Motorola Razr revival a slim, speedy phone too short on battery life

It’s baaaack: Motorola has resurrected the Razr brand with the Droid Razr (priced at $149.99 wtih a three-year activation contract exclusively at Rogers Wireless).

With its 4.3-inch display, LTE connectivity, and dual-coreprocessor, the Droid Razr is a far cry from theoriginal flip-style Motorola Razr. What it does have in common with theoriginal Razr, however, is a superthin, tough design. It is an almostperfect phone, but the overall experience is marred by its shortbattery life.

Tough, Thin Design
Many years ago, I owned a hot pink Motorola Razr phone. I lovedit–maybe a little too much–because I put that thing through a lot. Idropped it, got it wet, carelessly threw it into my bag, and somehow,it still held up despite my torture.

Motorola has carried over thattoughness to the Droid Razr, but without compromising its looks (orthickness). The front of the phone is all Corning Gorilla Glass with adiamond-cut Motorola nameplate. When I met with Motorola productmanagers back when the original Razr launched, they informed me thatits design had been inspired by elements found in high-end watches.

The soft-touch back is made out of Kevlar, a material found in high-endspeedboats, bulletproof jackets, and bicycle tires. According toMotorola, Kevlar is five times stronger than steel. Using Kevlar on aphone seems a bit, well, weird, but I was surprised with how delicateit felt and how attractive it looked. It feels solid, but not bulky–itmeasures 5.5-by-2.71-by-0.28 inches thick. For comparison, the iPhone 4S is 0.37 inchesthick, while the Galaxy Nexus is 0.35 inches thick. The Droid Razrweighs a manageable 4.48 ounces.

The solid feel comes from the Droid Razr’s stainless steel core. Italso has splashguard technology, which will protect it if you happen toget caught in the rain or spill something on your phone.

Super AMOLED Display
We’ve knocked other Motorola smartphones, such as the Photon and theDroid Bionic in the past for its PenTile displays. The Droid Razr,however, ships with a 4.3-inch qHD (Quarter High Definition),960-by-540-pixel Super AMOLED display. According to Motorola, the SuperAMOLED technology should solve some of the battery issues associatedwith LTE phones. This technology has lower current consumption, whichhelps to conserve battery life.

The Droid Razr’s display has excellent viewing angles andvisibility outdoors, two trademarks of Super AMOLED technology. Blacksare very deep and whites are bright, but colors look a bitoversaturated (another trademark of Super AMOLED display technology).

I did a side-by-side comparison of the Droid Razr against the iPhone4S. The iPhone 4S has a slightly higher resolution at 960-by-640, witha pixel density of 330 pixels per inch (I could not find any pixeldensity information for the Razr). While I appreciated the extra screenreal estate on the Razr, the iPhone 4S’s 3.5-inch display lookedsharper, with better color accuracy.

The Droid Razr runs Android 2.3.5. It isn’t a pureversion of Android, but it isn’t Motorola’s busy (and often annoying)custom overlay/service, MotoBlur. It does retain some of the MotoBlurwidgets. The interface is almost identical to that of the Droid Bionic,but with a few tweaks. The widgets are resizable, and you can scrollthrough them; in the calendar widget, for example, you can scrollthrough a whole day’s worth of events rather than viewing one event ata time.

Like the Bionic, you get the ZumoCast app/service, though here it hasbeen renamed MotoCast. MotoCast lets you access remote files on your PCwithout having to upload or sync your files. You can accesseverything from PowerPoint files to your iTunes playlists on your Razr.Even though the Razr has plenty of capacity (1GB of RAM, 16GB ofon-board storage, and a preinstalled 16GB MicroSD card), I find it niceto be able to access videos, documents, photos, and other media fileswithout having to download them to the device or upload them to a cloudservice.

Motorola is determined to solve the LTE battery life situation. SmartActions, a new app, lets you set reminders to notify you when youshould recharge your phone (for example, when you go to bed). If youforget to plug your phone in, you can set a Smart Action called”Nighttime Battery Saver,” which adjusts your phone’s network andscreen settings to make your battery last longer the next day.

