I recently had an opportunity to evaluate a Droid Bionic (this is TekGoblin’s second review). After getting acquainted with it and using it for about a week, I have found that there are both things that I like and things that I found to be less than desirable in a device that retails for $699 without a two-year contract. It has a large screen that is great for mobile gaming and video watching, and a processor that makes it much faster than my iPhone 3GS, but there were also things that I found to be annoying, such as the fact that the battery cover, made of thin and flexible plastic, feels very fragile and the power button which you need to locate and press to unlock the phone is small enough to be difficult to locate by feel.
For people who want their phone to do so much more than just make calls and send text messages, the 4.3 inch 540 x 960 pixel display is a huge plus. The touch screen is very responsive and has a respectable color range, as well as diversity in respect to brightness. Whereas the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play I reviewed had some brightness issues insofar as the device had to be set to full brightness in order to be seen well in bright sunlight, the Droid Bionic’s brightness range accommodates both dim and brightly lit environments with ease. The device’s auto-brightness feature made it so that, with the brightness set to about 30%, I never had to go in and manually change the brightness setting when transitioning from inside a building out into bright direct sunlight.
The body of the device feels solid, coming in at 5.02” tall, 2.63” wide and a petite 0.43” thick, and weighing in at about 5.6 oz; it does not feel like a phone that would be easily broken when dropped. However, the battery cover is a little worrying for those of us that are clumsy. The rubbery texture on the back makes for a pleasant tactile experience, and the cover is not easily removed so there is less worry about it popping off if the phone should fall, but when it is separated from the device it bends easily and is very thin, giving the impression that it wouldn’t be too difficult to snap it under the perfect storm of bad circumstances. The only physical button on the device is the power button situated on the top left corner of the phone, and if you are trying to pick up the phone and find that button simply by feel and need to do so quickly, it can be difficult. If you were going down the road waiting for someone to text directions to you and you wanted to unlock the device so you could read the text, you might miss your turn trying to find the power button before you can swipe to unlock the phone.
The user interface is very nice and well organized. The setup is reminiscent of iOS, though there are more customization capabilities. The fact that you can drag widgets to customize your app panels is very convenient, as is your ability to resize the widgets. The notification center is tucked away at the top of the screen and accessible by a simple swipe downward, much like the new iOS 5. This is a very convenient feature for a fast and easy overview of all of your recent notifications, all in one place. One thing that I especially liked was the photo feed. After you enter in the login information for social networking sites you might use, photos that your friends have recently uploaded are viewable in a slideshow format directly on the device’s screen without opening any apps, and you can comment on them right then and there. Perhaps my favorite feature about the interface is the contact center. You can store up to twenty of your favorite contacts and the first five will be arranged on the top row of the main screen as photograph icons of those people. Tapping on the contact gives you a number of options, such as call, e-mail, text message, and even Twitter or Facebook. Swiping down on the contact bar expands to display your twenty favorite contacts full-screen.
Sending messages via a phone has never been easier. With the option of SMS, MMS and e-mail, all are a breeze on the Bionic’s large display. What makes sending a quick message even easier is the Swype text entry. The first day I had the phone I learned how to turn it on and never turned it back off because it is so amazing and simple to use. I got so used to it, in fact, that I had a difficult time remembering to type spaces in my text messages on my iPhone. For people who have never used a device with Swype, a simple explanation: To enter text, all the user must do is slide their finger from one letter in a word to the next, lift off to indicate the end of the word, and then start on the first letter of the next, a space will be entered for you. If the device has “guessed” a word other than the one you wanted to enter, a bar with alternate word choices is displayed and a tap replaces the word. Your word isn’t in the device’s dictionary? No problem. Type it manually, tap on the word in the bar, then tap on “Add ‘xxxxx’ to dictionary” and the next time you Swype it, the device will enter that word.
Calls on this phone come through crystal clear on Verizon’s network, though I do not live in an area that has 4G LTE available. I found the signal strength to be superb after giving it the test that nearly every other phone fails: taking it into the local High School. Every other phone that I have ever used misses or drops calls and is incapable of sending texts within the steel and cinder-block building, yet the Droid Bionic held strong at full bars of signal and full calling, texting, and downloading ability. Sitting side by side with my iPhone 3GS wavering between 2 and 4 bars of signal, the Bionic held consistently at full. In addition, the 1735 mAh battery gives it superb battery life. I tested the phone to see how long it could go under the conditions of regular use without a charge. Texting and playing games or video on a consistent basis, I was not presented with a prompt to plug in the device for charging for a full fifty-two hours.
One thing that I considered to be a huge disappointment with this phone was it’s camera. It has a lot of options as far as customizing the camera settings prior to taking the image, but not a lot of those do any good to raise the quality of the images. I found it difficult to get the camera to focus, and irritating to wait for the focusing box to hone in on what I wanted to photograph and finally turn green. Then, the time between pressing the shutter button and final image capture can best be described as dismal. It was nearly impossible to photograph any subject that was moving. The camera is best suited to still life or landscape photographs in brightly lit environments, with photographing your neighbor’s dog or your precocious niece or nephew a nearly impossible chore.
The Droid Bionic is a solid choice for those who wish to buy a smartphone. With it’s large screen and seemingly endless selection of apps made available in the Android market, it makes a good multi-purpose phone on which the user can play games and watch videos on the go. With all of your notifications and social updates organized into one convenient place it is the phone that will keep you current on what your friends are doing while updating you on the weather and local as well as national news. It makes conducting business and communication a breeze, and adds a healthy portion of entertainment, with the stamina for prolonged use without having to tether it down with a charger. I give this device a 4 out of 5 gears. Check out the rest of the pictures in the gallery below: