Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tech Review: Droid 4 - 14 month benchmark

In my last review which was only about 3 months after I had gotten the phone I pointed out some of the specs regarding the Motorola Droid 4, and went over some of the pros and cons that I had found at the time. Now that I have owned it for 14 months, and I've seen the phone go full cycle with some of my friends as watched how it handled the tests of time and abuse from me, I figured now was as good a time as any to make a quick review of exactly what has happened with the phone.

In my last review the only beef I had, if I remember correctly, was that the headphone jack was a little wonky and the back plate was a pain in the ass to remove. Well since then I have discovered exactly how unnecessary it is to remove the back plate, so that has become so much less of a nuisance. Not to mention that the tab holding the back plate in can be pressed down and the back plate removed (in the same painful and rather inconvenient way as mentioned before) with just about any writing utensil and not just the stupid looking key they provide you with the phone. The headphone jack, while a bit touchy has stayed just about the same, no further issues have arisen from that whether it be further sound loss or more frequent dead spots in the socket. It pretty much stayed right at the condition it was in when I got it. I also found that the best way to fix any issues you might have with that socket is to first try twisting the headphone jack a little in 1 direction and see if that fixes it, if not, then just pull the jack out, and re-seat it. This will fix any sound loss 99% of the time.

Another chief concern I had walking out of the Verizon store with this phone was the power button, it looks flimsy, because it kind of is. not in the sense that it snapped clean in half after 3 uses or the switch below it gunked up and gave out 12 months in, but in the sense that it's a tiny piece of plastic with a tab on either long-wise edge, and it just kind of teeters on the awkwardly placed switch for the power button. This button, however, has held up surprisingly well given the unintentional abuse that all of my phones tend to get. Some of the metallic paint has rubbed off from the excessive use but other than that the button is still sound, still pops pretty damn close to as clean as it did when it came off the shelf and into my hands.

The Keyboard for the phone has held up well. Part of the reason I got rid of my old Droid 1 was that the buttons on my keyboard literally started peeling off the phone. the droid 1's keyboard was glued onto the phone's switches with some pretty weak rubber cement like stuff, however it looks like the Droid 4's keyboard is 1 solid piece of plastic that wraps under the circuit board?(I'm not 100% sure on this but that keyboard is not coming off) This is a beautiful thing because even though the paint is starting to rub off on the buttons, the actual keyboard itself still clicks and functions as well as it did on day 1.

The Gorilla Glass on the phone has held up well, there's not a single scratch on my screen despite being dropped several times, but that much cannot be said about the silver framing of the screen and the keyboard/body. It's made out of some very thinly painted and very flimsy plastic which has many dings and dents in it. The plus side to this, is that the plastic of that framing is so malleable that it hasn't actually cracked open or anything it just dents up, loses it's paint and becomes coarse.

Lastly, the charger port and the camera. I never had the opportunity of using the ultra-super-duper-sub-micro HDMI port on the phone because I don't record too much video, as such it's a little dusty, the charger port however has held up the test of time elegantly. I've had phones where the charger port is the first thing to go. Sometimes it's just not soldered in well enough and after about 20 months of just plugging and unplugging the power cord, it literally just recedes back into the body of the phone, making the charging process a little laborious. I also never used the front facing camera because I'm not too big on the whole "selfies" trend, so one can only assume that the front-facing camera has held up the test of time immaculately. The rear-facing camera however is incredibly grainy. I don't know if I just didn't notice this when I first got it, or if it's been worsening over time but that camera is seriously grainy for a 8MP camera. I've recently gotten into the hobby of painting miniature war gaming miniatures, I like to take photos of all my completed work and after the first photo shoot with my phones 8MP camera which should have been sufficient to take some decent high-depth photos, I never did it again. I propped the phone up so it wouldn't move in the slightest, put it on a timer then stepped far away from it till the photo took and it was still so grainy that viewed at maximum resolution it was so shitty, it was embarrassing.

Now onto the software side of things. When I got the Droid 4, it was running Android 2.3.5, then shortly after it's release (we're talking like 7-8 months) ICS (Android 4.0) came out for the phone. I had my phone rooted since day one in order to install Titanium Backup and save myself some time getting my phone back to where my last one was at. The root privileges prevented my phone from being able to even install ICS. So, I never went down that road with my phone even though it was one of the chief things I wanted when I was looking at a replacement for my last phone. Then only like a month and a half after ICS came out, all of my friends with Droid 4s started calling me with a long slew of problems that didn't exist until after they updated to ICS. Things like overheating issues, keyboards failing, phones magically shutting off whenever they felt like it. Battery life being slashed in half, the works. So all in all, I think that ICS was a bust for this phone. They released the phone with the intent of it running ICS, but they took too long releasing it in the end and it caused too many problems for the phone.

Lastly for this review i did want to point out one small issue, in the last few weeks, my physical keyboard will very occasionally just magically stop working. I'll type half a text and then they keyboard decides it's done working for the day kind of thing. I usually just switch to the touch screen keyboard to finish what I'm doing, restart my phone, and it's problem solved.

Do any of you own a Droid 4, and if so, do you have anything else that I didn't encounter to add to this review?

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