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Motorola Electrify 2 (U.S. Cellular) Review
The Motorola Electrify 2 is a very solid smartphone for U.S. Cellular. But the lack of 4G connectivity holds it back.
(4 out of 5)
- Fast performance
- World phone
- Trim design
- No 4G
- Just a step behind the Galaxy S III in nearly every aspect.
The Motorola Electrify 2 is about two months too late. Back in June, it would’ve been a shoo-in for the top smartphone on U.S. Cellular, even though it lacks access to the carrier’s new 4G LTE network. It’s still a very good phone—it has a powerful dual-core processor, a good camera, and a sleek, svelte design. But without LTE, it just can’t compete with the Samsung Galaxy S III.
Design and Call Quality
Think of the Electrify 2 as a cross between the Motorola Droid Razr and the Droid Razr Maxx. It isn’t quite as thin as the 0.28-inch-thick Razr, but at 0.33 inches, it’s still a bit trimmer than the 0.35-inch Razr Maxx. At 2.59 by 5.06 by 0.33 inches (HWD), the Electrify 2 cuts quite a profile. And with its super comfortable, lightly patterned Kevlar back, it feels rich and luxurious—much more so than the plastic-feeling Galaxy S III. Weighing in at 4.59 ounces, it’s also nice and light.
The 4.3-inch, 960-by-540-pixel qHD capacitive touch screen is sharp, though some may not dig the PenTile layout, which can cause some text and and images to appear slightly blurry. I found it less distracting here than on other phones, though. Either way, this display is no match for the 4.8-inch, high-res beauty on the Galaxy S III. If you’re looking to do considerable Web browsing or watch a lot of video, that’s the phone to get.
The Electrify 2 is a world phone that supports dual-band EV-DO Rev A (850/1900 MHz), quad-band EDGE (850/900/1800/1900 MHz), and dual-band HSDPA (900/2100 MHz) for 3G speeds on foreign networks. It also has 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, which worked fine on my WPA2-encrypted network. Unfortunately, there’s no 4G LTE support. While U.S. Cellular’s LTE network is still being built out, and we haven’t yet had a chance to test it, we expect it to offer much faster speeds than 3G. So if you want to make sure your phone is future-proof, you should look for something that supports LTE, like the Samsung Galaxy S III.
Voices are loud and clear in the Electrify’s earpiece, though somewhat thin and digitized. Transmissions sound natural and easy to understand, with decent background noise reduction. Calls sounded fine through a Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset and Motorola’s voice command system worked well over Bluetooth. The speakerphone also sounds fine, but doesn’t get loud enough to hear outdoors. The nonremovable 1780mAh battery was good for an impressive 9 hours hours and 51 minutes of talk time in my tests.
Processor, Android, and Apps
The dual-core 1.2GHz processor is very fast. It packs enough power to handle any game you throw at it, or any of the 500,000+ apps in the Google Play store, but it isn’t quite as fast at the 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm S4 in the Galaxy S III. General performance is mostly comparable, but gaming frame rates are noticeably higher on the Galaxy.
The Electrify II is U.S. Cellular’s third smartphone to run Android 4.0.4 “Ice Cream Sandwich,” though there’s no official word about an update to Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean.” You get five home screens you can swipe between and customize. These screens are mostly blank, but if you look in the app menu, you’ll find that there’s plenty of bloatware installed here, unlike the squeaky clean Galaxy S III. Unfortunately, the majority of it cannot be uninstalled, though you can disable it from showing up in your app menu. Still, why be forced to house an app for the Zappos store for as long as you own your phone?
One interesting addition is Motorola’s SmartActions app. It allows you to follow a set of rules that make it easier to accomplish a particular task. You can create your own rules, or follow some of the templates Motorola has already made for you. The Low Battery Saver rule prolongs battery life by turning down your screen brightness and shutting down power-draining features like GPS and background syncing. And the Drive Smart rule switches the phone to vehicle mode and reads incoming messages aloud when you’re driving.
Unlike the original Electrify, there is no Webtop mode here. And unless you already own a device with Webtop, you never will. Motorola has killed the feature.
Multimedia, Camera, and Conclusions
There’s 5.07GB of free internal storage, and an empty, side-mounted microSD card slot. My 32 and 64GB SanDisk cards worked fine. There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack right in the center of the Elecrify’s top edge. The phone was able to play all of our music test files aside from FLAC, and tunes sounded good through both a set of wired earbuds as well as Altec Lansing Backbeat Bluetooth headphones. It was also able to play back all of our video test files in resolutions up to 1080p, though audio was seriously out of sync over Bluetooth.
The rear-facing 8-megapixel autofocus camera has an LED flash. Photo performance is okay, but not the among the best in its class. On the plus side, autofocus is fast, and once it’s locked in, the camera can snap photos almost instantaneously. But images can be noisy, and not as detailed as you’ll see from other 8-megapixel sensors. Thankfully, the camera records solid video. Indoor and outdoor footage played back at a smooth 30 frames per second and looked sharp. There’s also a VGA front-facing camera for video chat.
Lack of 4G aside, the Motorola Electrify II is still a very good phone. But as it stands, the Samsung Galaxy S III is a better deal all around. For just $20 more, you get twice the amount of internal storage, a larger, higher-resolution display, 4G LTE support, and a faster processor. It’s U.S. Cellular’s top-of-the-line superphone.
If for some reason you’re not a Samsung fan, or you want a phone that’s a little smaller and easier to handle, and you can deal with the lack of 4G, the Motorola Electrify 2 is a top choice. It’s better than the rest of the competition on U.S. Cellular. The HTC Merge is a world phone with a full QWERTY keyboard, while the Motorola Defy XT is a small, easy-to-handle phone that’s ultra-rugged. But both are stuck on Android 2.3, and both are less powerful than the Electrify II. The Samsung Galaxy S Aviator is U.S. Cellular’s other LTE option, but it too is running an older version of Android on midrange specs.
By Alex Colon, PCMag