Motorola DROID 4 Review

Introduction and Design

Catapulting Android as we know it to the mainstream, we’re amazed to think that the original Motorola DROID launched into stardom only a mere 2 years ago. Since that time, we’ve seen two successors that maintained its landscape QWERTY form factor, but as a whole, they didn’t have the same impact found with the original starter. One of the biggest complaints about the Motorola DROID 3, which was launched a little more than 7 months ago, was the fact that it lacked 4G LTE connectivity and simply relied on last-generation 3G speeds – so yeah, it was a bummer in that aspect indeed.

Taking care of business, the Motorola DROID 4 rightfully eases the concern from last time, while employing some of the necessary iterative improvements on the hardware side to keep it in good light with the company. Some have argued that the DROID line has been on a steady decline in terms of allure and reputation, especially when the DROID 2 and 3 didn’t quite have the same profound impact like the original, but as always, we’re hopeful that the latest member of the family will bring back the spotlight to it. For starters, its $199.99 on-contract pricing surely looks mightily delicious, but it’s undoubtedly going to take more to become humbly memorable.

The package contains:

  • microUSB cable
  • Wall Charger
  • Removal Tool
  • Master Your Device Guide
  • Product Safety and Warranty Information


Bearing the same tried and true landscape QWERTY form factor as its predecessors, this new model obviously features a tweaked design – though, as a whole, it’s doesn’t come off as captivating. Actually, it utilizes the same design characteristics used on recent Motorola devices, like the PHOTON 4G and DROID RAZR, with its subtle tapered edges and sturdy construction. At the same time, it features water-repellant technology that allows it to withstand a few splashes of water, but it’s not entirely waterproof.

You can compare the Motorola DROID 4 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

Interestingly enough, this is the largest one in the DROID family thus far, but thankfully it retains its streamlined 0.5” profile, which is great considering it’s packing a physical keyboard.  Finally, its accompanying weighty (6.31 oz/179 gr) feel provides us with a sense of durability with its overall construction. Improvements and tweaks aside though, its design is hardly one that’s going to be remembered or laureled throughout time, and in all honesty, we were hoping for something more refreshing to jump out at us.

Accidental presses aren’t an issue with the Motorola DROID 4’s capacitive Android buttons, mainly because they’re positioned far away from the bottom edge. Above the display towards the upper right corner, its front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera actually has the ability to shoot 720p videos.

Unfortunately we’re not fans of its dedicated power button and volume controls, since they’re rather flat to the touch and have a soft response when pressed. Knowing that this is a Webtop enabled device as well, its microUSB and microHDMI ports are found next to one another on its left edge – thus, allowing many of the existing Webtop accessories to work with it.

Towards the top edge in the rear, there’s an 8-megapixel auto-focus camera with its accompanying LED flash nearby, while its speaker grill is located on the lower left corner. At first, the pinhole next to the camera seems to be a directional microphone, but in actuality, it’s used to remove the back cover with the aid of the included removal tool to gain access to its microSIM and microSD slots. Strange to say the least, the 1,785 mAh battery is actually non-removable and is hidden from view by a sticker that explicitly states the warning to not attempt removing it. Maybe it’s poor engineering on Moto’s part, but it boggles us that they would allow access to the battery, but not give us the option to remove it ourselves. Heck, they could’ve shut the entire thing closed a la the DROID RAZR and place its slots elsewhere.


We’re undeniably taken by surprise to see Motorola managing to somehow improve upon the fantastic keyboard of the DROID 3 from last year. Getting down right to it, we have to admit that we’re smitten by its functionality, ease of use, and spacious nature to make it probably the best QWERTY-based smartphone on the market. Retaining the same layout as before, with its dedicated row for numbers and navigational keys, it’s tweaked ever so slightly by its domed buttons and exceptional LED backlighting – in fact, we’re mesmerized by its glow in the dark! Furthermore, we’re treated to the same solid feeling tactile response as before, thus, all culminating together to offer the best messaging experience on any device out there right now.

Recommended Stories


Call it a bummer or whatever, but we’re saddened to find this DROID outfitted with such an inferior display. Unlike the iridescence accompanying the DROID RAZR’s Super AMOLED Advanced display, the DROID 4 is instead boasting a 4” qHD (540 x 960) TFT LCD display that’s tremendously dulled by its washed out appearance, low-contrast, and poor viewing angles. Additionally, it has this ghosting effect going on that seems to blur icons when navigating across its homescreen. Well, at least its resolution is enough to enjoy wholeheartedly thanks to its pixel density of 275 ppi, which produces sharp visuals that’s easy on the eyes. However, we’re unable to overlook the distracting overall appearance of the display, and simply, there’s no love whatsoever for this DROID.

