If ever a product has summed up the progression of the Android ecosystem, it’s the Motorola Droid. The first Droid catapulted Android into the mainstream with its first 2.x release, and since then the Droid itself has seen a yearly update cadence that honestly has shown no sign of stopping. The updates thus far track the trends that we’ve seen affect the Android ecosystem as a whole - newer and better versions of Android alongside ever increasing SoC performance, display improvements, camera improvements, and refined hardware design.

I think that pretty much sums up what kind of update the Motorola Droid 3 (henceforth just Droid 3) is. It’s an iterative product launch, for sure, but that belies just how good the improvements all around really are. I noted a few of them already - the Droid 3 includes a dual core OMAP 4430 SoC, larger 4” qHD display, more internal storage, better camera, front facing camera, and most notably a much improved 5 row QWERTY keyboard.

Of course the huge question mark is what has improved connectivity-wise on the Droid 3. There’s no 4G LTE baseband, however, instead of repeating the Droid 2 and Droid 2 Global duopoly, Motorola just went ahead and made the Droid 3 global from the start. That’s right, it’s a dual-mode phone. It’s no consolation if you’re still waiting for an LTE enabled device with a physical keyboard (for that, you’ll have to wait for Samsung to release its rumored next device), but in my mind right now you can either have multi-mode global (CDMA2000 and GSM/UMTS) compatibility or multi-mode (CDMA2000 and LTE) with 4G connectivity. As of yet there’s no having it both ways.

We’ll talk more about all of that in due time, but for now let’s just go over the Droid 3’s outward physical appearance and hardware.

First off, the Droid 3 is notably larger than its predecessor. It’s 3 mm wider, 7 mm taller, but almost 1 mm thinner. Those changes in outline are both to accommodate the 4” screen (as opposed to 3.7”) and likewise the additional keyboard row. Mass is up as well, from 169 to 184 grams. I won’t bore you with all the specifications that have changed, you can just check out the table below.

Physical Comparison
  HTC Thunderbolt Motorola Droid 2 Motorola Droid X2 Motorola Droid 3
Height 122 mm (4.8") 116.3 mm (4.6") 126.5 mm (4.98") 123.3 mm (4.85")
Width 67 mm (2.63") 60.5 mm (2.4") 65.5 mm (2.58") 64.1 mm (2.52")
Depth 13.2 mm (0.52") 13.7 mm (0.54") 9.9 - 14.4 mm (0.39"-0.57") 12.9 mm (0.51")
Weight 183.3 g (6.46 oz) 169 g (5.9 oz) 148.8 g (5.25 oz) 184 g (6.49 oz)
CPU 1 GHz MSM8655 45nm Snapdragon 1 GHz Cortex-A8 OMAP 3620 1 GHz Dual Core Cortex-A9 Tegra 2 AP20H 1 GHz Dual Core Cortex-A9 OMAP 4430
GPU Adreno 205 PowerVR SGX 530 ULP GeForce PowerVR SGX 540
NAND 4 GB NAND with 32 GB microSD Class 4 preinstalled 8 GB integrated, preinstalled 8 GB microSD 8 GB NAND, 8 GB microSD class 4 preinstalled 16 GB NAND, up to 32 GB microSD
Camera 8 MP with autofocus and dual LED flash, 720p30 video recording, 1.3 MP front facing 5 MP with dual LED flash and autofocus 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 720p30 video recording 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 1080p30 video recording, VGA (0.3MP) front facing
Screen 4.3” 800 x 480 LCD-TFT 3.7" FWVGA 854 x 480 IPS-LCD 4.3" 960 x 540 RGBW LCD 4.0" 960 x 540 RGBW LCD
Battery Removable 5.18 Whr Removable 5.2 Whr Removable 5.65 Whr Removable 5.65 Whr

Subjectively however, I was shocked at just how thin the Droid 3 feels in the hand in spite of the slide-out keyboard. It seems like generally there’s a certain amount of unacceptable overhead that always comes alongside including an actual keyboard, yet the Droid 3 manages to do it without making it painfully obvious that everything was designed around it instead of with it.

The other major difference is how much different the Droid 3 feels compared to the Droid 2 - entirely as a result of the device using squared edges instead of the rounded chamfers that ringed the Droid 2. There’s been a recent slow march away from rounded industrial design to one dominated by rigid 90 degree angles, and the Droid 3 follows that trend with this move.

Hardware Overview - Nods from the Droid X
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  • Brian Klug - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    Anand is still working on it, he's been super busy but hopefully it's next in his pipeline. ;)

  • vision33r - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    Using a gimmick technology to upsize the resolution cheaply. Having used the Atrix for almost 6 months I am sick of looking at it. Luckily it was for work.

    Looking at Pentile LCD for a long time is almost like watching a 3D movie without the glasses on. Your vision starts to strain and you will see the colors around the font.

  • kesh27 - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    Seems like a lot of negativity toward the type of display. I have a D2G I like a lot and will likely upgrade to this or something very close months down the road. Sweet the D3 doesn't require a fork and incorporates global use (minus the US carrier lockout).

    Perhaps a little more subjective review of the new display, such as fatigue or annoyance after watching 30m of video or continuous use of a variety of apps? Maybe a small panel review of something similar to balance opinion?

    As to hackability, I bought a G1 when they first came out and had it strung out on Cyanogen as far as hardware could take it, only because OTA updates weren't every coming from T-Mo. Finally got a global phone with specs I wanted for future travel. Have honestly had no need to do any hacking other than a root for Titanium Backup (freezing bloatware), ok maybe occasional wifi tether too. If you want a phone to hack, get a hackable phone. I like this line because it runs everything I want very well, and keyboards rule.
  • synaesthetic - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    Man, screw you Moto. Bunch of effin' liars.

    UNLOCK IT NAO. And the one on the Droid X2 also!
  • Undersea - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    Might be silly to some but coming from blackberry which I could sort email to droid 1 which I couldn't, I hope to heck you can sort outlook email
  • hillsurfer - Monday, August 1, 2011 - link

    We just upgraded my wife's line to the Droid 3, and the fact that it isn't LTE is one reason we chose it. We still have the unlimited 3G data plan, which we'd have to give up if we switched to LTE, which isn't available in this area anyway, and won't be for some time.

    Just wanted to point out that some "improvements" come with a price. Luckily, Motorola and Verizon Wireless didn't include LTE as an improvement. I suspect we won't have that choice much longer.
  • funoptics - Monday, August 1, 2011 - link

    Great review, AnandTech! It could be top notch, however, if you included the only thing that seemed to be missing: a discussion of the performance and capabilities of the motion sensors. Some smart phones have gyros, the Droid 3 does not. For users of smartphones working with augmented reality applications, this is very important.
  • photoguru - Monday, August 1, 2011 - link

    One thing that most people have overlooked is the fact that they put a 16GB card hardwired in it and also gave us a card slot for a second card! I loaded mine up with 48GB of class 10 storage goodness :)
  • nitink - Monday, August 1, 2011 - link

    this phone have a great potential unleach its power get full hd games with sd card data..at:
  • araczynski - Monday, August 1, 2011 - link

    I had the first droid for about a year when it first came out, found the keyboard sliding mechanism to be a joke. poorly engineered, namely due to easily trapping dust/fine particles of sand (or gold;)), and the rail mechanism just wearing away at the back surface, making it look cheap and abused after only a few uses.

    would never use another phone that uses the same engineering, which this seems to be just like.

    i like my droid x at the moment, much nicer screen, and i'll take the onscreen keyboard over worthless sliding any day.

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