Editors' note: In this review, we'll focus more on the Motorola Electrify's different features and performance. For more information on the smartphone, including design and user interface details, please read our review of the Motorola Photon 4G.
In early June, U.S. Cellular laid out its plan to release at least eight smartphones by the end of the year, and the carrier is living up to its end of the deal. The latest handset to join its Android stable is the Motorola Electrify. Available now for $199.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate, the Electrify is similar to the Motorola Photon 4G for Sprint and boasts a dual-core processor, a 4.3-inch qHD display, and an 8-megapixel camera, among other things. Its laundry list of features coupled with solid performance and compatibility with a number of accessories makes it U.S. Cellular's best smartphone yet, particularly for those who want a powerful device with the latest technology.
The Motorola Electrify is a dual-mode GSM/CDMA phone, so it offers world-roaming capabilities. The smartphone works on U.S. Cellular's CDMA network here in the U.S., and features an unlocked SIM, so once you travel abroad, you can purchase a prepaid SIM card to make voice calls and receive data. Other voice features include a speakerphone, conference calling, voice dialing, and text and multimedia messaging. The Electrify is 3G capable and can be used as a mobile hot spot for up to eight devices. Bluetooth 2.1, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), and aGPS are also all part of the package.
The Electrify runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread and integrates Google's apps and services, including Gmail, Google Maps with Navigation, Voice Search, Google Talk, Latitude, YouTube, and Places. The handset also comes preloaded with a number of useful apps, such as the Quickoffice suite, a task manager, and the Webtop Connector app, which can be used with the optional laptop dock. U.S. Cellular also loads it up with a number of other extras, including Zappos, IMDb, and Daily Perks, but the good news is that you can uninstall most of the bloatware.
The smartphone features an 8-megapixel camera with a dual-LED flash. The camera app offers a number of tools and settings, including exposure controls, different scene modes, effects, geotagging, and more. However, though it can play back 1080p HD video, at this time it can only record 720p HD video.
Picture quality was a bit disappointing. Photos taken in low-light conditions came out looking hazy with faint colors. The camera did better with outdoor shots, but videos taken indoors and outdoors both look washed out. You can share media via the phone's HDMI port or DLNA. The Motorola Electrify has 16GB of internal memory and an expansion slot that supports up to 32GB cards.
U.S. Cellular packages the phone with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired stereo headset, and reference material. The carrier does not offer any special bundles with the laptop dock or other accessories, such as the HD Station and Bluetooth wireless keyboard, but you can purchase them through Motorola's Web site.
We tested the dual-mode Motorola Electrify using roaming U.S. Cellular service and call quality was good. On our end, calls were clear with very little to no background noise. Occasionally, voices sounded a bit muffled, but overall, we were happy with the performance. Friends also reported good results, with no complaints of any voice distortion or white noise.
Motorola Electrify call quality sample Listen now:
Speakerphone quality was OK. Audio was a bit hollow on our side but clear, while friends said they heard a bit of an echo. With the volume set to the highest level, there was just enough volume to hear our callers in a noisier environment. We paired the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones, and we were able to make calls and listen to music with no problem.
We didn't experience any dropped calls during our review period, and the Electrify is 3G only. CNET's full site loaded in 35 seconds, while the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN loaded in 12 seconds and 10 seconds, respectively. High-quality YouTube videos took a few seconds to load but played back without interruption, and the clips looked nice and sharp.
Powered by Nvidia's Tegra 2 1GHz dual-core processor, the Electrify felt very responsive. We were able to zip around the phone without problem, and we were able to launch and switch between apps with very little delay. Playing games and Flash content did not pose a problem for the smartphone.
The Motorola Electrify ships with a 1,700mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 10 hours and up to 8.3 days of standby time. The smartphone fell an hour short of the rated talk time in our battery drain tests, but 7 hours of continuous talk time is still pretty impressive. According to FCC radiation tests, the Electrify has a digital SAR rating of 0.99W/kg and a Hearing Aid Compatibility Rating of M4/T4.
U.S. Cellular has done a good job of ramping up its smartphone offerings over the past couple of years, but the devices have usually been in the entry- to midlevel range. However, the Motorola Electrify changes all that and brings a high-powered and fully stocked Android device sure to please many a smartphone fan. It's certainly not perfect; the phone's larger size and custom user interface won't please everyone, and the camera quality could be better. That said, if you want a fast device with some of the latest features available, the Motorola Electrify would be our top pick.