Review: Motorola Bionic on Verizon. The best Android in the US (for now)

Ahhh.  Finally, an LTE phone with everything.  Motorola’s Bionic has been on everyone’s lips since its announcement at CES eight months ago.  However, Motorola’s first LTE phone underwent numerous facelifts, spec enhancements and delays pushing the phone out to last Friday.

We’ve had a week to play with this thing and can say that for all intents and purposes, this is the best Android device on the US market today.  Here’s the rundown of why:

Network: Verizon’s, like it or not, is the most reliable 3G in the US (in my particular area of the world it isn’t but it does fine).  Verizon’s LTE is also the fastest 4G in the US and works in the most places.  On the other hand, Verizon’s apps aren’t fantastic and their policies aren’t consumer friendly.  Verizon is also more expensive than the competitors, but you get what you pay for.

Hardware: The Bionic’s screen is 4.3 inches, qHD and handles sunlight incredibly well.  The screen isn’t as vibrant as a SuperAMOLED Plus display but this pixels were much sharper than anything a 480×800 display could put out.   At the same time, the phone is Samsung Galaxy-ish thin and light.  There is a bulge in the back where the 8-megapixel camera juts out, but for the incredible camera quality on both stills and movies, I’ll take it.  What puts this over and above anything that Samsung has yet put out for me is the GPS which registers many times quicker and more accurate than Samsung’s phones which, although they are improving, miss the mark in GPS accuracy.  LG’s devices have this same GPS weakness.  HTC’s Sensation would be a close competitor if it was on a better network (with a more certain future).


Although Samsung’s Galaxy SII may be slightly faster, the Bionic’s processor/GPU is as fast as any phone I’ve used.  Everything is just quicker.  Most everything is instant.

Even the little things are done right.  The vibrate motor is very accurate, making haptic feedback feel real.  The small led status light is helpful but not unobtrusive.  The capacitative buttons aren’t too sensitive that they activate accidentally in the pocket.

I tried the WebTop hardware with the Atrix and came away unimpressed.  I’ve seen reviews that mostly line up with my experience with the Atrix.  I’m hoping Motorola, with possibly Google’s help, can get this webtop thing in gear.  I’d expect a lower price (lower than a Netbook at least) and better browser performance than an Atom powered PC.  At the moment neither is true so what’s the point?

As far as the media dock, get something that plays DLNA Wirelessly and you’ll be better off.  Perhaps Motorola should build something like that.

Software: Motorola has toned down the Blur enough for this thing to be a great phone.  On software alone, I’d still rate a Nexus or even Motorola’s Virgin Triumph as a better “untouched” build of Android.  However, Motorola did lift enough of Blur out (and dare I say left in some good bits) to keep this a top tier phone.  I even used Verizon’s VCast to watch football.  On this screen, and over a fast connection, it is lovely.  HDMI out? Time to cut the Cable cord?

Flash video played very smoothly.  So does 1080P video out onto an external display.  This thing doesn’t have many flaws.

No one is perfect.

There were some issues that I had with the device however.  It was sometimes slow to pick up a 3G signal when coming from a dead spot (my basement).  It could take up to a minute where other devices were up and running in about 30 seconds.   Also, while camera quality is excellent, getting pictures to snap took longer than I’d like.  Finally, what happened to the FM radio? Oh, coming in an update hopefully.

The price is a bit high but has already dropped to $249 at Verizon.  At Amazon and other outlets it is $179 with a plan.  If you are griping about a few hundred dollars on a plan where you will be paying over $100/month, then you have your priorities wrong.


With Google acquiring Motorola, the future for Motorola phones is very bright, at least when it comes to Android.  Perhaps next year when the merger is complete, this device will be getting Blur-less updates ahead of everyone else.  At the very least you know that Verizon takes good care of its Droid lineup in terms of updates.

The other future is the question of Samsung: Will they release better phones than this one in the future?  Sure, the Nexus Prime sounds pretty good, especially with the 720P display.  But will it ride on LTE?  Will the GPS be any better than previous Samsung efforts?  Who knows?

Wrap up:

Let’s make this simple.  Best network (Verizon LTE).  Best screen (subjective). Extremely fast processor.  Great cameras, Nice form factor.  Responsive GPS.  Bright future.  I have no problem recommending the Motorola Droid Bionic.  I do have a problem giving this demo unit back.

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