Verizon Smartphone Upgrade: Drioid 3 vs Samsung Stratosphere vs Droid 4
January 13, 2012 1:04 PM   Subscribe

Upgrading smart phones with Verizon, January 2012 edition: moving from an original Motorola Droid and a Droid Eris, and unsure how critical 4G LTE and Super AMOLED are for phones we'll have for another 2+ years. More thoughts inside.

My wife and I have (relatively) old smart phones - I have an original Motorola Droid with keyboard, and my wife has the touchscreen-only Droid Eris. We're eligible for upgrades now, and I've been watching news about the Droid 4, which sounds like the best of all things (4G LTE, Super AMOLED Advanced screen). But today I saw $250 is the (tentative) minimum advertised price for a phone + 2 year plan. Plus we're on a family plan, so it might actually be more, given the pricing I've seen on some other phones.

My wife and I are keen on pull-out keyboards, so the other alternatives are much more affordable: 1. Samsung Stratosphere (4G LTE, but "dated" WVGA Super AMOLED with 800x480 resolution, vs 720p HD displays available)
Price: $99 w/plan through Verizon, or $49 for a Certified Pre-Owned phone + plan through Verizon; or $39.99 from Amazon Wireless with Verizon plan

2. Droid 3 (soon to be discontinued, 3G, but qHD Display with 960x540 resolution).
Price: $99 from Verizon with plan; $19.99 from Amazon Wireless (backordered currently)

1. is the improved resolution or 4G LTE that key for our relatively casual use? We don't watch movies on our phones, we just play games, browse the net, text and send the occasional email.
2. Might Amazon Wireless offer the Droid 4 for a discount off of the $250 minimum advertised price?
posted by filthy light thief to Technology (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
For all current-generation phones, the impact of LTE on battery life is so extreme as to - at least in my opinion - render the phone useless.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:07 PM on January 13, 2012

And 4G will depend a lot on your location. FWIW I have the Droid 3 after switching from an Eris...the difference is amazing. I can use netflix, and do anything else I've thought to do with it. I don't miss 4G at all, even though my location does offer it. The screen is a bit too dark on video..when there are dark scenes in movies on Netflix, it's kind of difficult to see..but I don't really use Netflix a lot, so it hasn't bothered me.
posted by trogdole at 1:15 PM on January 13, 2012

I have an LTE phone and when I do switch to 3G, the downgrade in speed is noticeable but not remotely crippling if I'm not downloading something big. If you're just browsing the web and suchlike, don't worry about the number of Gs.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:18 PM on January 13, 2012

I'll put in for the Droid 3. I am shamelessly in love with it, and it serves me well even on the 3G. The screen is plenty pretty. I watched Connections Season 1 on it and while I probably won't do any more big-time watching on the phone, it was perfectly serviceable. And the 5-row pull out keyboard is awesome. I get a thrill every time I slide it out.

It'll play Angry Birds or Scrabble straight for about 3 hours before killing the battery. It'll play music all day long, and read MeFi all day long, and send text msgs all day long. It's stupid easy to connect to wifi if the network is being slow, but to tell you the truth I almost never switch off the 3G connection.

If price really is an issue, I don't see any reason not to go the D3 route.
posted by carsonb at 1:25 PM on January 13, 2012

when we were picking phones on verizon, 4g came up, and we realized that we live in middle america. it's useless out here.

i have a droid 2 global. i'd pick up a droid 3 in an instant. this page compares the 3 and the 4, and i can't see a reason to pay the price bump. seems like they have the same, or nearly the same, screen as far as i can tell.

the keyboard in the 2 global is amazing and from everything i've seen, 3's is even better. i will never go back to touch keyboard again. i'll probably be buying whatever droid in this line is $99 when it's time for an upgrade.
posted by nadawi at 1:49 PM on January 13, 2012

3G throughput speed is ~ 1Mbps on average for Verizon.
That should suffice for most light use that you mentioned.

A couple of things that you might want 4G for:
1. talk AND data at the same time
2. using your device as a modem
3. future applications that might take advantage of 4G connection. Something like video conference calling, etc.

As people have pointed out, watch out for battery life and coverage where you live if you do decide to get 4G LTE phone.
posted by 7life at 1:51 PM on January 13, 2012

I went with the 4G Galaxy Nexus two weeks ago, so a few notes from my experience moving from a Droid Incredible.

1. Battery life is not great. I have always been a heavy user, so I had multiple batteries for my Incredible already. The 4G and huge screen do eat battery life.

2. We (unexpectedly) got 4G service turned on in our area back in November. The speeds are fantastic, but I have had some issues with delayed switching between WiFi, 4G, and 3G networks. I know other people have had similar 4G issues, plus some downtime nationally for Verizon.