Motorola DROID 4 360-degrees View:


Some of you might have forgotten, but that typical MOTOBLUR-whatever interface found on recent devices like the DROID BIONIC and RAZR, was in fact first established by the DROID 3. Unfortunately, there’s nothing new whatsoever with the experience on the DROID 4, as it retains the same one as its predecessor, but even more revolting, is that it’s running on top of Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread. Yeah, we know that’s a downer considering we’re expecting nothing less than Ice Cream Sandwich at this point, but nevertheless, Motorola assures us that it’ll be upgraded sometime in Q2 2012. Besides that, we still like the glitzy looking interface thanks to its heavy usage of 3D visuals and transition effects, which come together to exude a polished feel. And of course, it boasts all the breadth of personalization that we all know and love about Android. Still, the DROID 4 would’ve been the perfect device to showcase Motorola’s take on Ice Cream Sandwich, but sadly, the dubious honor will go to something else.


Reiterating that it’s a rehashed experience on the DROID 4, most of its organizer apps remain unchanged with their presentation and functionality. So whether it’s the Alarm & Timer, Calculator, Contacts, or Tasks apps you’re using, the experience is the same exact thing as before.

No doubt that the physical keyboard is the best option for typing up messages, but for those who prefer an all-touch method, its on-screen keyboard options prove to be equally usable. Well, people with larger fingers might find the Multi-touch and Swype keyboards to be cramped, but at least they maintain a speedy response as we type away quickly with good accuracy.

By now, we’ve grown accustomed to finding an exceptional email experience with most Android smartphones, and rightfully so, we continue to say the same with the DROID 4. You know the drill by now, but the Gmail app offers all the functionality of the desktop experience in the palm of our hands. Meanwhile, setup is a painless process as it requires our email address and password for it to automatically set up.

Processor and Memory:

Even now, we’re still dreaming for the day to see a quad-core packing smartphone, which would’ve been something awesome to find on a handset bearing the DROID name. Instead, the handset is powered by a moderately faster 1.2GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4430 processor. That’s great and all, but the bigger surprise lies in the 1GB of RAM it’s packing, which is actually double the memory over the DROID 3. As expected, it delivers a very responsive operation with most basics tasks and doesn’t stutter much even when it’s tested by live wallpapers. Needless to say, we dig the instantaneous movement of the handset, but we’re still irked to find trivial things like choppy pinch gestures in the gallery that soften its processing power. In the end, it’s not the absolute fastest thing on the block right now, but we’re more that content by it.

Advertised as offering 16GB of memory, the DROID 4 instead boasts 8GB out of the box for media purposes, with another 2.36GB reserved strictly for apps – meaning, you’ll probably want to invest in adding a microSD card of some size to supplement its capacity.

Internet and Connectivity:

Not messing around one bit this time, the DROID 4 is blessed with that ubiquitous 4G LTE connectivity, finally – and boy was it a long time coming! Delivering some lightning data speeds, it didn’t take long at all to load complex pages like ours in a jiffy. Meanwhile, its performance is further complemented by the smooth responsiveness seen with pinch zooming and kinetic scrolling. Furthermore, it barely shows any signs of sluggishness, as the DROID 4 also excels in maintaining its top-notch performance with site loaded with heavy Flash content. In the greater scheme of thing, we might not be all that amazed nowadays seeing 4G LTE smartphones are in abundance, but in either case, it’s ever so nice finding the original DROID line getting in with it.

No surprises here people, since the Motorola DROID 4 acts in similar fashion to other 4G LTE smartphones on Big Red’s lineup. With this dual-band CDMA-based device (800/1900 MHz), it’ll revert to good old EV-DO Rev. A connection in the event that 4G LTE isn’t present. Delivering speeds up to 15Mbits/s down and 8Mbit/s up during our usage, we’re extremely content with the results found in high-coverage areas. As usual, its other connectivity features include aGPS, Bluetooth 4.0 with EDR, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and mobile hotspot functionality.


Since it’s running the same customized MOTOBLUR experience as its siblings, the layout of the camera interface isn’t particularly new. Dominating most of the interface, we get a good view on what we’re shooting with the viewfinder, but we find the usual suspect of icons littered on its side – like the on-screen shutter key, digital zoom controls, and video mode toggle. Furthermore, there’s an accessible sliding bar that holds additional icons that allow us to change shooting modes, choose different effects, and get into its settings. Compared to others, it’s lacking on some manual controls that are near and dear to photo enthusiast out there.

Reminded about the abysmal photos produced by the DROID 3, we’re glad to see that Motorola has focused on improving it this time around. Yet, its overall quality still pales in comparison to the stellar photo-centric devices on the market, but at least it’s tolerable enough to accept. Details are never a strong point with this one, as they appear soft in tone in sunny conditions – with more speckling occurring in cloudy shots. As for color production, its visibly is on the cooler side of things, thus, casting a noticeable bluish hue to all shots. With low lighting conditions, they’re undoubtedly noisy and fuzzy in appearance, but colors tend to bleed and appear dramatically washed out. Although the LED flash barely sharpens things, it’s useless in complete darkness as it fails to focus properly, which can be remedied with the flash going off beforehand (but it doesn’t).

Ehh…they’re not stellar in quality, but its 1080p video recording is nonetheless better than its predecessor. Again, details are almost non-existent, but at least it moves swimmingly at 29 frames per second and captures mostly clear audio. As for the rest, we do notice some light artifacting when panning, with more digital noise evident with videos recorded in low lighting environments. For us, it’s not much of an issue, but it’s worth noting that the handset offer touch-focus.

