Speaking of Verizon apps, there's no shortage of them, as the Droid 3 comes preloaded with V Cast Music, V Cast Tones, V Cast Videos, and VZ Navigator, among others. We do appreciate the inclusion of some apps, such as Skype Mobile, the Quickoffice suite, the Amazon Kindle app, and Slacker, but it would still be nice to have an option to uninstall the ones we don't want. Also, for those who care, the Droid 3 comes with a locked bootloader, so you can't load any custom ROMs.
Unlike the Droid 2, which came in a second global model, the Motorola Droid 3 offers world-roaming capabilities from the get-go. Using dual-mode technology, the smartphone runs on Verizon's CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A network domestically, but once abroad the phone will automatically detect and switch to a GSM network, so you can continue to use voice and data. You can do so in more than 200 countries, with 3G speeds in more than 125 countries. The handset comes with a SIM card preinstalled, but Verizon has a policy that it will have to unlock the SIM, provided that you've been a customer for more than 60 days and are in good financial standing. Unlocking the SIM gives you the freedom to swap out the SIM card for, say, a prepaid SIM you purchase from an international carrier.
Other phone features include a speakerphone, call waiting, call forwarding, conference calling, voice dialing, and text and multimedia messaging. Stereo Bluetooth support, Wi-Fi, and GPS are also available to you. Unfortunately, as we noted before, the Droid 3 does not support Verizon's 4G LTE network. It does, however, offer mobile hot-spot capabilities for up to five devices. To use this feature, you will need to sign up for a Mobile Broadband plan, which costs $20 per month for 2GB of data (overage fees are 5 cents per megabyte).
It's an extra expense on top of your monthly voice and data plan, but it might be worth it to those who work on the road a lot. The Droid 3 actually has even more features that might appeal to the business user, including advanced security features, such as device and SD card encryption, remote data wipe, and complex password support. The handset also ships with GoToMeeting for Android, which allows you to join online meetings, and Citrix Receiver, an application and desktop virtualization app.
Last but not least, the Droid 3 is equipped with an 8-megapixel camera with autofocus, an LED flash, and 1080p HD video capture. The camera app has numerous settings and editing options, including effects, eight shooting modes or scenes, panoramic mode, and brightness settings. Picture quality is decent, but it could definitely be better. Objects looked pretty sharp, but in low-light situations the image tended to look a bit gray and colors weren't very vibrant. Video quality was good for a camera phone. Clips were generally clear, with some moment of graininess.
The Droid 3 offers 16GB of internal memory and an expansion slot. You can also share and view content from your phone on your HDTV via DLNA or the built-in HDMI port (HDMI cable not included).
We tested the dual-mode Motorola Droid 3 in New York using Verizon service and call quality was OK. On our end, we didn't notice any background noise, but voices sounded muffled. It was never bad enough that we couldn't understand what our friends were saying, but it definitely muddied the overall experience. Our friends were generally happy with results on their end, though some reported a slight buzzing in the background.
Motorola Droid 3 call quality sample
Speakerphone quality was pretty good. The audio was clear, and voices sounded true to life. There was also enough volume to hear our callers in a noisier environment, but friends said we sounded far away. We paired the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active headphones and had no problems making calls and listening to music.
Verizon's network provided good 3G coverage here in New York. We didn't experience any dropped calls during our testing period, and though the lack of 4G is a disappointment, the 3G data speeds weren't bad. CNET's full site came up in 16 seconds, and the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN loaded in 6 seconds and 9 seconds, respectively. High-quality YouTube videos took a few seconds to load, and played back without interruption. We also streamed media from V Cast video and experienced similar results, though video quality could get a bit murky at times.
The Droid 3 is equipped with Texas Instrument's OMAP 4430 1GHz dual-core processor and 512MB of RAM. Overall, the smartphone was responsive and handled most tasks without problem. That said, it didn't feel as snappy as some other dual-core phones on the market today. The handset wasn't as quick to launch apps, and sometimes there'd be a hiccup when switching between tasks. There was also an instance in which the smartphone rebooted itself after we opened and closed the screen.
The Droid 3 ships with a 1,540mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 9 hours and up to 12.5 days of standby time. The smartphone fell an hour short of its promised talk time in our battery drain tests, but still managed to pump out an impressive 8 hours of talk time on a single charge. Anecdotally, we've been able to go a full day before needing to recharge. We will update this section as soon as we have final results. According to FCC radiation tests, the Droid 3 has a digital SAR rating of 0.77W/kg and a Hearing Aid Compatibility rating of M4/T3.
The Motorola Droid 3 isn't a bad phone. In fact, it's pretty solid. The problem is that while all the improvements make it sound like a nice upgrade to the Droid 2 in theory, it doesn't really deliver in real-world performance. Motorola doesn't take full advantage of the qHD display; the 8-megapixel camera offers decent but not great picture quality; and despite the addition of a dual-core processor, the smartphone didn't feel any faster than a single-core phone. This, plus the lack of 4G, doesn't make it a standout in today's market or a necessary upgrade if you're coming from the Droid 2. That said, if you're upgrading from a feature phone or are looking to switch from a BlackBerry, the Droid 3 is a decent choice.