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Review: Verizon’s Motorola RAZR M is my favorite little Droid

If I had any complaints about the original Droid RAZR last year, it was that the chrome, or bezel, around the display was a little much. The phone was extremely slim outside of its hump, but it was much wider and longer than it needed to be for a phone with a 4.3-inch display.

In presenting its new phones last week, Motorola did just as I hoped: It split the RAZR into two lines. The RAZR M has the same screen, but dramatically less chrome, while the HD took the same phone and increased the size of the screen to a 720p 4.7-inches. I briefly played with the HD, but I got to take a RAZR M home and it has been my go-to phone ever since. Here is the review:

The RAZR M is a small phone, especially by Android standards. It is most similar in size to the recently released HTC Droid Incredible 4G that has a smaller 4-inch display but same qHD 960-by-540 resolution. Motorola has really stretched how close to the edges it could take a display. It is not just the sides, which almost have an invisible bezel, as the top bezel almost squishes out the tiny camera hole, proximity sensors and Motorola logo. Sound from the earpiece also appears to come from behind the logo with some assistance from the speaker around back.

The display is covered in Gorilla Glass and pentile AMOLED technology just like its predecessor. I am going to disagree with the prevailing wind in the industry and say I really like the display. It looks fantastic in normal light from all angles. It does fade a bit outside. It is still very usable, though, perhaps more so than any other AMOLED display I have seen. If you put your face up to the phone, you can see some jagged edges…but not in normal use. Videos also look great.

The cameras are top-notch and very responsive. Both are improvements on the original RAZR in terms of (both lighting and focal) speed and clarity. After my first shots, I thought I had a bad camera. But the original wrapping plastic was still over the lens. After pulling the plastic off, the camera took shots in the same league as the HTC One X or Samsung Galaxy S III.


Power button and volume rocker are along the right side of the phone, which is great for a righty like me, but I am not so sure a lefty would agree with the setup. The left side houses the micro-USB input/charger, a door that hides the Verizon Micro SIM, and a spot for a MicroSD card. I still prefer bottom Micro-USB like Samsung phones, but this is a small nitpick.

The phone is not RAZR thin (SWIDT?), but (digress alert) I am pretty sick of the race to be the thinnest phone at the expense of functionality, growing height and width, and most importantly—battery life. In my ideal world, a smartphone would be almost completely screen on the front and as thick as it needs to be to do a day of charge and not much more.

Most phones can do a day of charge, but not when you throw hot-spotting, movies, lots of Web browsing, photo-taking and other fun stuff. Battery life is Motorola’s strong suite lately, however. The original Droid RAZR lasted much longer than its skinny profile would suggest. Motorola went a little nuts by thickening it up to a MAXX version with a 20-hour talk time battery. Overkill in my book

But, dare I say—the RAZR M is just right. I can go a full day with lots of LTE, camera and video, and I will not even have to think about running out of battery. If I forget to plug it in overnight, I still have a few hours of charge in the morning. To me, this is the perfect size/battery life compromise.

The back of the RAZR M is the now-standard Kevlar mesh, which is nice, but it will not stop a bullet. The camera does not jut out like the original Droid RAZR; it is just a gradual thickening from top to bottom. There is the standard 3.5mm headphone jack on top…and that’s about it.

Overall, I really like the way it feels in my hand. My initial thoughts were that it was too boxy. After some time, however, I cannot think of how I would want to change the hardware other than the nitpicks mentioned above.

The love-fest ends with the hardware, though. The software is typical from a carrier phone—a bunch of apps like the Amazon App Store and Verizon Navigator that you may or likely may not want. The Droid overlay is a little tired; I would prefer a stock experience. Everyone at Verizon and Motorola seems to hint that they know this, but they are powerless to do anything to remove it.

Just because Google now owns Motorola, you would think people would be offered a preferred pure Android experience. Expect Drooooid.

That being said, I do like some of Motorola’s touches: swipe to the right and you get a handy quick settings menu. I also enjoy the circle widgets that come on the home screen.

The M comes with 8GB of internal storage, about 4.5GB of which is available to use, so pick up a MicroSD card to expand to your heart’s content.

Verizon sells the Droid RAZR M for $99 after jumping through some rebate hoops, which are always fun. My recommendation would be to wait a few days and find it on Amazon nearly free with a plan.

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