Motorola DRОID 4 Sample Video 1:

Motorola DRОID 4 Sample Video 2:


Utilizing the same music player interface featured on other recent Motorola smartphones, it has a conventional approach with its presentation as songs are being played – displaying such things as the album cover and on-screen controls. However, we do like the nifty looking 3D carousel gallery available when we’re browsing through songs in landscape. Rounding things out, we definitely appreciate the usefulness of lyrics being displayed as a song is being played, which transforms the phone into a mini karaoke machine of some sort. Audio-wise, we’re pleased by the strong volume output and robust tones emitted by the handset’s speaker. Cranking it up, there’s no evidence of crackling whatsoever, but to fine tune things, there are a host of equalizer settings to choose from.

Using our test video encoded in DivX 1920 x 1080 resolution, the handset dishes up that usual top-notch performance, as it has no trouble whatsoever in playing it. As much as we enjoy it all, we still can’t get over the poor quality display it’s packing along – simply, it’s lacking that luster to reel our eyes.

Sharing multimedia content is as easy as pie, since we gain a mirrored experience by connecting it to a high-def television via its microHDMI port. Additionally, Motorola’s Webtop experience is available by using any of the enabled accessories for it – like the Lapdock or HD Station. Naturally, the beauty about Webtop is that it extends the handset’s functionality by offering a full web browsing experience thanks to Mozilla Firefox, while still having access to all the functions of the handset.


Business and enterprise users will especially fall in love with the Motorola DROID 4 seeing it’s preloaded with apps that include GoToMeeting, MOTOPRINT, Quickoffice. Not surprising in the very least, we find Verizon’s presence clearly establish with apps such as My Verizon Mobile, V CAST Apps, V CAST Tones, Verizon Video, and VZ Navigator. Rounding things out, its included third party apps consists of Amazon Kindle, Blockbuster, Let’s Golf 2, Madden NFL 2012, MOG Music, Netflix, NFL Mobile, Slacker, Slingbox, and VideoSurf.

Motorola’s workings are absolutely in full force on the Motorola DROID 4 as it features MotoCast for streaming content from your internet connected computer, MOTOACTV for those fitness junkies relying on the workout oriented accessory, and Smart Actions that deliver complete control with many of the smartphone’s aspects. Not only does Smart Actions allow for better organization with its functionality, but it essentially becomes invaluable in optimizing the battery life of the handset.


Delivering one solid performance in all aspects, we’re astounded by the DROID 4’s calling quality. Specifically, voices are fairly clear sounding on both ends of the line – with no distortion or background noise muddying things. Meanwhile, its earpiece may be a bit neutral with its overall volume, but there’s no issue using the speakerphone as it produces strong tones with distinctive voices.

Always a concern for us, we’re happy to say that the DROID 4 doesn’t fall victim to that annoying loss of 4G LTE connectivity like some of its distinguished rivals, and in fact, we rarely saw it occurring. Maintaining an average set of bars in high coverage areas, we didn’t experience any dropped calls during our testing.

After being spoiled by the superfluous battery life of the DROID RAZR MAXX, we know that the DROID 4 isn’t going to be in the same league with its 1,785 mAh battery. Rather, we’re brought back to the chilling reality of yet another 4G LTE smartphone with poor battery life. In fact, we’re able to get close to the 10 hour mark of normal usage before being warned about low battery. So yes, we’ll continue to dream on about battery life, but in the meantime, it’s something that requires constant charging whenever and wherever possible.


Some will argue that the midas touch and allure of the DROID family has faded, as it seems as though the torch has been handed over to other more prominent devices like the DROID RAZR. However, when you think about it more, the original DROID family was never known for bringing killer spec’d hardware, but rather, it balanced things out with its quality performance and unyielding presence. Surely, it doesn’t blatantly come off as being a WOW device, however, we can honestly say that it packs along the best landscape style QWERTY keyboard on any smartphone out there.

In our ever demanding society, we sometimes get lost in the hype and expectations surrounding certain devices. However, if there’s one thing we’re grateful about the Motorola DROID 4, is that it sticks to a very reasonable $199.99 on-contract pricing, which won’t break the bank like some of the premium priced 4G LTE smartphones out there. In hindsight though, Motorola has eclipsed the possibilities of what we expect out of a QWERTY packing smartphone, but deep down inside of us, we’re still yearning for that monster DROID-only smartphone that’s packing an eye-catching design, cutting-edge hardware, and a totally new experience to prove to everyone that it’s still a force to be reckoned with.

Software version of the reviewed unit:
Android Version: 2.3.6
Build Number: 6.5.1_167_DR4-1_M1-215
Kernel Version:

Motorola DROID 4 Video Review:


  • Fantastic keyboard
  • Acceptable $199.99 on-contract price
  • Great calling quality


  • Poor quality display
  • Non-removable battery
  • Below average battery life

PhoneArena Rating:


User Rating:

13 Reviews

Recommended Stories

Loading Comments...
FCC OKs Cingular\'s purchase of AT&T Wireless