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

  • 7amood - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    that's nice to hear

    please don't forget to talk about the screen problem

    It's really hard to accept that my perfect SUPER AMOLED is not perfect.
    It's harder to accept the fact that samsung don't give a f*** about me since they already have my money.
  • takumsawsherman - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    On the GL benchmark, it shows iPhone 3GS running faster than iPhone 4. Is this correct? If so, why do you think iPhone 4 is performing worse on the test? Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    GLBench runs at the device's native resolution. The iPhone 4 is 4x the resolution of the 3GS. Reply
  • Lucian Armasu - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    It looks like OMAP is on the way out from the market, though:


    Now the fight will be left between Nvidia, Qualcomm and Samsung.
  • martyrant - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    My VP wanted one, so we both got one the same day. I don't talk on the phone as much, but after a week I did a conference call on it and it drained it from 80% to 15% in under an hour. I also just left it on a charger last night, saw it go from 30-90%, went to bed, got up and just checked it (while still plugged into the charger) and it's back at 30%. Did you see any strange anomalies when running your battery life tests? My VP loves the phone, but hates the battery--his dies all the time and so does mine. It seems like while your tests look awesome, the real life performance of this phone is nowhere near in line with those tests when it comes to battery. I have tried max battery saver, just about everything---had to get the VP an extended battery pack and he still doesn't know if he can continue to use this phone because of the battery issues. Reply
  • martyrant - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    It went to 20% from 30% while writing that comment, while plugged into the charger. Hot, right? Reply
  • josby - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    Same here. I bought mine the day they were released in stores, but I've been anxiously awaiting the AnandTech review of it because I knew it would include battery life comparisons. I came from a T-Mobile G2 (running Cyanogen7) and have all the same apps, with the same update intervals set, on my Droid3 as I had on the G2, yet the battery life is very noticeably worse. It can barely make it from morning til night even with very light usage.

    In fact, I always left my G2's wifi on, yet the Droid3 still doesn't last as long even if I leave wifi off.

    Yet, the G2 does considerably worse than the Droid3 in the battery life tests in this review.
  • Brian Klug - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    That's odd - I wonder what kind of signal environment he was in when he made that call. Could you find out what Rx signal strength was in dBm?

    The only part of the entire cellular architecture that has a power control loop is the phone->base station, and when you're in a low signal environment the phone can increase Tx power to be "heard" by the base station and thus hurt battery life considerably. We always test in areas with at least -75 dBm or better.

  • photoguru - Monday, August 01, 2011 - link

    I had major problems with my battery life until I realised that the power adapter for the Droid 3 requires 5.1v at 850mA which is quite a bit higher than most chargers. Mine actually died while browsing the web and being plugged into a Belkin usb charger.

    Also, theres an issue with programs not turning off once you exit them. Task killers should fix it but I actually just went through the programs and manually adjusted which ones can continue to run in the background. Now my battery lasts almost twice as long as it did before, and quite a bit longer than my droid 1 and droid 2 global.
  • anandtech pirate - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    how about the Evo3D? Reply

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