Hands On With the Motorola Droid Razr M

Sept. 18, 2012
A hands on look at the Motorola Droid Razr M as it compares with the author's Blackberry Bold and iPod Touch

About two weeks ago I attended an event in New York City hosted by Motorola Mobility for the announcement of their latest Smartphones. This was an eagerly anticipated event, since it was the first announcements from Motorola Mobility since it had been acquired by Google last year. Also in attendance at the event were representatives from Verizon Wireless. Three Smartphones were introduced: The Motorola Droid Razr M, Razr HD , and Razr Maxx. At the end of the event Motorola gave each of the attendees a Razr M to evaluate. The phone went on sale at Verizon stores last week for $99.99 (after a $50 mail-in rebate with a new two-year customer agreement).

To date, I have been using a Blackberry Bold and an iPod Touch. The Blackberry essentially serves my calling and email needs, with some minimal gaming and Internet thrown in, while the iPod Touch gives me the feel of an iPhone or similar Smartphone without the expense of a monthly phone bill.

With this perspective in mind, I set out to put the Razr M through its paces. Included with the phone was a SIM card to connect to the Verizon 4G LTE network. 4G phones have been around for a while, but I had never used one, so I was excited about trying it out.

When you look at the Droid Razr M, it seems to be all display. Motorola calls it an edge-to-edge display. At about 4" x 2-1/8", the Super AMOLED display is a bit larger than the one on the iPod Touch—3/4" longer and an eighth of an inch wider. The dimensions of the Razr M itself are just 4.82 x 2.40 x 0.33—very sleek.

When you first turn on the Razr M, you're greeted with the Google Android opening screen. You swipe to get to the home screen or other functions like phone, camera or texting. The home screen should be familiar to anyone using the Android operating system—in this case Ice Cream Sandwich (v4.0).

One of the features I most liked about the home screen is a Google search bar along the top that can take voice commands (this is a separate app on my iPod Touch). This makes searching a snap. In other words, you don’t have to use the keyboard that pops up on the screen when you touch the search box. I found typing on the larger Razr M screen a bit easier than on the iPod touch, but I still make a lot of typing mistakes. I've seen youngsters touch typing on Smartphone displays, so I admit that this is my problem and has nothing to do with the device.

At the launch event, Motorola pointed out that speed and power were two of its main concerns when developing this phone. Speed comes first and foremost from a dual core 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4. But speed also comes from the Google Chrome browser, which is a standard feature with this phone. The browser icon is right on the home screen where it is easily accessible (see the figure). Finally, speed comes from Verizon's 4G LTE network. I was very keen to test this speed with streaming video, so I decided to download the Netflix app to see how it would play.

Netflix worked very well on the Razr M, as I had hoped. I ride the Long Island Railroad to work and was easily able to connect to Netflix while on the train (after coming out of the bowels of Penn Station). For the most part, the video came through cleanly without any artifacts or frozen screens. Buffering occurred a couple of times, which stopped the video, but this happens on my home system as well.

Netflix worked very well on the Razr M, as I had hoped. I ride the Long Island Railroad to work and was easily able to connect to Netflix while on the train (after coming out of the bowels of Penn Station). For the most part, the video came through cleanly without any artifacts or frozen screens. Buffering occurred a couple of times, which stopped the video, but this happens on my home system as well.

I also downloaded the Pandora app to test music streaming. Unlike the long load times and dropouts I experience with Pandora on my Blackberry, Pandora on the Razr M connected quickly and continued playing without any problems .

Another great feature of this phone is the Wi-Fi hotspot app. This has been available for some time on 4G phones, but is the first time I have had a chance to try it out. You simply tap the Mobile Hotspot app, select Mobile Hotspot and then connect to it with any device, such as a notebook computer, an iPod Touch or similar Wi-Fi enabled gadgets.

To test the connection, I set up the iPod Touch to connect to the Razr M Mobile Hotspot, and then launched the Netflix app on the iPod Touch. Netflix worked just as well on the iPod Touch as it did on the Razr M. I also connected to the Internet with my notebook computer, which worked equally as well. I have been using a Verizon 3G USB dongle to connect my notebook to the Internet when no other connection is available. The Razr M Mobile Hotspot works much better. One thing to keep in mind is that the Mobile Hotspot app cautions you to connect the Razr M to its adapter during use, since the hotspot app draws a lot of power.

Speaking of power, the Razr M has a 2000 mAh battery that's rated at about 20 hours of talk time. I found that it lasts about twice as long as the battery my Blackberry Bold. I also like the fact that the battery adapter is one of those with a built in USB port. So the adapter cable can be removed from the adapter and used to connect the phone to a computer for data transfer or as another way to charge the phone.

The Razr M, like many other Smartphones, has two cameras, the main one an 8-Mpixel camera and the front facing one, 0.3 Mpixels. I took some pictures and shot some videos, which was easy enough to do, but did not try out the front facing camera, with a Skype call for example. Of course, like most Smartphones nowadays, photos can be instantly uploaded to the various social media services.

One disappointment with all Android devices versus Apple devices is the lack of a built-in voice recorder app. I use this extensively on my iPod Touch and am very happy with it. In contrast, you need to select a voice recorder app (from several that are available) for Android devices. And the Razr M is no exception. I downloaded an app called Dictadroid Lite, a free app that lets you record for up to five minutes. From the few recordings I made, I felt that voice recording on the Razr M doesn’t compare in quality to the iPod Touch. I’m not sure if it’s the fault of the Razr M or the app.

As far as memory goes, the Razr M has a built-in storage for user files of 4.5 GB, but also has a slot for a micro SD card that can expand the memory up to 32 GB. I feel that everything on the phone is working fine as is, so I haven’t installed the extra memory.

It strikes me as kind of funny that a hands-on review of a phone would not mention anything about making phone calls until now. But let's face it, the current generation of Smartphones are really powerful handheld computers that also make phone calls. The calling app is conveniently placed on the home screen and a large keyboard appears when you tap the icon. The phone calls I made were clear and trouble free, as expected.

One feature I did not try out on this phone is gaming to get a sense of how well the motion sensors respond. I play games, of course, but just not the ones that demand moving the phone around.

I’ll offer one last comment about the Droid Razr M. The way the phone is constructed is nothing short of spectacular. The display, which is made of Corning Gorilla Glass, is encased in an aircraft-grade aluminum frame, while the back is made of Kevlar. In addition, the Razr M is protected with a water-repellent nanocoating, including the electrical boards inside the case. Just as a comparison, the back of my iPod Touch was scratched to death the first time I put it in my pocket. I quickly had to find a third-party cover for it.

Overall, I'm really impressed by the Droid Razr M. There are undoubtably a lot of other Android phones on the market right now that can match some of its specs. But if you want a phone that takes advantage of the latest advances in technology with regards to processor, battery, display and other features, you can't go wrong with the aggressively priced Razr M.

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