By now, we know that processing power contributes in impacting the performance of the web browser, but seeing that the HTC ThunderBolt possesses 4G LTE connectivity, it’s going to get some brownie points in the overall experience. Indubitably, we find considerably faster page loads with the HTC ThunderBolt, but the actual navigational performance is ideally the same – with both producing mostly responsive gestures with their operation. So whether you’re scrolling to a specific section on a page or merely zooming in on something, the performance is going to be similar. In any event, the ThunderBolt’s 4G LTE connection is by far the biggest differentiator between the two.

Repeatedly, we know that one main attribute of the HTC ThunderBolt is its built-in 4G LTE radio, but interestingly enough, the Motorola DROID 3 has something to call its own as well. In fact, the handset is a world phone and packs a SIM card slot that allows you to use it on just about any network out there in the world, which is something huge if you sort of travel a lot. Besides that, other connectivity features remain the same as they both manage to connect steadily to a hotspot using their built-in Wi-Fi. As we mentioned earlier, the Motorola DROID 3 features a useful microHDMI port that easily allows us to share multimedia content – plus, getting a mirrored experience as well. Although it’s not available with the ThunderBolt, it however offers the alternative functionality of DLNA.

Camera and Multimedia:

Who knows what’s going on with the Motorola’s 8-megapixel auto-focus camera, but we’re just absolutely terrified by its inaccurate looking results – hence why the ThunderBolt is the clear winner in this category. Overall, the ThunderBolt is able to capture better looking shots mainly because of its bright and cheery looking color production. As  much as we’re downright dismayed by the inaccurate colors with the DROID 3’s results, we find it actually producing sharper looking details between the two. Strangely, the bluish color tones with the DROID 3 are less evident with indoor shots and are most noticeable with outdoor scenery. Adding the to the ThunderBolt’s capacity, it's far better able to focus in on subjects in complete dark settings – and it helps that its dual-LED flash is more potent than the DROID 3’s single one.

Subsequently more of the same results, we’re sticking to choosing the HTC ThunderBolt when it comes to high-definition video capture – even though it’s full 1080p with the DROID 3 versus 720p with its rival. Again, we face seeing yet the same exact drab looking colors with the DROID 3, which tends to make the video appear to be almost in black and white. However, we do like its faster 30 frames per second capture rate – albeit, the 28 fps rate of the ThunderBolt isn’t too shabby. Even though we find some evidence of artifacting with the ThunderBolt when panning fast, and some noise in low lighting, its overall appearance is seemingly much better looking than anything that the DROID 3 has to offer.

Motorola DROID 3 Sample Video 1:

HTC ThunderBolt Sample Video 1:

Motorola DROID 3 Sample Video 2:

HTC ThunderBolt Sample Video 2:

Motorola DROID 3 Indoor Sample Video:

HTC ThunderBolt Indoor Sample Video:

At first, it might appear that their respective gallery apps utilize very similar conventional presentations, but after checking them out more closely, we definitely like what Motorola is doing. For starters, there are more 3D effects in use when browsing through content. Additionally, it’s even able to aggregate multimedia content from our Facebook account – like being able to see recent photos taken by friends or browsing through specific Facebook photo albums. And of course, the fun doesn’t end there because the DROID 3’s gallery app has more depth with its editing functions – such as being able to adjust color and brightness directly on the handset. It’s not like the HTC ThunderBolt’s  Gallery app is being blown out of the water, but at least it offers some of the base essentials to get by most people.

Running their respective music players, their presentations mimic one another as they display things like the album cover and on-screen controls as a song is being played. Also the same, they both employ these nice looking 3D carousels when browsing through albums – though, it’s only enabled in landscape with the DROID 3. Looking past their appearance and down to audio quality, we’re once again greeted with a similar experience. Fortunately, audio output with the two are more than pleasant to the ear when set to their loudest without any hint of crackling or strain.

Thanks primarily to its ridiculously fast dual-core processor, the Motorola DROID 3 is more than equipped in playing full 1080p videos. Although it’s not as mighty with its processor, the HTC ThunderBolt is still able to play 720p videos without much fluff. In all honestly, there is still plenty of rich visuals that will more than engulf anyone – while retaining a smooth movement with their playback. Of course, the kickstand on the ThunderBolt adds the convenience of a hands-free experience, but you can prop the DROID 3 upright as well on its side to get something similar.

Storage isn’t a problem with either handset, but it’s worth noting that the ThunderBolt is packed with 32GB of internal storage versus the 16GB available with the DROID 3. Still, you can increase their capacity by an additional 32GB seeing that they have unoccupied microSD card slots.


There isn’t anything terribly different between their software offerings, especially when they’re both Android smartphones, so you can expect apps like Google Maps and YouTube to offer the same experience. However, the DROID 3 is packed with a lot more third-party applications out of the box, but the only notable ones include the games N.O.V.A and Lets Golf 2. Additionally, we find enterprise/business centric apps like Citrix, GoToMeeting, and MOTOPRINT on board with the DROID 3. Obviously, the Android Market is the one-stop shop area for all your apps needs – so there’s nothing different with their offerings.


Calling quality goes to the Motorola DROID 3 due to the amount of hiss and static heard through the ThunderBolt’s earpiece, which of course hinders our conversations with people. In contrast, we find prominent sounding voices that are easily audible with the DROID 3.

Thankfully, signal strength appears to be pretty decent with both smartphones as they put up a good amount of bars in high coverage areas. Furthermore, we didn’t experience any major fluctuations in signal strength during our testing.

By now, we all know that Verizon’s 4G LTE smartphones are notorious for their insatiable appetite for battery, which is something that’s prominent with the ThunderBolt. So without question, the Motorola DROID 3 is the better of the two in the battery life category as we’re able to get close to a single day with normal usage – as opposed to the 6 hour tops output with the ThunderBolt.  Also, we’re able to get more talk time with the DROID 3 as well seeing that we get 8 hours out of a full charge versus the 7 hours with the ThunderBolt.


So here’s the first and most important question you have to answer: do you live in a 4G LTE area? Well, if you happen to be graced with Verizon’s next-generation data network, then it’s almost hard not to side with the ThunderBolt on this one – especially when LTE speeds blow away most things out there. However, if you take that out of the equation, we feel as though that the Motorola DROID 3 offers more of a well-rounded experience and beefier specs to make it last a bit longer than the competition. Featuring eye-catching things like a higher resolution display, dual-core processor, the convenience of its fantastic physical keyboard, mirrored experience with its microHDMI port, and global support, there are plenty of things that place the DROID 3 higher in the pedestal than the HTC ThunderBolt. Not taking away from HTC’s product, we still find its Sense UI appreciable, while dishing up the better quality with its camera. Regardless, we can’t help but contemplate the huge arsenal that the DROID 3 is packing within its carriage to make it one of Verizon’s standout hits right now.

Motorola DROID 3 vs HTC ThunderBolt Video Comparison:

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