2012 brings another update to the Droid line of smartphones. Motorola’s labs continue to evolve the Droid into a faster, slicker, and more pleasant device to use. This appears to be the best keyboard yet, and the phone feels better in one’s hand than earlier units. Yet it’s not all fun and games at the iFixit labs.
The new Droid also introduces compromises that did not exist in previous iterations: the battery is no longer user-replaceable (according to Motorola, at least), and that swell keyboard is now integrated into the motherboard, meaning you’ll have to replace both components if a key on the keyboard fails. It’s akin to having to replace your brain if your arm breaks. Consequently, the Droid 4 earns a deplorable 4 out of 10 repairability score, which is by far the lowest score we’ve given to a smartphone bearing the Droid name.
Motorola has graced every Droid 4 with this mysterious little gem. Initially we thought it to be a SIM card eject tool, complete with a Motorola logo and fancy design — even though you don’t need the tool to take out the SIM card. However, after scanning through the four included manuals (that’s right, we do read the manuals), we discovered that the object is actually a rear panel removal tool! For the first time in the history of our teardowns, a device manufacturer has actually included a tool to help take apart their device — although it’s for a procedure that shouldn’t require a tool to begin with.
The first thing we observed on the innards of this Droid was a large sticker covering the battery. It contained identifying information for the phone, as well as several statements telling the user that the battery is not removable. This is a huge (negative) departure from earlier Droids, where the battery was always user-replaceable.
Removing the sticker revealed the Droid 4′s battery, and confirmed our assumptions: the Droid’s battery is a lot larger and more troublesome to remove than last year’s model. Two T5 Torx screws and gobs of adhesive hold the battery in place. The adhesive is so strong that you may accidentally bend the battery too much (and cause it to possibly ignite) if you try removing it with just your fingers. So instead, use a flat pry tool like a spudger to pry the battery from the phone.
A liquid damage indicator cleverly placed below the micro-SIM cover thwarts our hopes of a Droid 4 deep-sea excursion. Sorry little buddy, looks like you’re going to have to sit this one out.
Unlike last year’s Droid, the Droid 4′s keyboard pressure sensors are attached to the back of the motherboard, so you’ll have to replace the entire motherboard if a key fails on your keyboard.
Cool! The keyboard letters are printed on raised rubber atop the pressure contacts. Our guess is as good as yours as to why Motorola chose to go that route; there’s no benefit we can see from having the letters printed on the rubber.
Motorola definitely understood the importance of designing a good keyboard for this phone. From our limited txt-testing, it appears to be the best Droid keyboard yet. The same shows in its internal construction (aside from it being integrated into the motherboard).
Interesting: The microSD card slot is not soldered onto the motherboard, but instead held in place by two screws. The slot connects to the motherboard via some pressure-sensitive pins, as well as a rectangular multi-pin connector.
And now for some chip identification:
Samsung K3PE7E00M-XGC1 4 Gb LPDDR2.
Hynix H8BCS0QG0MMR memory MCP containing Hynix DRAM and STM flash
Qualcomm MDM6600 supporting HSPA+ speeds of up to 14.4 Mbps
Qualcomm PM8028 chip working in conjunction with the Qualcomm MDM6600 to provide wireless data connection to the phone
ZE55431140KHD, which appears to be the RAM sitting atop the 1.2 GHz main processor
Infineon 5726 SLU A1
Skyworks 77483 700MHz LTE PA module
Avago ACPM-7868 quad-band power amplifier
Texas Instruments WL 1285C WiLink 7.0 single-chip WLAN, GPS, Bluetooth and FM solution
ST Ericsson CPCAP 6556002 System on a Chip
The back of the board is largely devoid of chips, save for one: the SanDisk SDIN5C1-16G flash memory that we found in the Droid Razr also graces the interior of the Droid 4. As its name suggests, this package provides the 16 GB of memory that comes with every Droid 4.
Good news: the LCD is not fused to the glass display. This means users won’t have to purchase the LCD (which is significantly more expensive than just the glass) if they shatter their glass.
Not-so-good news: they will have to replace the touchscreen controller when replacing the front display glass, which will add a bit of cost to the repair.
What touchscreen controller does the Droid 4 sport, you may ask? The underside of the front panel reveals an Atmel MXT224E touchscreen controller, which we’ve found in several other phones in the past, including the Droid 3.