on August 1, 2011
As a business user two real important factors in a phone for me were call quality and battery life. Having used the Evo for the past year and a half, I had the itch to upgrade and picked up this phone after my disappointment with the Evo 3D.
For a business Android phone, the Photon was really my only dual core option with Sprint;
I had upgraded my original Evo to the Evo 3D and was extremely disappointed.
- Call quality and batter life were very poor, even in comparison to my older Evo
- I was in San Diego for comic con and my phone would leave my charger at 7am and be dead before 1pm.
- This is with only making 1-2 calls and no internet surfing, minimal texting.
- That was with GPS / Bluetooth / 4G turned off.
I need a phone that can last the work day and the Motorola Photon does not disappoint.
- I was easily able to make a large amount of calls, text, email and still have 25-40% left on the battery (7am-6:30pm)
- This is with Bluetooth and GPS on the whole time.
- Phone also did not get as hot as the Evo 3D
There is a very significant difference in call quality between the evo 3d and the Photon.
- Both voice and speakerphone were signifcantly better with the Photon.
- Signal reception was the best of any Sprint Phone I have owned (i.e. was able to get 4G Data in spots where my Evo or Evo 3D could not)
I like the way the phone looks cosmetically.
- Build quality is solid, but not a big fan of the back of the phone
- Screen quality is very good. (i.e. Great Color and Contrast, but you do notice the "Pixalated" look at times)
The Doc Station is a nice touch
- Purchased the Doc Station (Which by the way sells for $99.00 right now at Sprint, not $129)
- Sprint Silver Premier customers can save 25% if they buy two accessoires (i.e. got the doc station and case, which, after discounts, was like getting the case for free)
- Hooked right up to my HD TV via HDMI
Bottom line is that HTC has the best user interface (HTC Sense), and while the Evo 3D was a really impressive phone, it just wasn't good for me as a business user. I definitly gave up some things switching to the Photon (3D, better user interface), but at the end of the day I needed a business tool not a toy, and the difference in call quality and battery life justified the switch for me and I am happy so far.
Here are some Head to Head Reviews
on August 4, 2011
I purchased the EVO when it first came out last year and loved it. It was the first smart phone of it's kind I had ever owned. First android device as well. I loved it. The camera, the kickstand, the UI, as well as the button placement. However, after a years use it started constantly rebooting and having problems. I upgraded to the Photon as soon as I could. I must say, this phone blows the Evo out of the water. Obviously just by comparing specs you would hope that it would. 1ghz dual core tegra 2 processor with 1GB of ram,motoblur UI. I realize it's aimed more towards business users but I think it's great for my uses as well. The screen is very nice and bright. I am actually able to see it outside in sunlight, where as the Evo I couldn't. Moving between apps is a breeze with the processing power that this phone has, I haven't had it lag yet. The camera seems to be about the same as the EVO, I can't tell a huge difference but they were great to begin with. BATTERY LIFE, BATTERY LIFE, BATTERY LIFE. I cannot stress this part enough. The biggest, noticeable upgrade is the battery life. The EVO was horrible at this and struggled so hard to be a phone that could make it through the work day. I had to manage and control so many things to get that phone through the day. With the Photon I don't have to worry about a thing! It's still up as I type this and looking at the battery information it has 1d 0h 25m. That's with moderate texting, internet browsing,facebook, and app downloading. Of course, unlike the EVO, I have a lot of things left on like background downloader, auto updates, etc. The only thing I've managed is the screen brightness which is turned down below half and the timeout of the screen(30 seconds vs a minute). By default I think the battery mode is set to nighttime saver because I never changed it to that myself. I'll have to see what it's like in performance mode.
Enough about the pros, on to the cons.
The camera does not have a way to turn the shutter sound off. I've tried searching on the android websites and people have not yet found a way to do this without an app or rooting the phone. It's also VERY LOUD. Not sure why they did this, other then for privacy reasons, but it's rather annoying. The virtual keyboard doesn't have arrows to move around with like my EVO did. It was nice to use that rather then touch the screen and move the pointer where I'm trying to place it. After using my EVO for so long, I got used to the button placement on the bottom underneath the screen. On this phone, the home screen button has been moved over. It's not a huge thing, but I just wanted to mention it.
Despite the minor things, it's all in all a very well built phone. Very pleased with my purchase. The camera shutter sound is actually the reason it's 4 out of 5 stars. That annoyance alone knocks off a star.
