Motorola and Verizon Wireless first showed off the Droid Bionic smartphone at CES 2011. Now, nearly nine months later, this high-speed smartphone has finally hit the market. It wasn't the first phone to run on Verizon's 4G network, but it just might be the best.
Verizon says the Motorola Droid Bionic is its slimmest 4G phone, measuring just .43 inches thick. It's a bit on the bulky side, though, as the Droid Bionic stands 5 inches tall by 2.6 inches wide. That's just about the same size as Sprint's Motorola Photon 4G, and is big enough to make an iPhone 4 look tiny in comparison. Like the Photon 4G, the Droid Bionic weighs 5.6 ounces.
While they are the same size, the Droid Bionic and Photon 4G are decidedly different in shape. Where the Photon 4G sports an angular look, the Droid Bionic is a more traditional rectangular phone. That's not a bad thing, though: with its shiny glass face, slightly curved edges, and soft-touch gray back, the Droid Bionic is handsome.
The front of the phone is dominated by its 4.3-inch qHD display, which has a resolution of 960 by 540 pixels. The display is definitely big and very bright -- it features a coating that makes it easier to see outdoors -- and text and images both looked nicely crisp. But even with its high resolution, this screen can't compare with the iPhone's Retina Display. When viewed side by side, text and pictures on the Droid Bionic were slightly pixilated and grainy when compared with their smooth appearance on the screen of the iPhone 4.
Below the display, the Droid Bionic features four touch-sensitive buttons: menu, home, back, and search. Like the touch screen itself, these buttons are nicely responsive -- and they are far more attractive than the physical buttons that some Android phones, such as the Samsung Conquer 4G, sport.
Powerful Performance, Disappointing Call Quality
Call quality was the one area where the Motorola Droid Bionic really disappointed me. Call quality wasn't terrible, but I had high hopes for using this phone to make calls over Verizon's well-regarded network. I was surprised that many calls sounded hollow, and experienced noticeable static at times. Still, the volume was excellent and I experienced no dropped calls during my tests.
The overall performance of the Droid Bionic was far more impressive, however. Thanks in large part to its speedy 1-Ghz, dual-core processor, the Bionic was extremely fast to use. Switching between screens, pages, and apps was mind-blowingly fast. And you can put all of this processing power to good use: Like the Motorola Atrix and Photon 4G, the Droid Bionic is capable of being used as a portable PC. With Motorola's accessories and the phone's Webtop mode, you can turn the Droid Bionic into a mini-laptop.
High-Speed Data, Too
If the performance of the Droid Bionic itself isn't enough to fulfill your need for speed, you'll be happy to know that this phone delivers on its promise of 4G speeds. Verizon's 4G LTE network is super fast, and so, too, is browsing the Web on the Droid Bionic. Pages, even those heavy with images, loaded very quickly. Videos -- which you can play back right in the browser Window, thanks to the Android OS -- began playing in a flash, with minimal interruptions.
The Droid Bionic supports Verizon's 3G network and Wi-Fi wireless networks. It also can be used a mobile hotspot itself, to which you can connect as many as five other devices. Using this feature requires a mobile hotspot plan, though, which will up your monthly bill.
The Droid Bionic ships with version 2.3 of the Android OS, which is the slickest version of the OS yet. And like the Photon 4G, the Droid Bionic comes with a somewhat scaled-down version of Motorola's Motoblur interface. It's so toned down, in fact, that you're not even required to sign up for a Motoblur account -- something that other phones make mandatory.
This iteration of Motoblur still includes the widgets that offer shortcuts to your favorite social networks, but luckily they're not thrown at you on the phone's primary home screen. Instead, you can scroll off to the side, to another of the five home screens, in order to see them. I also like the iPhone-like dock at the bottom of the screens: you can store your four favorite apps here, so you can easily access them from whichever home screen you're on.
Like the Photon 4G, Motorola's Droid Bionic features a VGA-quality camera on the front for video calls and an 8-megapixel camera on the rear for capturing still photos. It also captures video in 1080p HD. I was impressed with the photos I took outdoors, which featured, bright, rich colors and vivid images. Indoor images were slightly less impressive, though, looking a bit washed out. And the camera has a discernable shutter lag, which caused me to miss a few shots I tried to capture quickly, and often led to blurry images when I tried to capture moving subjects.
Videos fared slightly better: the picture looked crisp and clear. Unfortunately, though, I noticed a few occasions where the video seemed to freeze for a second or two, and then skipped ahead to catch up.
Multimedia and More
The Droid Bionic includes some standard multimedia fare, such as a basic media player, access to Amazon's MP3 downloads, and a YouTube app. You also get the NFL Mobile app, which lets you watch live video, access fantasy teams, and more. Additionally, the phone offers DLNA support, so you can connect it to compatible devices, such as set-top boxes.
What's even more impressive, though, is the ZumoCast app included on the phone. It offers remote access to files stores on your PC. When you run the app on your phone and your PC at the same time, you can wirelessly access your desktop content, including documents, photos, videos, and music playlists, right on your phone. It's an incredibly convenient way to share content between devices.
Price and Availability
The Motorola Droid Bionic is packed with premium features, and it certainly commands a premium price: Verizon Wireless is charging $300 for the phone when you sign a two-year service agreement. That places it about $100 more than most of today's 4G phones, but on a par with Apple's 32GB iPhone 4. (Like that phone, the Droid Bionic offers 32GB of storage, though only 16GB is on-board; the other 16GB comes in the form of a pre-installed MicroSD card.)
The Droid Bionic offers just about everything you could want in a smartphone. It's pretty, it's powerful, and it's blazingly fast. It's expensive, though, and for the price, I do wish it offered better call quality and an improved camera.