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Hands On with the Motorola Droid RAZR and ACTV

Droid RAZR MotoACTV Comments  8  

Oct 18, 2011, 1:44 PM   by Rich Brome
updated Oct 21, 2011, 5:02 PM

Our hands-on first impressions of the new Motorola Droid RAZR for Verizon Wireless. This super-thin phone sports 4G LTE and a super-thin 7.1mm body. What's beyond the press release, though? Find out as we go hands-on. Plus hands-on with the ACTV fitness companion.

[ Note: Also be sure to check out our liveblog of the launch event. ]

If the Motorola Droid RAZR looks thin in photos, it feels even thinner in person.

I recall being in NYC for the original Motorola RAZR launch event, which was fittingly just a few blocks away here in NYC. At the time, I recall being amazed at how thin it was, in wondering how they fit everything into such a tiny device. "Where on earth is the battery?", I asked. Here at the Droid RAZR launch, holding the smartphone reincarnation of the iconic RAZR, I had a bit of deja vu. I found myself wondering where the battery could possibly be. The Droid RAZR is so thin at 7.1 mm, you'll wonder the same thing.

Surely Motorola put some clever engineering into making this phone so thin, but there are some compromises behind it, too. Like the iPhone, the battery is sealed inside the Droid RAZR. The microSD and SIM card slots are behind a delicate-feeling little hatch on the side. That's the only part that opens; as much as you may want to know what the other side of the kevlar back looks like, you're never going to see it. The other compromise is the "hump" on the back, near the top, just like a Droid X.

RAZR Body  

The feel of the device is very nice. The back - kevlar as it may be - feels like a high-quality matte plastic. It's just "grippy" enough, but won't grab onto your pocket lining. It feels great. The sides are slick, and the front, of course, is all glass.

The keys on the side, frankly, aren't that great. They're not horrible, but they're sharp and shallow and stiff. They could be better. There's also no dedicated camera key, but a shortcut to the camera on the lock screen helps.

The screen sounds very impressive, being both Super AMOLED and qHD resolution. The compromise is that it's "PenTile", so the pixels - at least theoretically - aren't as smooth. But before all of you PenTile haters run away screaming, I have to say that the qHD resolution mitigates the PenTile effect considerably. I generally dislike PenTile displays because it's very noticeable to me. But on the Droid RAZR, the qHD resolution makes the pixels so small that I had to look extremely closely to notice the PenTile effect. At normal viewing distance, I couldn't tell, and it didn't bother me at all. This may be the first PenTile display I've seen that I wouldn't mind using at all. It's a really nice display.

The software is pretty standard Android 2.3 "Gingerbread", but with a lot of nice tweaks. Motorola has given its recent phones a "lite" version of Blur that adds the most-liked parts of Blur, but doesn't attempt to take over the phone with unnecessary bloat. There are enterprise features galore, including the nifty Webtop mode - like the Atrix - that lets it act much like a full-scale PC when connected to a desktop or laptop "dock". And Motorola has new "lapdocks" in 10" and 14" sizes that are compatible across a range of Motorolas, including the Photon, Atrix 2, and Droid Bionic.

RAZR interface  

It's a shame this isn't an Android 4.0 device at launch, but hard decisions like that are the only way that phones like this get to market on time.

The camera software is one area where manufacturers can really differentiate, and Motorola has done a good job with the camera viewfinder options on the Droid RAZR. There's a little dock of on-screen controls - which we always like - with a little manual toggle to show and hide it on demand, which I like a lot better than other phones that keep hiding the controls after a few seconds. The camera captures 1080p HD video, so Motorola isn't compromising on media features to get the phone to be so thin.

Back to the hardware... the thin size is really impressive. The Droid Bionic seemed like a nice, thin 4G LTE phone, but the RAZR really sets the bar. The thin size is achieved mostly with physical engineering of the steel core, non-removable battery, and kevlar back, but the fact that Motorola makes their own LTE chips must help, as well. While everyone else is sourcing chips from Broadcom and using processors from Qualcomm and Nvidia, Motorola is apparently able to reap benefits from using its own LTE chips with TI processors, as they have in the Droid RAZR.

Look for the Droid RAZR to hit shelves in time for the Thanksgiving start of the holiday shopping season.

About the author, Rich Brome:

Editor in Chief Rich became fascinated with cell phones in 1999, creating mobile web sites for phones with tiny black-and-white displays and obsessing over new phone models. Realizing a need for better info about phones, he started Phone Scoop in 2001, and has been helming the site ever since. Rich has spent two decades researching and covering every detail of the phone industry, traveling the world to tour factories, interview CEOs, and get every last spec and photo Phone Scoop readers have come to expect. As an industry veteran, Rich is a respected voice on phone technology of the past, present, and future.

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Oct 18, 2011, 2:59 PM

Everything has its huge flaw, and in this case...

a non-removable battery. Having a user-replaceable battery is, in my book, a requirement. Dang shame, I was getting rather excited about this one. ☚ī¸
thats the only way they could get the profile so thin. Also check out the battery life if moto's claims are true battery life on this is beyond amazing. 😎
I have to agree . . . I've owned the original Droid and Droid2 and find I regularly pull the battery for a freeze or to refresh the device.

No combo of key presses accomplishes this like removing the battery.

I'm concerned; too bad.
I agree. A replaceable battery is essential for an Android phone. On vacation it has saved me time and time again. Not to mention how many times Verizon tech support tells me to pull the battery to reset the phone. An FM radio is also needed in ph...
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