Edit as of 8/12/11: There is an issue with Photons and I'm not sure if it's all of them but I have found via a Google search that a lot of them are having the same problem as mine. The phone will not allow you to hear outgoing or incoming calls until a reboot. For my phone, it requires a reboot EVERY CALL I MAKE. Some reports say it only happens on some calls but mine, I guess I'm lucky and have to do it for every call. VERY frustrating. Go Google it and you will see this is the fix for the moment until a software release later this month(no exact ETA that I saw). Phone worked great for 3 days and then this started happening. Text messages worked fine the entire time, as well as everything else, just strictly phone calls. Just wanted to let everyone know. I will keep you posted.
Edit as of 8/22/11: The issue with the phone not having sound during calls doesn't seem to be every call anymore but it is still happening. So it still hasn't been fixed from what I can tell but I did want to edit that it isn't every phone call anymore. It kind of chooses when it acts up rather. I also wanted to edit the kickstand comment I made. I stand corrected, it can work in both directions as well as standing up. So ignore that comment. Hopefully this issue with the calls will be resolved soon and this will be an outstanding phone once again!
Final update 9/06/11: The update has been out for a few days now but I just wanted to be sure before I updated this. Phone appears to be working after the latest update. Every phone call I have made, over many days, have worked without an issue. Wonderful phone once again.
on August 25, 2011
I would not describe myself as "technically savvy," and I'm finding Motorola Photon very easy to use and reliable. I tried the Motorola EXPRT for three weeks and went through three phones before giving up. It was with the EXPRT that I had the problems described here: not being able to hear or be heard on incoming calls and the phone would reboot when I tried to call the caller back. I'm not having this problem with the Photon and am, in fact, very happy with the quality of the phone's sound and reception. I've also been receiving consistent four and five bar reception on my Photon, and I have traveled with this phone experiencing similar results. I've been a Sprint customer for over ten years, and my problem with the EXPRT was the first issue I have had with any of their devices or reception. The Sprint reps were more than courteous when I received my two replacement EXPRTs and changed to the Photon. I have no complaints with their handling of my problems.
Here are my thoughts and experiences with the Photon. I'll leave the technicalities to reviewers who know more about these things than me. These comments are just about how "user friendly" I find the Photon, and you can ignore #1 should an international feature not be important to you. You should consider it, however, as you will read in the first paragraph:
1) I was upgrading from the Blackberry Tour, and first on my list of "wants" was that the phone have international capabilities. The EVO and other Sprint phones do not, and after being stranded at Charles De Gaulle airport for thirty one hours several years ago, I never travel without an international phone. I think this is an important feature for any phone user as this is not an "add on" should the opportunity for international travel arise. When traveling, a working phone is a safety and security issue, as well as a link to family and friends.
When traveling internationally, the Photon's SIM card can be replaced by a prepaid local provider's card (Lebara, for instance in England and France). As an example, changing the SIM card reduces my cost per call by $1.20/minute in France. The new Sprint phones are not locked to the Sprint network, and I found that Sprint's international department was very helpful and receptive to my doing this. As an FYI to anyone interested in learning more, here is the number I called for this information: 1-888-226-7212. For more info on the Lebara card, go the the France forum on Trip Advisor, do a search for Lebara and sort "By Date." There are several recent discussions on this topic.
The point here is that the Photon has these capabilitiesm and the EVO and other Sprint phones do not. When you call Sprint International, they will give you instructions for changing a phone's settings to the international mode and will add international service to the caller's plan. This service can be temporary, so you do not pay for international service if you are not using it. Not following these steps may be the problem some users have when they experience difficulty with their international phone outside the country. To save on emails and other operations, you can download local WiFi's (the one used by your hotel or apartment rental, for example), and "Heywire" can save you on roaming text charges. An international SIM card and "Heywire" may (and probably will) mean a temporary change in a phone number, but travelers can deal with that by notifying their contacts.
I learned all of this from the Sprint International representative, and I find that Sprint is very receptive to helping me save money outside their network.
2) I was having difficulty reading my emails on the small Blackberry screen, and I'm very happy with the size of the screen on the Photon. Yes, the phone is a bit heavy, but I'm okay with that. The phone goes into my purse, and I would be happy with a tablet if I could talk on one!
3) As for the "slippery" case, I found that I really like a protective gel cover on both my Blackberry and now, my new Photon. These are inexpensive, and in a color, these covers make my phone easy to spot, especially in a pile of cell phones on a counter or desk or buried inside a purse or tote. I bought a cover when I received my Photon, so "slippery" has not been an issue for me.
4) The Photon's convenient kick stand works in either direction, landscape or portrait, but it is, admittedly, more steady in the landscape position.
