Motorola Droid Razr M $99.99
16th Mar 2013 | 00:35
Bigger screen, better specs – it's all here at the mid range
Introduction and Design
If the M in the Motorola Droid Razr M stands for anything, it must be mobile. It's the lightest, thinnest phone in the refreshed lineup of Droid Razrs exclusive to Verizon Wireless. It's sleek and compact, but hasn't sacrificed anything in performance. It sports the same 1.5 GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM found in its bigger siblings, the Droid Razr HD and Droid Razr Maxx HD. Instead, the phone is sized down in the screen, battery and storage departments to make for a compact and affordable little handset.
Really though, it's not that little. It's telling that this "light" model of the new Droid Razr trio packs a 4.3 inch (109.22 mm) screen. Surely the time of the sub 4-inch screen has passed, especially now that the iPhone 5 has hit 4 inches. The Droid Razr M has been designed to strike a balance. It's a phone with a screen big enough for gaming and enjoying videos, but thanks to a compact design, it won't feel like a brick in your pocket.
Weighing in at 4.4 ounces (126 grams) and going for $99 with two-year Verizon contract, the Droid Razr M is easy on the pocket and the pocketbook. Just like the Droid Razr HD and Droid Razr Maxx HD, it runs Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich. Some might wonder why Google-owned Motorola couldn't get Android 4.1: Jelly Bean, the latest Android OS, to ship on its phone. While an update to Jelly Bean has been promised within the year, ICS is still very sweet, especially on this snappy little handset. In white, the two-tone look is reminiscent of the titular dessert.
When it was first unveiled, not everyone was in love with the Droid Razr M's two-tone design, sloped bezel and kevlar backing. In either black or white, it couldn't please everyone.
At first we weren't sure what to make of the phone's unique aesthetic, but we grew to appreciate its striking look and sleek build. The slim bezel makes for minimal bordering around the 4.3-inch screen. Since the Droid Razr M uses only virtual Android buttons, the screen gets to take up the maximum amount of real estate possible on the phone's face.
Update: Motorola has introduced a magenta version of the Droid Razr M.
The Droid Razr M's back has Motorola's signature kevlar backing pattern. The rear bezel slopes inward, providing a thinning, diagonal design that gives the impression of looking at an optical illusion.
It's a weird phone to behold, but not unpleasant to the eye, at least in our opinion. However, we doubt anyone would argue that it doesn't feel great to hold.
At only only 4.4 ounces, the Droid Razr M might have found the perfect weight. It's light enough that you may forget it's in your pocket, but has just enough heft to achieve a premium feel. While the most desirable weight for a smartphone may be shrinking since the iPhone 5 is only 3.95 oz (112 g), we know some consumers prefer a phone with a little more weight to it.
Not unlike an iPhone, the Droid Razr M is constructed with aluminum that feels smooth and strong in the hand. Luckily, it doesn't seem as prone to scratches and scuffs as Apple's new phone. We kept the phone in our pocket among keys and coins while walking around town and haven't found any marks on the handset.
The phone's display is Gorilla Glass and thanks to that thin bezel, the screen is nearly edge to edge. Adding to the sleek design is the fact that the Droid Razr M only has physical buttons on its side. On the right side of the handset there's a volume rocker and power button. On the left there's a hidden panel that pops open, allowing you easy access to the SIM card and microSD slot.
This pop-up panel is a nice touch, though it felt flimsy, like it could be ripped off if we weren't careful. Also, we wish the phone's battery was this accessible. The Droid Razr M features a non-removable battery, sadly.
With a 4.82 inches (122.5 millimeter) body and a 4.3 inch (109.22 millimeter) screen, the Droid Razr M is a great size for one-handed use. It's bigger brothers the Droid Razr HD and Droid Razr Maxx HD broke the 5-inch mark, giving them a nice screen size for media consumption, but the potential to be awkward in the hand. The Razr M avoids this, keeping a body size that remains highly functional but not bad for movies and games.
Display and Interface
The Droid Razr M's screen is very impressive despite some relatively low stats. Given that it only has 256 ppi and a resolution of 540x960, it's insane how vibrant the display is. Colors pop and games shine thanks to the AMOLED screen.
The handset also boasts fantastic viewing angles. We needed to turn the phone until it was almost in profile in order to distort visuals.
While someone who is obsessed with video watching might want to wait for the 720x1280 resolution Droid Razr HD or Droid Razr Maxx HD, the Razr M's 4.3 inch screen is nice balance between size and portability, and it's surprisingly vibrant.
