Motorola Razr M Proves It's Possible to Have It Both Ways

REVIEW: The Motorola Razr M, the $100 Android smartphone Motorola introduced Sept. 5, isn't a compromise. It's a small phone with a larger-than-expected display.

Motorola, under Google's tutelage, introduced three new smartphones to its Razr lineup Sept. 5. On Sept. 13 it will begin selling the smallest-and one imagines the least expensive-of these, the Droid Razr M, for $99.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate and with a two-year contract from Verizon Wireless.

The Razr M runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich, though Motorola has promised an upgrade to Jelly Bean by year's end, and features a Super (active-matrix organic LED) AMOLED Advanced display that crisp and color-saturated. At a New York launch event, Google and Motorola together had a lot to say about the phones, and how they constitute a "new Motorola," but for me the Razr M is most compelling for resembling, in the hand and in the pocket, a tiny old Motorola feature phone I once loved.

The Razr M is a speedy, Long-Term-Evolution- (LTE-) enabled smartphone with 40 percent more screen area than the iPhone 4S, but in a package that belies its display size and capabilities.

Motorola figured out how to essentially remove the borders from around a 4.3-inch display. This means the display is the same size as the display on the (already-thin) original Droid Razr introduced in October 2011, but everything else about the phone-expect for battery life-has shrunk. The original Droid Razr measured 130.7 by 68.90 by 7.1mm; the Razr M measures 122.5 by 60.9 by 8.3mm.

Another older phone, the original HTC Evo 4G-which was notable at the time of its release for its seemingly tremendous display-also features a 4.3-incher, but in a body that measures 122 by 66 by 13mm. Those extra millimeters are the difference between being able to leave a phone in one's front pants pocket when one sits, and having to place it on the table.

I'll get beyond the form factor in a minute, but first it should be said that Motorola has covered the back with Kevlar fiber and water-repellent nanocoating, which is baby-soft to the touch, and the front with Corning Gorilla Glass, that familiar, slick surface that adds to how nice the phone feels in the hand-singular. This is a phone for people unable to palm a basketball, and for whom one-handed use still seems like a nice idea.

Turn on the Razr M and from the onset there are nice software perks. From a locked state, the phone can be launched directly into the camera, phone or messaging apps.