5) I really liked the positioning and style of the keyboard on the EXPRT. It was similar to the Blackberry's, and I had a larger Android screen. Unfortunately, the EXPRT phone didn't work for me on incoming calls, and I had reservations about the keyboard when I switched to the Photon. In the beginning, I had trouble hitting the correct keys on the flat screen (in both the portrait and landscape positions), but this went away once I discovered "Swype." It's the key with the blue exaggerated "S" symbol on the bottom left of the key board. By choosing "Swype," you simply drag your finger across the letters you want, and Swype either enters the word in the text or gives you a choice of entries. Somehow "Swype" gets to know you and anticipates what you are trying to do. This is especially convenient when entering people and street names that may be specific to your entries. Composing emails and entering browser searches are now very easy, and I'm happy with the change from the raised keyboard.
6) The Photon's battery life is not what it was on my Blackberry, but I don't think this is unusual on larger screen devices. I've learned to live with it, keeping my phone charging when I'm home and in the car. To lessen the drain on the battery, I read somewhere to go to "Task Manager" and change my app settings to "Auto End." On Androids, apps can apparently continue to run while your screen is black, and changing these settings helps prolong the life of your battery. I haven't done this long enough to know how effective this will be, but it sounds reasonable to me.
7) I really like the drag down notification bar at the top of my Photon screen. This allows easy access to whatever is going on inside my phone, ie: emails, voice messages, updates, etc.
8 I am very happy to have a phone with an HDMI input and 4G capability. As I've said, I'm not technically savvy and don't yet know how I will use a HDMI connection, but I'm glad it's there. 4G is not yet available in my area, but it's coming and I wanted a phone that could operate this frequency. When upgrading a phone, I think it's a good idea to get as many new and coming technical features as you can, even if you may not see a use for them at the time. I used to think I didn't need a camera...
9) The only thing I'm having trouble getting used to is the screen's glare when I am in sunlight and the smudges that just come with a touch screen. I had a screen protector on my EXPRT and found it somewhat solved these issues. Now that I'm settling into my Photon, I've ordered a protector for my new phone. Shattered screens are a risk on larger screens if a phone is dropped, and I've been in the store when people have come in with this problem on a number of different Android models. I don't know if this is valid, but it makes sense to me that the screen cover will lessen the shock to the screen when the phone takes a tumble, somewhat like the difference between regular and tempered glass.
Sorry to go on so long, but I hope these comments helps someone who may be considering the Photon. My service area has not upgraded to the 4G network, and perhaps some of the problems others are experiencing are coming as this network is being put in place. One way or another, Sprint gives you thirty days to trade in your upgrade, so IMO, the Photon is worth a try. As we all know when we travel, every cell phone company has its pros and cons when you move in and out of different service areas. Gather a group of people coming from different parts of the country using different providers, and someone is likely to experience a difficulty that they don't have in their home territory. I think the answer is to decide what you can live with and resolve the issues that you can. Hence, I can live with the weight, I use phone covers and I've allowed myself time to get to know the phone better, especially in how I use the keyboard and deal with the battery life. When all is said and done, I am a happy camper with my new Photon.
I'm now several weeks into my use of the Motorola Photon, and I'm still happy except for the way it performed on my travel to the south of France in September. Admittedly, Sprint was upfront about not having a roaming partner in France, but it took working with a Sprint tech rep to get any kind of service. We did it, but were never able to download the local WiFi. I did not have these problems with the Blackberry I carried last year. In a follow up call, I was told that this was a "known issue" with this new phone, and later updates may have corrected this problem. The Photon was introduced a few weeks before my travel, so I'll give it a go and look to other reviewers to determine if the technical bugs were worked out. Downloading a local WiFi matters because it takes you off a carrier's roaming data rate. I wasn't traveling when this was an issue, but if any kind of download communication matters to you, not being able to connect to local WiFi's can be expensive.
I made a few short phone calls and knew before I traveled that I would pay the roaming fee. I have received my bill for the period I was traveling and did not have any surprises. I'm traveling to South Africa over Thanksgiving where there is a Sprint partner, so I'll report back after that trip. I'm not likely to make phone calls (my nearest and dearest will be traveling with me!), but I'll be looking for the WiFi download at our destination.
Home based phone and data quality is still excellent. Since purchasing the Photon, I've driven to Rhode Island through Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York (including NYC) and Connecticut from my home in Kentucky. The signal over Kentucky and West Virgina mountain ranges dipped only when I was in deep valleys. The GPS lost me in these low lying areas, but picked me up as I drove to higher ground. Again, I was good with it.
This has been an unusual travel season for me, but I wanted to share my experiences in different locations. A working phone when I travel is important to me, and someone is looking for how this phone might perform for them when they are away from their home service area. I'm an empty nesting mom who travels, sometimes on my own, and not being able to communicate with my husband and family can be very unsettling.
