Two famous smartphone lines now have their flagship devices on Verizon: the Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. When brought head-to-head, which is the better buy for the discriminating power user? We compare and give you the rundown.
Apples and Oranges?
Although they're both very high-end devices, the RAZR MAXX and Galaxy Nexus take very different approaches to the business of being a flagship.
The Droid is, true to its name and its predecessors, somewhat more industrial in design. It sports the full set of standard Android buttons silkscreened on the bottom, and does nothing to hide its micro-USB and micro-HDMI connectors. Indeed, those connectors are the gateway to a wide variety of add-ons offered by Motorola: multimedia docks with HDMI, audio, and USB Host connectors, vehicle cradles to charge your phone while hooking it up to the stereo, even lapdocks that let you use the RAZR MAXX like a notebook computer with a full sized keyboard. Expensive, all of them, but available.
The RAZR MAXX, while very much a capable phone in its own right, is part of an ecosystem designed to make your phone the integral component to everything you do, a component backed up by 16GB of internal storage plus a 16GB microSD card, 1.2 GHz processor, and Super AMOLED screen.
The Galaxy Nexus is more organic in styling, all curved edges, with next to no ports, connectors, or buttons for the user to worry about. Although HDMI is technically available, it comes through the micro-USB connector, requiring an adapter which doesn't come with the device. No expansion, minimal slots, minimal connectors.
The Nexus features a very simple, screen-centric design, in some ways coming off as more iPhone-like than the iPhone. It espouses an attitude that the phone itself contains everything you need. And when you've got as much power under the hood as the Galaxy Nexus does, that's rather an understandable attitude. Featuring a Super AMOLED screen at full 1280 x 720 HD resolution, 32GB of internal storage, and the latest version of Android, it provides a really cutting-edge experience.
More Similar Than You'd Think
Don't think these two are totally dissimilar -- both can connect to Verizon's 4G LTE network for example. But there is one very clear equivalency between the two phones: each one gives up a feature that's considered standard on virtually all other phones. The Galaxy Nexus loses the microSD card slot, while the RAZR MAXX loses the removable battery.
I can't really approve of this too much for either device; stripping out features is simply bad precedent, no matter why or what. However, when it comes to choosing which feature I'd give up, I have to give the RAZR MAXX the edge. You're unlikely to want to replace the RAZR MAXX's already super-sized battery with a bigger one, so you won't miss the option. But not being able to upgrade the amount of storage, that's a little more thorny of an issue. 32GB will certainly cover most users' needs, but why should you have to make the trade off?
The Galaxy Nexus was the very first device of any type to run Android OS 4.0 (AKA Ice Cream Sandwich). The RAZR MAXX, on the other hand, is still running the previous version for smartphones, Android OS 2.3 (Gingerbread). This means that Samsung's offering has a few more bells and whistles than its competitor. But that's a temporary thing, as Motorola is already working on an OS 4.0 upgrade for the MAXX, so I can't call this a slam dunk for Samsung.
Battle of the AMOLED Screens
As you may have noticed above, both the Samsung and the Motorola models feature Super AMOLED screens, more advanced displays that provide better contrast while being thinner and lighter than regular LCDs. However, while the RAZR's display has a 960 x 540 resolution, the Galaxy Nexus sports a full 1280 x 720, the same resolution as 720p HDTV. That means the Galaxy Nexus has roughly 75% more pixels than the RAZR, giving it the ability to display more detail.
Major selling point for the Galaxy Nexus, right? Yes, but not as major as you might think. Don't get me wrong, its screen is beautiful. But when it comes to the level of detail that a human eye can see, there's a point of diminishing returns. Comparing these two, the screen on the Nexus isn't going to look 75% better. In fact, the user is only going to see a modest improvement in clarity and detail. All other things being equal, I would choose the full HD screen, but all other things are not equal.
The Power to Stay in the Game
If you could say that the RAZR MAXX and Galaxy Nexus were tied going into the second half, this is where the RAZR starts running up the score. While the Galaxy Nexus has an average and healthy sized 1850 mAh battery, the RAZR MAXX ups that to a whopping 3300 mAh, almost twice the power. And with it, almost twice the time spent surfing the Web, checking your email, or watching a movie, before you need to find a power outlet and recharge. For anyone who's on the go a lot, that's a very big deal.
A smartphone is only useful as long as it has power; having a 3300 mAh battery means that you can go through your day secure in the knowledge that your phone has the power to last. Even if you're away from a power outlet from the minute you get up in the morning to the second you go to bed, the RAZR MAXX will keep you covered, and for most people, it'll handle another day on top of that.
It's no secret that in general I've generally preferred Samsung's devices over the last year or so to Motorola's, for reasons of both technology and design. So it may come as somewhat of a surprise that between these two, I would probably choose the Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX as the overall better device. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus has a nice design, and a great screen, but in the long run when the "wow" factor of that screen wears off, RAZR MAXX users will still be getting all day battery life out of their devices. I think that both average users and power users will appreciate the benefits of a smartphone that works harder than one that 'looks' a little better.
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