However, streaming high-quality videos can be disappointing, especially since this is a 4G capable phone. You'll get the kind of high-data speeds needed for HD video, but the phone's 540x960 won't do them justice. Watching the trailer for "The Avengers," Thor and friends looked rather blocky.
Still, this isn't a phone that's meant for high-end media consumption, and Motorola has offered a good trade off with the Droid Razr M's compact design and affordable price. And while the phone isn't HD, we can't underplay the vibrancy of the colors when playing games or just staring hypnotically at an animated wallpaper.
The 4.3-inch screen, which can remove those virtual Android buttons whenever they're not needed, provides plenty of real estate for touch screen gaming. Playing Plants vs. Zombies, Cut the Rope and Bad Piggies, our fingers never felt cramped and touches always registered precisely.
The Droid Razr M runs Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich, version 4.0.4. You're right, that's not the latest version of Google's OS, which would be Android 4.1: Jelly Bean. However, it's running the most updated version of ICS you can find on any Android handset. On the Droid Razr M it's slick, responsive and extremely functional, thanks to Motorola's own UI that's been laid over the stock Android software, and that 1GB of RAM.
Motorola has promised to provide a Jelly Bean update before the year ends, but early adopters won't live in anticipation of it. The UI on the Droid Razr M is useful right from the lock screen, providing quick access to the phone, text messaging or camera depending on which way you slide the unlock key. There's also an easy mute toggle in the upper right corner.
Users are allowed up to seven home screens, which they can fill to their heart's content with widgets, applications and shortcuts. Even when filled to the brim, you can flip across these home screens at a satisfying speed.
We must say, Motorola's Circles widget is about the most attractive way we've ever seen text messages, weather, time and battery life displayed. Other widgets include a toolbar for streaming Amazon music, and Smartdrive, which is meant to help drivers keep their eyes on the road. It will automatically reply to incoming calls and messages with a custom "I'm driving" text message.
From the primary home screen, users can swipe to the right to access more other home screens, or swipe the left to access a Quick Settings menu. From there you can control your ringer mode, toggle WiFi, bluetooth and GPS service or go into airplane mode.
The Droid Razr M also has a drop down menu that can be accessed from any home screen and most apps. From there you can see alerts relating to emails, text messages, Facebook and Twitter, or any updates available for your apps.
There's also support for folders, which allows you to quickly group together apps without having them clutter up a home screen. By default, the primary home screen features a Tools folder, which provides a good example by collecting Calculator, Calendar Gallery in one place.
One of our favorite little tweaks on the Droid Razr M had to do with those virtual Android buttons. Not only do they disappear when not needed, freeing up more screen space, they actually turn depending on how you hold the phone. Hold the phone in landscape mode and the buttons go horizontal.
We also love the way the phone displays recent apps as visual previews. It makes it easy to multitask, and it's just pleasing to look at. Of course, running too many games or videos at once will hurt performance, but it's easy to dump applications right from this menu. Just give it a long press and select "remove from this list."
4G, calling and contacts
Sure, the Droid Razr M has plenty of fancy features, but how does it perform as a phone? Pretty well, we'd say, thanks in no small part to Verizon's 4G LTE network. Verizon is the exclusive carrier for the Droid Razr, and the fact that they have the largest 4G network in the U.S. makes them a solid choice pretty much anywhere in the States.
Throughout the San Francisco Bay Area we experienced blazing fast speeds on Verizon's 4G LTE network, averaging about 16 Mbps. In some cases it even exceeded this, to the point where it rivaled a home WiFi connection.
Of course, data service like this doesn't come cheap. A 1GB per month plan is $90, with $40 dollars being charged for unlimited talk and text and that 1GB of data costing you $50. Data plans go up a dollar per gig, meaning 2GB is $60, 3GB is $70, etc. Add on that $40 talk and text cost and you're looking at a sizeable bill.
Also note that these are shared data plans, which means that any other Verizon devices you own (including mobile hotspots, 4G enabled netbook, iPad or other tablet) will all pull from this same allotment of data. Not very generous, but pretty much the standard set by Verizon and AT&T, the other largest U.S. 4G provider.
While your monthly fee won't be cheap, at least the data service is fast and the phone goes for a nice price. With a two-year Verizon contract the Droid Razr M costs $99. Off contract it'll cost a whopping $550.
Throughout our testing call connections were excellent. We never had a single dropped call or interference over the line.
