Review: Motorola DROID 3

The release of the original Motorola DROID seems like so long ago. But in actuality, it was only 1-1/2 years ago. Still, the first time we held that device we knew we had something special, for it was the first truly unique and worthy Android device. In the ~18 months and now 2 revisions since the original DROID, things have changed — a lot. Where the original DROID was considered a beast for it’s 500 MHz TI OMAP processor, the latest batch of high-powered Android fodder packs 1-1.5 GHz dual-core processors, 4.3″ qHD displays, and a ton of other fancy hardware.

In that light, is the newly released 3rd generation Motorola DROID all its been hyped up to be? Hop inside for the full rundown…

The Specs

  • Processor: dual-core TI OMAP 4430 @ 1 GHz
  • Display: 4″ qHD display (960 x 540)
  • Camera: 8-megapixel rear-facing camera w/ 1080p video capture and LED flash
  • Software: Android 2.3 w/ MOTOBLUR
  • Storage:16 GB + SD cards up to 32 GB.

The Hardware

If you saw the first or second-gen DROIDs, you’ll know exactly how the DROID 3 looks. Physically it is identical — save for a slightly bigger footprint compliments of the ever so slightly larger 4″ display (vs. the old 3.7″ one). With that said, we feel Motorola made the keyboard a tad more clicky — which is a good thing — and also slapped on an additional row which houses the number keys. Seeing as how we log into a lot of different services and online accounts, entering complex passwords with the aid of dedicated number keys is quite useful — more than we initially thought.

As far as size goes, the larger 4″ display is just barely noticeable when held next to a previous-gen DROID yet useful in pretty much every scenario. But in regards to the added resolution and clarity, well, it leaves plenty to be desired. This is yet another qHD device that has left us unimpressed and underwhelmed. Colors are rather dull and viewing angles are just average. Hell, the aging Samsung Captivate we have floating around GS HQ blows the DROID 3′s display out of the water in clarity and color reproduction, only losing slightly to the DROID 3′s higher resolution. Still, for a much newer and superior phone on paper, the fact we still are not in love with this phone should mean something.

Moving onward, the upgraded 8-megapixel camera and 1080p video support — *sigh*. With an 8-megapixel camera on tap, we were really expecting a lot more. Colors were washed, grainy and lacked contrast. Numerous different environments each with their own lighting all produced sub-par images. We’re not sure what Motorola is doing (wrong) in the camera department, but it’s starting to get annoying. As for video, we did like the native 1080p support and the crisp video it produced when output to a larger 1080p-capable display. But don’t go throwing away your dedicated video camera. The DROID 3 is a nice HD video camera to have in a pinch. It is not, however, capable enough to fully replace your dedicated gig.

For those looking for an Android device that gets everything right, we’re sad to say the DROID 3 is not your device. It’s biggest omission — LTE. With VZW flipping on new LTE networks at blazing speeds, it won’t be too much longer until LTE is just as widespread as today’s 3G standard. Too bad the DROID 3 won’t be able to ride this wave. But never fear, Android junkies looking for the first dual-core + LTE device don’t have too much longer to wait for the DROID Bionic is finally coming.

Despite the negative tone so far, a large portion of the DROID 3′s missteps are made up in the keyboard. It’s pretty awesome. Before the iPhone, we were huge fans of physical keyboards. While that isn’t quite the case anymore, we still find ourselves sliding the DROID 3′s keyboard open way more often then resorting to the improved yet still a work-in-progress Android onscreen keyboard. As for the feel of the keyboard, the keys themselves are clicky with just enough key travel and ample spacing. Smaller handed people may find the reach across the landscape QWERTY a bit of a stretch, though we feel most people will take a liking to overall feel and added number row.

Battery Life

Disappointing. Need we say more? We found battery life to be rather poor — one of the poorest displays for an Android device we’ve seen yet, and a far cry from the DROID Charge (one of the most battery conscious devices we’ve tested). Seriously, if you are in any shape or form a moderate to heavy user, bring a charging cable, spare battery and/or alternate power source. Even leaving the device idle with nothing but two Gmail accounts, two Twitter accounts, foursquare, and GoogleTalk running continuously drained 15%-20% per hour. We went as far as restoring the phone to factory defaults and adding just Gmail accounts and we able to get a more respectable runtime of 12+ hours when all was said and done. But that’s hardly a solution.


