Release Date: 9/8/2011
OS: Android Jellybean 4.1
Carrier: Verizon Wireless
The Android family is growing exponentially and feels like a train hurtling down the track at 200 MPH with no stop in sight. The whole platform has grown in just a couple of short years with a quality market (and market storefront), more quality apps, games, and now the addition of books and movies just makes the Android market feel like something to compete with the App Store. The devices are also really utilizing the system, and thanks to Google allowing open resource development of the platform we get some really great apps and features on the phone that the iPhone, Blackberry, and other phones just can’t do.
Out of the Box
The Bionic has a great-looking box, but there’s not much beyond that. It comes with the standard battery, charger, USB cable, and 16GB micro SD card (cha-ching!) (I’ll cry if a phone comes with a car charger). The phone came with a SIM card which is new to Verizon and Droid phones. This is a 4G SIM card and is needed to activate 4G. When you boot it up you can act like normal, but there’s one feature that was enabled on my phone that kept me on the phone with Verizon for over an hour until I scoured the internet myself. A certain little voice privacy feature was enabled that keeps your 3/4G off and for some reason was also enabled on my old Droid. Thankfully disabling this turned my 3G back on, but that wasn’t really a problem with the phone itself. Once that’s all done you’ll notice how fast the phone boots up (there’s even a neat Droid Bionic logo animation and sound! Transformers anyone?) So let’s go over some of the hardware features.
The first thing you’ll notice is the speed of the phone is as fast as a computer. That’s the 1Ghz dual-core processor running everything for you at lightning speed. Why dual cores? Everything is just twice as fast and lets you multitask like never before without any type of slowdown or lag that you might even get in single-core 1Ghz phones. Compared to the iPhone 4S it’s actually faster with an ARM Cortex-A9 processor. Yes, the iPhone 4S does have the same processor type, but it’s under-clocked at 800Mhz per core so you’re losing about 25% speed over the Bionic unless you jailbreak your iPhone and overclock the processor.
The GPU is also slightly faster than both the iPhone 4 and 4S (they both have the same GPU) with a PowerVR SGX540 @ 304 MHz while the new iPhones both have an SGX535 model. The Bionic has faster, and more memory with 1Ghz DDR2 memory which is as fast as a computer while both iPhones still use eDRAM and only have 512 MBs. This means extra speed, faster app switching, and the ability to have more apps open without suffering from the slowdown, lag, or crashes.
The Bionic also has 8GB of internal memory with the option of SD cards (up to 32 GB), so with the standard model, you get 22GB of memory (maxed 40 GB) while the iPhones are stuck with just the internal memory and you have to pay huge dollars for more space. The camera is about on par with the 4S with 8MP and 1080p support that lets you take panoramic photos, super high-quality video, photos, and has an excellent flash. The front-facing camera is just 1.3 MP for video calling.
The only thing that the iPhone really trumps the Bionic on are the displays. The iPhones have 960×640 resolutions with 326ppi and the Bionic has 960×540 resolution with 266ppi. It’s not much, but it does make a difference when you compare the two. The Bionic does have a huge 4.3″ screen which stomps the iPhone’s 3.5″ screen and is a true qHD screen (true 16:9 ratio) which is perfect for watching movies. The Bionic also has a mini-HDMI port for connecting to your TV and even other high-end phones don’t have this yet. The Bionic has a higher contrast ratio at 1000:1 while the iPhones have 800:1. This means it can display more colors and resembles more of an HDTV than a phone display.
When you start using the phone you will see it has so many great features over old Android phones and the iPhone and Blackberry. First off let’s talk about data management and sharing. The phone now comes with a file manager so you can transfer files from your internal storage to your SD card as well as connect to your computer wirelessly and share files. The phone also supports DLNA which can sync your media via Wi-Fi as upload media to your computer. The phone also gives a few options when you connect to your computer via USB. Instead of just the mass storage device option, you get a PC Mode that allows you to connect via a Motorola laptop or installs the Motohelper driver on your PC and lets you access the SD card and internal storage. The software will also show any missed calls, texts, etc which is a nice touch.
There are some nice pre-installed apps such as the built-in camera apps which give you a good range of options for video and photo, you now have a download manager and Motoprint which allows you to connect to a wireless printer via W-Fi. There’s also a task manager which is very useful to kill stubborn (read: poorly programmed) apps that won’t close. It also has an auto-kill list for when the screen goes out for 2 minutes. This helps preserve battery life (you’ll need it), but the phone does a good job of doing this on its own. You can turn the phone into a mobile hotspot (remember it’s extra per month for this feature), plus all the standard apps like the task scheduler, calculator, and alarm are nice.
The market has a great storefront and has tons of quality games, apps, books, and movies now. The market just allows you to really make the phone your own and reflect your personality and gives you so many options. The phone really has just so many great features built-in that make things so much easier for transferring data, media, as well as using the cameras and all the nifty hardware.
One thing I have to mention is that the games run smoothly on this phone. Using the PlayStation and SNES emulators I can get games to run at 400 FPS with all the quality options enabled. All the high-end 3D games run without a hitch and you will be an unstoppable game-wise especially if you can switch from a hardware hungry emulator to the browser to check an FAQ, switchback, answer a call, text someone, all without any slowdown, and with all those running in the background.
When it comes to the basic phone features it sounds great, the speakers sound sweet, calls are clear, and typing on the keyboard is easy with the huge screen. You won’t miss a pullout keyboard with this phone.
It’s Not Perfect
The phone isn’t perfect however, the battery is probably the biggest issue with this monster sucking it dry within a few hours. Sure you can use battery-saving apps and the phone has a built-in battery saver, but if you surf the net a lot, or play games all the time have a charger with you at all times. There also seems to be an issue with mobile networking because it fades in and out a lot. I’m not sure if that’s my area or the phone itself. While 4G LTE is lightning fast (there’s a world of difference in speed) it’s only available in a few areas (mainly big cities) so I don’t get it in my area even. By 2013 Verizon said the whole country will get it so we’ll have to see. There also isn’t a camera button on the phone when a lot of people are used to this. The volume and power buttons are also really small and sometimes hard to press when you’re not looking. Other than that this is an amazing phone and should be bought by every Android lover!
Now that I have had this phone for a full 2 years, I hate the thing. I have the same problem I did with the original Droid. I went through two years of crappy firmware updates, 4G constantly dropping out, sluggish unresponsive everything, but at least the battery issue got fixed, but it took an entire year. I don’t know what happens with Motorola phones, but after 6 months they just tank on you. I tried resetting the phone to factory defaults, replacing the phone, and neither worked. It would take sometimes minutes for a browser to load, typing would be delayed up to 10 seconds, it was frustrating and annoying. It also doesn’t help that the phone is huge and heavy compared to phones that are out now. It finally got the 4.2.2 Jellybean update about 3 months ago, but it runs worse on that OS than the 2.3 it came with. I will never buy a Motorola phone again, sometimes the language would change randomly, but at least it didn’t reboot on its own like my last phone. While the Bionic is discontinued now and has been replaced by the Droid Razer and Razer Maxx, I feel mad about Motorola abandoning their Bionic users. The phone was the last to get the 4.0 ICS update, and even that had bugs of its own. Just don’t ever buy a Motorola phone, they are all the same.