As far as the Droid Razr M's speaker goes, we found it a little on the quiet side. This was easily remedied by turning up the volume, but the level we found comfortable seemed rather high. On the other end users reported our voice quality as average to good.
Speakerphone quality was reliable, enough to capture a few voices in a medium-sized room.
Punching in a number on the Droid Razr M is very fast, thanks to predictive dialing on Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich. As you dial, suggested numbers and recent contacts pop up for fast access. Also, there's are tabs for Favorite contacts and Recent numbers right at the top.
It's just as fast and easy to dial a specific contact. You can jump right into the Phone function from the unlock screen, or just start typing the name of a contact into the Google search bar found at the top of each home screen.
Your contacts are found in the People application, which does a pretty good job of sorting all the folks you may or may not actually know. Contacts can be imported from a variety of sources, including a Gmail account, Facebook, Skype and Exchange.
On social media, we all have "friends" we never actually talk to. Thankfully, on Ice Cream Sandwich it's easy to select which contacts you want the phone to display, or browse by individual contact sources.
One slightly confusing aspect of People is how it handles Facebook contacts. Since they're synced from friend's Facebook pages, they cannot be edited. This means if you have a Facebook friend who doesn't share his number, you won't be able to just add it to the contact you imported from that social network. You'll need to create a new contact with an identical name, and the phone will quickly combine the two. It's a fine workaround, it just might takes a second to discover it.
Finally, to prevent the digital disaster that is losing your address book, Verizon provides Backup Assistant+, which can be set to automatically backup your contacts as frequently as every day.
Messaging and Internet
Text messaging is simple on the Droid Razr M, thanks to the keyboard with haptic feedback and the nicely sorted contacts in the People app.
Incoming text messages are not displayed on the lock screen. Instead, you get a little icon in the notification bar and the text is then displayed on Motorola's Circle widget on the home screen. While this does make for extra privacy, we found it easy to miss a text message, especially when the phone is on silent.
In the Text app itself, messages are displayed in the order they were received. Each one is displayed with a contact's photo icon, giving it the appearance of an instant messenger conversation.
Ice Cream Sandwich also supports Google's Talk app, which lets you IM your Gmail and Google Plus contacts, and a separate Facebook chat application. As you would guess with a Google product on Google's OS, it's extremely well integrated.
Browsing the web on the Droid Razr M is a bright, snappy experience thanks to the phone's able processor and Verizon's 4G network.
On or off of WiFi, websites loaded quickly and the page didn't jump around as text and images rendered.
As we mentioned, Verizon's 4G LTE network didn't disappoint. Videos and music loaded quickly and streamed smoothly. Using the Speedtest.net app, we recorded average speeds of 16 Mbps. In less crowded areas of the city of San Francisco, speeds were sometimes in excess of 20 Mbps.
In addition to Chrome, Ice Cream Sandwich and the Droid Razr M supports several browsers, including Mozilla Firefox and Opera. But, we prefered Google's own mobile browser.
We really liked the way Chrome handles multiple tabs, displaying them like folders in a filing system. Also, each new tab that's opened starts with icons for your most visited sites.
Chrome also has a great Widget, which shows your browser bookmarks on a home page for quick, easy access.
Of course, there's no flash support for Chrome or any other Android browser, which is standard most mobile devices these days.
Camera and Video
Camera and Video
The Droid Razr M has a camera that's merely acceptable. Although it sports 8 megapixel quality with an LED flash, just like what you'd find on premium smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S3 or the iPhone 5, the pictures it takes would never be mistaken for anything but cell phone snaps.
The camera is speedy and can be accessed quickly from the home screen, so if you're quick on the draw you won't miss that perfect moment. It also has all the right features, like multi shot, panorama, manual exposure adjustment and high-contrast HDR shots. HDR consistently produced better quality images, but it shoots a little slower and makes image files that take up more space.
In optimal outdoor sunlight, the camera produced good, colorful shots. Inside, results were not as detailed, and HDR was necessary to produce a decent picture.
The Droid Razr M has a 1080p camera that shoots decent quality videos. It was fun to play around with, and did its best work in strong outdoor lighting. The handset also features a front-facing 0.3 megapixel chat cam. It was functional, but if you're a real video chat enthusiast, this quality won't cut it.
Media and Maps
The Droid Razr M is supported the Google Play Store, which has enough music, games, books and apps to rival the iTunes store. Browsing the store is simple, and the phone can easily sync any of your past media and app purchases if you're upgrading from another Android phone.
