Nov 16 AT 1:55 PM Anthony Domanico 27 Comments

The Motorola DROID RAZR was unleashed onto an unsuspecting public last week. The DROID RAZR picked up where the original RAZR left off, attempting to bring a 4.3″ superphone in an incredibly thin package. Though they managed to keep the phone slim and sleek, the RAZR also offers solid protection, with Gorilla Glass protecting the main display, and Kevlar coating protecting the RAZR’s backside.

Only 3 days after launch, the RAZR received its first dose of competition when Verizon released the powerful HTC Rezound with Beats Audio. The competition is not letting up either, with the Android flagship Galaxy Nexus set to launch on Big Red in the next few weeks. Does the DROID RAZR do enough to set itself apart from these devices? Read on for our full review.

1. Battery Life

Battery life has been the Achilles heel of all of Verizon’s 4G LTE smartphones to date. We have yet to find a device that can get us through the work day without needing to be plugged into an outlet somewhere along the way. Without adjusting any settings on the device, the DROID RAZR looked to fall in line with this trend, netting me about 6-8 hours of moderate use before needing to scramble for my power cord.

With the RAZR, Motorola (and/or Verizon) decided to combat this trend with an easy to use tool called Smart Actions. Smart Actions is an application that allows you to either build your own or select from a list of pre-set rules that control the settings of your device. You can set your phone to vibrate via location, turn your ringer off after a certain time at night, launch the news in the morning, and most importantly, set your device in battery saver or battery extender modes to maximize your battery life.

For purposes of testing battery life, I have the battery extender and low battery saver functions active. The low battery saver dims my display to 25%, turns GPS off, and disables background sync when my battery is at less than 20% and is not currently charging. The battery extender simply turns off GPS and background sync when the display is off, the phone is not charging, and the device is not moving around.

So what have these two settings done for my battery life? I’ve been using the RAZR like I normally do in a day, and I still have 30% battery after 14 hours of use. With only a few tweaks, I was able to double my battery life and in such a way that it doesn’t interfere with my normal usage.

As a result, the DROID RAZR is the first 4G LTE smartphone to receive a positive rating in the battery life category.

2. Performance

The DROID RAZR is running a 1.2 GHz TI OMAP 4430 processor and the RAZR was easily able to handle any task I threw at it quickly and with ease. Applications and games ran smoothly, video playback was excellent, and lagging was nowhere to be found.

Though there will certainly be (and indeed, already are) phones out there that have faster and arguably better processing power, the DROID RAZR does not disappoint in the performance department.

3. Call Quality

First and foremost, the RAZR is a phone. In an era where many individuals use their cell phones as home phone replacements, it’s important that these devices make proper phone calls. (You’ll be happy to know that I was able to make and receive calls without a hitch)

While testing the RAZR, I looked at both call quality and speakerphone quality, and found both to be very good. On the call quality end, I was able to hear people on the other end of the line loud and clear, and they reported being able to hear me as well. No static, no hiccups, everything just worked.

The speakerphone was about as good as we’ve seen from other Android devices. The voices were a little tinny or muffled some of the time, but overall the device performed well and calls made via speakerphone were clear most of the time.

4. Display

Though there have been other sites that have dinged the RAZR in this category because of how poor text looks when zoomed in on a single letter, we note that the display on the RAZR is gorgeous. Colors are bright and vivid, making viewing websites, running applications, reading books, and viewing video content an enjoyable experience.

Never was this more apparent than when placing my Photon 4G next to the DROID RAZR. The RAZR’s 4.3″ qHD Super AMOLED Advanced display put my Photon to shame, and anyone who tells you the display on the RAZR is subpar should be on the next train to the looney bin.

I can’t say this enough; if you purchase the DROID RAZR, you will not be disappointed in the display, as it’s one of the better ones I’ve seen in a long time.

5. Build Quality

The RAZR is the thinnest LTE device on the market to date, and is easily one of the thinnest devices period. In order to protect this level of thinness on most of the device, the RAZR has the same lip we’ve come to expect from the DROID X series. The camera, microUSB and microHDMI ports are at the top of the device, pushing the power button to the right side along with the volume rocker.

Though the RAZR is thin, the phone feels solid in the hand. Oh, and it is toting Kevlar backing. Motorola really didn’t scrimp on the build quality for the RAZR, and for that we give it a plus one for this section.

