Another strong phone in US Cellular's lineup

Motorola Electrify

Whether it was bringing the HTC Merge, the Motorola Xoom, or the Optimus Black, US Cellular has always made sure to have some of the best and greatest Android phones for their customers to choose.

They've continued that trend with the Motorola Electrify, their regional version of Sprint's Photon 4G. How does it stack up, though? Not only against US Cellular's other offerings, but just as a phone itself? That's what we've come here to settle.

Jump on in to find out.


The Good

Lightweight, pretty thin, and fast. The 4.3-inch qHD display provides plenty of screen real estate to stare at.

The Bad

Two words: PenTile Matrix. Pixels are (too) easy to see, and that distracts from an otherwise great experience.

Conclusion

US Cellular has nabbed another great Android phone in the Motorola Electrify. It's just as solid and functional as we've come to expect from Motorola, and at $200, the price is definitely right.

Inside this review

More info

 

Initial video hands-on


YouTube link for mobile viewing

The hardware

At first glance, the Motorola Electrify is a fairly standard-looking Android phone. Slab shape, large front screen, and Android buttons at the bottom. It's rocking a 4.3-inch screen, just like we've come to expect on our phones, and doesn't otherwise draw a lot of attention to itself.

Motorola Electrify

The two most striking features, off the bat, are the silver bezel that runs the entire border of the phone and the slightly rounded corners. The same rounded corners you'll find on the Motorola Photon 4G, as a matter of fact. Which makes sense, since they're brothers and all.

Motorola ElectrifyMotorola Photon 4G

The display that makes up most of the phone is PenTile Matrix, I'm sad to say, with the typical capacitive buttons along the bottom. Speaking of PenTile Matrix, it's not great. Yes, the screen has fairly decent colors and doesn't look too dull, but once you get the distance about 10 inches from your face, you're going to see pixels.

To be fair, I didn't really notice them while I was consuming media (watching YouTube, playing games, etc.), but once you get a light-colored background going, it's game over. Criss-crossing diagonal lines fill up the screen, and unfortunately for us, most of our apps have backgrounds that are white.

As for the remainder of the front of the phone, Motorola opted for a kind of charcoal, gunmetal grey for the bezel instead of the clean black we're all used to, and while it's not bad looking, it's definitely different.

Motorola Electrify

When you look over the rest of the phone, the color scheme makes a lot more sense. The front matches the grey back/battery cover and looks pretty good with the silver bezel, kickstand, and buttons. Would it have killed them to go with black? Probably not, and it is rather striking when put next to something like an EVO 3D.

Up top on the front there's the requisite light sensors, a VGA front-facing camera, and a tiny notification light. The notification light isn't too noticable, especially if you're not looking for it, but when you plug your phone in to charge, it'll kick on a solid green that you're bound to see. Otherwise, it'll (occasionally) blink to let you know there's something worth checking out.

Motorola ElectrifyMotorola Electrify

As far as the rest of the Electrify is concerned, it's a pretty standard affair. The volume rocker is one piece with a dent in the middle so you can keep the two buttons apart. Speaking of the buttons, they're all textured with small, raised, horizontal lines. It gives a bit more of something to touch when you're navigating the phone's hardware and it's fun just to run your fingers over.

On the same bezel as the volume rocker is the dedicated camera button. In my experience, the camera button doesn't use the standard two-press system to focus and then take a picture, opting to just focus and then immediately snap the shot after the button is pressed. The result led me to have to retake some pictures just to make sure they were clear, but we'll get to that in more detail later.

Motorola ElectrifyMotorola Electrify

The power button and 3.5mm headphone jack are both up top, but the texturing found on the other hardware buttons is suspiciously absent. Maybe it was to help differentiate between volume and power buttons, but I wouldn't have minded some consistency in that regard.

On the bezel opposite the volume rocker there's a micro-USB charging port and a micro-HDMI port right next to each other, all buddy buddy-like. The bottom bezel is where you'll start taking the battery cover off, and from there, all the rest of the action is on the back.

Motorola Electrify

Jumping to the back of the device you'll notice there's an 8MP camera with dual flash in the upper-left (or right, depending on orientation) corner and a kickstand. Let me take a moment to say this is the best kickstand I've seen on a phone.

Motorola Electrify

It's the same kind as on the Photon, but any kickstand that will hold the phone up when it's standing vertically or upside down (so you can still charge it while it's leaning) gets a gold star in my book. Sure, it's initially deceiving that you have to pull the stand out from the middle, but once you've done it the first time, pulling from the sides won't seem as natural.

