Motorola Droid RAZR Hands-On Preview: Slim but Powerful

by Reads (65,055)

UPDATE: This preview was written after a very short time with this device. An in-depth version based on very extensive testing is now available:

There are probably more retired Motorola RAZR feature phones littering junk drawers than any other mobile gadget. In fact, it’s hard to overstate the ultrathin clamshell device’s popularity between 2004 and 2007, when Motorola shipped 130 million of them.

It’s no surprise then that Motorola would once again turn to the brand for its next flagship Android device, and its first major launch since news broke of a pending Google acquisition, the Motorola Droid RAZR. And being the nostalgic types, the team at Brighthand couldn’t be happier.

The new Motorola RAZR will ship with Android OS 2.3.5 (Gingerbread), though by the time it hits the market in November, Google’s next version of Android OS 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) will already be a reality. While Motorola reps were tight lipped regarding any potential OS update, it’s tough to think Motorola’s latest and greatest will not be on the shortlist for ICS down the line.

While the RAZR innards are certainly top of the line, including a 1.2GHZ OMAP dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM and 32GB capacity (16GB in device and 16GB on included microSD card), the design is the main selling point. Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha called the RAZR “impossibly thin” at the unveiling in New York, where I was in attendance. I won’t go that far, but we can safely say the RAZR is the thinnest 4G device to date.

Motorola Droid RAZR

Light, But Tough Too?

Motorola Droid RAZR

Droid RAZR (left), HTC Thunderbolt (right)

In hand, the Motorola Droid RAZR is feather light (.27 pounds to be exact), perhaps the lightest 4G LTE smartphone as well. With 7.1 millimeters of girth, it’s less than half as thick as the HTC Thunderbolt, launched just last March. While that thinness might portend a fragile smartphone, Jha stressed the RAZR’s constitution, touting its Gorilla Glass display, Kevlar fiber back panel and a “360 force field of water repellant nanoparticles,” which is marketing speak for splash proof.

The Kevlar is an interesting design choice as it literally makes the RAZR bulletproof, and while the texture is preferable to sheer plastic, but it’s tough to see how it would protect the device from cracking in half should a user accidentally sit on one.

Motorola Droid RAZRThe thinness also doesn’t come at the expense of battery life, at least according to Motorola’s Jha. Batteries are often the largest single inner element, and compounding the problem, LTE silicone is still a notorious battery drain (this is likely the reason the iPhone 4S is not a 4G device). That said, Jha specifically touted the RAZR’s 1780 mAh battery, claiming it would achieve up to 12.5 hours of talk time (probably while on 3G) and 8.5 days of standby time.

An infographic shown during the unveiling compared the Droid RAZR’s expected battery life to the Thunderbolt and other recent high-end LTE 4G phones, and the RAZR beats them all. How could that be, especially considering the smartphone is so thin and seemingly has a skinny battery? “Design innovation,” one Motorola rep coyly claimed.

For users still concerned about battery drain, the RAZR ships with a neat feature called Smart Actions, which allows users to set rules for certain situations. For example, the RAZR can be set to automatically turn off Bluetooth when it detects the user is home, easily determining the home location by the Wi-Fi network. Other rules allow for automatically specific ring volumes for different locations and dealing with the display brightness in relation to the battery.

Super AMOLED, Netflix and Multimedia
Motorola Droid RAZRIf the ultra-thin design doesn’t impress enough, perhaps the 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Advanced display will. Yes, there are other phones with Super AMOLED displays, but Jha claimed the RAZR is the first smartphone to stream HD Netflix. Motorola did not demonstrate the capability, and it’s hard to say if high definition resolution is even discernible from standard definition on a small screen. That said, given the choice, HD content is always preferable where data constraints aren’t an issue, and many on the Brighthand team think Super AMOLED displays are second none.

The Droid RAZR will stream more than just Netflix as it also ships with MotoCast, a personal cloud offering. Through a PC-side client and smartphone app, users can stream pictures, music, videos and files from a desktop or laptop to the phone so long as both are connected to a wireless network. Motorola reps did not mention supported file types, though Jha did demo it with iTunes. I can imagine MotoCast being useful to those not wanting to deal with current and sometimes confounding cloud-based music offerings from Apple, Google and Amazon, as MotoCast seems like a simple and localized personal solution.

RAZR for Work
Jha also showed off how well Motocast works in an enterprise setting as it supports Office files, including PowerPoint, and the phone ships with Quickoffice, though it remains to be seen if it is simply a trial version or the real and full thing.

Perhaps it’s with the enterprise in mind that Motorola also used the occasion to announce two new laptop docks for the RAZR, similar to those associated with the Atrix smartphones, both designed to take full advantage of the 1.2 GHz dual-core processor and full GB of RAM. The Lapdock 500 Pro and Lapdock 100 utilize the Motorola webtop app for a multi-window UI and full Firefox browser. Both the 500 Pro and 10-inch 100 have a full keyboard and trackpad, while the 14-inch 500 Pro has an Ethernet input, VGA out, MOTOPRINT app for printing and integrated webcam for video conferencing.

The Motorola Droid RAZR goes on sale October 27, and it will ship in November. It will cost $300 at launch with a Verizon agreement.

Video Preview

Take a look at this video from tonight’s debut event:




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