Motorola PHOTON 4G First Impressions

Aaron Baker
Writer from  Dallas, TX
| August 1, 2011

Photon 4G 1

Without beating around the bush, the Motorola PHOTON 4G is the best smartphone in Sprint's lineup at the moment.  Its design and user interface won't appeal to everyone (specifically HTC fans…there are rifts within the Android base, after all), but it's an all-around great device with a lot to offer.  Dual-core processor?  Check.  4G connectivity?  Check.  Global roaming capabilities?  Check.

I've spent a few days toying with Sprint's newest superphone, and here's what I've discovered:

  • With its brash curves, the PHOTON 4G resembles an iDEN device at first.  Coming in at 5-inches tall by 2.63-inches wide by 0.48-inch thick, it's a hair larger than the HTC EVO 3D, though it feels a bit less blocky.  The kickstand is a nice touch and makes for a great bedside clock, but it obstructs the microUSB charging port.  The solution?  Turn the device upside down, as the hinge is strong enough to support the device backwards.
  • Powered by a 1 GHz dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor, the PHOTON 4G is speedy, with little to no lag.  Applications open in a snap, and I haven't seen any lag while doing more system intensive things like scrolling through the picture gallery or playing games.  It's a zippy device, and feels faster than the EVO 3D in day-to-day use.

Photon 4G 2

  • It's packing a 4.3-inch qHD PenTile display.  Like the Atrix 4G, DROID X2, and DROID 3, it's noticeably pixelated, though colors are vibrant and viewing angles are good.
  • Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread) is installed, along with the latest iteration of Motorola's Applications Platform.  M.A.P. (formerly known as MOTOBLUR) is quite the polarizing user interface (some love it, some hate it), but the latest improvements are nice.  The interface takes on a blue hue and retains the customizable widgets that have become a hallmark of Motorola's platform.  It's not going to win Sense lovers over by any means, but it's a huge improvement from the mess that was the original MOTOBLUR (think Atrix 4G and DEVOUR).

Photon 4G 3

  • The PHOTON packs an 8-megapixel camera with a dual-LED flash, and picture quality is mediocre.  It shoots video in 720p, and while sound quality was fantastic, the video was a bit washed out.  
  • PHOTON's wireless radio is the best on any Sprint device I've worked with in recent memory.  The call quality is incredible, and in areas where I typically get no Sprint service, I'm seeing 2-3 bars of service.  My callers have reported great audio quality, and I've had a great experience on my end.  If voice is important to you, the PHOTON 4G is the device to have.
  • With a 1,650 mAh battery, I've been able to make it through the day with moderate use including calling, text messaging, emailing, browsing the web, and downloading a few apps.  Heavy users will need to find an extended battery or carry a spare charger.

The Motorola PHOTON 4G is the best high-end device available on Sprint at the moment, and beats the EVO 3D in the call quality and reception departments.  It's available now for $199.99 with a two-year agreement.

Check out the unboxing below!

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