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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  • RoninX - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    I'm guessing that people who prefer a physical keyboard (like myself) would rather manually correct spelling errors than deal with <a href="http://damnyouautocorrect.com/">overly aggressive autocorrect algorithms</a>.

    I currently have a Droid 2 on a one-year contract that's eligible for an upgrade, and I'm strongly learning toward getting a Droid 3, due largely to the excellent keyboard.

    I'll have to see the Pentile screen in-person before making a decision. I find it interesting that some people find the Pentile effect imperceptible, while others find it unbearable.

    I'm also curious about the Samsung <a href="http://www.bgr.com/2011/07/29/atts-sleek-samsung-s... which looks like a dual-core Exynos slider. The keyboard doesn't look nearly as good as the Droid 3's, but the 3000+ score on Quadrant (similar to the SGS2) is intriguing...
    Reply
  • RoninX - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    That should read, the Samsung http://www.bgr.com/2011/07/29/atts-sleek-samsung-s...">SCH-i927 dual-core Exynos slider. Reply
  • hackbod - Monday, August 01, 2011 - link

    Auto-correcting input from a hard keyboard is actually very different than from a soft keyboard. A soft keyboard's auto correction is deeply tied to the key layout, and tables built to map specific tap positions on the keyboard to the possible letters that may be intended.

    The Android IME architecture *does* allow the IME to perform the same kinds of text processing operations on physical keyboard input as it does on touch input. However, in practice, a soft keyboard IME is designed around processing touch input, and you probably wouldn't want it to do the same processing of hard key input because the result would be poor.
    Reply
  • jvchapman - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    No 4G = Useless. Reply
  • bjacobson - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    looks like the display is still sunken down under the gorilla glass like on the Droid1 and Droid2? The more I use others' phones (Samsung Galaxy, Iphone, etc) the more it bugs me on mine...significantly increases glare. Reply
  • bjacobson - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    The dragging down notifications bar animation, on all the OMAP based phones I played with, runs at 20-30 FPS best case.

    The Samsung Galaxy animation for it is much smoother for whatever reason.

    This is the biggest beef I have with android phones; I play with my friend's Iphone 3gs and it's still smoother than the latest android hardware...
    Reply
  • Mumrik - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    I really don't get why we have to have those sucky touch buttons under the screen when they could be proper physical buttons. Reply
  • Myrandex - Monday, August 01, 2011 - link

    I agree. I miss call start and end buttons personally.

    Jason Cook
    Reply
  • anandtech pirate - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    only 512mb of ram? I'm sure throwing in another 512mb wouldn't have added much to the cost. and I bet the performance boost would have been worth it.

    also..... whatever happened to the evo3D review?.... just wondering like a lot of other people
    Reply
  • tipoo - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    Does anything indicate 512MB currently bottlenecks Android or its apps? We just moved away from 256MB not so long ago, after all. Reply

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