Motorola Droid Razr review: Is being thin enough?

razr

The Motorola Droid Razr is an extremely intriguing smartphone because of its super thin form factor and in this review, we’ll determine if this 4G LTE smartphone from Verizon is more than just a pretty phone and if it can compete against the glut of amazing devices out there. Does the Droid Razr set the new standard for smartphone design and performance? Read on to find out.

The Good
  • The design is jaw-dropping. It's thin, light and feels like an ultra-premium product. Redefines my expectations.
  • Verizon 4G LTE rocks: it's fast, consistent and everywhere I want it to be.
  • Some Motorola-specific software features are nice.
The Bad
  • One-handed usage can be kind of awkward.
  • The camera and its software are clunky.
  • Battery life is still iffy.

Hardware

Motorola and Verizon are billing the Droid Razr as "impossibly thin" and this is one time where I'm going to agree with the marketing mumbo jumbo: the Droid Razr is amazingly thin and redefines my expectations for what's possible with smartphone design. I'm not going to get too hyperbolic because, at the end of the day, it's still a full touchscreen slate and some of the design choices lead to an awkward in-hand feel but I do have to give Motorola credit for packing in so much horsepower in something so thin.

Design

If you're the type of person who values the look of your phone above all, then the Motorola Droid Razr is probably for you. At just 7.1 mm thick for the majority of the device, the new-age Razr is almost absurdly thin. There's a slight hump where the camera module is, so just think of it like the Droid X2 but much thinner, lighter and with more of a high-end look.

Here at IntoMobile, I see all the latest smartphones and it's tough for many to stand out because, in general, these just are full touchscreen slates. I wasn't at the Droid Razr unveiling but when I actually opened the box and played around with it, I was very impressed with how thin it it yet how it manages to pack in so much horsepower. It's also extremely light and some have said this makes it feel "cheap" but I dig the weight and how it's distributed. That hump does make it a tad bit top heavy but it's by no means out of proportion.

Unfortunately, it appears like the majority of design effort went into getting it "impossibly thin" and not on the actual in-hand feel - the individual feel of the screen, sides and back casing are great but there's something lost when you combine it all and try to use the phone with one hand on the go. The bottom corners are slightly rounded but there's an uncomfortable edge to them that doesn't feel great in the palm of your hand, particularly if you're right-handed. It's not about the size of the screen either, as Samsung has shown us that larger displays can be comfortable in your hand as long as the bezel is thin enough.

The 4.3-inch qHD display takes up most of the face of the device but there's a lot of real estate on top and bottom of it. We've had issues with Motorola's qHD displays before and the Droid Razr isn't a dramatic improvement but only pixel junkies will really notice. We're still fans of the Retina Display and the wonderful things Samsung is doing with the Super AMOLED Plus screens but the Droid Razr should be satisfying for most of you out there. It's bright and as responsive as you would expect from a capacitive touchscreen of this quality but that dreaded graniness can pop up with some text.

Above the screen is a notification light, front-facing camera, speaker and a dramatically silver Motorola branding which really pops. Below the screen you'll find the four standard Android buttons and a microphone. The dark grey frame looks nice but part of me believes there is too much extra space on the face of the device, although I'm making the phone longer was the only way to get it this thin. I'll take that tradeoff.

Motorola Droid Razr reviewThe thin right spine has a single-piece black volume rocker about mid-way up and a silver unlock/power button is just above it. Both are pretty responsive but I would have liked some more travel back on the unlock button considering you interact with it so much. The bottom is clean while the left spine has a well-integrated flap for accessing your microSD card and your SIM card slot - Verizon 4G LTE uses SIM cards. On top, you'll find the standard headphone jack, microUSB port

There's a soft-finished Kevlar backing that feel soft to the touch but should be able to stand up to a pounding. One of the reasons the device is so thin is because you can't remove the battery which might be an issue for some of you but, again, I'll take that tradeoff for the thin design. Motorola's logo is front and center on that back cover and the 4G LTE and Verizon brandings can be found underneath it. The hump at the top of the device is not as dramatic as previous Motorola devices and it only protrudes slightly. Here you'll find a speaker, the 8-megapixel camera and a flash.