As for the battery life, I have found that by limiting my email deliveries to my Gmail "Priority Inbox" slowed my battery usage tremendously. You can do this through your email settings.
on August 3, 2011
These days it's so hard to find a smartphone that does it all meaning call reception a big #1, battery life #2, 3G & 4G(some areas) data speeds, web browsing, speaker volume & email accounts...The Photon 4G has all this working flawlessly for me unlike the Evo 3D I had and sold to get this AMAZING well built speed machine.
I live in a bad signal area where getting 4 bars at home will be a miracle :) I had the Evo 4G, Epic 4G & Evo 3D all failed to get even 3 bars in my home all I got from them was 0 to 2 bars. When talking to family over the phone I get disconnected all the time and be forced to stay by the window with my head almost sticking out just to get a strong signal...this happened on all prior phones I had, now with the Photon 4G I get an unbelievable 4 or 5 bars sometimes full with absolutely no disconnects while talking which never happened with any smartphone I purchased living here.
Everyone that I talked to hears me loud & clear and vice versa using either the bluetooth earpiece or phone itself, some say I sounded clearer when using the speaker. At work I get to test 3G & 4G where 4G towers are close by and I get very fast data speeds on 3G and of course even faster speeds on 4G, I browsed youtube, fox.com and downloaded apps with no issues at all. Web browsing on this phone is the best I ever experienced, Adobe Flash works flawlessly with the Photon 4G, flash sites that didn't work on the 3D worked perfect on the MoPho( I did not come up with this nick) lol...Wifi is very strong and downloading apps or browsing has never been faster.
Speaker volume is loud and clear unlike the 3D which was very low and sounded very cheap, battery Life is by far the best on a smartphone to date. Camera takes some nice quality pics although I think the 3D's cam was slightly better...only thing I miss from the 3D was Sense 3.0 UI which was amazing, the Photon has Motoblur or Ghostblur not sure what is called either way htc Sense 3.0 was better and I was forced to download a Launcher from the Market which made me feel a lot better not having Sense. NVIDIA Tegra 2 Dual Core processor makes this phone very snappy with no lag...If you want a smartphone that does it all well the Photon 4G should be your choice! Oh and to end my review its also a World Phone, I call that doing it all :)
on October 16, 2011
After recently purchasing the Photon for myself and the iPhone 4GS for my wife, I jotted down some of the advantages of each based on my initial impressions for a friend who is trying to decide between the two:
* 4G is roughly twice as fast (loading most web sites) as iPhone's 3G
* Larger screen (4.3 inches versus 3.5)
* Easier to browse/read web sites with the larger screen since you don't have to zoom in and out as frequently
* Much better keyboard with numbers and symbols easily available (versus have to switch to different keyboard screen)
* Swype keyboard option (13% faster in my test after just a couple of weeks of light use; some people claim it's twice as fast after you get some decent practice)
* Since the screen is larger, the keyboard area and keys are larger. Additionally, the keyboard always rotates into horizontal/landscape mode when you turn the phone (doesn't always rotate on the iPhone, for example if you are configuring certain settings)
* Period and comma are available on default keyboard screen
* Widgets! (versus limited availability on iPhone and only if you jailbreak it)
* Has very intuitive Back and Menu/Settings buttons (versus just a Home button)
* Flash is supported
* Free turn-by-turn directions
* Real tabs in Dolphin browsers (versus multiple taps needed to other windows)
* Dolphin browser is noticeably faster--even on wifi (versus Safari/iPhone)
* Alarm with gradually increasing volume is quite nice
* A light tap on the Home button does the trick (versus actually pressing it)
* HDMI port
* Free Google Reader app (versus no app available)
* Can customize battery usage and manage/terminate tasks
* You can sync most data over the mobile network (versus only wifi)
* No personal info needed to download apps (versus have to enter your billing address even to download a free app)
* Displays more pixels (960 x 640 versus 960 x 540)
* Higher/crisper screen resolution since more pixels are crammed into a smaller screen area
* Better screen color (more natural, accurate)
* Much better camera (more natural, accurate, warmer colors; crisper details; shorter "shutter" delay; tap focus) especially for indoor or low-light environments
* Seems to have longer battery life (Photon screen is larger and usually brighter and doesn't fade after 30 seconds or so of idleness)
* Cutting/copying and pasting is easier
* Slicker interface, transitions, sliders, etc.
* Screen capture is easier (versus installing an app)
* More intuitive notifications (new e-mails and messages appear as numbers on corresponding icons versus main status bar)
* iPhone has a .com key on some keyboard screens (e.g., the browser URL)
Neutral or Subjective Differences
* iPhone Browser occasionally compensates for smaller screen by selectively increasing the size of text, making reading easier but often marring the layout/alignment of the web page
* iPhone offers several built-in apps such as stock quotes, weather, and lost phone. You have to install these apps separately (they are free) on Android, but you also have more flexibility and more options with Android.