6. Software - Motorola's Don't call me BLUR UI

I know what you’re thinking – no, I’m not giving up on my “don’t call me BLUR” moniker. It just sounds cooler than Motorola’s Gingerbread UI overlay. I’m sure by now you’re sick of hearing about GingerBLUR, so we’ll keep this section short, sweet, and to the point.

Motorola has come a long way from the MOTOBLUR days, and the Gingerbread version of Motorola’s oft-criticized overlay really tones down the things that caused BLUR to fail so hard in the past. If the thought of BLUR gives you the shudders, you may want to reconsider. Perhaps it’s done more than its fair share of growing on me, but I’d happily call GingerBLUR one of my favorite UI overlays (though I still want Motorola to go stock Android.

7. Camera Quality

Most people out there want their cameras to reliably replaces the need for a standard point and shoot camera. Sadly, we’re not quite there yet, and the DROID RAZR particularly fails to impress except when under ideal lighting conditions. When taking pictures indoors, the resulting images turned out grainy and a little distorted, even when the flash was engaged. Outdoor photos and videos in normal sunlight turned out much better.

You can check out a few sample photos from the RAZR’s camera in the gallery below, as well as the following sample video. If you do pick up the DROID RAZR, you’ll probably want to hang on to that point and shoot. Overall, we’ve dinged the RAZR another half point for camera quality.

2011-11-10_19-49-50_408 2011-11-10_19-50-38_477 2011-11-12_11-48-08_91 2011-11-12_11-48-19_68 2011-11-12_11-48-57_527 2011-11-12_11-49-04_50 2011-11-12_11-49-18_23 2011-11-12_11-49-27_324

8. 4G LTE

We’ve not tried to hide the fact that Verizon has the biggest, fastest, wide-reaching, and all around best 4G network by far. Even with more and more devices on Verizon’s network, I still manage to experience data speeds around 12-20 mbps down, 3-10 mbps up. Simply put, Verizon’s LTE network provides many of its users with faster internet connections than they have in their own home.

The best part of Verizon’s LTE network is that it penetrates buildings better than any other carrier’s 4G network. I regularly have 3-4 bars of Verizon 4G in areas where I revert to 3G or Edge on Sprint/T-Mobile. AT&T has an LTE network as well, though it’s only live in a handful of markets at this point in time.

9. Non-Removable Battery

Though Motorola included the Smart Actions application as a means to boost the RAZR’s battery life, they removed the ability to remove the backplate and change out the battery. If your battery goes bad, or you want to get an extended battery, you’re simply out of luck.

Honestly, this move baffles me. Every single Android device I’ve used has required me to pull the battery to reset the device when it was acting up (as most smartphones tend to do from time to time). Pulling the battery was a simple and effective solution that always fixed whatever ailment was plaguing the device, and the device always ran smoother after a hard reset.

You can still do a hard reset by holding down the Power and Volume down buttons, and hopefully that will work 90-100% of the time, but not allowing users to pull their battery (or have a second battery/extended battery) is simply a puzzling move on Motorola’s part, and several users will likely be turned off by this. As a result, we’ve docked the RAZR another half point in this category.

10. NFC (or lack thereof)

Google is doing some wonderful things in Ice Cream Sandwich, specifically when it comes to NFC. The fact that the DROID RAZR does not include an NFC chip prevents it from doing things like using your cell phone to pay for things at multiple stores via Google Wallet, payments between Android devices, or unlock your house if you left your keys inside. The lack of NFC gives the RAZR a ding in this category.

Final Thoughts

Motorola Droid RAZR7.5 / 10

I wanted to like the RAZR more than I actually ended up liking the RAZR. The RAZR is a solid device, and performs very well in most areas that matter, but fails to impress in one of the most important areas – camera quality.

With the HTC Rezound already out, and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus coming soon, the RAZR finds itself facing pretty massive competition, and has only its sleek, thin body and battery extending Smart Actions application as its primary differentiating factors. We should have our review of the HTC Rezound up in the next week or so, and will get some hands-on time with the Galaxy Nexus after that. If these phones perform as well as we expect them too, the RAZR just might be left behind when it comes to sales.

The DROID RAZR is currently available for Verizon Wireless for $299.99 with new 2 year contract.

