Cellular Connectivity

So the elephant in the room is cellular connectivity on the Droid 3. To many people’s chagrin, the Droid 3 lacks 4G LTE connectivity, instead including dual-mode CDMA2000 1x/EVDO Rev.A and GSM/WCDMA compatibility with a Qualcomm MDM6600. We’ve seen Motorola using the MDM6600 in a host of smartphones lately, and the baseband offers a native dual-mode (world phone) solution that’s essentially fully realized in the Droid 3. To that extent, the Droid 3 does build and improve upon the connectivity of the Droid 2, but still doesn’t offer 4G LTE connectivity which would require an additional baseband and possibly larger package.

Motorola Droid 3 - Network Support
CDMA2000 1xRTT/EVDO Rev.A 800 / 1900 MHz
GSM/EDGE 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz
WCDMA/UMTS 850 / 1900 / 2100
HSPA Speed HSDPA 10.2/14.4 (UE Cat. 9/10), HSUPA 5.76
Baseband Qualcomm MDM6600

We’ve already tested Verizon Wireless’s EVDO Rev.A considerably, but I ran 243 more tests on the Droid 3 and made a histogram again to show how things fare. Again we test using the speedtest.net application in real world environments at all signal levels and times of day to get a good picture for what real-world speeds look like. MDM6600 remains a competent CDMA2000 baseband.

The obvious next part of the story is that WCDMA HSPA+ 14.4 Mbps connectivity. Unfortunately, Verizon has locked the retail Droid 3 out of seeing USA-based GSM/WCDMA networks with an MCC (Mobile Country Code) lock, so you’re out of luck if you want to use a retail Droid 3 on AT&T 3G (which it has the band support for) or T-Mobile 2G. Calling up Verizon and getting an unlock code doesn’t disable the MCC lock, but you can use the Droid 3 abroad that way. There’s another similar Droid 3 for sale outside normal retail channels that purports to have the MCC lock removed, but as we didn’t have one, I was unable to test any of the GSM/WCDMA connectivity on the Droid 3. It is there however, as evidenced by toggles in the wireless connectivity pages inside settings.

Next up is attenuation, which again we test for by holding the phone in a variety of positions and watching received signal strength move around. The Droid 3 (like all of its earlier CDMA2000 brethren) has Rx diversity, which you can additionally verify from inside the programming menu. I saw signal drop by 16 dB with the phone cupped at the top and bottom completely, which is about where we have seen other phones sit.

Signal Attenuation Comparison in dB - Lower is Better
  Cupping Tightly Holding Naturally Holding in Case On an Open Palm
Droid 3 16.0 11.3 - 5.0
HTC Sensation 15.0 10.0 8.0 0.0
Samsung Droid Charge 10.0 10.0 5.0 0.0
HTC Thunderbolt - LTE 5.3 2.5 - 4.4
HTC THunderbolt - EVDO 6.5 0.8 - 7.2
Verizon iPhone 4 16.5 15.5 9.0 7.9
LG Optimus 2X 13.7 9.3 - 5.9
Nexus S 13.3 6.1 - 4.3
Droid 2 11.5 5.1 - 4.5
BlackBerry Torch 15.9 7.1 - 3.7
Dell Streak 14.0 8.7 - 4.0
Droid X 15.0 5.1 - 4.5
AT&T iPhone 4 24.6 19.8 7.2 9.2
iPhone 3GS 14.3 1.9 3.2 0.2
HTC Nexus One 17.7 10.7 7.7 6.7

One more thing to note is that the Droid 3 actually reports its signal strength bar visualization based on SNR instead of just receive power. I’ve read a few reports where people were confused by the lack of bars with the Droid 3 next to another Verizon Wireless device, and this is the reason. Remember that great signal strength and great SNR (which actually matters) are not necessarily mutually inclusive.

WLAN and Bluetooth

Next up is WiFi and Bluetooth, both of which are handled by the Droid 3’s onboard TI Wilink7 series TI1281 combo BT, FM, WLAN, GPS single chip solution. Note that the official Verizon specifications list TI1285 (which doesn’t exist yet on the TI website) but the actual Droid 3 ROM contains the necessary WLAN firmware for TI1281 client and AP mode in no uncertain terms. Either way, we at least know it's a Wilink 7 series stack. TI1281 supports 802.11a/b/g/n single spatial stream, however the Droid 3 doesn’t incorporate the appropriate 5 GHz front end for 802.11a/n, rather just 2.4 GHz 802.11b/g/n is supported. Likewise included is Bluetooth 3.0 and Low Energy (4.0) support, and GPS which the Droid 3 uses.

WLAN range on the Droid 3 is very good, with it being possible to use the Droid 3 in a few environments that the Droid 2 and X aren’t entirely stable in. I took a photo of the Droid 3 alongside the X I have borrowed from a friend with the Droid 3 showing -84 dBm of signal compared to the X’s -92 dBm.

I’m not entirely convinced that either are showing the proper link rate (65 Mbps seems odd considering the low signal), however I’ve been able to maintain connectivity throughout my test location. I’ve seen bursts of above 30 Mbps on the Droid 3 when doing our local PDF transfer test, however the average settled down to around 27 Mbps as shown in the graph below.

WiFi Performance

I guess that brings me to GPS on the Droid 3, which as I mentioned before is using the stack on the TI1281 instead of the stack on MDM6600. It acquires a 3D fix insanely fast, almost instantaneously. I timed under a second outside with no WiFi assist, down to 9.1 feet of accuracy almost immediately. I’m very impressed with GPS performance on the Droid 3. The only caveat is that it seems the TI1281 isn’t passing on NMEA GPS data which includes per-satellite SNR and position to the Android API. Instead, you just get a location and degree of precision measure, which makes it hard to know whether there’s some trickery going on or the GPS is really just that good.

The other interesting curiosity is that the Droid 3 is one of the first I’ve seen to list sGPS as a supported feature. The s in sGPS of course stands for simultaneous, which means that during E911 calls the GPS and voice data aren’t just slotted in a time multiplexed scheme but truly  simultaneous.

Camera - Stills and Video Quality WiFi Hotspot Creation, Speakerphone Volume, Call Quality
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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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