* Google/DropBox cloud sync/storage versus iCloud
* Photon is easier for me to hold (I dropped the iPhone within a couple of hours)
* Siri more intelligent and "cooler" but voice command usability on the Photon seems to be equivalent in usability, at least based on my initial testing
My bottom line verdict: the Motorola Photon wins, particularly if you are looking for usability and efficiency. However, if you already use iCloud for e-mail, calendar, photos, etc. or if you are going to use the phone as your primary camera, the iPhone deserves serious consideration.
on August 2, 2011
This is an update from my earlier review. I am still a big fan of this phone but there are a couple of things I want to add now that I have used it.
Pros: The apps out there are incredible. For so many useful applications to come to market at such a breakneck speed is nothing short of insane. This led to the title of my review. I love the apps.
Nothing like watching a full length movie when a laptop or TV isn't around.
Cons: I cannot get my battery life to live beyond a day, if I'm lucky and that's from breakfast to dinner. It's not like I didn't research it. I'm sure it's me but it shouldn't be that hard.
Built in Imap email support is poor. Corporate mail works perfectly but invest in something like maildroid for anything else.
I tried for some time to use Windows Mobile Phones for the ability to interface with business applications and Microsoft Exchange. This turned out to be an abysmal failure and I moved to the Blackberry platform. I upgraded to the Photon from a Blackberry Tour. This is serious culture shock.
First Impressions: Understand that in this review I am comparing this to my Blackberry Tour and to some degree my old Treo Pro.
Speed: It blows away the Blackberry in response time. I won't even get into my old Palm Treo. The Blackberry took its time to load its apps and being 3G, it added time. The Photon, in some cases is as fast as a laptop in launching apps. In most cases it probably depends on the talents of the developer and your 4G reception but the Photon is quite forgiving in that matter. You can get used to it, and fast. I decided to compare a few similar apps to my Blackberry and I'm perfectly satisfied with my Photon! It's probably not fair to compare it to a Blackberry but it's what I had and I have never used Android.
Apps: It's going to take me awhile to get a handle on all the apps that are out there. The rate at which these apps have become available is incredible. It took the advantage that Apple had away. I recommend searching for apps rather than just browsing the app store. There's way to much stuff and you'll just end up scrolling forever on you app page.
Browser: It's the best browser I have used on a phone. I did actually have an IPhone a few years ago for work and this browser is spot on. Enough developers are creating Android browser mobile pages for these devices to make it easy to use. It too is faster than I could have imagined.
Virtual Keyboard: This is taking me some time to get used to. It may just be that I haven't used a virtual phone in some time but I have to use the backspace key allot. I typically can only type in landscape mode. I do like the feature that anticipates what your next word may be. I'm not sure if it has a learning capability; I need to look that one up.
Landscape and Portrait: This is one feature that I'm a bit frustrated with. At times it takes a bit longer than I would expect for the phone to go between the two, even when I hold the phone perfectly perpendicular. It's a bit of a irritant.
Task Manager: Make this your friend. If you launch and application and then close it, it continues to run. Experienced Android users, I don not mean to insult your intelligence. Your best bet is to make your most frequently used apps to "auto-end". This way they turn off when not used and they will save your battery. If you don't, you'll use your battery up in a few hours.
Camera: The best I have ever seen on a phone.
I still have quite a bit to play with; I have only had it since last Friday.
I can't wait to get my Otterbox Defender - Check it out - it's a beast.
Some reviews point out that the phone is a bit bulky. I compared it to an AT&T Motorola and it's a wash.
on November 23, 2011
Well, let me start by saying that I am a longtime Sprint Customer. My first smartphone was the original Samsung that ran Palm software. I moved to a Treo 650, a Treo 700, a Treo 800 and every other smartphone in between.
As we move forward, most of the phones out there copy each other in features and speed. So, when the Photon came out, I jumped on it due to the fact that it was Android and it was a World Capable phone. I was one of the many who had the silent call issue, losing calls all the time. I returned the phone three times, looking for one that worked.
In the meanwhile, the highly coveted Epic 4G Touch came out. I swapped my Photon to it, and immediately loved the speed and more importantly the screen and the lightness of the phone.
What did I NOT love? I didn't love the fact that the E4GT didn't get signal in places where my Photon easily received calls and data.
So, I gave up the ET4G and went back to the Photon. Great, Great reception. All the features of Android in a fairly speedy package. Not as fast at the Epic 4G Touch, but not really noticeable for most people.
There are a few Negatives.. The Pentile Matrix screen is not nearly as pretty as the Galaxy S II screen. Watching movies really exacerbates this. However, the screen works great for games, email and pictures.
The Camera doesn't win any awards either. I find it much slower than the one on the Epic 4G Touch, but when used still takes good pictures and good video. If I were choosing the phone based on media capabilities, I would have chosen the Samsung.
