It feels as if weve waited an eternity (well, about nine months) for the Motorola Droid Bionic ($300 with a two-year contract as of September 7, 2011) to come to Verizon, but the dual-core 4G phone has finally arrived. While you might cringe at the steep price, the dual-core TI OMAP processor paired with Verizon's superspeedy LTE network makes for one fast phone. But the Bionic falls short in its display and call quality, making that high price tag seem a bit unreasonable.
High-quality design, disappointing display
When you pick up the Bionic, you'll immediately notice its high-quality feel and sturdy construction. The dark gray, soft, rubberized battery cover is nice in the hand, and the Corning Gorilla Glass face gives it a sophisticated feel. The Bionics design isn't as fun as that of the Photon 4G (Sprint), which has a futuristic, angular look. It's somewhat blocky, and it feels a little large (though admittedly my hands are a bit small). Measuring 5.00 x 2.63 x 0.43 in., the Droid Bionic is the slimmest LTE phone on Verizon. It weighs 5.6 oz., slightly lighter than the Photon.
The 4.3-in. qHD (Quarter High Definition) display isn't as sharp as we expect a 960 x 540-pixel screen to be. The images I loaded from my Facebook profile looked a little grainy, with a slight bluish tint. I could also see a grid of dots in the image -- even without zooming in. Unfortunately, this isn't the first time we've taken issue with a Motorola phone's display. The Photon also had a slight bluish tint, and the Droid 3s qHD display suffered from the dots issue. I was impressed, however, with how sharp the text looked in the browser and in Gmail.
Software: Built for business and entertainment
Like the Photon 4G and the other hot phones of the fall, the Droid Bionic runs the latest version of Android, 2.3.4 (Gingerbread). It also runs Motorola's custom-built MotoBlur widgets, including the social networking widget, which aggregates all of your account profiles into a single view on your home screen. The widgets are resizable (a la Android Honeycomb), and you can scroll through them; in the calendar widget, for example, you can scroll through a whole days worth of events rather than viewing one event at a time.
Unlike other Motorola phones, though, the Bionic is not tied to the MotoBlur cloud service. Instead, you get an app called ZumoCast, which lets you access remote files on your PC without having to upload or sync your files. You can access everything from PowerPoint files to your iTunes playlists on your Bionic. Even though the Droid Bionic has plenty of storage (1GB of RAM, 16GB of on-board memory and a preinstalled 16GB MicroSD card), I find it nice to be able to access videos, documents, photos and other media files without having to download them to the device or upload them to a cloud service.
The Droid Bionic takes about 43 seconds to turn on fully. Much of that time is consumed by a Verizon Droid logo animation, which plays while the phone is loading. The graphics look neat, but the fact that a phone this powerful takes so long to boot is kind of surprising.
Once you're up and running, operating the phone is smooth sailing throughout. In my tests, flipping through the Bionic's menus was very fast with no lag or stuttering. The browser loaded Web pages quickly over Wi-Fi and 4G. Over Verizon's LTE network, PCWorld.com loaded in 18 seconds, and the image-heavy TheBoldItalic.com loaded in an impressive 8.3 seconds. Over Wi-Fi, PCWorld.com loaded in a speedy 3.3 seconds.
We also tested the phone using Qualcomm's new benchmarking app, Vellamo, just to see how a TI processor would fare against its competitors. The Droid Bionic earned a score of 715, which places it below the HTC Sensation and EVO 3D (both of which are powered by Qualcomm chipsets) but above the Motorola Atrix 4G (which uses an Nvidia Tegra 2 chip). We take these scores with a grain of salt since Qualcomm manufactures the app, but the data is interesting to compare.
Call quality over Verizon's network was uneven. My friends' voices sounded hollow and blown out, as if they were talking too close to the speaker. Sometimes I found it hard to understand them, and I had to adjust the volume on almost every call. My friends, on the other hand, were more positive. I made a few of my calls next to a loud generator, but my friends reported that they could not hear it in the background.
According to Motorola, the Droid Bionic offers 650 minutes of talk time and 200 hours of standby time, and takes 3.5 hours to obtain a full battery charge. It has the largest battery of all Verizon LTE devices, at 1735 mAh.
This story, "First look: Motorola Droid Bionic" was originally published by PCWorld .