The DROID RAZR not only welcomes the return of an iconic cell phone brand, but it marks the beginning of a new ultra-slim smartphone era. Motorola has outdone themselves with the build of this 7.1mm thick device, but the question still remains – “Is it enough to drag people away from the Galaxy Nexus?” As with the HTC Rezound, it’s going to be an uphill battle, but one that the RAZR feels ready to tackle. Let’s dive in to see how far it can climb.
- Performance: One of the issues I had with te HTC Rezound was performance thanks to its Sense UI skin. With the RAZR, I get the feeling that Motorola has started to listen to consumers and made their Blur skin much less intrusive. In fact, the performance on this phone is on par with that of the Galaxy S2. It’s incredibly snappy, the dual-core processor cruises through any tasks, and even with those awful 3D transitions, the phone never slows down. Since I’ve had both the Rezound and RAZR running side-by-side for a few weeks, I can easily say that the RAZR outperforms it in every way – well except the camera.
- Screen: What an upgrade over the Bionic and DROID3. It’s still a PenTile, but with Moto choosing the new Super AMOLED Advanced over the LCD that was used on those other two phones, you will be pleasantly surprised. If you macro shot the screen as I did in the Rezound review, you’ll see some pixels. However, scrolling through the app drawer, screens, etc. doesn’t give you that same headache that you may have experienced on Moto’s last few releases. It’s not on-par with the Rezound or the Galaxy Nexus, but it’s a giant leap forward from where Moto was hovering for most of the year.
- Hardware: Tough to call this anything less than spectacular. Motorola managed to pack a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 4.3″ display, front (1.3MP) and rear (8MP) cameras, 4G LTE chip, and 1780mAh battery into a 7.1mm thick frame. It’s ultra-light, includes Gorilla Glass, a kevlar backing and splash coating for protection. This phone should impress anyone that picks it up on feel alone. The insides can match any phone on the planet with the outside outshining everyone.
- Design: One can make the argument that “Hardware” and “Design” sort of fall under the same category, but with Moto going with such a radical new design, we had to separate this one out. It’s a pretty drastic change from previous designs, yet it still holds some of Moto’s signatures like the rear hump. The side lock switch is very popular in this household along with the squared off edges and sharp angles. This phone is sure to “wow” your friends if you were to toss it on the table at your local pub.
- MotoCast: I’m a big fan of MotoCast. Once a 3rd party app called ZumoCast, Motorola has built the access-your-PC-anywhere software directly into their Blur custom skin. With MotoCast set up on any or all of your computers, you can access the files on them from directly within a variety of apps on your phone. Your music syncs into the stock music app, your photos in the gallery app, and your computer documents, spreadsheets, PDFs, etc. from the Files app. There are other players in this game that can be downloaded from the market, but when one works this seamlessly and has been built right in, why not use it? Motorola’s Blur skin might annoy us at times, but after using the RAZR, you can see that they are improving it immensely with each new build.
- Camera: It could very well be the same camera that was used in the Bionic and D3, but it acts a whole heck of a lot different. The beauty of software tweaks at its finest, right here. It’s 8MP and takes for the most part, pretty impressive shots for a smartphone camera. It’s not on the level of HTC cameras, but very few phones are these days. As you can see from the shots we took below, it should easily satisfy your on-the-go camera needs. And let’s not forget how much faster it is than those other phones – something we put on display for you in our unboxing video below.
- Call Quality and Signal: The Bionic that I have used for the last couple of months struggled at times to hold signal or at least return to service after losing one. The RAZR, seems to be working much better. I haven’t experienced any noticeable hand-off issues from 3G to 4G. It also does as good as any other LTE phone in the download speed department. Call quality almost doesn’t need to be mentioned since it’s a Motorola device, but we’ll say it anyway. This phone has impeccable call quality that you won’t find on many other handsets.
- Easily Rooted: If you are into the hacking game, then you’ll be happy to learn that the phone has already been rooted. Moto will likely patch the exploit in the next update, so if you buy this phone, jump on it immediately. Instructions here.
- Smart Actions: Moto built in a new app called Smart Actions that allows you to customize your phone to your life. It can adjust settings or launch apps depending on a lot of things including location or time of day. They sell it as an app that can help extend your battery life, but personally I have not found that it can other than by toggling on or off your WiFi which you can do yourself in less than a second. The idea that it can have your favorite news feed up and running the minute you wake up though, is convenient and worthwhile. Smart Actions are probably the future, and Moto is at the forefront. Here is a video tutorial on how to use it.
