Friday, October 26, 2012

Don’t want a huge smartphone? Motorola’s Droid Razr M is aimed at you

The trend lately has been for smartphones to go bigger, bigger, bigger.
So much so, that when you put out a phone like the new Motorola Razr M, with a 4.3 inch screen, it’s considered pretty small by comparison, or at the most medium-sized.
The first new release in a line of Razr phones being released this fall (the Razr HD and Razr Maxx HD are also in the lineup), the Razr M aims at the folks who don’t want huge phones – and would rather have something that fits more comfortably in the hand, and also don’t want to spend the big bucks ($199.99 or more out of pocket) that traditionally come with the top new phones.
I spent some time with a Razr M, and I’ll let you know what I thought of it.

Since the Razr M prides itself on its compactness, of course it comes in a very slim and light package. Overall specs are 4.82 inches tall, 2.39 inches wide and a “RAZR” thin 0.33 inches. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist). The weight is just 4.44 ounces, so you’ll barely know you’re holding it.
Colorwise, the phone is available in either black or white.
This phone is clearly aimed at folks who want a smaller phone that will fit better in their hand and don’t want the megascreens of most competitors.
Not everyone will like this. I like the larger screens and found it too small for my tastes, but I know lots of folks who don’t want phones as big as I do. They are the audience for the Razr M.
When you think about it, 4.3 inches seems like a big number. But the much-hyped “edge to edge” design of this phone makes it look and feel more compact than other 4.3 inch screens. As a result, the keyboard is pretty small, bad news for those with big fingers, but you can use Skype to help make typing easier.
The materials used are strong and made to last. For example, you get a Kevlar fiber backplate, Corning Gorilla Glass on the display, and an aluminum frame. All these things will make the phone last if it takes a few spills. There is also a water-repellant nanocoating to protect against small liquid spills.

One area that disappoints on the Razr M is the display quality. The 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Advanced Display features a resolution of 960x540, which is less than HD quality (You’ll have to go for the Razr HD or Razr Maxx HD to get that.). If you wanted HD quality visuals on a phone, you won’t find it here.

Another area that’s not very impressive is the internal storage. You only get 8GB of internal memory, which is weak compared to the competition. You can upgrade to 32GB via microSD card, but you’ll have to buy that separately. This is disappointing, as almost all phones these days come with 16GB of memory included.

A bonus point for the Razr M is that it features a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, and 1 GB of RAM. This phone is fast, even if you’re doing some serious multitasking.
You’ll also have access to Verizon’s very fast 4G network, so your downloads and uploads will be done before you know it.
Overall user experience
While my overall experience with this phone was good, there were some things about the operation of the phone that just didn’t feel right for me. A few of the apps and features I tested, including the alarm, were a bit strange in terms of how they were operated and how you can exit out, and a few times I had to restart the phone just to get out of an app that was acting up.

— The Razr M is Bluetooth compatible
— The phone is Global Ready, so you can use voice and data service in more than 200 countries
— It’s the first Droid phone that’s pre-loaded with the Google Chrome browser, which many people find to be a more effective and enjoyable browser experience.
— You can stream content wirelessly from the Razr M to any DLNA–compatible TV or other device
— The phone can be a 4G mobile hotspot for up to 8 devices (for a monthly fee)

If you want your phone to figure some things out for itself, there is a feature called Smartactions on this phone that lets you do it. It can be set up to adjust battery performance, give you news feeds as soon as the alarm goes off, and shut down non-essential aspects of the phone when you have low battery. This kind of thing is very nice to see, as it can only help people get more battery life out and effective use out of their phones.

Like most new Android phones, the Razr M features NFC (near-field communications), which lets you use the Android Beam to share contacts and other data to NFC-compatible phones with just a tap. It’s not something most people use yet, but it’s a cool feature that could become more useful in the future.

Between the hundreds of thousands of apps on the Google Play Store, and apps offered on the Amazon AppStore, you won’t have trouble finding whatever type of diversion or work aide or personal app you might be hunting. With rare exception, there is an app for that.

Camera, video
After using the Razr M to take photos and shoot video, I found it to be a respectable, but not amazing, camera phone. Many of the shots I got were great, but on average it didn’t measure up to the top phones on the market. A lot of shots were not up to par, but video fared better than still shots – looking crisp.
Here are some of the camera stats
— 8.0MP camera with launch from lock screen
— Front Facing HD Camera for video chat/self-portraits (0.3 MP, 720p HD video recording)
— Image formats: BMP, GIF, JPEG, Progressive JPEG, PNG, WEBP
— 1080p HD Video capture
— Video Playback Formats: MPEG4, H.263, H.264, VC–1, VP8, WMV
It’s also very easy to share your pictures via Facebook, Picasa, Google +, and elsewhere.

Android 4.0; lots of Google
The Razr M features Google’s Android 4.0 operating system, which is very easy to learn (and there are on-screen tips if you need some help). In addition to the Google Play store you get all sorts of other Google feature, including: Google Maps with Street View and Latitude; Google Talk with Video Chat; Gmail; YouTube; Google Calendar (which I highly recommend; makes life simpler to organize and it’s all in your pocket), Google+, Google Play Music App (a great way to store music online and have it at your fingertips) and a lot more.

Phone calls, messaging
In my experience making and receiving phone calls with the Razr M, I had no negative experiences (no dropped calls, interference, etc.)
You get all the usual messaging options — text, picture, & video — and you have the threaded messaging feature so you can keep your conversations in order.

Battery life
The 2000 mAH Li–Ion battery is non–removable, which is disappointing if you wanted to ever change it out. The life was good, not great; but it got me through the day before needing a charge.
Fans of really awesome battery life will want the Razr Maxx HD, but that’s quite a bit more expensive and has a larger screen.

Compared to most new smartphone competitors, the Motorola Droid Razr M is quite affordable — $99.99 out of pocket with a 2-year contract. The discount is expected, as it doesn’t quite measure up to the best phones on the market. If you don’t want a contract, it will cost you $549.99 out of pocket.

Bottom line
I see this phone having a limited audience (especially with its bigger brothers in the new Razr lineup having better specs), but some of those customers who want this sized phone may jump at it.
The weaker points are the screen display quality, minimal internal storage and so-so camera. The high points are the 4G access, the size if that’s what you like, and the overall speedy operation. It’s not a phone I’d pick up due to my larger fingers not being very compatible with the smaller keyboard, but I can see folks with smaller hands giving it a serious look.
Another way to look at it is that folks who want to watch movies and videos, etc., on their phones will probably wait for larger screens; but if you’re just using it as a phone, or to send messages and maybe do light web browsing or emailing, it’s probably a good size.
I’d say that if this size (4.3 inches) appeals to you more than the 4.7 inches and up phones coming out lately, check it out in the store and see if the size is something you can live with for the next two years.
If yes, this might work for you. If not, go for the bigger RAZR phones or another larger model like the Samsung Galaxy S3 or other larger models from Verizon and elsewhere.

On the Web
For more information on the Motorola Droid Razr M, visit

Matt Myftiu can be reached at or 248-745-4617. Follow him on Twitter @MattMyftiu or become a fan of the Facebook page “OPTechTime”.


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