In the end, though, I need my phone to communicate and the Photon does it better than ANY phone I have used in the past four years. Calls, email, text. Everything comes in timely and clear.
Motorola has already issued THREE updates. Compare that to Samsung's lack of support on the Epic and the Epic 4G Touch (loss of signal anyone)??
Finally, my other positive... The Photon 4G has three great accessories, an HD Dock to connect to your TV (use as a computer). The Lapdock 100, which allows you to use the phone as a laptop. My favorite is the Cardock.
When you connect the phone to the cardock the interface changes to a better MOBILE NAVIGATION experience. Buttons are bigger and options are easily accessible. You can control your music through the AUX input in your car, if you have one, and it charges the phone.
Overall, I haven't had as good of an experience with any phone until this one. I did sacrifice nicer videos, and a better camera to get a better overall phone experience.
I didn't mention that the phone is a world phone and allows me to make calls when overseas, either using the provided Sprint SIM or a local one.
on August 1, 2011
I am writing this review coming from an HTC Thunderbolt from Verizon. First off let me say that I have owned quite a few Android Smartphones (about 6 from all different manufactures). This phone was a true breath of fresh air coming from an HTC Thunderbolt. The HTC Thunderbolt was a flawed phone right from launch and it has multiple hardware issues. I have since lost my faith in HTC.
However this phone is truly amazing. The build quality is something I applaud Motorola on. It feels solid in the hand but is not really heavy. You will hear people shoot down the qHD "Pentile" display. I think the display looks fantastic and the resolution is really great.
Battery life has been great so far. Everything seems so much faster and smoother then my previous Thunderbolt. I have owned HTC and Samsung android devices in the past, and they don't come close to the quality of this phone. It is a joy to use. I can highly recommend it.
on August 29, 2011
I have had the Motorola Photon for two weeks now after upgrading from an HTC Evo 4G. Let me preface this by saying I loved my Evo; I got it on launch day and it was a great phone for the time I had it. However, my original unit went haywire after nine months and the replacement was... quirky. Nonetheless, I would have kept it had the Photon not come along, as I wasn't overly impressed by the Evo 3D. So what made me give up my beloved Evo for the Photon?
1. Call quality: The Photon has amazing call quality. Voices are loud, sharp and clear, and people on the other end report no noise or garbled speech. My Evo sounded like a toy compared to the Photon. A note on call quality: some people reported a "silent call" bug where they would connect a call but hear nothing, and this was admittedly a problem for a small number of users. However, Sprint recently released an update that seems to have fixed this issue for the majority of those suffering from it (for the record, I never did).
2. Battery life: I got good at managing my Evo's battery and could go a whole day with moderate use. I don't really worry about that with the Photon, however. Aside from some minor adjustments to app settings, I have done very little battery tweaking and it easily lasts all day with moderate to heavy use. It also has some basic battery management settings (reducing load at night is the default), something the Evo lacked.
3. The screen: The screen has great brightness and clarity, with good color. It also has a functioning auto-brightness function, something I gave up on using on my Evo after one week. The Photon's screen is easily visible under the direct summer sun, something my Evo struggled with. It's also more energy efficient than the Evo, helping reduce battery drain with equivalent brightness. HOWEVER: the screen is what's known as a PenTile screen, a different display technology than what many people are used to. This results in a pixelated appearance if you're not used to it. When I first looked at the Photon, I thought the screen looked terrible. After playing with some other phones and taking a second look at the Photon, however, I didn't notice it as much. Now, after two weeks, I only notice it if I look for it. When I powered my Evo up to wipe it in preparation for selling it, I was struck by how dull and muddy a screen I once considered gorgeous looked to my eyes. I recommend looking at the Photon in person before you buy it, and do it more than once if you notice the pixelation from the start.
4. Speed: It's fast. Everything seems faster than my Evo: boot up, browsing, launching apps, scrolling through screens, turning on the 4G antenna. Whatever I throw at it, the Photon handles. The few times it did lag was due to an app misbehaving, nothing a quick force close couldn't fix.
5. Signal strength: it's hard to compare across phones without a cell signal strength app (which I have not bothered with), but the Photon seems more stable than my Evo. The only times I've lost a call was talking to another cell phone user, and it was their location that caused it. My Evo was pretty solid in this regard, so for the Photon to surpass it really impresses me.
6. Build quality: the Photon is light but solid. It's comfortable to hold and the Gorilla Glass screen is not only durable but beautiful as well, with a very subtle taper where it meets the bezel. Note this does make a little gap that can attract pocket lint, but it's easy enough to blow out. My Evo was a joy to hold as well, but like many early adopters mine had minor cosmetic issues that I just don't see on the Photon.
