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
RAM 768 MB LPDDR2 512 MB LPDDR2 512 MB LPDDR2 512 MB LPDDR2
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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  • jigglywiggly - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    i'd sell myself

    This phone lux nice, do want, I just wish it was on at&T
    Reply
  • 7amood - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    why don't I see any galaxy s2 in the comparison charts and where is the galaxy s2 review from anandtech?? :/ *waiting* Reply
  • Brian Klug - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    We actually just got an SGS2 in this week (international version) and I'm busily working on the review for that device ;)

    -Brian
    Reply
  • Omega215D - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    I got to spend some time with this phone and it is pretty nice but doesn't feel as solid as the Original Droid nor look as elegant. Thankfully the Droid 3 got it where it counts performance-wise. The phone crashed when activating the camera and required a battery pull but that was only once. If I didn't have my Thunderbolt (which is doing well on battery life now) the choices would be Droid Incredible 2 or Droid 3 as they are both international phone. That would change if Verizon decides to get more WP7 phones.

    I liked the review. It's very detailed and unbiased, unlike the sorry excuse for a review from PhoneArena which shows it's clear Apple bias.
    Reply
  • Johnmcl7 - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    I'm extremely disappointed there's not even one phone of this class and type for sale here, there's rumours of an HTC Doubleshot with a keyboard but still no sign of it. I've been trying the software keyboard on a Tab for a while but I can't stand it, I much prefer the N900's physical keyboard which leaves me stuck for the moment for an upgrade.

    John
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    I guess you could always spring for the Chinese version, but hopefully there's a Milestone international version equivalent coming soon.

    -Brian
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    Aw man, even my Desire HD has 768, and it actually gets put to use.
    Why cheap out, Motorola?

    That said, as much as this looks great, I'd never recommend it due to Motorola's anti-modding community stance. Oh well.
    Reply
  • Ben - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    I'm wondering if "The Droid 3 has excellent ambient noise cancellation during calls, again thanks to the two extra antennas which are no doubt used for processing. I’m not sure what IP is beyond the Droid 3’s noise rejection hardware, but clearly it does a good job."

    Should read as "The Droid 3 has excellent ambient noise cancellation during calls, again thanks to the two extra microphones which are no doubt used for processing. I’m not sure what IP is behind the Droid 3’s noise rejection hardware, but clearly it does a good job."
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    Yeah I got antennas and microphones sort of confused there, thanks! Fixed now!

    -Brian
    Reply
  • Bob-o - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    It's awesome they included a row of numbers at the top, I hate switching when entering mixed input. But why, oh why did they not put the usual secondary symbols on the number keys??! You know, !, @, #, $, etc. That's standard!!! What were they thinking??! Groan. . .

    Also:

    > What feels neglected is how anemic the hardware keyboard auto-replace engine is.
    > Compared with the gingerbread and even Motorola multi-touch keyboards, the hardware
    > keyboard has an almost non-existant auto-replace engine for fixing misspelled words.

    This makes me question Android's software stack. Why would each device (whether physical or virtual) have to implement this functionality? This should be a filter on input, no matter what device the user is using to enter data. . . and so it should work identically no matter what keyboard is being used. Stupid.
    Reply

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