The Droid Razr is not a perfect design by any means but it is legitimately innovative - all other phones will seem fat to me after handling the Razr. While there are still some quibbles with it, I think it's the most exciting design of a phone we've seen since the iPhone 4. Well done, Motorola.

Guts And Glory

Motorola Droid Razr reviewWhat's exciting about the Droid Razr isn't just its thickness, it's that Motorola was able to throw in so much horsepower into such a thin frame. The Droid Razr has nearly everything you'd want in a modern smartphone, as it sports a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM, 4G LTE support, an 8-megapixel camera, GPS, Bluetooth and more. The only thing lacking is an NFC chip but I'm still of the belief that NFC payments and other features won't be an important factor in the U.S. mobile market for at least three years. Yes, it's pretty much the same innards as the Droid Bionic but it has a much more exciting form factor.

The Droid Razr shows that there is plenty of room for innovation in hardware design and it raises the bar for what we should expect in our high-end devices.

Software

Motorola Droid Razr reviewThe Droid Razr comes with Android 2.3.5 and if you've never used Android before, it's a great platform for making and receiving phones calls and texts, browsing the web, handling your messaging through multiple means, watching videos and more. In general, Android lacks a bit of the visual consistency and polish of iOS but it is far more flexible and open to being customized than nearly anything else out there. The Droid Razr will be receiving Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich in early 2012 and by that time, Google may own Motorola, so I'm hoping that this will lead to a quick and smooth update.

The Droid Razr uses Motorola's custom user interface which is not being called MotoBlur but it's MotoBlur-tastic. I'm not going to call this bad because visual sensibilities come down to personal preferences but I'm just not  big fan of many of the tweaks. It's not enough to make me not like the Razr or not recommend it to someone looking for a high-end Verizon 4G LTE phone but just so many things about the visual aesthetics bug me. It's just lots of little things from the loading gear animation to the way that the dialer app is lit up but I'm not in love with some of the custom UI Motorola has done. To be fair, things like re-sizeable widgets came from Motorola's customization and I still think its pull down notification window is neat with its transparent effects.

Beyond the custom user interface stuff, Motorola has added some neat software features which could make the Droid Razr stand out. The Zecter purchase has led to the MotoCast software for tunes (I'll cover that in the multimedia section), the software keyboard is excellent and I'm really digging the Smart Actions feature. This allows you to set automatic tasks to make your life easier. For example, you can set up your phone to automatically know when you're at work thanks to geolocation and it can do things like set your ringtone to silent. Some of the preset examples include loading up the news for you in the morning, open the Maps app and adjust to a car-friendly mode when you're drive. You can also set up your own things by inputting triggers and specified actions. I think it's very neat if a tad clunky and my mind is racing about the possibilities of future versions that have Siri-like voice command inputs.

The Motorola Droid Razr comes with a bunch of preloaded software and many of these can't be uninstalled without rooting the device. That's annoying. The device comes with the Amazon Kindle, Flash Player, GoToMeeting, MotoACTV, Netflix, Quickoffice, Slacker and a host of Verizon apps including the VCast stores and the NFL Mobile app. You can also augment your device with apps from the ever-growing Android Market, as well as third-party app stores like Amazon's. As I've said before, I tend to find the iOS app selection to be a bit more polished and there are still some iPhone-only apps out there but Android app makers are not as far behind as they used to be.

Despite my distaste for the Motorola custom user interface, I'd be lying if I said it truly detracted from the overall performance. I've loaded it up with apps and things remain fairly smooth thanks to the dual-core processor and newbies should be pleased with what Android offers. Die-hard Android fans will probably want to wait a few weeks for the Android 4.0 experience on the Galaxy Nexus but people looking for a powerful device that can handle your e-mails, browse the web, play music and make calls should be pleased with the Droid Razr.

