John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Droid 3 XT860 from Bell review

I’m on a roll of getting to play with new devices lately. All around me friends have been upgrading to the new super phones. Dual core devices. So when a friend approached me and offered to buy my Droid 2 Global off me for what I paid for (a steal btw) I jumped at it. As usual this device came to my attention because like all Motorola’s they have very poor resale value. So a $550 Super phone from Bell can be had on Ebay, Kijiji or Craigs for under 300. I snagged this one used for $220.

On paper this one is an upgrade in all categories. Better camera, dual core processor, better display, 4G network, more internal storage. Motorola left no stone un turned. So I leaped at this one to see what kind of improvements I would find!

In the box the phone comes with a nice travel charger, USB data cable, micro HDMI cable, plastic case (for the top and the bottom) and headset. A nice and complete set of accessories. There is a multi media dock that includes HDMI jack, audio jack and microUSB to charge/transfer data. This device uses 100% industry standard ports. MicroUSB, Micro HDMI! No proprietary cables required!

The physicals on this device are quite nice. It’s reasonably heavy although not too much. But what hits you first and foremost is the big bright display. This is the best display Motorola has put on a device (that I have seen). Vivid, clear, responsive. All behind Gorilla glass so it ought to be durable! The display is 540×960 (quarter HD) with full 1080p HDMI output. This device is quite thin and you get surprised when a nice large slid out keyboard comes out to greet you! The keyboard has excellent feel with nice placement. Dedicated number keys! Very reasonable to type on. The slide out mechanism is a little firm but it should be durable. The back door is a flimsy peace of plastic that feels like you are going to break it. And interestingly enough inside the back door are removal instructions 🙂 Inside the back are the battery (a BF5X 1540mAh), the SIM slot and the micro SD slot. The card can be removed without removing the battery. A nice improvement. Thanks Moto! There are lots of batteries available on eBay as well as external chargers.

I learned my lesson last time. Be sure and check for updates first before you do anything! I did and sure enough there was. An update to take the phone right up to 2.36! It downloaded over the air and worked simple and easily. Well done Moto!

As usual Moto have chosen an uber small font by default. I had hoped a larger display would be easier to read. Unfortunately the dots per inch has gone up giving the display much higher crispness, but taking along with it, smaller text size. Given Android does not allow users to change font size this means I need to root the device. SuperOneClick did the job. Remember to root only after you have updated the device. Otherwise updates will fail. Something I learned on the Droid 2.

Now right off the bat one of the things that attracted me to this device was the ability to do HDMI output! I use this at my GF’s house. I can think of two uses for this. One is playback of movies. The other is to add a bluetooth keyboard and mouse and make a laptop out of it. The HDMI cable once plugs in starts immediately and you can set it to shadow the main display. Movie playback is quite good but not quite as smooth as either my Galaxy Tab 7 Plus or a playbook. None the less it looks quite good. Add a bluetooth keyboard and mouse and you run into some challenges. First of all if your keyboard is not a dedicated Android device you are missing the home, back and option keys that are required for navigation around Android 2.3. On Honeycomb these are soft buttons so you can use the mouse. I found with my keyboard the esc key acted as the back and the Windows key acted as the options. Nothing acted as home making navigation clumsy. Right mouse button does not work and acts as a back button. A shame. It’s really needed for things like 2X. Pushing and holding the mouse which you need to do some times seemed to make the phone go squirrely. No idea why. And trying to drag and slide like you need to do between home screens or across menu screens, or to unlock the phone does not work well at all. So all in all this does not work great. Quite disappointing I must say. It’s funny how the more powerful the phone the more we find uses for it!

The device is zippy. Probably one of the fastest I’ve personally owned. Everything is instantaneous. Reminiscent of the smoothness of, dare I say, an iPhone (sorry). Software load is good. They have put the full function music player back which includes internet radio, FM radio controls (there’s an FM radio built in that uses the headset as antenna), shoutcast internet radio song identification, lyric display (during playback), and TuneWiki support. I quite like this music player.

The Social networking ap aggregates feeds from Facebook, Flickr, Google (but not Google Plus), LastFM, Linkedin, Photobucket, Picasa, Twitter, Windows Live, Yahoo Mail and You Tube. Wow.

The universal inbox brings all this into one place. While convenient it can be confusing where it’s all coming from.

