Jul 29 AT 3:45 PM Dustin Earley 23 Comments

Motorola Photon 4G review roundup


Starting July 31st, Sprint customers will have a new choice when it comes to which powerhouse device will eat up the data on their line. I’m talking about the highly anticipated Motorola Photon 4G from Sprint. Coming in with a 1GHz dual-core Tegra 2, 16GB of memory, a 4.3-inch qHD display and 8MP camera, the Photon is no slouch. But how does that translate into real world use? We’ve taken the time to gather the best of the best reviews on the Motorola Photon 4G and have assembled them here to paint a bigger picture of how the device is being received.

This Is My Next

To start the roundup off, we’ll take a look at Josh Topolsky’s review of the Photon for This Is My Next. After taking an in-depth look at the Photon’s hardware, sound quality, reception, data speeds, battery life, camera and software, the final verdict is just “alright”:

The Photon 4G isn’t exactly a groundbreaking device. If you’re an Android user (and especially if you’re a Mororola device owner), you won’t be surprised by anything here. ... It’s a fine, recognizable contender on a fine, recognizable carrier – but I don’t know if it has the flair to move bodies. The Photon 4G is a great device, but if Sprint and Motorola desire to spike the needle with consumers, they’ll have to try a little harder than this.Josh TopolskyThis Is My Next

On a scale of one to ten, Josh places the Photon at seven and a half. Not bad, but the device certainly could’ve done. better.


Next up is Jonathan Geller from BGR. Much like TIMY, Geller broke the review down into three categories (hardware/display, software and phone/speakerphone/battery) and examined each carefully. Geller seemed to be reasonably impressed on all fronts:

The Motorola PHOTON 4G has an extremely futuristic design identity, and I love it. Instead of having rounded corners, the phone has angled edges that give it a very futuristic and almost Star Trek-like vibe. ... All in all, I prefer Motorola’s custom UI to HTC’s heavy Sense UI, and in the case of the PHOTON it doesn’t seem to slow the handset down at all. ... Talking on the Motorola PHOTON 4G was a decent experience. Calls weren’t crystal clear, but weren’t garbled either ... battery life with a mix of 3G and 4G signals can easily power you into a day, though on just 4G, you’ll have to start looking for a charger after a few hours of heavy usage.Jonathan GellerBGR

After the review is said and done, Geller rates the Photon 4G a clear winner among Sprint’s smartphone lineup.


Possibly the most in-depth review put out to date for the Photon is from Cory Gunther of SlashGear. Not only did Cory take a look at the hardware and software of the device, but also took the time to perform some benchmarks and play around with the HD dock.

As far as the benchmarks went, the Photon performed great. On Quadrant, the Photon rose above similar Tegra devices with a score of 2400. In Vellamo, things were a different story. Scoring barely higher than the single-core myTouch 4G, the Photon was beat out by the newest dual-core Qualcomm devices.

The most interesting part of the review is bundled with the section on the HD dock:

Now this is important because the Webtop App and User Interface allows you to plug your phone into the dock and view your desktop, market, video’s and more all over HDMI to your TV or basically make the phone into a personal portable computer.

Bundled with the HD Dock is an infrared remote so you can control everything wireless. No keyboard or mouse needed, you have media controls and volume. It also features the menu, back, home, and search buttons just as most Android phones do so you can basically access everything without touching the device. The HD Dock is $129 but makes your phone into a desktop PC.Cory GuntherSlashGear

Conclusion? Much like our other two reviews covered so far:  pleased overall.

Wrap up

Have you noticed a pattern in the three reviews summarized above? No one could say anything too bad about the Photon. Some did have valid complaints:

...the Photon 4G suffers from some issues we've seen across multiple Motorola devices, such as the bluish tint to the display and the uneven camera.Armando RodriguezPC World

While others couldn’t find anything bad to say:

The Motorola Photon is the phone Sprint early adopters have been waiting for. It's fast, it's powerful, it connects everywhere, and its nettop functionality is pretty intriguing. ... The Photon easily beats the EVO 3D, with its 3D gimmick, poor RF reception and lack of useful features like a standard HDMI port and kickstand, and it beats the Nexus S 4G, with its poor call quality and Internet speeds. ... the Photon 4G sets the bar for Sprint's smartphones today, and it's easily a competitor for the best other carriers have to offer. Sascha SeganPCMag

If you’re looking to get your hands on a Photon 4G, you can do so on July 31st for just $199.99 on a two-year contract.

Dustin Earley: Tech enthusiast; avid gamer; all around jolly guy.

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    If I end up leaving tmO and going to Sprint I would consider it but in the end I have no confidence in Motorola…

    • John Alvarez

      I don’t blame you, in reference to Motorola. My employer left Sprint, went with Verizon, and purchased roughly 30 Droid X’s. Nice hardware, but terrible interface. Motoblur, or whatever they aren’t calling it these days, is terrible. I think it is downright ugly. We have also had numerous problems, most likely software related. Exchange is a disaster, onscreen keyboard problems, etc. Motorola butchered Android. These manufacturers need to get a clue.

      • http://Website JaylanPHNX

        I would caution against judging the newer Moto UI by what’s on the DroidX as they are very different. From everything I’ve seen, Motorola is trying to be responsive to complaints about the UI formerly known as Blur. They have some way to go yet, but they are much farther down the road to good than they were.

  • http://www.youtube.com/emogamer Christopher Chavez

    I may pick up this phone just to try it out for a few weeks before the GS2 comes out. I’m a phone junkie >.<

  • Johnny

    The design alone makes me say no.

  • SliestDragon

    Interesting design. Kind of futuristic. Not sure if I like it myself though…

  • aj

    well im not on sprint but if i had a choice it sounds like an ok phone but not liking the overall review vibe. I probably wouldnt get if i had a choice.

