The Motorola Droid RAZR was still settling in as Verizon's flagship smartphone when the Samsung Galaxy Nexus was released. With the debut of this new model, Verizon now hosts two cutting-edge contenders for best Android phone. We see how they stack up head to head.
Battle of the Big Screens
Both the Galaxy Nexus and the Droid RAZR are examples of the increasingly popular "big screen" class of smartphones. More than that though, both use a relatively new kind of screen technology, Super AMOLED. These screens are made out of tiny organic LEDs that generate their own light to form images, unlike LCDs which form an image that then has to be lit up, making AMOLED screens thinner and lighter. A good thing too, as both the RAZR and the Nexus make the most out of that, with super-slim designs under 0.4 inches thick.
That's not to say that these screens are equal. While they use the same basic technology, the RAZR has a 4.3 inch, 960 x 540 (qHD) display, compared to the 4.65 inch, 1280 x 720 (720p) screen on the Galaxy Nexus. Just 0.35 of an inch may not sound like a lot, but it makes the Nexus' screen 17% larger than the RAZR's. If that's not a big deal to you, resolution might be: the Nexus' 720P screen boasts 77% higher resolution than the qHD display of the Motorola.
So how much does that mean to the end user? Actually, that depends a lot on you. In short, the more resolution you pack into a small space, the less noticeable each bump up is going to be. So going to full HD is more comparable to the bump from 800 x 480 (WVGA) to 960 x 540 (qHD) than from 320 x 480 (QVGA) to 800 x 480 (WVGA). The difference shows up most in things like web browsing, document editing, etc, where text is clearer. Games, video, and and other apps aren't so likely to immediately benefit.
With its very high resolution, the Nexus is also better suited for output to a large screen like an LCD or a projector.
The Nexus and RAZR have one other thing in common, too: both of them lack features that other phones consider standard. The Motorola model lacks a removable battery; the Samsung one is absent a microSD card slot. Admittedly, the RAZR has a better excuse for this than the Droid: the RAZR does it in large part to obtain an even thinner design, dispensing with additional thickness for a battery cover, etcetera. That doesn't make it right, but it maybe makes it understandable.
The Nexus, however, has no such excuse. There the omission of a microSD card slot isn't meaningful, it's just annoying. With expandable storage and a 32 GB microSD card, the Galaxy Nexus could have credibly claimed to meet or outpace the iPhone in every way. As it is, that's no longer the case.
Here's where we come to one of the little things that can make a big difference in a device's usability. One example is HDMI. While both devices feature HDMI output at up to 1080P resolution, they go about it in very different ways. The Droid RAZR has a standard micro-HDMI port right along side its micro-USB; if you have the standard cable, you can just plug it in and away you go. Easy as you please.
On the other hand, the Galaxy Nexus has its HDMI output in hidden in the micro-USB port. To use it, first you need a special adapter -- not included in the box -- then you need to plug a full size HDMI cable into it, as well as a micro-USB cable and power supply to make the whole thing work. Net total, two full cables plus two adapters. Compared to one little cable. Take the hint, Samsung: standardize. It seems like a small thing, but on phones designed with multimedia in mind, it's a big deal.
Android OS 2.3 vs. OS 4.0
Here's where things get really interesting. While the RAZR runs the regular old Android OS 2.3 (Gingerbread) that we've been seeing for a long time now, the Galaxy Nexus features Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest and greatest iteration of Google's smartphone platform.
And being a Nexus device, free from most carrier branding and customization, the Galaxy Nexus will be guaranteed more and more regular software updates than the Verizon-branded Motorola device. All other things being equal, that means the Nexus will remain cutting edge longer, even after the Droid RAZR gets updated to 4.0.
In some ways, the Nexus vs. RAZR battle comes down to six of one, half a dozen of the other. Each device has its own peculiar annoyances, omissions, and issues, including lacking some things that really should be basic. They're very close in many ways, and chances are that the average user would be pretty happy with either.
ooking at this from a perspective of longevity, however, I have to hand this contest to to the Galaxy Nexus. If you want your bleeding-edge phone to be future-proofed, you can't really argue with a full HD screen and a device designed around the new Android 4.0 platform. It's likely to remain relevant and updated considerably longer than the RAZR, which -- at Motorola's frantic release pacing -- may well be considered obsolete within a few months.
That's not to say the RAZR isn't a good unit, but with the Galaxy Nexus around, it's not worth its cutting-edge price. The Nexus will retain more value for longer, and when signing a two-year contract, that's a really important consideration.
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