Motorola DROID 4: An Office In Your Pocket? - InformationWeek
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2/14/2012
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Motorola DROID 4: An Office In Your Pocket?

Motorola's new Droid 4 is big and doesn't ship with Android 4.0, but it does fit both 4G LTE and some office tools in your pocket.



With the Droid 4--offered in the U.S. via Verizon on its 4G LTE network--Motorola wants you to take your work with you. The phone's hardware is certainly beefy enough to make that happen, but the software side is still a mixed bag, and the way you take your particular work with you might not be a fit for a phone.

Let's start with the hardware: the phone has a dual-core 1.2-GHz processor, a 4-inch 940-pixel-by-540-pixel screen, an 8MP 1080p camera (and a second, forward-facing 1.3MP camera), 16 GB of internal storage, support for microSD cards with up to 32 GB, a 1785 mAH battery, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, CDMA 800/1900 and LTE band 13 radios, HDMI, Bluetooth, autonomous GPS, and separately-sold docking hardware. The illuminated slide-out QWERTY keyboard makes the phone a bit chunkier than I'd like, but typing with the Droid 4 is a lot less painful than poking the screen would be. And admins will be happy to know that data on the device can be encrypted.

Now the bad news: the Droid 4 comes only with Android 2.3.5. It's set to be upgraded to Android 4.0 (a.k.a. Ice Cream Sandwich) later, but Motorola has not officially announced a date. In fairness to Motorola, the release of ICS was not all that long ago and devices running it are not common yet. It might not have been possible to ship the phone on time with adequate testing and customization.

Another issue that might stop people cold is the non-removable battery--it's for the sake of keeping the phone that much thinner--although you can simulate a battery pull by holding down the power and volume down buttons for 10 seconds. Hey, it's good enough for iPhone users.

Verizon's 4G LTE network has been pushed hard at heavy data users--those who want to stream video, do heavy Web browsing, and so on. From what I've seen, they ought to be happy. The 4G LTE signal in my area wasn't very strong, but even with only two bars I got a sustained 4.5-megabit download and 1.02-megabit upload speed. Everything from YouTube to NetFlix played back with minimal lag; for the most part I felt like I was still using my house's Wi-Fi connection. The phone's hardly immune to the power consumption issues inherent to 4G, but Motorola has found a few ways to offset those problems (more about that later).

One of the major selling points for the Droid 4 is its "anywhere office" connectivity (Motorola's catchphrase, not ours). The Motocast and Motoprint features let you access your files from your home computer or print documents, respectively, over Wi-Fi. Both require PC clients, with the Motocast client sporting one perplexing bug. By default, that client shares certain folders within your own user directory (Music, Videos, files on the desktop, etc.) But if you try to share out folders that are in the root directory of a drive, the program's interface becomes garbled and unusable; you have to share out a folder that's at least one level down from the root before it works. The Motoprint host had to open multiple firewall ports to work, but at least in the end I was able to get that to work with relatively little pain.



For relatively undemanding editing of documents on the phone, the Droid 4 comes with QuickOffice. It's something of a crapshoot as to which files you'll be able to open with QuickOffice, but I was able to at least read and do rudimentary editing on documents that didn't have complex formatting such as fancy text styles. Unfortunately, OpenOffice users in particular are out of luck: QuickOffice cannot open the .ODF file format. I'm used to a full-size desktop in all respects, so for me QuickOffice was only useful for perusing files rather than creating them.

Those with ambitions to get real work done can connect the Droid 4 to a special dock, which hooks up to an HDMI display. From there you can use Motorola's webtop technology to run a full-screen instance of Firefox, remote-connect to a Citrix-enabled system, or run a number of other webtop-enabled apps.

I recommend adding a full Bluetooth keyboard as well, although this is the sort of thing that works best when the dock, display, and keyboard are not things you need to bring everywhere with you. A big display is probably best when using Citrix Receiver to remotely access your desktop, or with the included copy of GoToMeeting, for remote conferencing--although you can get away with small-screen videoconferencing on the latter a la Google+ Hangouts.

Droid 4 Nighttime Battery Saver

Battery life on any smart phone tends to be a losing proposition. Motorola has tried to do something about this on the software side via its Smart Actions system (which actually debuted in the Droid RAZR). Rules can be set to trigger specific actions based on locations, times, user activities, and other parameters.

For example, you can set the phone to automatically toggle off all data to save battery power at night, when you're sleeping. This tweaking paid off, and helped extend the battery life into the day-and-a-half range. Your own results will vary depending on how aggressively you use the phone, of course.

No phone or tablet yet exists that's a straight-up replacement for a desktop system, and I doubt one will come along for a good while. But the Droid 4 is an ambitious attempt to create an adjunct desktop-in-the-pocket, one whose full potential we might not see unleashed until its ICS update comes along.

Name: Motorola Droid 4

The impressive hardware of the Droid 4 comes at the cost of the unit's size and weight, although its battery life can be managed using Motorola's special software. Whether you can use it to take your productivity on the road depends heavily on what your own work habits are, although it needs to have ICS rolled out to it sooner rather than later.
Price: $549.99, or $199.99 with two-year Verizon contract
Pro:
  • Full QWERTY keyboard.
  • Can dock for running full screen on an HDMI display.
  • Battery life can be extended using rules.
Con:
  • Non-removable battery.
  • OS is not Android 4.0.
  • Client software for the PC is clunky.

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