There is much rejoicing in the recent disappearance of the MotoBlur name, and we were incredibly relieved to boot up the Droid 3 and not be required to sign in or register for Motorola's UI experience
. Rather, the currently-nameless user interface on the Droid 3 was a breath of fresh air, though it, too, has some cons.
The Droid 3 received a much-needed boost to Android 2.3, a feat that the others haven't yet accomplished (officially, anyways). Motorola chose to throw in a few stock Gingerbread elements, but it's easy to spot a good deal of customization scattered layered on top of the OS. Here, you navigate the app tray by swiping left or right, and you have the option of filtering apps by groups (a long-press of an app results in the choice of sending it to the home screen or attaching it to one of those groups). Motorola also threw in its own keyboard and dialpad, but opted for the stock music player and browser.
Other than the app tray, most shortcuts remained the same, with one refreshing exception. We discovered that pressing the home button twice from the main screen panel would take us directly to an app of our choice. We were able to change it to one of several different apps just by finding the option in the settings menu.
We were greeted by the same bloatware we've come to expect with any Android device on Verizon's networks: the usual VCAST suite, as well as Let's Golf 2
(did anyone ever play the first one?), MOTOPRINT, GoToMeeting, QuickOffice, NFL Mobile, Slacker, and some proprietary social networking apps. As always, there's no way to get rid of these apps, so you just have to get to work hiding them from your usual viewing routine by grouping them together and using your own customized groups as a default.
As far as performance goes, the Droid 3 is full of hits and misses. For a dual-core CPU, it performed without any lagging, per se. However, we grew impatient of the countless animations Motorola threw into its UI, each one taking at least two to three seconds to complete before moving on to the requested task. Examples include lengthy in-and-out transitions between menus, extra time to access shortcuts (such as the home key long-press and
double-press), and opening up programs like the phone and Market. We know, we know, this sounds incredibly picky, but the fact is when using the phone throughout the day, 2-3 seconds for each transition eats up a lot of unnecessary time. The phone's hardware still functions admirably, but the UI effects are somewhat frustrating. Update:
the animations are turned on by default; fortunately, the phone has a setting in which the animations can be turned off, which does trim down the transition time.
In our benchmarking tests
, Quadrant scored 2324; Linpack processed at 44.076 MFLOPS (single-thread) and 66.378 MFLOPS (multi-thread). Nenamark 1 came back at 46.4fps, and Neocore offered a whopping speed of 58.2fps. Sunspider results were just a smidge over 4000ms (4091, to be exact). There was just one matter of curiosity that we couldn't quite explain: whenever we attempted to run the Nenamark 2 benchmark on the Droid 3, it froze. Every. Single. Time. Restarts, master resets, and app re-installs weren't able to resolve it. We can't draw any conclusions on this, since everything else ran perfectly fine, but we're definitely stumped.
The Droid 3 comes with a 1540mAh battery, but you'll definitely want a charger if you're away from home longer than a few hours. In our standard rundown test (we start at 100 percent and loop video endlessly until the battery dies) the phone lasted for 4 hours and 15 minutes. Our everyday use tests fared better -- we got nearly 10 hours of juice out of it when pushing emails, social networking, doing a moderate amount of web browsing, and taking pictures and videos. Still, we'd like to get a full day's use out of our smartphone if possible, though at least this would be long enough to cover a standard eight-hour workshift.
Trying to live up to a good name is a heavy responsibility to take upon ourselves, and smartphones aren't any better off, either. Such is the burden of the Droid 3, being slapped with the duty of impressing the masses to the same degree as its original namesake. Sadly, it feels as though the latest rendition of this tune is more of a swan song. It's had a good run, but the Droid series seems to be fading. By no means are we suggesting this will be the last of its kind -- only Verizon and Motorola can truly answer that question -- but instead of seeing the same elegance, poise, or confidence exuded by the series' firstborn, we see yet another blocky phone. Looks aside, we enjoyed its dual-core performance, though it's somewhat inhibited by UI effects.
Given the curious timing of the Droid 3's arrival paired with the Downy-soft launch, we're left to wonder what happened to it. Was it pushed out ahead of its pre-arranged time, its marketing dollars set aside for a much more hype-worthy Motorola Droid Bionic
or Samsung Function launch? The Droid 3, with its top-notch keyboard and high-end specs (save for its 3G radio), is a phone we wouldn't mind using on a regular basis, but we're sensing something grander lurking just beyond the horizon.