With Android smarties ruling the mobile roost at the moment – in sheer force of numbers, at least – it really takes something special to stand out from the crowd.
Touted as ‘impossibly thin’ by Motorola themselves, the RAZR brings a dual-core processor, slender form and a huge touchscreen to bear on Google’s mobile platform.
Whilst the Motorola RAZR may sound pretty vanilla on paper, the result is a distinctive device that performs impressively in some areas and adequately in others. But one which nonetheless takes Android – and Motorola as a mobile- maker – in some new and interesting directions.
Firstly, dispel any fond memories of cute clamshell phones from your mind, as this smartphone revival is a RAZR in name only. Presumably an overt reference to its svelte dimensions – a mere 7.1mm thick – the Motorola RAZR offers up an angular and attractive form at first glance.
Tapered slightly at the top and tail, aluminium accenting reserved for the logo on the face breaks up the grey/black Kevlar body of the RAZR, with a front that defers wholly to an imposing 4.3-inch Super-AMOLED display.
Save for the familiar quartet of virtual Android keys on its face, a lack of buttons to prod at - an equally shiny power/camera button and volume rocker round out the layout on the right side - makes the Motorola RAZR a genuinely minimalist offering.
The trouble with making a waif of a handset is that it draws into stark relief the remaining dimensions, so the 130.7mm x 68.9mm handset seems incredibly wide, in no small part in an effort to house such an epic Gorilla Glass protected touch display.
Flashbacks of the Toshiba TG01’s wide form factor – a similarly styled handset that made much of its vital statistics but forgot to make Windows Phone usable in the process - abound, as the long and thin form design make for a strange, slightly unwieldy fit in the pocket.
There are thrills a-plenty on the rear, however, as flipping over the phone reveals a tactile woven Kevlar fibre design for additional comfort and strength. The slim profile of the RAZR broadens significantly at the top of the device in order to house the eight megapixel camera, injecting a little character to what could have been an anaemic smartphone design, as well as having a practical purpose.
The slightly jutting lip on the back means the RAZR is easier to pick up from a table, as well as adding a bit of ergonomic support when in the hand.
Far from the Dynasty-inspired opulence of the black and gold MILESTONE as well as the Fisher Price-inspired simplicity of the DEXT, the Motorola RAZR’s skinny frame and striking form sit confidently amongst its smartphone peers.
Both inside and out, the Motorola RAZR boasts some impressive features, marking it out as more than an Android-powered also-ran.
The RAZR is driven by an impressive dual-core 1.2GHz processor, rocks an eight megapixel camera that also captures video at 1080p and has 16GB of (expandable) memory to boot.
The image quality is slightly disappointing, but the shutter speed is lightning quick and photos and video both come out far better in natural than low-light settings, flash or not. The power key doubling up as a physical camera button is welcome, though.
An impressive 305 hours of standby time and nine hours of talk are provided by the tiny battery, which isn’t strictly removable without a fearless attitude and some elbow grease when taking off the back case.
The RAZR is also another in the increasingly large selection of phones to use the microSIM card made famous by the iPhone 4, so get your scissors out (or ask your retailer) if you want to get a traditional SIM pared down to fit.
A battery light and a small pinhole for the front-facing camera are the only distractions from the massive Super-AMOLED display, and the 4.1-inch screen makes the RAZR a great little personal media player for music and movies alike.
A clever ‘MOTOcast’ app also enables the device to stream music wirelessly from a computer, as well as transfer tunes to the RAZR and share with other users, although the process itself is somewhat protracted.
Motorola’s own flourishes include the ability to connect the device to one of their webtop accessories and turn the RAZR into a pseudo-PC, complete with web browser and mail client; a decent touch.
Powered by Gingerbread – one of Google’s older updates to the Android mobile architecture – the RAZR keeps things slick for the most part, thanks to 1GB of RAM doing the heavy lifting.
Despite this, the occasional hitch does rear its head when swiftly navigating through menus or content stored on the device, and that is despite the scaled back – albeit gorgeous in high resolution - user interface on the RAZR.
A nice compromise of the original Android experience and the heavily-tarted up interface that was MOTOBLUR, the RAZR’s UI is attractive and novel in places. A dusting of transition animations, additional features and shortcuts on top of the stock software make the handset user-friendly, but bog it down just a touch too much.
Ease of Use
Motorola seems to have made a concerted attempt to make Android more approachable, with tutorials, guides and quick tips popping up every few moments after initially powering up the RAZR out of the box.
While the initiated might find these annoying, touches like Smart Actions – programmable pre-sets that trigger in certain situations such as automatically launching the news app in the morning or playing music when headphones are plugged in – attempts to make the smartphone experience eminently more approachable.
In practice, they’re a tad more annoying than time-saving. But credit to Motorola for trying to bring the best of the RAZR and Android to the fore…
The five panes offered on the RAZR are loaded with calendars, a universal inbox, power settings and more, all of which are still customisable whilst a group of favoured icons remain constant at the bottom of the screen, much like the iPhone.
A quick jab of the home button from the central screen gives an at-a-glance view of each of the entire handset, making navigation a breeze.
The sheer expanse of the RAZR has to be a bit of a minus point, making one-handed navigation around the device a little tough at times (and nigh-on impossible for those with smaller hands). However, applications like Swype built in try to make the experience of inputting text and browsing the web an easier endeavour.
Expect to find yourself subtly reorienting the device in your palm more than a few times to reach the other side of the – largely responsive - touchscreen in portrait.
In landscape, however, browsing is great and the support for Flash makes full-fat Youtube nice to use, although it can chug quite a bit when trying to play back HD video.
The Motorola RAZR is a decent device, but feels almost schizophrenic in its presentation.
It’s a gorgeous smartphone that tries to appeal to casual users with cool looks and the hardcore with beefy specs, but a similarly hefty price tag has failed to see it placed against affordable flagship fare like the Galaxy S II, whilst also lacking enough oomph to excite tech-heads.
The RAZR has also had a cool initial reception with networks, with only O2 opting to range the device at present. However, you can pick it up right now with independent vendors such as Expansys.
In a nutshell, this is a solid handset thanks to features like the MOTOcast streaming service and an appealing take on Android, but the RAZR seems to lack enough headline features beyond a supermodel's figure to really wow.
- 4.1-inch 540 x 960, Super-AMOLED touchscreen
- 'Impossibly’ thin, made with Kevlar fibre and aluminium
- Dual-core 1.2GHz processor and 1GB RAM
- Eight megapixel camera