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Anthony loves all things technology, from hardware to apps and games. You can connect with him via Google+ or Twitter by clicking one of the fancy doo-dads above.

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  • diar

    It’s never mentioned so I assume the answer is no, but on LTE phones can users turn off 4G the way Sprint customers can?

    • Anthony Domanico

      Yes you can turn LTE off, but not exactly the same way. You have to go into settings -> Mobile Networks -> Network mode, then select CDMA only.

    • Edgar Cervantes

      You can, just not as easily. You have to go into the settings and move things around. It is not as easy as an on/off widget…

      • BJ

        I assume there must be widgets in the Market that would provide a function like this, no?

  • Angie Wimberly
    • Anthony Domanico

      haha. Had to test out the front facing camera.

  • Michael

    You don’t mean “oft-beguiled.”

    • Anthony Domanico

      Yeah, I forgot to go back in and correct that before we clicked publish. Thanks for the reminder.

  • eallan

    “Though there have been other sites that have dinged the RAZR in this category because of how poor text looks when zoomed in on a single letter”

    What, way to be dismissive and excuse poor quality from motorola.

    Terrible review.

    The verge actually takes photos and proves their claims.

    You think the display looks good because it looks better than the photon (which has a TERRIBLE) display. You’ve invalidated the whole review.

    The razr display is cheap and no good compared to what else is out there.

    • themanwithsauce

      As an owner, I’ve yet to see what they’re complaining about. The only time I noticed any issues was when someone mentioned how photos can have a lsight green tint to them. The next picture I saw had a green tint but when I wasn;t distinctly looking for it, it’s not there. Is the screen ZOMGWTFROFLMAO awe inspiring? no. Is it OMG! impressive? yes. Only samsung can do a better display at this time.

      Also, take a look at the camera zoom level of those pictures. I don;t know how blind you are, but without my glasses I have issues with things more than 6 inches from my face. If I take off my glasses and put the phone pretty much on my nose, yeah things look weird. But then again, my OG droid looked like there was a RGB rainbow under every pixel and my friends Evo 4G looked like legos. Point being, if you want to compare images, please compare them at standard viewing angles and distances. Maybe you hold your phone up to your eye (please don’t take apple’s ‘retina display’ seriously :P) but for the rest of us, it is a good screen.

      • jrizk07

        The HTC Rezound has the best display out at this time. Blows the Razr display out of the water.

        Razr doesn’t have a terrible screen, but pentile screens are far from HD

  • Anthony Domanico

    Hmm…let’s see:

    Cnet – “Fantastic 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Advanced display”
    BGR – “an amazing display”
    TechnoBuffalo – “the Razr’s 4.3-inch qHD Super AMOLED (540×960) screen makes text look fantastic, and colors, video and pictures are vibrant and crisp”
    TechCrunch – “Truly beautiful and unique design paired with an equally gorgeous display”

    So are they all “wrong” too? Perhaps, but I think for most people, the display is good. Yes, it’s not the best out there, but it’s still a good display.

  • AndroidHellas

    The best android smartphone by Motorola.Ever.

  • Nathan

    Thanks for the review! =D

  • themanwithsauce

    Yep, I have a razr and this review is pretty much spot on. I was bummed it wouldn’t have NFC but then I realized I had very little use for it right now. I also thought the average at best camera would be more of a letdown but I don’t take pictures too often so….meh.

    But androidandme, shame on you for not including a section for a review of motocast. It is a large feature on this phone and it is a supposed core essential to buying a motorola phone. *sigh* I guess it’s up to me to pick up the ball….


    Alright, so the big sell behind motocast is that it is basically a personal cloud. And by personal cloud, I mean PC. THe ability to access your computer’s music and files from your android phone has existed in the past. But to my knowledge this is the first phone where it is baked in with such simplicity and robustness. It IS a part of the RAZR. Your music menu has the ability to enable/disable including songs form the folders you select in motocast.Also, the build in file viewer includes viewing your computers files as if all phones have it.

    When you’re in a 4G area, videos do take a few seconds to buffer and there is morelag than netflix when skipping forward or backwards. I tested this out with episodes of Top Gear on both my hard drive and netflix. And my ocmputer isn’t a slouch so any lag is related to the software. Combine this with HDMI out and you could very easily bring your phone along on a trip but leave your computer at home and still have access to your movie and document selection with very litle downside. Where motocast shows its true strength though, is music. Even on 3G, I was able to stream music with ease. No lag, no errors, just music. I could throw songs form my computer into playlists just like songs on my SD card.