Video and music playback quality is good, just what a media savvy customer should expect from a smartphone. We particularly liked Play Books. Perusing a sample of J.K. Rowling's "The Casual Vacancy," the page turns were fast and animated, like on an iPad or Kindle Fire.
Through the Play Store, there's support for Amazon's Kindle ecosystem, as well as a Widget for streaming from your Amazon MP3 collection. You can also download albums you own when you don't feel like streaming them.
Overall, it's a diverse, reliable set of media features. Also, since Google Play recently hit 25 billion downloads, its confirmed its place as a serious player in the smartphone app and media game.
Like any good Android phone, the Droid Razr M uses Google Maps to help get you around town. It provides accurate data, and combined with Verizon's 4G service, we never lost our way when using it.
It's buoyed by Google Navigation, which provides turn by turn voice direction to to guide you around town and keep your eyes on the road.
Apps and Battery
There's a decent amount of preloaded applications on the Droid Razr M, some of which are useful and some of which are undeletable bloatware.
Having Zappos, NFL Mobile and a few Amazon apps preloaded to the phone was a little much, but like bloatware, they were easy to ignore.
Smart Actions was one app we actually wanted to use, though in a limited fashion. It's Razr's answer to location-based reminders on iOS. You can have the phone automatically send text message replies while you're driving, trigger a playlist to begin when you plug in headphones, or even turn off social media functions when you arrive at work.
It's probably more automation than the average user would want to get into, but efficiency fanatics will enjoy playing with it. We didn't want to trust it with too much of our life, but setting the ringer to automatically mute between 11 pm and 7 am seemed reasonable, and proved reliable.
Gaming on the Droid Razr M was great, thanks to its beefy processor and RAM. Games like Plants vs Zombies and Air Attack HD loaded quickly and came to life on the phone's big, colorful screen.
The Droid Razr M packs a 2000 mAh lithium-ion battery. That's a decent sized cell, but we wish it were removeable. The M's combination of 4G LTE service and a big bright screen are a decent power drain.
With our testing, the Droid Razr M could just barely make it through a day of moderate use. Browsing, calling, streaming video and other basic functions left it on empty by nighttime.
The phone's Settings menu provides a breakdown of power usage, and allows you to quit certain application in order to prolong battery life. Verizon's Smartactions can also be used to make your phone more battery efficient, such as having it automatically disable WiFi when you're on the go.
The Droid Razr M is a light, snappy little phone. It's a pleasure to whip across its multiple home screens, and those Circle widgets are just plain adorable. However, there's a lot of competition from other 4G ready handsets, even from within Motorola. Should consumers be waiting for the Droid Razr HD and Droid Razr Maxx HD, or should they dive into the M?
If there's one thing we love about the Droid Razr M (and there's certainly more than one), it's the satisfying agility of this phone. Small enough to be carried comfortably, yet it packs a screen that's colorful and plenty big. Still, it's not too large that its cumbersome in the hand. Its 1.5 Ghz processor and 1GB of RAM provide snappy performance, even if you go crazy with the Widgets and app icons. It runs Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich beautifully, and we're looking forward to seeing what it can do with Android 4.1: Jelly Bean.
Call us tacky, but we grew to like the handset's unusual two-tone appearance. You have to stand out from the sea of iPhones somehow. Finally, Verizon's 4G LTE network did not disappoint, which is essential since it's the exclusive carrier for the Droid Razr M and its upcoming bigger siblings.
Lets get back to that 4G network and how you'll pay out the nose for it. A 1GB a month data plan for $90 is not cheap, but, sadly, that's become the going rate for 4G service from the two largest carriers, AT&T and Verizon. We wish we could get rid of unlimited talk time and put that money towards more data. 4G service will having you burning through your gigabytes quickly.
The fidelity of the camera and screen's resolution were also disappointing. High-quality streaming videos were blurrier than we would have liked, and the indoor pictures taken by the Droid Razr M were nothing to write home about. Finally, since the battery just barely makes it through the day, the option to swap in a fresh cell would have been really nice.
The Droid Razr M is a jack-of-all-trades kind of phone. It's overall performance and premium make it a winner; it's just surprisingly snappy and sturdy for how affordable it is. The combination of ICS and Motorola's own UI is both functional and attractive.
We'd recommend the Droid Razr M to consumers who want a balanced, affordable 4G phone with a premium feel. You might forget that it's in your pocket, but keep an eye on that data use. Those overage fees add up.