 

Web Browser, Multimedia And Camera

Web Browser

The Droid Razr using the Android Webkit browser with some slight customization and it provides a really nice mobile web-browser experience for the most part. You get all the things you'd expect from a smartphone including pinch-to-zoom, intelligent zooming and adjustments of the text to fit the screen. Most sites will load up fine, it can handle some heavy JavaScript and HTML5 and there's even Adobe Flash support in there. Unfortunately, the grainy nature of the screen can come out when browsing, particularly if you're looking for it and that can detract from the experience.

The Droid Razr is capable of using the Verizon 4G LTE network and I've found this to be the best 4G in the United States. I've consistently seen 8-10 Mbps down in and around my apartment in San Francisco and have even seen peak speeds of 15 Mbps in other parts of the city. More importantly, my previous experiences with the 4G LTE network have shown me that it is super-fast and consistent in the markets where there's coverage and Big Red is doing a great job of expanding availability.

Multimedia

The Motorola Droid Razr has a few tricks up its sleeves when it comes to multimedia and it's a more-than-capable device for audio and video pleasures. The Zector acquisition leads to the MotoCast wireless syncing and streaming music solution and I've found this to be a neat way to manage and play your tunes. The default Motorola music app also offers the ability to buy tunes, get podcasts and Internet radio. I prefer using Google Music for this type of music experience but I know that it's not fully available to everyone. Slacker is preinstalled on the device and when you throw in Spotify, Pandora, Stitcher, Mog, Rdio and other music streaming services, you can quickly make the Droid Razr an audio-playing beast. It's too bad that the external speaker is tinny and a bit distorted but I always use headphones, so I'm not too concerned.

Videos look solid on that 4.3-inch screen but not as clear as on an iPhone and not as bright and beautiful as on a Super AMOLED Plus display. You'll be able to find multiple video sources though, as you can use the Netflix app to easily stream videos on that 4G LTE connection and the Verizon V Cast stores actually have a decent amount of things to watch. It's pretty comfortable to hold in landscape mode too, so watching videos during your commute should be doable.

Camera

I've had a streak of amazing smartphone cameras that can truly replace your digital camera without a sweat. Whether its the iPhone 4S, Amaze 4G or the Galaxy S II lineup, we now have excellent cameras in our pockets which have virtually no stutter lag, produce stunning pictures and are simple and easy to operate. Sadly, the Droid Razr isn't one of those devices but it's still an adequate 8-megapixel camera.

The Droid Razr essentially has the same camera as the Droid Bionic so it suffers from the same issues as Motorola's last 4G LTE cameraphone: images don't have the clarity and focus that other phones provide, focusing takes too long and low-light performance isn't great. To be fair, I do kind of like how your picture options are overlayed over your viewfinder, so you can still capture a spontaneous moment while you're fiddling with settings. The front-facing camera is capable of doing some video chatting and some self portraits but it's a 1-megapixel camera, so don't expect much.

standard settings, medium lighting

 

flash on, low-light

Standard settings, good lighting

Call Quality And Battery Life

The Droid Razr provided good voice calls in and around the San Francisco Bay Area, as the calls came through clearly but callers reported a slight bit of distortion in my voice. They could tell I was on a cell phone and didn't say it sounded bad but it's not as clear as some of the other phones out there. Verizon voice and data coverage has been excellent in the testing areas but your mileage may vary.

The Droid Razr has pretty decent battery life ... for a 4G LTE phone. It's much better than the first crop of devices we saw like the HTC Thunderbolt but don't expect much more than about 7-8 hours. If you're using a lot of the 4G LTE for things like streaming video and audio, expect that figure to drop even further. We're still in the early days of 4G LTE technology, so if you buy a Droid Razr, make sure you have a second charger at your work. Remember, you can't get to the battery, so carrying a spare battery is out of the question.