Motorola Electrify

The battery cover has a smooth, matte finish to it, which is pretty good for avoiding fingerprints. It also gives the back a little bit of gripping power, so the phone is less apt to slide around if on an angled surface. Prepare to polish off the kickstand often, though. As shiny as it starts out, it'll become dark with fingerprints in no time.

What's under the hood

If you've ever used an Android tablet (or an Atrix, a Photon, a Droid X2, an LG G2x, well, you get the idea), you know how powerful the Tegra-2 chip is. Packing 1GHz of dual-core goodness, the Electrify fully takes advantage of the speed available to it, and is certainly deserving of the praise heaped on it.

There's also 1GB of RAM packed inside coupled with 16GB of internal storage. On a completely fresh boot (say, the first time you've turned the phone on), you'll have around 2.7GB of application storage available and 8.6GB available internally for other odds and ends, like pictures, music, and videos. Because of the included storage, there's no included microSD card, although the Electrify does support microSD cards up to 32GB.

When you pop off the battery cover you're greeted by a fairly beefy 1650 mAh battery, which is just shy of the advertised 1700 mAh, but I doubt you'll notice. There's also two slots, both empty. One is for the aforementioned microSD card and the other is for a SIM card. Yes, you read that correctly. Like the Photon, the Electrify is a world phone, assuming you pop the appropriate SIM in there.

Motorola ElectrifyMy unit didn't come with any SIM card, but I do know that the Electrify supports quadband GSM and triband UMTS/WCDMA/HSPA+, so you're defiintely covered should you need to take advantage of any of that functionality.

The battery life on the Electrify is outstanding. Maybe it's the more energy efficient PenTile screen. Maybe it's the decently sized battery. Perhaps it's just a phone that was optimized from top to bottom before it was released. It's hard to say, really, but whatever the reason(s), I could get a day out of the Electrify, no problem.

This is coming from someone who force refreshes their inbox, is bouncing between Google+, Plume, and Android Central's mobile site pretty consistently, and also uses their phone as a metronome and a tuner when I'm practicing my tuba, too. Needless to say, I abused this phone the duration of my time with it and it just kept on ticking, all the way until it got plugged back into the charger at night. Bravo.

The software

Motorola Electrify homescreens

On the software side of things, the Motorola Electrify is running Android 2.3.4, just as it should be. On top of that, however, is Motorola's "it's not Blur" interface. If you've used any of the new NotBlur phones as of late, it should look familiar. If not, this is one interface that might be worth tolerating.

There's not an absurd amount of visual tweaks, as it really comes down to the launcher. There's four icons at the bottom, three of which you can change by long-pressing. The bottom-right corner is the app drawer. Other tweaks involve a rotating sawblade for the "I'm loading stuff" icon, colored icons in the notification bar, and campy-looking icons.

The homescreens are set up thusly when you first boot up the phone, and while it's not anything to necessarily scoff at, once you get off the main screen, everything's a bit jumbled. Widgets are thrown out (probably just to show they're there), but that's nothing a fair bit of long-pressing can't remedy. 

Fortunately, either because of the Tegra-2 or good writing, Moto's skin doesn't drag the phone down. Swiping between homescreens isn't fast, but it's certainly not laggy. I think it might just be that I'm used to the speed I've set my personal phone to (using ADW EX), so while things seem like they kind of mosey along, there's no actual hiccups.

Motorola Profiles

There's also a Profiles feature that does exactly what it sounds like. You can set up different presets on your screens, change the wallpaper, and otherwise completely customize a profile for anything you could need, and then jump between them instantly. They're really easy to set up and Moto has named them Home, Work, and Weekend by default, but you can rename them to your liking without problem.

Aside from the apps and widgets that are plastered over your front screens, Motorola (and US Cellular) have done a great job of loading this thing up with all sorts of apps you'll never use you might want to try out, like Asphalt, Rich Location, and Tone Room Deluxe. In all honesty, I'm waiting for the day these apps are optional installs when you buy a phone, but I won't be holding my breath for it.

Motorola Electrify AppsMotorola Electrify AppsMotorola Electrify Apps

Like the Photon 4G before it, the Electrify is speedy. Yes, it lacks the cool wallpaper that made the Photon look so impressive off the bat, but the performance is still there.

The camera

Motorola Electrify Camera App

This is the camera app that comes on the Motorola Electrify. The rear shooter is a full 8 megapixels, which are some pretty big pictures. There's a couple of presets you can mess with, like changing scenes for normal shooting, fast shots, macro, or sunsets, but most of the time you'll probably keep it in normal.

