The way Motorola has been carrying on since it was bought by Google, you'd think it was God's gift to the smartphone industry. It's promising the "best of Google" despite the fact that it's not offering a Nexus-branded handset any time soon. This is what happens, then, when a manufacturer sets out to go it alone on making a Nexus phone.
What Is It?
The RAZR M is a Kevlar-coated, liquid-resistant smartphone from Motorola that sports a 1.5-GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, a massive 2000mAh battery, 8-megapixel camera and a 4.3-inch screen screen that spans edge-to-edge with a resolution of 960x540 pixels and 256 pixels per inch. It will run Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box — despite being released in November 2012 — but Motorola says Jelly Bean will arrive a few months after the release date.
The RAZR M's main selling-point is the edge-to-edge screen, and if I'm honest, it's amazing. The bezel was a big problem with the first RAZR smartphone, and this is a great way to get around it: put a screen on the thing that makes the bezel damn-near invisible. It actually gives you the impression that the screen is actually a lot bigger than the 4.3-inches it's packing. The bright, clear whites of this 960x540 screen are also remarkable.
The 2000mAh battery will keep you going all day, even with the 4G antenna active. This is a Telstra-exclusive handset, so 4G is a given, thank goodness.
Flip the handset over and you'll find that it sports the same tough, Kevlar exterior that defines the RAZR range, and inside it's still splash-proof. It's this sort of toughness that ought to be standard across the smartphone market by now.
When you actually get down to using the RAZR M, it's a delight. This is the first outing for Motorola's new-look Android skin, and as far as overlays go, this one's quite good. To be honest, I find TouchWiz, Xperia UI and Sense quite intrusive. Why won't you just let me use Android as it was meant to be? The Motorola is the closest a third-party manufacturer has come to making Android better with a third-party UI. Most of that's down to the fact that it gets down to the business of getting out of your way.
There aren't any gimmicks here, no pop-ups to annoy you, no "sign into me so I can get all your social/news/ringtone content" bars hovering around anywhere, it's just good, clean Android. The home screen is uncluttered out of the box, and swiping left will reveal a quick settings page for tweaking and adjusting things on the fly. That saves you having to have an extra widget on your home screen, which brings me back to how clean and easy it is to use.
The closest to gimmicky the RAZR M gets is with the return of Smart Actions. This is just an application that quietly toils under the surface to tweak and change things for you without you actually having to directly get involved. Set up a Smart Action like turning down the brightness and switching off Bluetooth when your battery dips below 15 per cent, and you won't have to touch it again. It's actually really pleasant.
As far as hardware numbers are concerned, the RAZR M clocks in at 1450 on Geekbench 2, meaning that it's as powerful as an HTC One X or an Asus Padfone — impressive, considering it's only packing a dual-core processor rather than the quad-core handsets it beat.
Certain aspects of the styling here look like they're straight out of 2004. From the faux-retro font on the front-facing Motorla logo through to the desolate-looking back panel that ends up looking like a mish-mash of different textures and materials, it just feels wrong. It's also incredibly heavy, for what it's worth.
Once you start using the RAZR M, there's no getting past that screen. The pixels...I can see all of them. It's incredibly bright and edge-to-edge is a welcome addition, but it's not enough to draw my eyes away from the frankly massive pixels.
Also, what's with offering the best of Google and not shipping with Jelly Bean at launch? Come on, guys. You all literally work there now. Step it up.
Should You Buy It?
The way Motorola advertised the new RAZR handsets this year, you'd think that it was Google's emissary, sent to deliver us from the woes of the existing smartphone wasteland. 'Come with us, gadgeteers. Let us take you to Google's promised land where Maps are accurate, phones are beautiful and Android is unspoiled'. Ever since Google bought Motorola, that's the message I have been hearing.
The RAZR M isn't even delivering on all of this promise. The screen falls flat, the design and the weight makes it look dated and feel bloated and the camera isn't worth mentioning. On the positive front, it is tougher than your average smartphone with the kevlar and splash-proofing, it does have a bright, edge-to-edge display going for it (even if it is pixellated pain) and the Android skin is less intrusive and annoying than TouchWiz or Sense.
The RAZR M doesn't feel like a smartphone you'd be happy about owning for a full 24-months. It instead feels like a phone that belongs in the high-end pre-paid market. That's not a bad thing, it just means it's priced incorrectly. If this was $300-$349 outright, it'd fly off the shelves like the original RAZR V3 did.
If you want a RAZR that feels like it belongs on postpaid, check out the RAZR HD. Bigger, brighter and worth the price you pay on contract.