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printed April 24, 2014
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Review: Motorola Droid RAZR for Verizon Wireless

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Is It Your Type? Body The Three S's  

It is becoming more and more difficult for handset makers to differentiate their Android smartphones from the packed shelves of black, slab-style touch phones. The Motorola Droid RAZR epitomizes the direction of the smartphone market and takes every facet to the Nth degree in order to stand out from the herd. It is thin, sexy, powerful, and strives to wear the Android crown -- even if for only a little while.

The RAZR reminds me a lot of the feature phone market back in late 2006 and early 2007, with Samsung and Motorola pushing the boundaries on design. Here we are nearly five years later, and Motorola has returned to its make-it-as-thin-as-possible engineering goals. Yes, the Droid RAZR is stupid thin. Indescribably thin. You-need-to-go-to-a-Verizon-store-and-pick-it-up-yourself thin. But that's only because Motorola has employed the pancake method (aka, smooshed it), pushing the width and length out to attain the razor thin profile of the RAZR. It's a huge phone for being so thin. It's the Larry Bird of smartphones.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

In the hand, it feels wider than the Titanic was long. I have big hands, and I can't wrap them all the way around the RAZR. The quality of the materials and build, however, feel great -- the best I can recall from a Motorola in recent months (perhaps aside from the Photon). The glass surface feels wonderful under the thumbs and all the seams are tighter than the hatches on a submarine. The back surface is composed of Kevlar, claims Motorola. Whatever the heck it is, it feels awesome but really, really attracts finger grease and oils. It was grimy after I played with the RAZR for 10 minutes.

The front of the RAZR is mostly display, but Motorola put the typical four Android controls under the screen in the form of capacitive buttons. These are flat-out the best capacitive buttons I've used on a smartphone in the last year. The amount of haptic feedback given them by Motorola is absolutely perfect, I wish every capacitive button on earth felt like these. Haptic feedback aside, regular physical buttons would be easier to find in the dark but they are illuminated to help.

The SIM card slot and microSD card slot are located on the left side of the RAZR. They are protected by the worst hatch to ever be installed on a cell phone. Seriously, it took me more than five minutes to pry the hatch open, and I broke my thumbnail on it.

The lock button is easy to find, and feels good thanks to its textured surface. It also doesn't hurt that it’s silver while the rest of the phone is black. I can't say the same for the volume toggle. It's black and nearly invisible. Worse, the action and feedback is absolutely terrible.

Motorola opted to put the micro-USB port, mini-HDMI port, and 3.5mm headset jack on the top of the phone. I can't stand when handset makers put the charging ports on the top. It makes using the phone when it is plugged in much more awkward than it needs to be.

In order to get the RAZR this thin, be prepared to make a few sacrifices. The battery is sealed into the device, which means no replacing it. By sealing in the battery, it also makes it more difficult to deal with a locked up or frozen device because you can't pull the power supply if you need to. (Motorola says that if you press the down volume button and the power button for 10 seconds, it will hard reset the device.) Motorola typically sells extra-capacity batteries for its cell phones. With a sealed battery compartment, Motorola won't be able to do that for the RAZR. Instead, Verizon said that it is making an external power pack available as an accessory for the Droid RAZR.

Despite some of the characteristics I picked on here, there's no doubt that the RAZR is a stunning achievement in design.

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