I was a little disappointed with these pictures overall, especially the ones in lower light conditions that came out dull or washed out. It looks like the optimal conditions are a sunny outdoor scene, but as light sources diminish (and the camera doesn't think its dark enough to turn the flash on), focus, vividness, and just clarity are all impacted.

Motorola Electrify Camera TestMotorola Electrify Camera Test

Motorola Electrify Camera TestMotorola Electrify Camera Test

Motorola Electrify Camera TestMotorola Electrify Camera Test

Motorola Electrify Camera TestMotorola Electrify Camera Test

The camera on the back does full 720p video recording (no 1080p, sorry folks), and if you're curious as to what that looks here, here's a short demonstration.


YouTube link for mobile viewing

Other odds and ends

  • You get two keyboards out of the box: Motorola's "Multi-touch keyboard" (which isn't bad), and Swype.
  • GPS, Bluetooth, and Wifi don't have any issues. Turn-by-turn navigation was better than my personal phone, sometimes.

The wrapup

US Cellular is making all the right moves in building out their Android lineup. The Photon was a great device when it came out on Sprint (arguably one of the best, at the time) and the same can be said for US Cellular.

With a long-lasting battery, snappy response, and qHD display (PenTile Matrix notwithstanding), the Electrify is enough phone to meet anyone's need. Add in the great profiles system, so you can jump between personal and work profiles in an instant, and you'll be down to carrying one phone in no time.

 

Reader comments

Motorola Electrify review

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The Galaxy SII is the only phone on the market that I can honestly say might be better than my Custom Rom'ed / Kerneled Droid Charge Running @ 1,300 mhz.. We are the ONLY phones ( Along with ATT's INFUSE..) That have SUPERAMOLED *PLUS* Screens that are not Pentile Based.. So without question we have the most Brillant *WOW* Screens on the Market.. but the Infuse & SII are Not Verizon Phones.. No 4G LTE Power.. Which puts my Droid Charge at the Top of the Heap.. Not even the Galaxy Nexus Screen is as Brillant.. I feel better & better about my June Purchase instead of still sitting on the sidelines.. The Droid Charge even has HDMI Out Standard.. One Day a Better Phone will come along.. But Not Today.

OK, so I thought you guys would figure this out about the kickstand by the time you did your full blown review on the Photon, aka Electrify. I have the Photon. Love it. The reason the kickstand has the ridges on the "top" end, like all the other buttons, is because you press it there, like all the other buttons. That pops the "bottom" of the kickstand so you can pull it out.

Otherwise, thanks for the full review. It must be a sign of my age and unfortunately changing near vision, but I cannot see the criss-crossing diagonal lines of the PenTile Matrix screen. Occasionally, when the screen is off and in the right lighting I can see a grid pattern in the glass. But I think the display is generally amazing. Probably doesn't hurt that my bar starting out was low, being this is my first smart-, android phone.

I just don't see individual pixels on the screen at all. I've never been able to see what folks are talking about. 20/20 vision...and I'm glad I don't see them, otherwise, I think it'd drive me nuts.

Now, I did see pixels on the Sprint SGII Epic Touch 4G with the larger screen & lower resolution...but its also a great phone. It was just too large for my tastes.

The instructions for the kickstand do say to open it from the middle, not push it down on the ridged end...so that's why the reviewers state that's how to open it.

I still think its the best phone on Sprint, and Google owning Motorola will only add to its longevity (I hope!).

Thanks for the Photon Part 2 review Josh!

Wait... the charging light works on the electrify and not the Photon? That sucks.

I just want to add I also have the Photon and love it. I first noticed the pentile display on the SG4G. The screen on this phone is loads better. But it does suffer from some sort of black crush.

My one other gripe is the blur on the omap devices is better that the one on these 2 phones.

The TI OMAP processor is some serious stuff. That's not to say the Tegra-2 isn't, but Texas Instruments is certainly moving in the right direction.

I too have the Motorola Photon 4G, however, is this article falling under as part 2 of the Photon 4G review or not? I'm seriously wondering because along with many others have been waiting for it.

But on another note, I had the HTC EVO 4G before the Photon 4G and as much as I enjoyed the EVO 4G I never rooted that phone and I haven't with this phone. Everything I wished I could have done with the EVO-in order to get the full experience I would have needed to root but with the Photon its all possible right out of the box, for example: true hdmi output when connected to my t.v. (angry birds looks awesome on my 52' screen), pairing up game controllers, among other fun things I wasn't able to do on the EVO 4G but can with the Photon. I'm not against rooting, I'm just worried something could go wrong along the way.

Yeah, it's the Part 2 of the Photon 4G review/comprehensive Electrify review. I looked at this as one full review since I've never used the Photon 4G for any extended period of time.