3. Amazon will almost certainly give a better price, but possibly not out of the gate. I lucked out and ordered my Galaxy Nexus on a random day that Amazon had it in stock, and it was $229 instead of $299. Only problem was my phone wouldn't activate automatically over the network, had to take it into the Verizon store to get the 4G SIM registered. Not a big deal, and well worth saving $70.

4. All of that being said, I'm a big proponent of getting the best phone for you available at the time. This is something you will use every day for the next two years, and $100 difference in price over that contract is relatively minimal. You most likely still have unlimited data plans, and for the moment if you upgrade you should be grandfathered in for 4G unlimited as well. No telling if that will be the case 6 months or 2 years down the line.
posted by shinynewnick at 2:44 PM on January 13, 2012

The 4G LTE thing isn't really an issue with Verizon unless you live in one of the handful of magical unicorn cities that they actually have 4G LTE coverage in. For your stated usage, 3G service (which has much wider coverage, even for Verizon) should be plenty. (Verizon has a map showing coverage and estimated 4G LTE rollout dates, FWIW.)

As for screens and keyboards and such, I always suggest getting to a store to play with demo phones hands-on. Especially for something like a phone that you'll use all the time, finding one that feels right is arguably more important than a slightly better price. To me, at least. :)
posted by xedrik at 3:24 PM on January 13, 2012

In exactly the same situation, my wife went with the Stratosphere. This was about two months ago and the Droid 4 was not yet official. She absolutely requires a hard keyboard.

We live in the "magical unicorn" city of New York, where LTE coverage is good. Her battery life is fine, though not exceptional. She makes it through a full day without a problem, but is not a heavy user. GPS and LTE both eat battery life, and some of the large-screen LTE phones don't even get a full day of standard push email, even without browsing or music. She doesn't have that problem with the Strat, even with LTE and GPS on. She has liked the phone, finding the keyboard an improvement over her old Droid. I suspect price will drop on the Strat when the 4 has been out for a month or so. Could you wait? The fancy screen really isn't that big a deal unless you consume a lot of media on your phone.

By the way, I think it's hilarious that there is a Verizon phone called Eris.
posted by The Bellman at 3:35 PM on January 13, 2012

Response by poster: Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: If you're just browsing the web and suchlike, don't worry about the number of Gs.

Thanks, good point. I know some folks who use their smartphone and work computers as their only computers, but I don't think I'll be going that far. Though downloading is significantly faster with WiFi, I haven't noticed any serious difference for browsing on the 3G vs WiFi, and it seems to be a decent analogy for 3G vs 4G.

nadawi: i have a droid 2 global. i'd pick up a droid 3 in an instant. this page compares the 3 and the 4, and i can't see a reason to pay the price bump

And this page notes that the Droid 3 has a similar camera set-up (8mp rear-facing camera, plus a user-facing camera).

xedrik: The 4G LTE thing isn't really an issue with Verizon unless you live in one of the handful of magical unicorn cities...

Hot damn, I live in a magical unicorn city! Thanks for the map link. That fact, along with these speeds, tempt me, but (possibly) not enough.

Thanks for all the comments so far. I'm still waffling, but now swaying a bit towards the Droid 3.

The Bellman - odder yet, the Eris is modification on the HTC Droid Hero, and was succeeded by the Droid Incredible.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:08 PM on January 13, 2012

Response by poster: Follow-up question: is there anywhere else to get a nicely discounted Droid 3, or should I order from Amazon and hope 1 to 3 weeks is realistic? My worry is that with the Droid 3 nearing it's discontinuance date, Amazon won't get any more in stock.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:12 PM on January 13, 2012

I also live in a magical unicorn city (love that description!) and switched from an original Droid to a 4G LTE RAZR on launch day. So a couple of observations after going 3G to 4G and from a physical keyboard to a slate form factor:

- 4G didn't turn out to be a life changing experience for me. With 3G I always thought, "if only my phone was a little faster!". With 4G, you now start to notice the latency in websites -- Verizon can now show you a half loaded webpage at 18 Mbps.

- Battery life is an issue on the 4G phones. Basically they have to power two radios instead of one, so this is simple physics. With a 1780 mA battery in the RAZR, I have to charge it every night.

- Like you, I'm fond of physical keyboards and initially planned to upgrade to a Droid 3 or a Stratosphere. Anecdotally, new Android phones are getting bigger, thinner, and there are fewer phones offered with physical keyboards. So I was nervous about giving up the keyboard, but it seems like handset makers are taking us there. Motorola has licensed the Swype keyboard and ships it installed on their new devices so I invested some time in trying to get effective with Swype. I'm not as fast yet on Swype as I was on the original droid, but it is getting close. After two months without a keyboard, I think I am fine without it.

Good luck with your new phones!
posted by kovacs at 7:18 PM on January 13, 2012

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