  • Richard Yarrell

    Actually not a bad pickup especially for sprint. This will add to the already potent lineup of devices that will be dualcore monsters on the UNLIMITED NETWORK. With the Photon 4G and Evo 3D as well as the upcoming Samsung Within 4g and Htc Hero 4G we will be set up pretty well profolio wise. And the funny part is we are not even discussing the upcoming IPHONE 5. On sprint the best devices will exist were customers will enjoy unlimited usage and unlimited happiness that doesn’t exist on other networks that’s for sure.

    • squiddy20

      You really don’t learn do you? You have got to be THE biggest hypocrite I have ever heard. Here you are basically all but welcoming the iPhone 5 but in the Nexus 3 article on this very website you stated “BITCH SLAP THE IPHONE 5″? You either love it or hate it. Make up your mind or shut the f**k up. Oh, and it’s the “Now Network”. A “Sprint fanboy” such as yourself should know this without me having to correct your sorry a**.

  • Interpol91

    Looks alright but Motorola just isn’t my thing

  • sylar

    But…it’s by Motorola, something I won’t touch with a ten foot poll after my last experiences with them.

    • JaylanPHNX

      I’ll be honest, my experience with the CliqXT left a sour taste, but I also remember where Motorola’s strengths lie, which is mostly in hardware. They have great build quality, excellent external speakers, and no one beats their radios. My MT4G does not get nearly the signal strength that the CliqXT did. While I like Sense as a UI, and I would really like the SAMOLED screen of a Samsung device, part of me keeps waiting and hoping for Motorola to make a great device I could get.

      • sylar

        Oh I understand that they have good build quality its just i hate what they do to it with the MALware layer or what ever you want to call it. i beat the crap out of my phone and it kept working I just didn’t like what they did to my phone, it was sluggish as hell, but it was dependable, it would just keep on working albeit slowly.

      • GeoSmith

        To all of you who whine and moan about stock launchers from the manufacturers: get a clue!!! No one who is a “real” user cares because they switch to FREE laucchers like Zeam because they are 10 times better in EVERY way.

        STOP WHINING or even reviewing stock laucchers. They mean NOTHING.

        • sylar

          Oh THEY MEAN SOMETHING. Trust me the mean something they sit on your phone eating ram and processor even if you don’t use them. I use Go launcher and it is years ahead of what the Malware, sense, or touch wiz but just it being on my phone slows it down, and those launchers your talking about they don’t cover all the bases. So all the settings menus that are part of Android may have been messed with by the people who made the phone and those launchers don’t even TOUCH that and trust me I know. And for your FYI I wasn’t trying to whine I was just stating my honest opinion. And if CyanogenMod worked on my phone i would use it in a heart beat but guess what it doesn’t.

  • http://www.pcworld.com megapenguinx

    Hey guys, that bottom line actually came from Ginny Mies (who I co-wrote the review with).
    Though we both agreed that the phone did have a bluish tint to it, I wrote the performance and accessories sections of the review.

    -Armando Rodriguez
    PCWorld Android Guy

  • ab

    How’s the display outdoors? Is it bright enough to still be visible? I try an evo3d and it completely washed out in bright (but not direct) sunlight.

    • Alpster1

      The PHOTON actually has a dual coating on the screen that is pretty amazing in direct sunlight. The blue tint they reported might actually just be the tint on the screen.

      One thing everyone in the reviews missed is the abitily to do “mirror mode through the HDMI connection. This is a lot of fun when playing games and does not require the dock. Also, the dock is $99 not $129.

      I downloaded a nice Sense-style clock for mine and am very happy with the rest of the interface. As with other devices, if you don’t like the widgets just throw them in the trash.

      If you DO set up Facebook, web emails, RSS feeds, etc… in the Accounts section, Motorola’s cloud server will “push” that information to your phone saving a lot of battery.

      Having seen the pictures, it looks like one of Moto’s old iDEN phones, but when you see it in person it’s really very attractive.

  • worldbfree4me

    I’m gonna roll with my EVO 3D for the forseeable future. Perhaps I’ll give Moto a look at my next contract renewal!

  • John B

    I, and many others are experiencing what’s called the SOD (Screen of Death). Several times a day, the phone will either stay locked in a “sleep mode”, or continuously reboot.

    Most of us have called Motorola, Sprint and have blogged about the SOD on the Motorola User Forums. After many different troubleshooting steps and still no word from Motorola or Sprint, MY SUGGESTION TO YOU IS TO FORGET ABOUT THE MOTOROLA PHOTON 4G FROM SPRINT.

  • minimage

    When I’m at work, in a building where I can’t get a signal, the Photon 4G will sometimes get the SoD. I replaced the Samsung Moment with this phone, and the Moment often went into the reboot loop at work. The Photon has the advantages, however, of not having sucky battery life and not having Carrier IQ on it!

  • Ken

    I bought a Photon from Best Buy on 12/19/2011 and returned it on 12/21/2011. The phone froze up all the time and was sjower than my son’s THC Evo. You had to turn it off and on just to use it. I really like the phone just it did not work good. I got Iphone 4G it has bad sound and is slow. Hard to do anything on it too, I am going to go back to HTC as they have less problems then both of these phones. Apple;s qualty suck it this phone it does not work as good as some of apples older phones. Sri can not get it right either you have to try over and over just get it to call the right person.

  • Bri

    My phone worked fine for a while, but now I absolutely HATE my photon. I have to keep my phone on silent 24/7, because if I don’t, it randomly blasts my music which can only be stopped by turning my phone off and back on. It freezes every 10 minutes. I’m ready to take a bat to my phone.