14 December 2011
Before the Samsung Galaxy S II began its charge, Motorola's Milestone/Droid was the first to outsell the once unassailable iPhone (for at least a while in North America). Motorola has stumbled since, however, while HTC and Samsung have climbed. The RAZR is Motorola's best challenge to date, though it's still not quite there.
We know many readers will be tossing up between the RAZR and the Samsung Galaxy S II - and the physical differences are unmistakable, though small. The RAZR has claimed the title of the world's thinnest smartphone at 7.1mm as befits its name, besting the Galaxy S II's 8.5mm. Yet to achieve that, the phone is wider and taller than its competitor, and has a significant bulge at the top of the phone which makes it noticeably top heavy and tricky to handle. We certainly noticed the extra footprint when sliding it into a pants pocket - it's just not worth it for a fractionally thinner phone. It's as if a very delicate elephant had sat on top of a Galaxy S II.
With an obviously thick bezel around the edge of the 4.3 inch screen, we got the feeling Motorola has sacrificed all kinds of real world ergonomics so they can show off that skinny waist. To be frank, unless you have big hands, you will struggle to reach icons at the top of the screen - so much so we found ourselves picking Twitter apps based on whether their tabs and buttons were at the bottom rather than the top.
The other distinct physical standout of the RAZR, however, is a positive. It's built like a tank, with a (slightly slipper) stainless steel frame, Gorilla Glass and a Kevlar backing - yet still manages to weigh in at just 126 grams. If you're the particularly klutzy type, you'll feel very comfortable with the RAZR. Both it and the Galaxy S II are rather slippery to hold, but at least when the Razr bounces off the car park floor it will come up smiling.
The 4.3 inch screen is visually excellent - not much to complain about, although the pixel density still trails the iPhone 4's retina screen - with small text, you'll still see pixels. Overall though, the colours are fantastic.
We liked the camera on the RAZR - while nothing spectacular, the main read mounted unit meets expectations for a top level smartphone shooter - and no complaints about the top mounted 3.5mm earphone jack. There's HDMI at the top of the frame too, though we think this is a highly overrated function.
Software wise, the Motorola interface is a lot lighter too - and unlike Samsung's widgets, most can be resized. That attribute is a good thing too, since you've only got five homescreens compared to the Galaxy S II's seven.
We found logging into our old Motoblur account of no particular advantage - and the source of plenty of constant error message pop ups, so eventually did a security wipe and have stuck to the native Android accounts. The ability to stream music to your smartphone from a home PC is nice, but deviled if we know when you'd use it when you can keep your tunes on board the RAZR.
There are some nice touches to the interface. When you turn the phone on, you have the option to both swipe to unlock - and also to go straight to the camera function. You can also switch the phone to vibrate with a swipe too. We also love the ability to customise the four "anchored" icons which are at the bottom of every homescreen. Less impressive are the standard menu - home - return - search icons at the bottom.
Motorola has trumpeted its new Smart Actions app, a native profile scheduler that you can use to save batter power, keep the phone quiet and perform other automatic functions depending on the time of day or the location. After some of the third party apps we've struggled with to do such a crucial job, Smart Actions is a fantastic and truly useful app for keeping the phone quiet during the work day.
Where it's less successful, however, is as a battery saver. For example, Smart Actions apparently allows you to turn off Wi-Fi in particular locations. Unfortunately, because its only method of determining a location is through Wi-Fi (you can't use your mobile network as map functions do), it's essentially unuseable. Smart Actions is a potential winner for Motorola - but hopefully the next incarnation will address its problems.
And speaking of battery, we must sadly confirm much of what you've read already - it's weak. If you are a reasonably active user, the RAZR will make it through your working day - but if you're going out that night afterwards, a portable charger is a must, or plan to leave it plugged in during the day. Indeed, the RAZR seemed to have a noticeably shorter battery life than the Samsung Galaxy S II, though we've noticed it's a phenomenon amongst Android phones. Frankly, it's not an overstatement to say battery life is a black spot on what is otherwise an exciting new Android era.
We think the Motorola RAZR is a great phone. It's tough, fast and absolutely beautiful to look at from every angle. Yet the extra width and height compared to other 4.3 inch screen units, and its top heavy bulge, makes it difficult to handle, and the battery life is a serious downer. Motorola have done well - but they've still got a bit of work to do before they catch other manufacturers, especially Samsung. But at least they're back in the hunt.
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