7. It's Android!: not a plus over the Evo, of course, but I wanted to point it out as it means the phone is incredibly customizable compared to other phone OSes. If you don't like Motorola's stock UI (and I'm not overly fond of it; HTC's Sense blows it out of the water), you can easily change or hide it and not worry about it at all. Don't like the widgets? Replace them! Don't like the launcher? Replace it! Want a different lock screen? Replace it! Some people forget that the stock UI of any Android phone is not what you have to use.
Overall, I'm very pleased with the Photon. I do miss HTC Sense, but as I noted above it's easy to customize the UI to your liking. The Photon is everything I loved about the Evo, only better.
Oh, and for those for whom this is important...
8. Root: the Photon has been rooted and the bootloader unlocked, all within about two weeks of its launch. It will have good developer support.
on September 8, 2011
After trying out the EVO 4G, I went ahead and decided on paying a little more and so far I don't regret it. The phone is solid, stable and quick. I'm still learning the gist of Android so things might change depending on how well I utilize the marketplace and whatnot.
Out of the box Motorola seemingly has anticipated the difficulty of the battery/back cover. It's individually wrapped (meaning the phone is boxed without a back). I found that to be a bit weird but I've removed the cover a few times so far. I normally go about it using a fingernail along the edge listening for the clicks and taking off the cover that way. A bit unorthodox but using brute force on a flexible cover might break it. The back cover isn't make out of the same material as the phone either so it might not fit perfectly. Mine has a small gap at the top and a little loose on the bottom. Doesn't bother me too much since if I have to clean it just take it off and etc. I'm not sure what it's made out of it (I want to say rubber or a rubberized plastic) but it has a nice grip. The phone remained still in my hand while I was standing up in an overcrowded bus. On the side is a ribbed volume buttons and a ribbed camera button. Easy to press and use.
Unlike the EVO (and probably the 3D too, not sure) the MicroSD card and SIM card are within easy reach. The MicroSD card can be removed without removing the battery which is a slight plus and doesn't need tweezers. Also the power button doesn't instantly turn on the phone but doesn't take forever to get the phone up and running either...
The display itself is a nice qHD PenTile display. The pixels aren't square and they generate a sort of grainy image. I personally don't mind the screen...Even when a cute show about a bunch of Flash animated little ponies makes it all the more obvious (I can't tell with say pictures or the phone's camera). To a certain extent since it does have more pixels than phones from last year it might appear to look finer also. If it matters I'd suggest seeing a phone in person because filming it probably won't do justice.
Android wise it boasts Gingerbread with a version of 2.3.4 and lacking Motoblur. The phone has 4GB dedicated to the operating system, 3GB available for program storage and 9GB for internal storage. I had a Sandisk Class 4 16GB MicroSD card lying around and stuck it in the phone to boost it to about 25GB of user storage. Might seem like a lot but I'm sure I can find a way to use it all up. My suggestion though is to put all ringtones and stuff like that on the internal memory although I haven't tested whether or not it'll revert to default with the removal of the card (more than likely will if unmounted properly anyway). Stability of Gingerbread has been good. I've had a few quirks but overall no phone crashes. Also, updating the YouTube app causes the kickstand mode to go a bit awkward.
Battery life...It's hard to say but on average I get around 2 days of use. With that said it's mostly light to moderate use with only one email account synced to it. Like any big screen device the brighter it is the more power it will draw. Especially in plain daylight where the display gets extremely bright but very well viewable outdoors. I'm pretty sure if I disable sync it'll go for a lot, lot longer in standby because the battery use diagram (clicking on the graph on the Battery Usage screen) shows the phone being awake constantly. I'm not familiar with Android but if I can probably figure out a way to optimize it I most definitely will. The only drawback to the battery usage is that the Photon only displays in increments of 10% (save for 20% or lower which is 5%) and isn't instant...It'll only update after the phone has dropped to the next level. Ever since I owned the HTC/Palm Treo Pro I charge all my devices except laptops turned off. The Photon has no actual charge indicator. If the battery is lower than 10% it is red, if it between 10% and 90% it is amber (rather...Green and red combined) and above 90% is green. Even though while off the phone will report 100% it isn't fully charged. If I remove it once it hits 100% and turn it on it will drop to 90% instantly. It makes sense because a lot of older Motorola devices I've owned liked to stop at 90% (especially on the spare battery charging port on many docks explicitly state it'll only charge to 90% then turn green). Also, what I like is that physically the battery bay in the phone is like a laptop. It has four prongs on the bay and the battery has the flexible contacts very much like every laptop I've owned. I like this because if the contacts ever fail...It's on the consumable (i.e. it'll wear out over time, being consumed despite being rechargeable) battery rather than the phone. The Sony PSP also uses the same design.
