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


View All Comments

  • Lucian Armasu - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    I completely agree with you on this. Either raise the resolution for a normal LCD/AMOLED screen (RGB) or don't raise it at all if you're going to use Pentile. It makes the display worse overall.

    It's like you're trying to increase sharpness of the display by increasing resolution by 30%, and then you use Pentile which *drops* sharpness by 60%. The end result is negative on the sharpness of the display.
  • YoPete525 - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    Have you guys actually looked at the Droid 3 in person? Most elements on the screen still appear sharper than say on the Incredible 2, which has a relatively comparable 4-inch screen with the 800x480 resolution. You also have to realize that a higher resolution means more viewable content, such as more settings options on the same screen, or more emails in the same view. The increased detail is very noticeable on, for example, home screen icons, looking at the Droid 3 and then a phone with the traditional 800x480 makes icons on the smaller resolution screen appear comically large.

    Solid colors, especially the green (which is in the battery icon), do look fuzzy, as well as a combination of lines on certain backgrounds, and colored text. But at least give the screen a chance in person before you write it off. In terms of overall screen sharpness, you're right in that the RGBW Pentile matrix isn't ideal, but it isn't as bad as you make it out to be.
  • snowblind64 - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    Let's not forget there are benefits to a RGBW pentile screen. Battery drain is consistently well under 10% on my Droid 3 thanks to that extra white sub-pixel. Reply
  • themossie - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    For some, it really is that bad.

    I used it in person, spent a couple off hours in the shop playing with it. Compared to the Droid 1, on the Droid 3 I have to read text at a greater font display size / zoom level (the characters have to be bigger on screen) and as a result can fit less content on the screen than on the Droid 1.

    Best comparison I can make: it feels like you are running an LCD screen at a very uncomplimentary non-native resolution. Try running a 1080p screen at 900p, it's painful to most any power user - you can still read and do work, but everything is fuzzy and hurts the eyes. Some people aren't bothered by this, others get headaches.

    For UI elements, the screen is acceptable; for reading this becomes a problem.

    I'm glad (and jealous) the Droid 3 screen works for you :-) I want a new slider that beats my OG Droid!
  • RavnosCC - Monday, August 01, 2011 - link

    Agreed! I played w/the phone side by side with my D1 on all my favorite sites, reading the same content... trying to find a comparable zoom level on the D3 that didn't make the text look horrible was near impossible on most of the sites I frequent. I think Moto needs to seriously rethink the idea that increasing specs while effectively lowering quality will become the future :( The trade-offs aren't worth it, imho. Reply
  • relativityboy - Thursday, August 04, 2011 - link

    As a posessor of the D3 I can say my D1's screen looks much better. Reply
  • Brian Klug - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    So you have to keep in mind that the photo actually is a 100% crop that I supplied to just show the differences in the subpixel matrix between RGBW and RGB.

    I've been pretty critical of PenTile RGBG in the past, and admittedly RGBW still isn't as desirable as straight up RGB, but it definitely is a way to emulate higher equivalent resolution. The other RGBW advantage is of course the reduction in power (just keep the W subpixel in the on position when displaying white) and thus requiring a less powerful backlight.

    Again, I'd definitely prefer a true qHD 960x540 display like what HTC has on the Sensation/EVO 3D, but this isn't too bad compared to how RGBG looked on the previous generation of AMOLED displays, if nothing else because the vast majority of webpages render with sharp black edges properly.

  • Lucian Armasu - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    It's because of the Pentile Matrix. It makes the screen fuzzier. I wish manufacturers would stop using it. It's not a trade-off I'm willing to make over whatever benefits Pentile brings. Reply
  • hwarrior - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    Too bad Droid 3 is Verizon linked.
  • jjj - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    Motorola will be using 2 LTE chips in it's 5 LTE devices planned to be released this year (Xoom, Bionic,1 more phone and 2 more tablets).One of the chips is developed by Motorola and the other one ... no clue really but Motorola might not want to kill battery life by using Qualcomm so maybe ST-E or Icera. Reply

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