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.
Razr M Is a Solid Phone With a Beautiful Display
Along the bottom of the display are five key apps-phone, contacts, app menu, text and camera. Everything above these is very customizable. Users can pile a few apps on top of each other to create a folder on the desktop, the contents of which can be seen in a single tap.
Chrome is the Web browser the phone ships with, and paired with Verizon’s LTE network and a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, it’s very fast. Like, zero-lag fast. While live footage from the Democratic Convention balked and stalled on the YouTube channel running on Chrome on my MacBook, on the Razr M, it played perfectly, in rich color and at a volume loud enough to be listened to by several people in a not-silent room.
On the bottom of the display are three ever-present on-screen icons. There’s a back button, a home button and a button that throws up a column showing recently used apps and a thumbnail view-a user can see the emails she was viewing in Gmail, for example, or the Web page in Chrome-for quick navigation.
The telephone app is fine-though I was disappointed by the volume on speaker-and so are the cameras. There’s a VGA camera up-front for video calling and an 8MP camera on the back. The latter is paired with a number of options, though on the model journalists at the Sept. 5 event were given-Motorola fairly pleaded in a note to “please be kind, as this is a pre-released beta device”-one could sometimes click on these options, while other times they’d be unavailable.
Also, while the color is rather rich-and can be tweaked with Effects, when that option feels like working-the shutter isn’t fast enough that you’re going to catch the dog doing that funny thing.
The battery is a 2,000mAh, said to offer 20 hours of mixed usage, which I also found to be roughly the case. Though if it’s extra serious battery life you’re after, it’s the Razr M’s larger siblings you’ll want-the HD Maxx in particular can run for 21 hours of conversation, 27 hours of music or 10 hours of streaming LTE video.
The Razr M has near-field communication (NFC) technology-really no phone should be introduced these days without it-plus 1GB of RAM, 8GB of ROM, 4.5GB of available internal memory and a microSD slot for expanding that.
The slot is located on the side of the phone just beside the SIM card slot, under a truly feeble strip of plastic. For users prone to popping the microSD card in and out often, or anyone who hands over the phone to a toddler, in hopes of buying time with YouTube videos, it’s difficult to imagine that strip staying attached to the phone for more than a month. Far less, in the example with the toddler.
In short, this is a solid phone with a beautiful display and an option that anyone who likes the idea of a phone that fits in a single hand or a pocket isn’t likely to regret.