Based on some emails we’ve received regarding our claims about poor battery life it looks like we may have received a bum unit. Working on getting another one and will update the review accordingly.

Update 2 (7/27/11)

After several more days with a second DROID 3 unit we found battery life improved slightly over the first unit with a couple of charge/dis-charge cycles. Still, we never once made it through an entire day. Even setting up nothing more than 2 Gmail accounts and letting it sit idle resulted in a 65% drop over the course of 10 hours. With that said, we don’t doubt reports that longer run times are possible. Batteries are a tricky subject as are the myriad number of ways an end user can have their phone set up. In our testing, however, we simply cannot commend the DROID 3 for battery life. It just wasn’t that great. That’s not to say you won’t get a few more hours than we did, though.


We’ve been harsh on Motorola many times before for their clunky, borderline useless MOTOBLUR skin. For the DROID 3 Motorola has taken to the drawing board to revamp their ugly duckling into something we must say is almost desirable. While the color scheme of the newly revamped MOTOBLUR still leaves us cringing at times, the functionality has received a massive boost in usability and ease of use. For instance, the 5-screen homescreen has a nifty new rotating cube-like animation that while admittingly nothing more than added visual flare, is well executed and buttery smooth to boot.

Speaking of buttery smooth, the homescreen was pretty slick, but all too often we found lag creeping around multiple corners. The biggest and most glaringly obvious example of poor code/programming comes in the form of homescreen re-draws. That is, when closing an app you’re met with a blank homescreen for several seconds and then all of a sudden you’ll start seeing icons, widgets, etc. popping back up onto the device. Normally this signals a low memory situation. But after closing all voluntarily opened apps and even going as far as factory resetting the phone and setting it up from scratch, we still found homescreen redrawing and recurring lag throughout the UI. For a bleeding edge dual-core device, this is unacceptable.


A growing issue for Android users (especially on VZW and AT&T in the U.S.) is bloatware — the unnecessary, rarely used, and overpriced applications that carriers and manufacturers pre-load onto devices. It would be one thing of all of this added “functionality” were easily removable. But all too often the opposite is the case — pre-loaded bloatware is generally locked onto your device unless you root it.

In the case of the Motorola DROID 3, their is digital crap all over the place. From Verizon’s own assortment of branded services to GoToMeeting to NFL Mobile, there’s plenty of stuff here for everyone — except “everyone” will never use it. While we completely understand the various companies that fill Android devices with all this garbage make a decent chunk of change on the software, at least giving consumers who have no interest in ever using it a chance to remove it from their device would go a long way.

GS recommends: When possible, we’d suggest rooting if for nothing else, just to remove bloatware and unwanted software.


Initially we were eager to try out the latest DROID for both the much faster processor, upgraded display, and other improved hardware. In the end, however, we were left feeling “meh”. It’s a fast phone for sure and one that hits a lot of the checkboxes modern smartphone enthusiasts like to check. But for us the DROID 3 is nothing special. When we can turn around and use our single-core iPhone 4 or Samsung Captivate (rooted) and get similar or better performance in most situations and scenarios, something is very wrong.

The lack of support for next-gen LTE networks may turn off users. To this we can relate. If we were shopping for a new Android device it would most certainly have to pack LTE. While no such network exists in our home town now, it has been confirmed as coming in the not too distant future later this year/early next. And it goes without saying that once you’ve tasted the fruits of LTE, it’s incredibly hard to ever regain a fondness for plain ‘ol CDMA-flavored 3G.

With all the criticism, is the DROID 3 even worth checking out? Actually, yes! As one of the very few high-end Android devices that packs a physical keyboard — and a great keyboard we’ll reiterate — the DROID 3 is pretty much “the” only choice. The processor may not possess the most real-world performance, the screen may be lackluster considering it’s specs and the lack of LTE pretty much kills a lengthy future, but in the end it is a decent phone that ultimately falls short not because of any one massive shortcoming, but many different inconsistencies and dropped opportunities that add up. If you can get by with an average camera, unimpressive battery life, or root the device in the future, then by all means get this phone.

