on January 19, 2014
When the new line of Motorola handsets were announced (droid and moto x) many of us including myself just didn't seem very impressed. The new features were interesting but the specs just didn't hold up to the premium price they were asking for. I kind of just ignored them, and went on and bought an LG G2. When I saw the new Motorola lineup had been upgraded to 4.4 already it interested me, and I read some good reviews on them. I previously had a Razr M, I loved the size but it ran surprisingly sluggish, so I looked for a Droid Mini for a good price and snagged one up for a try.
Design - If you used last year's Droid Razr M you won't be terribly surprised by the Droid Mini's build. It keeps the same really great design with its edge to edge display and narrowing lip on the bottom. The only big change is they added capacitive buttons on the bottom instead of having onscreen buttons. I for one welcome thing change, it leaves you with all of your screen space, and I personally hit those buttons by mistake a lot less. The material is a bit different, it is more all plastic now and less Kevlar/metal that the other one is. This detracts from the high end feeling a bit but it doesn't feel bad at all, and the Kevlar texture is still there. Along the back it has the camera in the normal spot, aside a decently large speaker that actually way out performs my S4 or G2 which is downright baffling.
Performance - Like I said in the beginning, I was disappointed to see the lower end specs on this. All's that I can say is Motorola has really put a twist in the specs battle with some fantastic software people. HTC and Samsung both released mini versions of their flagships, however unlike them Motorola kept its flagship specs, making it really the only "premium" smaller device. The Droid mini is hands down the fastest device I have worked with. I have no issues or lag doing much anything or running anything. Performance wise, some websites tested compressing files, and converting videos and the old S4 pro in this beat out the snapdragon 600 in the Galaxy S4, and Htc One. I had a Galaxy S4 and an LG G2 before this and they were fast but really just not as smooth, a lot more hiccups compared to this (more so the S4, my G2 wasn't so bad). It's like the Droid mini is running on the final build and the S4 and G2 are running on beta.
Software - Here is where a lot of the magic happens. Firstly they have updated it to android 4.4 which is fantastic. Motorola's new simple but genius software additions are the breath of fresh air in smartphones that I haven't seen in quite a while. You first notice it when you pick up the phone, it senses you grabbed it and the "active display" shows the time and any notifications so I don't even have to turn on the phone, or you could flick your wrist and open the camera, like I said, simple and genius. It has the widely known is the touchless control, meaning you can control the phone without having to move a finger. You just say the line "ok google now" and your phone lights up and you can give it a command. One bad thing is A. this phrase is kind of long, it should be just "ok google" and 2. You can't customize it as far as I can tell. Using the Touchless control basically activates google now, allowing you to text people, get directions, or look up any dumb information like "are seahorses real?" One really awesome command that I found useful if it's stuck in the couch cushions is you can yell for it "ok google now" and if it hears you then you say "find my phone" it will start spouting out an alarm to find it!
Along with those touchless controls you can have it sense when you're driving and set it to car mode where it will do things like read your text messages out to you automatically. Other cool software additions are you have a control center where you can locate your phone and set off alarms, or wipe it. Then you can get a Chrome plugin that will give you phone and text notifications as well as allowing you to respond to those text messages right from Chrome. I will stop with the software rant, but you get where I'm going, they are really thinking different and it's good.
Storage - Not great for big media users, started with around 10gb right off the bat and no sd card. Coming from my 32gb G2 I was fairly worried. However, after I dropped all my root files, random tv shows that I don't watch, and tons of giant apps/games that I don't use I found it easily usable. I have 3 movies, an audiobook, like 6 games, and maybe like 30+ apps installed and I have 4.21gb left. So while I'm not happy by lacking the space and sd slot, I asked myself what I actually use and it worked out just fine.
Camera: Like I mentioned earlier, the camera is super easily launched, just grab the phone, flick your wrist and bang there it is. Controls are very minimalistic, you have a video/still button and a front camera switching button. Otherwise you just tap where you want to focus and it will take the picture decently quick. It has some more advanced features and even slow mo, nothing like the S4 but it gets the job done and looks decent enough for my uses.
Screen: Looks fantastic, I really think Amoled is where the future is going and it is a good future. Colors are vibrant, viewing angles are good, blacks are decently deep (though not as great as the S4). Motorola really said it right, the only advantage to a 1080p screen on these devices is you feed the battery more. Honestly I don't know how people tell the difference, and I applaud Motorola for not throwing a useless feature on there just to attract people who don't know better.
Battery: Really an area I was worried about, reviews were mixed, it was the same size as the Razr M but now with higher specs, and more features. However it runs really close to the same as the Razr M somehow! I'm a fairly normal user, I do a decent amount of texting, I use chrome, ebay and amazon a lot, and do a small bit of phone gaming. Right now I'm sitting at 68% with just over 14 hours of use 1 hour 16 minutes screen time. So averaging this out I could probably get almost 4 hours of screen time, and well over a day and a half. So like the Moto x, the battery life is perfectly fine!