The Final Take

Motorola Droid Razr review

The Motorola Droid Razr is an eye-catching device that really shows that we're not done with how we can design high-end phones but should you buy one? Motorola's latest smartphone is entering an extremely-crowded field of amazing devices and its super-thin design does make it stand out from the crowd, even if its camera, software version and Motorola's custom user interface don't blow me away.

If you're on Verizon or thinking of switching to it, you also have the option to get an iPhone 4S and soon the HTC Rezound and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. The iPhone is the iPhone, so users who want that will likely not be swayed by the Razr. The Rezound should provide a better camera experience and the Beats Audio support will be good for audiophiles and the Galaxy Nexus should have a better display and the latest version of Android.

Is this much different than the Motorola Droid Bionic, which just came out a few months ago? Beyond the super skinny frame, the Droid Razr is not much different but that physical appeal of the device is important to many, many people. The appeal of the Droid Razr is simple: if you want the best-looking device that is packed with enough hardware to be future proof for the next few years, then this is the smartphone for you.

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  • Paul

    Nice review.

    • Marin

      Thanks!

      • Hanso

        yeah helpful. using blackberry storm atm. how comparable is the screen quality?

        • Anonymous

          Miles ahead. I say the screen bothers us compared to the top-of-the-line stuff out there right now. I used to own a Storm and can guarantee it will be a better screen in every way. 

        • http://twitter.com/spookiewon Pjay (Patti) Pender

          There is no comparison.  The Storm has a crappy display.  This display is 1000X better than the Storm’s display.

        • http://twitter.com/spookiewon Pjay (Patti) Pender

          There is no comparison.  The Storm has a crappy display.  This display is 1000X better than the Storm’s display.

      • Anonymous

        What up with the Droid Razr (xt912) having support for GSM quad band, LTE and CDMA yet, it is never talked about. Why isn’t verizon talking about this. For the business client it makes it a world phone, and can replace blackberry. What even worse is that no one at Verizon in NYC seem to be aware it is a world phone. No reviews has addressed it’s global capabilites and that what makes it different from the Bionic. It is the first LTE world phone and no one talks about or seem to know very strange.

        • Maaritsteinwedel

          what do you mean by world phone – I’m a little green to smart phones don’t understand that terminology.

  • http://twitter.com/NotSoSiniSter NotSoSiniSter

    Give Marin a raise. :P Excellent review. Looks like I’m going to wait out for the Galaxy Nexus. :D  

    • Anonymous

      I agree with your first sentence. Nexus should be great too but honestly, between this, Rezound and Nexus I don’t think there’s a bad choice among them. Also, the Edge HTC phone is the next “I’m waiting for” device

  • Karel

    Thanx for review. Are You sure that Razr has notifocation led?

    • http://twitter.com/spookiewon Pjay (Patti) Pender

      Yes.

    • http://twitter.com/spookiewon Pjay (Patti) Pender

      Yes.

  • Alexander Garcia

    Awesome review Marin. I’ve actually played with this phone in a Verizon store a few days back and I completely agree with pretty much every assessment that you’ve made on this device. Brilliantly written as well. Kudos to you and thanks for the delightful read.

  • Alexbox2004

    i agree is not a perfect phone , I love Iphones! i had the 2g,3gs and the 4s, but the iphone 4s is so lame…. nothing new really pops out.

    i had issues with battery, signal, and the screen size its so small compared to the new smartphones, 
    i trade it for the razr and it was the best decision in a long time, i like your review but its a lil misleading , the droid Razr its definetly better than 90% of the phones as Today and im including the iphone 4s in there.
    Apple step it up! do something new!  

  • Alexbox2004

    i agree is not a perfect phone , I love Iphones! i had the 2g,3gs and the 4s, but the iphone 4s is so lame…. nothing new really pops out.

    i had issues with battery, signal, and the screen size its so small compared to the new smartphones, 
    i trade it for the razr and it was the best decision in a long time, i like your review but its a lil misleading , the droid Razr its definetly better than 90% of the phones as Today and im including the iphone 4s in there.
    Apple step it up! do something new!  