- Accessories: Motorola is proving that it is the king of accessories. With the purchase of a RAZR, you have the option to add on two different Lapdocks (the 100 or 500), two different HD docking stations, a webtop adapter, and a car mount. If you were looking to add on extras to a phone, the RAZR has plenty of choices.
- 4G LTE: We would knock the phone if it didn’t have LTE, so we should at least give it props for having it. With Verizon’s LTE coverage expanding by the minute, it won’t be long before you can all experience the world of blazingly fast mobile download speeds. Now, if only we can figure out a balance between mobile speeds and battery life.
- Battery Life: Saying that I have been frustrated with battery life on this phone is an understatement. After picking up a RAZR, I kept expecting to be impressed by battery life. I kept thinking that Motorola had come up with some magical trick to extend the life of this phone and was the reason they decided to go with a non-removable battery. I was so wrong. It’s just like any other LTE phone in that it crushes battery juice like Mark McGwire stuck needles circa 1998. And without the option to swap dead battery for good or use an extended one, this is a major downer. Smart Actions are not the answer. For me to get through an entire day (14-16 hours), I had to turn off 4G and GPS and toggle WiFi on. This may surprise you, but the Rezound and its smaller battery performed better than this phone.
- Price: Is any phone worth $299 on contract? Probably not, but we sure seem willing to pay it. While I’m not a fan of Verizon’s new 4G LTE pricing, I’m afraid it’s here to stay.
- Non-HD Screen: The HTC Rezound and Galaxy Nexus are both launching with the world’s first 720p HD screens. Motorola, to our knowledge, has a phone with a similar screen, but chose to release it in China instead. It’s not like the RAZR’s screen is a bad screen by any means – I actually enjoy it for the most part – it just seems like a step down from its two biggest competitors. We will probably see Moto’s first HD screen in 2-3 months, frustrating RAZR owners just like they are doing to Bionic owners.
- Bloatware: Verizon is coming around a bit on this front by allowing users to remove some bloatware, however, the VCAST app selection that is non-removable makes my teeth hurt. Thankfully, Blur now gives you the ability to hide apps from sight, making your phone less bloated.
- Locked Bootloader: Motorola told us that they would look into unlocking bootloaders by the end of 2011 where carriers permitted. That carrier part is the key here. When admitting on numerous occasions to this phone being as locked as all of their others, they pointed the finger directly at Verizon as being the reason why. We aren’t surprised that Big Red would ask them to keep this puppy locked up tight, but we still have to point out that this phone cannot be considered developer friendly. I’m sure the community will find some work-arounds as they have with all Moto phones, however, it’ll be a rough ride.
- Lack of Ice Cream Sandwich: It’s tough to knock the RAZR for not having Android 4.0 since Google released the source only a week ago, however, we still would have liked to see it. Motorola assures us that they will update phone as soon as possible and we’ll take their word for that. There hasn’t been an Android phone manufacturer to update their portfolio faster than Moto.
- Lack of NFC: NFC has been targeted as the future of sharing information between two pieces of technology. Motorola, for whatever reason, decided that it wasn’t important enough to include in the RAZR. Not many phone companies have other than Google – hopefully we’ll see a change in that stance here in the near future. If we all had NFC, the world woud be a better place. Or at least a more efficient one.
Unboxing and Quick Hands-on:
Video Sample (1080p):
Let’s be honest here, I’m a big fan of the DROID RAZR. This phone feels as polished as any Android phone to date. It’s ridiculously slim, weighs little-to-nothing, looks gorgeous and performs with the best of them. It has an upgraded screen over its predecessors, enhanced software in the camera, and 4G LTE connectivity. Motorola took what they had on the Bionic and upgraded or improved it in almost every conceivable way. Going into 2012, phones should use the build of this device as a benchmark to try and meet or beat.
With that said, we would have loved to have seen the HD screen that they included on the Chinese version of this phone, a better battery experience, and a more open approach to Android. With the Galaxy Nexus just around the corner, Motorola needed to knock this one out of the park in every imaginable way. They certainly came close, but we would advise you to wait a couple of weeks, get your hands on this, the Rezound and the Nexus for a bit before making a final decision. Verizon has three incredible phones right now, so it’s best to give them all a shot before pulling the trigger.
Mr. Tim-o-tato contributed to this post.