If ever a product has summed up the progression of the Android ecosystem, it’s the Motorola Droid. The first Droid catapulted Android into the mainstream with its first 2.x release, and since then the Droid itself has seen a yearly update cadence that honestly has shown no sign of stopping. The updates thus far track the trends that we’ve seen affect the Android ecosystem as a whole - newer and better versions of Android alongside ever increasing SoC performance, display improvements, camera improvements, and refined hardware design.

I think that pretty much sums up what kind of update the Motorola Droid 3 (henceforth just Droid 3) is. It’s an iterative product launch, for sure, but that belies just how good the improvements all around really are. I noted a few of them already - the Droid 3 includes a dual core OMAP 4430 SoC, larger 4” qHD display, more internal storage, better camera, front facing camera, and most notably a much improved 5 row QWERTY keyboard.

Of course the huge question mark is what has improved connectivity-wise on the Droid 3. There’s no 4G LTE baseband, however, instead of repeating the Droid 2 and Droid 2 Global duopoly, Motorola just went ahead and made the Droid 3 global from the start. That’s right, it’s a dual-mode phone. It’s no consolation if you’re still waiting for an LTE enabled device with a physical keyboard (for that, you’ll have to wait for Samsung to release its rumored next device), but in my mind right now you can either have multi-mode global (CDMA2000 and GSM/UMTS) compatibility or multi-mode (CDMA2000 and LTE) with 4G connectivity. As of yet there’s no having it both ways.

We’ll talk more about all of that in due time, but for now let’s just go over the Droid 3’s outward physical appearance and hardware.

First off, the Droid 3 is notably larger than its predecessor. It’s 3 mm wider, 7 mm taller, but almost 1 mm thinner. Those changes in outline are both to accommodate the 4” screen (as opposed to 3.7”) and likewise the additional keyboard row. Mass is up as well, from 169 to 184 grams. I won’t bore you with all the specifications that have changed, you can just check out the table below.

Physical Comparison
  HTC Thunderbolt Motorola Droid 2 Motorola Droid X2 Motorola Droid 3
Height 122 mm (4.8") 116.3 mm (4.6") 126.5 mm (4.98") 123.3 mm (4.85")
Width 67 mm (2.63") 60.5 mm (2.4") 65.5 mm (2.58") 64.1 mm (2.52")
Depth 13.2 mm (0.52") 13.7 mm (0.54") 9.9 - 14.4 mm (0.39"-0.57") 12.9 mm (0.51")
Weight 183.3 g (6.46 oz) 169 g (5.9 oz) 148.8 g (5.25 oz) 184 g (6.49 oz)
CPU 1 GHz MSM8655 45nm Snapdragon 1 GHz Cortex-A8 OMAP 3620 1 GHz Dual Core Cortex-A9 Tegra 2 AP20H 1 GHz Dual Core Cortex-A9 OMAP 4430
GPU Adreno 205 PowerVR SGX 530 ULP GeForce PowerVR SGX 540
NAND 4 GB NAND with 32 GB microSD Class 4 preinstalled 8 GB integrated, preinstalled 8 GB microSD 8 GB NAND, 8 GB microSD class 4 preinstalled 16 GB NAND, up to 32 GB microSD
Camera 8 MP with autofocus and dual LED flash, 720p30 video recording, 1.3 MP front facing 5 MP with dual LED flash and autofocus 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 720p30 video recording 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 1080p30 video recording, VGA (0.3MP) front facing
Screen 4.3” 800 x 480 LCD-TFT 3.7" FWVGA 854 x 480 IPS-LCD 4.3" 960 x 540 RGBW LCD 4.0" 960 x 540 RGBW LCD
Battery Removable 5.18 Whr Removable 5.2 Whr Removable 5.65 Whr Removable 5.65 Whr

Subjectively however, I was shocked at just how thin the Droid 3 feels in the hand in spite of the slide-out keyboard. It seems like generally there’s a certain amount of unacceptable overhead that always comes alongside including an actual keyboard, yet the Droid 3 manages to do it without making it painfully obvious that everything was designed around it instead of with it.

The other major difference is how much different the Droid 3 feels compared to the Droid 2 - entirely as a result of the device using squared edges instead of the rounded chamfers that ringed the Droid 2. There’s been a recent slow march away from rounded industrial design to one dominated by rigid 90 degree angles, and the Droid 3 follows that trend with this move.

Hardware Overview - Nods from the Droid X
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  • 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.
  • 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 1, 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.
  • relativityboy - Thursday, August 4, 2011 - link

    As a posessor of the D3 I can say my D1's screen looks much better.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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