When we left the Verizon offices a couple days ago with our Droid Bionic in tow, Motorola handed us a veritable mountain of accessories to go along with the phone. That's because the Droid Bionic has a Webtop application similar to the one on the Atrix 4G and the Photon 4G, and like those two, it requires a special Webtop accessory to load it. The Droid Bionic is a fantastic handset even without Webtop, but the technology is compelling enough for us to take a closer look at these accessories.
The Atrix made headlines at CES earlier this year because of its special laptop dock (or Lapdock) that changes the phone into a portable PC. For the Photon, you need to get a "HD Station" dock instead, which you'll then have to attach to your own external screen, keyboard, and mouse. The Droid Bionic, on the other hand, has both options along with a tiny "Webtop adapter" that provides a more on-the-go solution. We should note here that none of these accessories are interchangeable with the other phone. This means that you can't use the Droid Bionic with the Atrix's laptop dock or with the Photon's HD Station; you'll have to get the Webtop accessories that are specific to the Droid Bionic. This is quite disappointing if you already happen to be an Atrix or Photon user and just want to upgrade your phone, not your accessories.
The Webtop application is essentially a Linux-based operating system that gives the phone PC-like functionality. It's made to be used with a larger display and with a mouse and keyboard. The interface is quite barebones, and consists of a simple dock or launchpad with a few application shortcuts. The phone's screen is actually replicated on the larger display as well, so you can still access your phone's contents while you're in the Webtop environment. A notable application is the full Firefox browser that is only accessible via Webtop. There's also an integrated Citrix application that lets you access virtual desktops.
The Droid Bionic's Lapdock is very similar to the Atrix's laptop dock. Indeed, we were told it's essentially the same hardware, but tailor-made to fit the Droid Bionic. The 11.5 screen is nice, and the keyboard is roomy and well-spaced. The entire Lapdock weighs in at around 2.4 pounds. It has two USB ports on the back, and has its own internal battery with around 8 hours of rated battery life. It will also charge the phone when it's docked. A touchpad with two buttons can be used for navigation. However, bear in mind that you can't use the Lapdock's touch pad for multi-touch gestures.
We docked the phone into the Droid Bionic's Lapdock, and it seamlessly transitioned into Webtop mode. Simply open up the laptop afterward and the Webtop operating system will kick in. When it's docked, you can't really see the phone all that well. However, you can still answer and make calls via the Webtop app. We have to admit we really enjoyed the ability to view Web browsers in a larger netbook-size screen. It also works really well when editing spreadsheets and watching movies. The Firefox browser has full Adobe Flash, so you can easily watch Flash videos as well. The phone's dual-core processor here helps in making it feel like a regular netbook PC. Yet, the experience doesn't quite compare to using a real computer. The interface is very limited to just the few apps and the mobile view, and is just a bit too basic even when compared to most netbooks. Still, if you know that going in, the Webtop experience works as promised.
The HD Station
The HD Station on the other hand, is a dock with three USB ports on the back, a HDMI out, and a 3.5mm jack for attaching headphones or external speakers. As such, you'll need to provide your own external display as well as a micro-HDMI to HDMI cable. You can plug in a USB keyboard and mouse, or pair the phone with the Bluetooth equivalents. The Webtop application is otherwise the same. Of course, you can also use the HD Station without any sort of external display if you don't want to use Webtop. The HD Station will charge your phone when it is plugged into the wall, and you can also use the phone to display an alarm clock or your calendar when it's docked. The HD Station even comes with a wireless remote control for navigating the phone and controlling the media player.
The on-the-go Webtop adapter
The tiny Webtop adapter is a curious device at first glance. You plug it into the Droid Bionic's Micro-USB and Micro-HDMI ports even though it too only has Micro-USB and Micro-HDMI ports. You will then have to plug in an external display to the Webtop adapter's Micro HDMI port to access Webtop. Why not just plug the display directly into the phone, you might ask. Well, that's because if you do so, you'll trigger the phone's HDMI mirroring mode that shows the phone's contents on the big screen. If you want to specifically trigger Webtop, you'll have to use this adapter. Since this tiny adapter has no USB ports, you will have to use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse with it.
While the Droid Bionic's Lapdock is not as expensive as the one for the Atrix at launch (that one was around $500), it's still not cheap at $299.99 each. Verizon has said that if you purchase the Droid Bionic with a $50 or more data plan, it'll cut $100 off the price of the laptop dock so that it comes out to $199.99. The HD Station is $99.99 while the Webtop adapter is $29.99. The tiny adapter solution strikes us as rather silly -- we wonder if it's possible for Motorola to implement a software Webtop solution so that you can use the phone's existing ports instead of having to get a separate adapter.
In the end, while we liked the potential and promise of Webtop, we're not sure it's worth the price of these extra accessories. Fortunately, the Droid Bionic is an excellent phone without it.
Other accessories that you can get is a standard dock (It looks very similar to the HD Station, but it is not Webtop enabled), a vehicle navigation dock, and a battery dock that just charges the battery.