The camera on this has been majorly improved. The camera is 8Mp and it can take HD(1080 and 720) movies! The camera ap includes support for GPS based Geotagging which can be turned off if you don’t want it. You can also add manual tags as well as tag individuals all within the gallery ap. The tagging of individuals is unfortunately free form text and does not link into the contacts ap. Good and bad I’d say. First time I’ve seen this. I like it. So much so I am wishing I had the GPS tagging on my camera. But then it’s time for a new camera anyway 🙂 Options within the camera are basic but not bad. Panoramic views can even be taken! You can even switch between the front and rear camera although the front camera is very limited at .3 Mp. There is no self timer mode. Shame but frankly there never is a way to prop the phone up anyway. The flash can be manually turned off and you can set a number of camera modes. The optics as always are pretty limited so don’t get too excited about pics out of the phone. The gallery ap has some nice fluff to it including the ability to do slideshows. It integrates with the Social networking aggregator as well as your contacts to give you a nice bit of functionality. It even brings DLNA into it. The only integration of DLNA into the device. But I found for whatever reason it didn’t work. If these companies ever get DLNA working right it holds some nice promise. This is the first phone in a long time that does not have a dedicated phone button.

The gallery ap sorts everything by date which is annoying. Sometimes I want to display by folder.

As with all of the other business oriented Motorola devices it supports VPN connections right built into the OS.

Bluetooth tethering is supported. As usual once connected the CPU is pinned. But at least it only pins one of the two CPUs! So the device is still reasonably responsive.

The contacts and dialer ap are well done and easy to use. Favorites are supported. As usual the handsfree dialing is not well done. This is something I really wish Android would focus on. Windows mobile for me was the last useable voice dialing phone. You trained it for a few key contacts making it highly accurate. Simple idea.

DLNA is present and works ok, but as with other Moto devices it is an added ap rather than being integrated into the standard players. Shame. Makes it clumsy to use.

Wifi as usual has a battery saving mode that causes it to drop out after a time period. Something I’ve found increasingly irritating when I am trying to download FTP/SFTP files or streaming stuff to and from the device. They really should make this easier to turn off. Wifi direct is not supported. So far only Samsung seem to be embracing this. It is a not bad idea once it becomes more common. The ability to send files between two devices over Wifi without being connected to a Wifi network is not a horrible idea.

As with the last two Moto devices my class 10 32G card does not work. Grrrrr. For the love of all things holy Moto, can you please fix this!

There is a built in Calculator but they couldn’t have made it any more basic. Kinda not worth bothering with.

Bell did not remove the Mobile hotspot support so given that I have a tablet, I’m happy for that! Of course bluetooth tethering is also an option as mentioned above.

Moto have included a new ap called Motoprint which is suppose to allow you to print from your Android device to Windows printers that are shared. My printer is hanging off a Windows 7 machines and Motoprint could not find it with their browser. And unfortunately there is no ability to manually add the printer share so this one didn’t work. Oddly enough once I started Motoprint it found an update that the market place did not find. I updated the ap but it changed nothing. No joy here. So still no printing from Android. The trees breath a collective sigh of relief 🙂

As with other Moto devices this one has the magnet detection for docking stations. So if you are using a holster with a magnet you will need to use an ap like No Dock. You need root to use this tool. Of course given the size of this puppy it’s not fitting in any standard holsters anyway 🙂

The radios on this device seem stellar. Much stronger signal strength than the other Motos I’ve played with!

Battery life is good. Much better than the Droid 2. But I eventually figured out the ap I was using Batleft was incorrectly reading the battery status. So I was being misled. Getting through a day is actually quite possible with this device. Impressive given the battery is only slightly bigger than the Droid 2 but there is a whole lot more hardware present!

The phone has 13G of internal storage. It get’s divided up into application storage (seems like 2G) and useable space 11G. Roughly. Moto this time have made the internal storage mount very conveniently so it’s easy to use it unlike on the Droid 2. The internal storage space is the default so it get’s used for all the random directories apps create for storing data. Very nice. The days of having a phone with insufficient memory are (almost) passed. There’s lots of storage on this puppy!

I have to say this is one of the best phones I’ve touch in a while. If it weren’t for the bluetooth mouse issues this phone would be perfect. Android has come so far!


February 18, 2012 - Posted by | Android

1 Comment »

  1. […] My main phone that I have right now is a Motorola Droid 3 also called an XT860 […]

    Pingback by Playbook OS 2.0 « John Galea's Blog | February 29, 2012 | Reply

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