We saw a much different Motorola DROID Bionic way back in January during CES, and in the many months of delays it has had a complete transformation. Now the first dual-core LTE smartphone on Verizon’s network has arrived, bringing with it a lot of hype. So does this phone live up to everyone’s expectations, or is it too late out of the gate? That’s what we’re here to find out.
What you See
Simply put, the DROID Bionic looks a lot like the DROID X and X2. If you have ever held either of these phones in your hand, you’ll feel right at home. The design makes this the thinnest LTE smartphone to date, with the exception of the slight hump you’ll find at the top of the Bionic, which is needed to keep the 8 mega-pixel camera inside the device.
That overall thinness also makes this one of the lightest LTE smartphones on Big Red’s lineup, save for the Samsung DROID Charge. Unlike the DROID Charge though, the Bionic is not covered in an ultra-thin plastic case. The back is protected by a malleable plastic cover, and while it is very thin, it definitely has a lot more hold than you would find in most other rear covers. The front of the phone is protected by a grey plastic cover that has been glossed over, with the sides switching for a matte black look.
The case is actually very minimal though, as the screen takes up quite a bit of real estate. It should make you happy to know that the 4.3″ display is protected by Gorilla Glass, which has become the norm for most high-end smartphones these days. It will be able to handle scratches when you accidentally put this in the same pocket as your keys, and can handle a drop, but that doesn’t mean you should be dropping this from a three story building for fun.
There are only two physical keys on the Bionic, being the power button located at the top left edge and the volume rocker located on the right hand side. Just like most high-end smartphones these days, the Bionic does not have a dedicated camera button. It may mean nothing to you, especially when Motorola places a camera app on the app drawer at the bottom, but it is worth noting.
There is of course a mini-USB port for connecting the phone to your computer or charging the phone, but we did notice that you must use the USB cord that is provided with the Bionic. For some reason other cords, even ones from Motorola devices, do not work with this phone. Last but not least we have an HDMI-out port for connecting your phone to your TV, but it also has DLNA capabilities if you don’t want to deal with cords.
What’s Under the Hood
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Bionic is powered by a dual-core 1GHz processor, but that processor does not have “Tegra” in its name. Instead Motorola has opted for their usual favorite, TI OMAP, which brings an extremely smooth experience throughout. The Bionic has also been upgraded from 512MB of RAM back in January to a full 1GB, which we’re glad to see. These days 1GB of RAM is required, and anything less takes away from the experience.
Included with the Bionic is 16GB of internal storage, and if that isn’t enough for your app and storage needs, there is also a 16GB mini-SD card pre-installed. The internal storage is a little bit iffy though, as some of that has already been used for those pre-installed applications and Motorola’s BLUR UI, and only half of that 16GB can be used for app storage. Thankfully most apps today allow apps2sd support, so you can easily use that sd card.
The one part of the Bionic we haven’t enjoyed. The Bionic has a 4.3″ qHD display that uses the same Pentile Matrix we’ve seen in the DROID 3 and DROID X2. Just like our experience with those phones, the Bionic’s display is downright awful. From the very beginning you will easily be able to see each dot clearly. At first this cause quite a few headaches and we were only able to stare at the screen for a limited amount of time. We got used to it, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t see it. The only good thing to say about the display is that it has a tremendous effect on the battery life, which we’ll discuss a little bit later.
There are two cameras on the Bionic, with an 8 mega-pixel one on the rear and a VGA front-facing camera. There isn’t much to say about the front camera, as it really doesn’t offer much except the occasional video chat session. So we’ll move onto the rear-facing camera.
Motorola’s camera app gives you plenty of options all within a couple taps on the screen, whether that be switching between cameras or between camera and video recording, zooming, lighting options, and the different ways to capture a shot (single, panorama, and multi-shot). The camera also has an LED light located right next to it, just in case you want to see what’s hidden in the dark. Picture quality does come into question though, as the pictures seemed to be dimmed down (see the examples we took in average lighting). The recording also has the same dimmed quality, although having an option to record in 1080p is a great addition that we enjoyed.
Software and Battery Life
Fortunately for us, Gingerbread has been out for almost a year now, and manufacturers are finally releasing all their devices with it. The Bionic comes included with Android 2.3.4, one of the latest versions of Gingerbread, with the latest version of BLUR added on top of it. We really have begun to enjoy Motorola’s added UI, with its screen animations and social network connectivity, but it’s all just personal preference.
Motorola does have one thing going for its Pentile Matrix displays, and that is battery life. Even with this device carrying a battery sucking LTE radio, the display allowed the Bionic to easily have a full 12 hours of battery life on average use (emails, web browsing, 1 hour of Angry Birds, and constant checking of FFL app). It also only took a couple hours of charging when the battery did run dry it to be back up to 100%, although some people have said that there charging experience is much worse.
Motorola said that its phones released in late 2011 would have an unlockable bootloader, so when the Bionic was released in September, we expected just that. Unfortunately that isn’t the case with this device. There is a huge dev community attached to this phone though, and they have already rooted, created a bootstrap app, and started making custom ROMs for anyone willing. It will probably still be a little while before CyanogenMod, but this will do for now.
Note-I did not root this device, this is just information I have collected for anyone that would like to know about it. As a warning, rooting your device voids your warranty and you may permanently damage the device by doing so.
Here it is folks. The DROID Bionic is finally released. Even after all the delays, it is still one of the best smartphones on the market at its release. The problem is that its release may have arrived just when better specs are on the horizon. With the Vigor, Revolution 2, and even the Nexus Prime rumored to be just a couple months away, the Bionic is being released into competitive market. If you can’t or don’t want to wait for those devices though, and you can stand the screen, you should head over to your nearest Verizon Wireless store immediately.