Hardware it sports 1GB of DDR2 RAM and a nice nVIDIA Tegra 2. It isn't a Snapdragon so it lacks the GPU it uses (I assume it has some sort of GeForce instead). It may or may not break compatibility of some games or applications. In terms of phone operation it is quick and even Adobe Flash runs pretty well on the device. It also has 4G and GSM capability. GSM I cannot test and 4G works. I haven't used 4G much but it is a lot faster than 3G...Especially on YouTube. It also has a kickstand, and this kickstand has an option to either do nothing or put the phone in either a special widget mode (with a huge digital clock) or simply a landscape version of the home screen. It appears to me the kickstand is magnet driven based on just looking at the inside of the kickstand but I could be wrong. Oddly enough the kickstand can be used in either landscape orientation. That is with the kickstand holding the phone up from the back (leaving the ports down) or holding the phone up from the bottom (leaving the ports up for say charging). It works either way and is stated in the manual. Personally I'm a bit cautious of leaving it in a position where it could be slammed down.
It has a low resolution camera on the front and an 8MP camera on the back supplemented with a dual LED flash. The camera also has auto focus which is amazing despite its small size. I just don't like the loud click it makes when it initializes. Overall it takes decent pictures but I prefer to use a camera or camcorder for all my photo needs.
If I'm missing anything I'll update it, but so far so good. The bias in this review, if anything, is that I could very well use this phone for two years without installing many apps. Not that I don't like them but I just rather browse and catch up on the web than play a game of Angry Birds.
09/17/11 - Edit/Addition
Every Sprint phone I've used has a lifetime data/minutes/calls indicator. Where this phone is fickle is that data lifetime includes more than 3G and 4G...It includes WiFi (explains why I have 1.8GBs received despite avoiding intensive sessions on cellular networks). Since I have unlimited data the need to meter my usage isn't there. Just mentioning it since the EVO 4G didn't appear to do it.
The Photon has two unique Motorola apps. The first is the webtop application that requires the multimedia dock and as such I'll probably never review it. The other is a phone portal. Essentially it either allows a USB connection or WiFi (infrastructure only, no ad-hoc. i.e. the computer and phone are connected to a router) connection to the device to manage text messages, ringtones, pictures and even displays cellular signal and current remaining battery power. So far it's a wonderful concept since I stopped USB data transfers a long time ago. As good as it is there are a few caveats to it:
*It supports Firefox 3 and IE7. Using a newer version of Firefox will cause it to force close repeatedly (especially when not closing the browser and remaining on the problematic page). If the phone is active it'll note the force close. If the phone isn't active (sleeping) it'll just terminate to the home screen. It works fine in IE8.
*The file manager only can be started using IE. Once I had the connections established in 'My Network Places' under XP Pro I can immediately connect to the phone without using the browser. File transfers over WiFi will primarily base itself on the method of connection (I use a laptop with 802.11b) and how far away from the router. I haven't measured speeds but from moderate signal on both devices I find creating folders/files to take a somewhat long time.
*Secure mode doesn't really work too well with the file manager or Firefox. I only find it necessary if being used on a public network or if the phone will remain online for a long time. Be warned, leaving it up and unlocked will allow anyone to access pictures or texts.
The background I picked tends to show some compression issues under a high brightness. Sort of random I suppose.
Edit B: Also, as silly as it sounds I should of also reviewed its function as a PHONE. Since I got it after the initial update (which I did before the phone got activated using WiFi) the call quality I have no complaints (nor did the half an hour call did the other person have issues hearing me). However considering I only have 44 minutes of talk time on it I can just state that it works.
10/15/11 - Addition
After the WiFi update the Phone Portal became not so much buggy but it used to somewhat do OK with my WiFi setup. However after many hours of trial and error (such as reading files failing at the first hiccup cancelling the entire process or when sending files the phone skips the file (and if it's a folder the entire folder I discovered that it is currently very, very, very sensitive for anything and everything on a particular WiFi channel. This means, at least for me, that if my WiFi Finder defects say a router at channel 6 if my router is on channel 6 the process will undoubtedly fail. With 11 (ironically) WiFi networks detected and roughly a third of them being on automatic channel it's only luck that most are either on 1, 6, or 11. I picked a channel that is unused and the transfer went quickly and flawlessly.
The third update was difficult to download. Originally the phone started the process but never connected. Rebooted and gave an error along the lines of "Ongoing Notification: Download will start when on WiFi/off-peak hours." With that said I changed the off-peak hours, turned off power management, rebooted and got a low signal with WiFi. It was only when I got a good signal that it began to download. Installing it was a breeze and for a rather large update it installed faster than the previous two.