    BUT, and this is a big BUT, the software isn’t fully mature yet. It’s not on the phone I seem to have the problem, it is the PC side of things. See when it is running you get a little icon in your taskbar that lets you know its running. You can mouse over it and check the status. Evevry now and then, the computer will say it is connected and streaming but my phone is convinced otherwise. Resetting the phone never seemed to fix it but resetting the whole computer would. Quite annoying when you just arrive at work to find you lost connection somewhere on the drive in.

    So, to sum up motocast – Great party trick, great implications, but I’m sure google will scoop it up and make it work properly as a built in app sometime during 4.x.


    You’re all welcome. But that aside, it is incredible when it works. I’ll use the following phrase to describe the RAZR.

    When the RAZR is played to its strengths of sleek design, strong performance, and motocast, it delivers a phone experience unlike any other. But the problems arise when you hit those shortcomings. If some dealbreaking features for you are camera and NFC, it’s not that they’re not quite what you want, it’s that they’re genuinely not there. Maybe 4.0 can fix the camera but if you’re a picture taking monster then spring for something else or wait for the upgraded chinese versions. Otherwise, I’d say screw the silly red earbuds and screw the smaller battery and HTC, and be on the cutting edge of phones with the RAZR.

  • BigCiX

    Is there any camera on an Android devices that can compete with the iphone 4?

    • jrizk07

      There are lots of phones that are better than the iphone in the camera department. The mytouch 4g slide from tmobile has an amazing camera (better than the iphone)

      The HTC Rezound probably has the best camera out right now

      I believe even the G Nex has a better camera than the iphone. Even older phones have better quality pics than what the iphone has in my opinion

  • Ap

    Well, thanks for this hands on review, now all doubts are gone for me ( but actually I was 70% sure ) : nexus for me.
    The Nexus camera quality is astonishing ( see Romain Guy video ) and its design is sexier in my point of view.
    Add to that Vanilla ( even though you say Gingerblur is cool ).
    I think there is no dilemma here, easy choice :)

    • mshramek

      I was wondering who would actually buy this phone with the release of the Galaxy Nexus right around the corner from the release of this phone?? Seems like a no brainer to me.

      • themanwithsauce

        You say that but the razr really does have a crazy good look and feel to it. I don’t care for the nexus’ very generic look. Add to that that when ICS comes out for the RAZR then what is the nexus’ big advantage over the razr besides NFC and camera? If you’re not a huge photo taker and you can;t use NFC (or don’t know about it) then which would you rather buy? Youd probably take the one that looks better to you. I’d bet money more people think the razr looks cooler than the nexus (in terms of general public). That was what swayed me, I decided I would rather have the good looking and solid feeling chassis over NFC which I can;t use, a camera I won’t use, and an OS that I’ll get anyways and I can root and replace it if I wanted to. But that’s me and that’s the position I’m in. Your results will vary.

        Now on this website, I’d say the ratio is abot 60/40 at best for nexus/razr and I’m being generous in saying the razr could get 40% as it would likely fall between 30 and 40. But we make up a slim fraction of the phone buying public. This phone has an audience. It will spread android. It will make applesauce out of the 4S in the public eye.

  • JohnSPierre

    You can get the Motorola DROID RAZR now for only $0.01 from the Penny-Pincher Promo: :)

  • Samsung Series 9 Review

    I delight in, result in I found exactly what I used to be taking a look for. You have ended my 4 day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

  • KeithG

    This is my first smart phone, and I couldn’t be happier. I was thinking I would have buyer’s remorse because the nexus is coming out. But no chance. This a great phone!

  • 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.
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  • Solar Droid Charger

    Man that’s a very slick phone, I can’t wait to get one and solar charge it under the sun with my new Pocket Panel
    Solar Android Charger

  • pritams

    that’s kinda funny comment…….

  • F. Todd

    You are incorrect, the Razr does have the NFC chip it just had not been advertised with it. I would assume this is due to the fact the Android so es way out of date at time of release. PLEASE add this correction, your article is one of the first one’s found when searching this topic and it is very misleading.