Big surprise: Seven-plus years later, thin is still very much in. Eager to show its design chops haven’t withered, Motorola has brought the Razr brand back, pasting it onto an Android phone that’s beautiful, extremely slim and remarkably powerful. Sort of like a ’60s-era Twiggy, only transported to 2011 and juiced out of her gourd on Muscle Milk.
At its thickest point, the Droid Razr’s profile is no wider than a CD jewel case. The handset weighs less than five ounces. It’s airy and seemingly delicate, like a high-tech trinket you have to keep away from the children.
Yet the waif-like exterior says almost nothing of its durability. A triumph of industrial design, the phone is housed in sculpted Kevlar — you know, the stuff they make bullet-proof vests out of — and the innards are sealed inside a stainless-steel chassis to give it extra shock-absorbency and all-around toughness. The Razr is well-equipped to take a beating (though admittedly, probably not a shooting). It stood up to my “back-pocket tests,” sitting on it multiple times in uncomfortably hard chairs.
But we’ve seen “thin” and “tough” marketed on a slew of other smartphones, and it takes more than a sexy design to compel the savvy consumer. Like a parent would say when consoling an ugly child, it’s what’s inside that really matters.
The standout feature is Moto’s new Smart Actions app, a user-friendly scripting tool to control all the actions that suck down your phone’s battery life.
The Razr’s insides are gorgeous. 1.2GHz dual-core TI processor, 1GB of RAM and 32GB of storage (16GB care of a microSD card) — all at the high end of current smartphone hardware. And it performs well — I swept through menu screens and launched processor-intensive apps with relative ease. The camera is very responsive and the touchscreen keyboard exhibits almost no lag.
The Razr comes with a lot of preloaded software — some worthwhile, others fairly crappy. The standout feature, however, is Moto’s new Smart Actions app, a user-friendly scripting tool to control all the actions that suck down your phone’s battery life. Using Smart Actions, you can set up automatic tripwires that will adjust screen brightness, Wi-Fi, 4G and GPS settings when power conservation becomes critical. For example, you can set the Razr to automatically lower its display brightness as soon as battery life drops below 30 percent.
Smart Actions can also contain settings that have nothing to do with battery conservation — for example, automatically switching your phone from vibrate to ringing mode when GPS detects that you’ve arrived at home. How ’bout them apples, Siri?
Like Motorola’s other high-end phones of late, namely the Atrix 2 and the Droid Bionic, the Razr launches with a gaggle of peripherals. Back again is the lapdock, and also the webtop docking station, two add-ons that allow you to use the phone as a makeshift computer. Moto’s patented webtop environment blows Android up into a nifty desktop-style interface, complete with the ability to run apps, type on a full-size keyboard and surf the web using Mozilla’s Firefox Browser.
The novelty of using your phone as a PC aside, I can hardly see any of Moto’s set-ups replacing my current laptop while I’m on the road. The company continues to push these various external hook-ups with every new high-end Android phone, yet has failed to convince me of any real added value proposition. Would you eschew your notebook for a lapdock? How about losing your PC for the webtop dock? In my view, neither approach is worthy of your attention or money yet, but it is an interesting push into new territory.
At $300 (with a 2-year Verizon contract), Motorola’s new Razr requires a bigger investment than other phones on the market, which can be had for $100 less. But it is an excellent phone, and I’d recommend taking it for a spin. Just make sure it gets enough to eat.
WIRED Verizon 4G LTE radio means fast, fast, fast data connection speeds. Chassis boasts engineering feats of strength that puts even the fiercest competition to shame. Decent battery life (for a 4G device, that is) at 10.5 hours under normal use.
TIRED The $300 price tag isn’t exactly “giving away the razors,” if you catch our drift. Peripherals remain largely pointless.
Photos by Michael Calore/Wired