After all is said and done, we’re torn. The DROID 3 takes a lot of things about the original first-gen DROID and makes them much better. Too bad there’s also several things that make it worse, too. As much as we want to love this device for now and ever after, it feels more like a highschool romance than a settle down and have kids situation. Our advice: test drive it first.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10


  • Joel Villa

    There are too many bugs that Verizon
    needs to work out on the 4G network before I will jump on that wagon. I am
    perfectly fine with the 3G network. Since the Droid 3 comes with a dual-core
    processor, a bigger screen and a nicer camera, I think that it should be just
    as good, if not better than the previous phone. I love streaming movies, and I
    think the Droid 3 is going to work perfectly for me. One app that lets me do
    this is the DISH Remote Access app. As a customer and employee of DISH Network,
    I have been using the DISH Remote Access app to stream live TV and recorded
    shows from my 722k receiver that has a Sling Adapter, and I love being able to
    watch TV when and where I want. I paid only $99 for my Sling Adapter. However,
    I know that anyone who has DISH Network can now qualify to get a free Sling
    Adapter! Check it out here to get all the

  • Peter Souza IV

    Mike, I challenge you to try the battery life again with another unit.  I leave my Google account, Facebook account, Gmail Label Notifier, Tasker, Circle Battery, Beautiful Widgets, AudioManager Pro, Lookout, and others on my Droid 3 and typically only drain 20-25% battery over the course of 12 hours commuting and at my office (no WiFi, just 3G — and with only 1-2 bars usually).  Yesterday was 19% (I had 81% remaining) and that’s with a 17 minute phone call and other random use.

    I’m no Motorola fanboy and there’s several issues with the Droid 3 that I can gripe about, but the battery is far from the picture you’ve painted it.  Hopefully you just had a poor battery or unit.

    • The Gadgeteur

      I’ll work on getting another unit and update the review accordingly.  Thanks Peter.

      • Peter Souza IV

        Thanks, Mike — appreciate you giving it another whack.

        Just an update: I now have 35% battery after lightly using it for 26 hours without charge (~30 minutes of use, the rest was idle with only the processes I mentioned earlier doing their thing).  That averages to ~38.5 mA consumption per hour of use.  Since this is with the 1540 mAh BF5X standard battery that ships with the unit, that puts me around 40 hours of idle/very light use from full charge to fully depleted — which should be about fourteen more hours from now.

      • Peter Souza IV

        Final update: actual battery life for me finished around the 38-hour mark.  The device had 5% left and anything under that I would definitely not consider a usable phone in an emergency, etc.

        • The Gadgeteur

          Yeah I’m going through another battery test with a second DROID 3.  Opened box and popped battery in and it had between 90-99% (I wish Motorola phones reported battery life in 1% increments instead of 10).  This was around 3:30pm yesterday.  Today at 4:25 pm I’m sitting at between 20%-29% with ~30 minutes of heavy usage — it was the initial 30 minutes where I was re-downloading and setting up apps.  I have two gmail accounts, two twitter accounts, a facebook account, and a foursquare account as well as Google+ all syncing in the background.  Besides that ~30 minutes I haven’t touched the phone.  

          Better than the first phone, but…dropping ~80% in a little over 24 hours most of said time being idle usage, I’m still not too terribly impressed.  I’ll give it another day or two though.

          • Peter Souza IV

            The Droid 3 does report 1% battery increments.  Get yourself a copy of Circle Battery or just about any battery widget app that displays in 1% increments (the stock UI doesn’t, but the underlying firmware supports it).

            Also make sure you condition the battery first.  Fully charge and deplete the battery a few times to break it in, you probably know the drill.  Can’t test it right out of the box.  🙂

          • The Gadgeteur

            I’ll give that one a shot.  I was using a different circular battery (don’t have phone with me at the moment and can’t remember the name.)

            As for the battery conditioning — you shouldn’t need to condition a Lithium ion or polymer battery.  Nonetheless, I have noticed *some* devices benefit from said practice.  

          • Peter Souza IV

            You’re actually not conditioning the battery itself — sorry, I was’t clearer.  The Android OS actually has a battery stats file that the system uses to learn the real capacity and discharge patterns of the battery (and is why it’s recommended that you wipe this file when swapping between custom ROMs).

            This file is in /data/system/batterystats.bin

          • The Gadgeteur

            Yeah I’ve heard about that.  If I recall, that file was part of the reason why early Android devices that used Seidio extended batteries had to remove the battery after the phone thought it was full and then reinsert in order for the phone to pick up the remaining battery power.