Smart Actions aren’t just about saving battery life. You can createdifferent profiles (Work, Home, Workout, and so on) and set rules foreach scenario. If you don’t want your phone to ring out loud whenyou’re at work, you can set a rule called Quiet Location so your phoneautomatically goes into silent mode during work hours. Overall, SmartActions is an easy-to-use, clever app. Although you’ll have to spend abit of time setting up the rules for each profile, once that’s done,Smart Actions will make all the adjustments for you.

Camera The Razr has an 8-megapixel camera, a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, and 1080p video capture. The camera’s user interface is much cleaner than those on previous Motorola smartphones.

Motorola claims that the camera has almost zeroshutter lag.This is pretty much true; images are processed a split-second after youtake them. Unfortunately, the touch-to-focus feature takes a bit oftime to process, and I ended up with a few blurry photos during mytests. This is an issue if you’re trying to capture fast-movingsubjects like kids or dogs.

Overall, my photos looked good, but not perfect. Allof themseemed to have a bit of a dark cast to them–even photos taken innatural light. Details weren’t as sharp as I would have liked, either.The flash tends to blow out colors and details quite a bit, so use itonly when absolutely needed.

In our subjective lab tests of video quality, Motorola phones havealways done quite well. The Razr is no exception, producing smoothvideos captured at 1080p resolution.

Performance: Fast, But Battery LifeIs Sad
The Droid Razr got some pretty fast speeds. I found that theDroid Razr achieved an average of 1.98 MBps for download speeds and3.01 MBps for upload speeds.

The 1.2GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4430 processor was similarly impressive. Iran the Vellamo mobile benchmarking app for Android (an app made by Qualcomm) on the Droid Razr andwas surprised by the results. The Droid Razr got a score of 1040,putting it above the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Evo 3D. Appslaunched quickly and ran smoothly. Scrolling through apps and menus wasfluid, and no apps crashed during my hands-on time.

We haven’t yet formally tested the battery life of the Droid Razr, butin my hands-on use, I was, as already noted, disappointed with thefast-draining battery life. Though I was using the Razr much moreheavily than the average user would (testing data speeds, running apps,and so on), how quickly the battery ran out was still surprising, allthe more so considering the big deal Motorola made over battery lifeconservation. Games like Minecraft killed the battery, and when Istreamed a video clip longer than 5 minutes, I noticed significantloss. I also noticed that it took quite a long time to recharge theRazr. Again, we’ll be formally testing battery life and recharge timein our lab later this week.

Call quality was very good. I got coverage almost everywhere I went andnever experienced any dropped calls. My friends and family sounded loudand clear, with no static or distortion. They reported similarlypleasurable experiences on their end.

Accessories Galore
Like the Droid Bionic and the Photon, the Droid Razr is compatible witha slew of accessories, such as the LapDock 500 Pro, a laptop-likeportal for the phone. The LapDock 500 Pro has a 14-inch display and afront-facing camera. When you connect to the Webtop dock, you canaccess the full Firefox browser as well as lots of specially madeproductivity apps. Other accessories include an HD Station, a vehiclenavigation dock, and a standard dock.

Bottom Line
The Droid Razr is Motorola’s best Android phone to date. The TI OMAP1.2GHz processor makes for an incredibly powerful phone. Its uniquedesign, reminiscent of the original Razr, is also a success, and theSuper AMOLED display is a step up from the PenTile displays of otherMotorola phones. Battery life is a big issue, though, as it is foralmost all dual-core LTE phones. In our battery life lab tests of otherAndroid phones, almost every phone we tested did poorly. One exceptionwas the Samsung Galaxy S II, however. If you’re trying to decidebetween the Droid Razr and the imminent Galaxy Nexus, battery lifemight be a deciding factor. We don’t yet have a Galaxy Nexus in-house,but if its battery life is on a par with the Galaxy S II, it might bethe winner in the great Android arms race.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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