  • Beehy

    Hi Marin, Do you know if this device is Blue Tooth 4.0 compliant? Specifically will it support the new low energy features. I know the new iPhone does?

  • Maaritsteinwedel

    would love to know how to put music on the phone without having to stream to a computer or through internet – to be able to use the phone like an ipad !  Can you help with this?

    • http://twitter.com/spookiewon Pjay (Patti) Pender

      1) download it directly to the phone from a cloud you’ve stored it to
      2) Plug it into your computer, set it as a drive and drag music into the music folder
      3) Place the SD card into your computer and drag the music into the music folder

      I’m sure there are a half dozen other methods.I use my Moto Droid RAZR as a portable music player every single day, just as I did with every phone I’ve had before it right back to a Palm Treo I had in the early 2000s.

    • http://twitter.com/spookiewon Pjay (Patti) Pender

      1) download it directly to the phone from a cloud you’ve stored it to
      2) Plug it into your computer, set it as a drive and drag music into the music folder
      3) Place the SD card into your computer and drag the music into the music folder

      I’m sure there are a half dozen other methods.I use my Moto Droid RAZR as a portable music player every single day, just as I did with every phone I’ve had before it right back to a Palm Treo I had in the early 2000s.

  • Hahaha

    looks like another iphone imitation. its funny how android comes out with twenty phones a day.

    • Lol

      “Android” isn’t a phone manufacturer, it’s an operating system that any phone builder can install on their devices. It functions in a very different manner from iOS.

      tl;dr-you’re a retard

      • http://twitter.com/spookiewon Pjay (Patti) Pender

        In what way does Android function “in a different manner” than iOS?

    • http://twitter.com/spookiewon Pjay (Patti) Pender

      “Android” doesn’t come out with ANY phones a day.  Android is an operating system, developed by the Open Handset Alliance and currently owned by Google.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PWP6FWEBTHHV5IY644H7WDBYHQ Stacey

    @2ef27e1a60776185b3a1604839919813:disqus ………my classmate’s mom makes $79/hr on the internet. She has been without a job for 8 months but last month her paycheck was $7695 just working on the internet for a few hours. Here’s the site to read more LazyCash4. com

  • http://www.motoask.com motorola droid

    This DROID is the king of DROIDS. Just look at those specs, so much better than the iPhone. This is a great example of freedom and openness and choice that is great for the consumer. Yeah it looks like the DROID X but it has incredible specs and the DROID OS that is incredibly open and free. You don’t need apps with DROID OS like with the iPhone because of this openness and freedom of droid. This is DROID RAZR totally beats the Galaxy DROID Nexus.

  • Great Review Martin!

    over all this is a great review and it covers the phone greatly. I think you were slightly off with how you explained the camera though. I’ve had my Droid Razr for two weeks now, and the camera has been one of the most impressive specs as it can take crystal clear quality, the focus point is changeable, and low light is great on it. I took a picture in complete darkness to test it out, and was impressed to find the picture looked like it was taken with the lights on. I was able to zoom in and read labels of various items in the background and little to no grain while zoomed in. Not to mention it shoots 1080p HD videos with remarkable sound quality as well as video quality. Exterior wise, u left out the little fact of it being near indestructible with gorilla glass, diamond cut frame, Kevlar backing (you did mention), and most important – Splash resistant exterior with waterproof wire coating on the interior. There are clumsy people out there who do look into the durability of their handsets out of fear of replacement cost. And personally I have no problem with how it sits in my hand and find it easy to use one handed (however i do have bigger hands so its that much easier for me to use one handed) It would have been nice if you went into detail of the voice control, which is very accurate (and proven to work better and be more responsive than the iphone 4s siri voice control) I think the phone deserve the slight bit more credit than you gave it, but overall this was a very detailed and accurate review and i found it very helpful. Great review.

  • Rahul Da Fanatic

    How is the sound/music quality of the phone?? is it comparable to iPhone..as i listen to music quite regularly,,

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