Call Quality - Motorola has usually been known for using great radios. The Droid Mini is no exception, I haven't had a single issue and the calls have been great and clear. I get around the same signal as my G2 it seems so nothing worse or better, though I haven't done extensive testing.
Conclusion - Some of us just don't have the Giant hands for the likes of the Galaxy note, Droid Ultra, or those other 5 inch + phones. The One mini, and the S4 mini compromised on what they were, but the Droid mini stayed true to the flagship lineup. It's a mini device that is all as good as its flagship brethren, making the smaller handed folk not have to compromise. With the stellar performance, great battery, and amazing set of features I just can't recommend it enough. If you don't want the smaller one, there is always the Moto x, Droid Ultra, or Droid Maxx. The only real gripe I had with Motorola is the storage space / lack of SD. I myself can get around it but I'm not a huge media tycoon so I can make it work, others might not (for those, look at the 32gb moto x, or Droid Maxx). Beyond that, there isn't a reason I can't recommend Motorola's new line. They found features people will actually use (I'm looking at you Samsung) and not only did them, but did them extremely well, while giving us plenty of hardware options to do so.
on December 14, 2014
I've a little over a year on this phone, so here's some real history.
Right out of the box this little guy is very impressive. A mapping system that was super fast and accurate. Ability to check email from almost any source and more bells and whistles than a normal person would ever need; Heck, it even makes phone calls!
Then come the unstoppable, mandatory, no way to get out of upgrades.
Google owns and operates Motorola, so they have programmed in automatic upgrades from Google that you and I can't stop. Almost every time one of these "upgrades" comes around it screws up the operating systems of the phone.
The latest issues with no cure are:
Mapping: Super slow, and at time very inaccurate by several miles.
Email: Often refuses to show any email account except for a Google sourced account.
Attachments: This one BITES! On the weekend a coworker sends you an email saying "please read and comment. Time is of the essence on this building project". Attached to the email is a works, adobe, or other file. Upon clicking said file you get two messages "starting download" and "failed to start download" After an hour on the phone with tech support you'll end up wiping your phone, reloading everything but the kitchen sink, then reloading from the cloud or other saved file every app you can find. Not all of them will be there. If your lucky, you'll now have the ability to read that file several hours or days after the fact; Until the next upgrade beams it's way into your phone and scraps it all over again.
It's just not worth it folks.
My wife has a LG that NEVER has had any problems remotely like this, yet we both have Verizon as our server. When shopping for a phone, make sure you have control of any upgrades and the ability to remove packaged apps.
Once this two year service package is done, I'll be running, not walking away from Motorola and Google to find a phone that is not controlled by Google. Lost attachments, with no timely ability to fix the problem, has cost me many hours on several nights with phone support. The only good thing there, is the support was out of Idaho, so you'll be able to understand the English as a first language person. Good deal there!
This phone's auto upgrades make a good phone super frustrating and not worth it.
on October 1, 2013
Motorola seems to have placed this phone in the market as a budget phone, giving it the lowest price among the phones in the Droid line. But don't let that make you think this phone is a slouch. It's not. It has the same X8 processor system as the Moto X and the higher-end Droids and a nice bright screen with really good clarity.
I haven't benchmarked the phone or anything, but it's fast enough that Real Racing 3 runs great and I never experience lag when interacting with the screen. My previous phone was the Motorola Droid 4. I love that phone but I always envied iPhone owners for the reliable smoothness of interaction with their devices. Guess what. That envy is now gone. I don't know if it's the processor, the RAM, or if Android 4.2 is just that much better than 4.1, but I'm getting no screen stutter at all.
I love the size of this phone. I know huge screens are the hot thing on the market right now, but for an average-to-smaller-than-average guy like me, a gigantic phone just doesn't make sense and isn't comfortable to deal with. So the size on this is great. I do wish the surfaces were less glossy slick, though. To address that, I've ordered the Skinomi Carbon Fiber appearance skin. I'll update my review when it arrives and I get it applied.
The other thing I wish were different is the lack of an sd slot, as others have said. I do wish it had that feature because I have a ton of music I wish I could put on the device, but it'll never fit. That said, streaming services do serve as a pretty good stand-in, so it's a trade-off I can live with to get a smaller phone (remember when a 4.3 inch screen like this was considered huge? ...not that long ago...) and quick performance.
I'd definitely recommend this and the Moto X to anyone looking for a really good phone that isn't huge. I almost went with the Moto X, but it's a little bit bigger, more expensive, and the curved back that everyone loves looks like it would make it difficult to elegantly apply the flat piece of metal used to make a phone attracted to the iMagnet phone mount I use in my car (a truly GREAT product itself, btw).