Droid 4 reviews are popping up everywhere. We’re doing ours a little different. Instead of posting a “review” after spending just 24 hours with the phone like other sites, we’re living with it for a week, publishing several articles on it and then concluding with a full review after actually living with the phone for a while. But one thing was clear even before the phone launched: Motorola messed up forgoing a removable battery for a meaningless reduction in thickness.
The original Droid started the Android revolution. It was the anti-iPhone: an open OS, sliding QWERTY keyboard, available on Verizon and featured a removable battery and expandable memory. Now many of those advantages are moot points. Android is no longer viewed as open, most people are sold on virtual keyboards, the iPhone is available everywhere, and now, thanks to Motorola, the Droid 4 features a built-in battery. Sorry, power users.
You see, Motorola, like every other phone maker is racing to produce the thinnest phone possible. Apparently they feel thinner phones will result in more sales and/or street cred. I don’t know. But it’s silly. Phones are already thin enough — I know how that sounds. But think about it: The Droid 3 is 12.9mm thick where the Droid 4 is 12.7mm thick. Even the Droid RAZR MAXX, with it’s extra-large battery, is still a slim phone in my opinion. It’s 9mm thick verses 7.1mm of the standard RAZR. The difference is hardly noticeable even when the phones are sitting next to each other. You’ll never notice it when it’s in your pocket.
The Droid 4 does feature a larger battery than its older counterpart. The phone is also more powerful and packs a slightly larger screen. But none of those things counter the mistake of not including a removable battery even if the Droid 4 is a marvelous piece of hardware. The new keypad is fantastic and so is the updated sliding action. It’s completely possible that Moto engineers decided to permanently affix the battery to allow for the improved sliding mechanism or something else critical to the redesigned phone. But in doing so, the phone loses a major selling point even if it’s an under-utilized feature.
I’d venture to say that the vast majority of users never buy extended batteries for their phones. But it’s likely a large portion of owners like the idea, and it’s certainly a nice option to have. There are light users who will probably coast along with the non-removable battery and never experience a problem, while people who lean on their devices more than others could be left in the lurch. I don’t think Motorola made the decision lightly, but the move almost feels like Motorola is trading their power users for wider adoption.
The Android landscape is filled with copycats. Motorola (and others) need to do something to make their phones stand apart. So what are the Droid 4’s selling points? Just the QWERTY keypad and that’s not enough to compete. Sadly the days of the swappable battery are probably numbered. I’d bet my dog Ferrari that the Samsung Galaxy S III and most of 2012’s flagship phones will not have a removable battery.
Bring back the swappable battery for the next Droid, Motorola. A millimeter or two is well worth having a legitimate selling point over the iPhone and other Android phones.