Photo: Ellis Hamburger, Business Insider
The Droid RAZR is a tough phone to review because it comes just a couple weeks before Google’s new flagship phone launches, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.The Galaxy Nexus is a very tough act to open for, considering it’s the absolute best Android phone Google and Samsung can come up with.
Plus, it ships with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, which the RAZR likely won’t receive until next year.
So the RAZR has the odds already stacked against it. Is it any good?
Read on to find out.
The RAZR Is Back, Kind Of
When the original Motorola RAZR came out in 2004, it defied the laws of smartphone physics. It was impossibly thin, an instant classic. The RAZR became a cultural icon, selling more phones than any other device in history. (Until the iPhone came along.)
The Droid RAZR will not have the same impact the RAZR had, in part because people just don’t care about “thin” the way they used to. Fact is, this phone is big and wide. The 7.1mm body of the device morphs into a 11 mm bump at its top, which is a few mm thicker than the iPhone.
But The RAZR is a very well built phone, and doesn’t flex when you squeeze it like the Samsung Galaxy S II does.
The RAZR, like the iPhone, has no removable battery. Motorola made this sacrifice to make the phone thin, rock-solid, and Kevlar-plated on its backside.
Motorola even coated the RAZR’s insides with a water-resistant treatment to make any beverage splashes a bit less threatening.
So to sum it up, I love the build quality and durability of the RAZR, but it’s just awkward to hold.
The Screen Sounds Great On Paper, But Really Underperforms
I can’t help but agree with The Verge‘s Nilay Patel about the crappy screen on the RAZR. It’s sad, really. It’s a 4.3 inch qHD Super AMOLED display after all—which sounds pretty impressive.
But in my tests, I found the display to be muddled and objects onscreen to be pretty pixelated. Here’s an image I took all up close and personal with the RAZR’s screen.
Photo: Ellis Hamburger, Business Insider
The My Data Usage widget is a good example of screen performance. It’s shockingly pixelated around the edges, and the contrast is poor.
Patel speculates that Motorola opted for a lesser quality screen to make the device thinner. The RAZR’s screen uses a “PenTile” pixel arrangement that just doesn’t look good. The HTC Rezound’s screen looks 10 times better.
The move wasn’t worth it, and the screen is a near deal-breaker for this device.
Using The RAZR Is A Mixed Bag
While the RAZR’s 1.2 Ghz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM are plenty capable, the experience using the device feels sluggish because of the skin Motorola layered onto Android.
The 3D animations used on the RAZR, whether you’re switching screens or viewing your most recent apps, hamper a would-be snappy experience.
One feature we do love, among the grab bag of Motorola toss in’s, is Smart Actions. Smart Actions was one of the features Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha bragged about when he announced the Droid RAZR. Smart Actions lets you conserve battery by setting dates and times when the motion detector will turn off, or when your phone will set to vibrate, etc.
Smart Actions is generally pretty simple to set up, but we’d really only use it to try to save battery life. The other uses are pretty gimmicky, rules you might want to set up a couple times, then ditch. Example: You can set Google Maps to launch whenever you get in the car. It’s cool, but not always practical.
One of the coolest ones is Quiet Location—you can set your phone to vibrate automatically when you get to class, work, or home.
The 8MP camera on the RAZR works great outdoors, but not well at all indoors. Everything I shot turned out blue, especially in comparison to the stellar shots the iPhone 4S takes. The 1080p video the RAZR shot was impressive, if a tad blurry.
The RAZR Performs Admirably Accessing The Internet And Making Calls
Calls and mobile data were clearly big priorities for Motorola. While the RAZR slouches in some of the aforementioned areas, 4G LTE data speed and call quality were great.
Over Verizon’s LTE network in New York City, download speeds varied between 5 and 15 Mbps, which is very good.
Battery life was also pretty exemplary, which is in part due to the fact that the battery is not removable. It’s battery has a greater capacity than the battery of many Android competitors.
Should You Buy It?
The RAZR certainly has the brains to compete with the incoming Galaxy Nexus, and it has the form factor to beat the HTC Rezound. But that doesn’t mean the Rezound, which feels like a brick compared to the RAZR, doesn’t feel a little more ergonomic to hold in your hand.
So the RAZR feels a bit awkward. It’s super thin, but it’s as wide as a freight truck. Like I mentioned, the screen is pretty unimpressive.
And worst of all, the phone is $299.99 on a two-year contract. I can basically guarantee that in a couple months, it will have dropped at least $100 in price. Why go for an overpriced phone like the RAZR when the iPhone 4S is available for $199.99? Unless you require the “thinnest phone,” of course.
If you’re considering purchasing the RAZR, wait until the Samsung Galaxy Nexus comes out in a few weeks. You’ll be glad you did.