Name: Motorola Droid RAZR M
Price: $100 (w/two-year contract)
The Back Story: Motorola has played it cool for most of the year, letting HTC and Samsung get their shine on with the One series and Galaxy S III. Now the new Google property, is looking to get back in the Android ring with the release of not one, but three new Droid RAZR phones: the RAZR M, RAZR HD, and RAZR Maxx HD. Even though the last two models are not expected until November, Motorola is giving Verizon subscribers a taste of its premium hardware in advance with what's being called the company's mid-level Droid. However, If there’s anything mid-level about the Droid RAZR M, it’s the MSRP.
With LTE service, impressive battery life, and a number of software enhancements, Moto’s new handset could be the best smartphone in its price class. Does it have the firepower to take on Samsung, HTC, or even Apple’s flagship heading into the holidays? See which way the Droid RAZR M sways.
• Powerful benchmarks: Multitasking is easily the RAZR M’s biggest trait thanks to its 1.5GHZ dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor. Media played without any stutter, most 3D games ran smooth, and apps launched quickly. Running up to eight programs in the background simultaneously won’t slow down the handset’s performance. Verizon’s LTE network held up very well and delivered fast data speeds. We averaged close to 18Mpbs during downloads and 2.3Mbps for uploads, with Google Play apps reaching completion times of less than five seconds. Then again, that’s to be expected on Verizon’s lightening quick 4G service.
• Updated software and features: A number of tweaks have been performed on Motorola's MOTOBLUR UI, the most noticeable being its new notifications panel, which is accessed by swiping left on the touchscreen. Here you can toggle between a few quick settings including mobile data, ringtones, GPS, wi-fi, and more. The Circles widget and Smart Actions feature have been transferred over as well, with the former posting a variety of info straight to the homescreen (weather, missed calls, etc.) and the latter serving as a battery management tool. Besides coming Jelly Bean-ready, which Motorola promises an update for by end of year, the RAZR M is also the first Droid phone to ship with Google Chrome preloaded.
• Innovative and smaller design: At 4.8 inches, 0.33 inches thick, and 4.4 ounces, the RAZR M bucks the trend of big smartphones, and is the featherweight Droid model Verizon subscribers have been wanting. The phone’s plastic casing is sturdy, but not cumbersome, and it feels great in-hand. Coating the entire rear with Kevlar is a sweet touch, too. Motorola also gets serious props for stretching its 4.3-inch qHD display from edge to edge, producing better viewing angles and more space to watch video content.
• Great battery life: Motorola set the bar for long-lasting power with the Droid RAZR Maxx. And while the latest RAZR doesn’t sport the same monstrous 3300mAh energizer as the Maxx, you'll still find an effective 2000mAh battery capable of pushing over 13+ hours on moderate use and 8+ hours during heavy multimedia sessions. Smart Actions should help squeeze every bit of juice out of the phone.
• Awesome price: Never has Motorola launched a Droid model at $100. The spec sheet alone is appraised higher than the full retail value. And if the price tag still doesn't tickle your fancy, Amazon is currently selling the handset for $80.
• Unimpressive camera: Picture quality and shutter speeds continue to plague the manufacturer's mobile shooters. A majority of the captured images we took lacked detailing, brightness, and saturation. Auto focus was another issue, as a number of our photos came out blurry. It also takes a good second (or two) to cycle through photos.
• Massive bloatware: Now that Verizon’s partnered with Amazon, users are bombarded with even more redundant and useless software from both companies. Worst of all, none of the programs can be uninstalled. Disabling these apps through the Settings menu is your only option.
• Low-res display: The RAZR M's panel does offer quality visuals and viewing angles, but lacks the contrast and vibrancy found on the Droid RAZR HD and RAZR Maxx HD's Super AMOLED screen.
Final Say: Great processing power, with equally good 4G coverage, and a strong battery help the Droid RAZR M break away from its mid-range tag. The phone should be placed in the same category as its prime Droid counterparts just on hardware alone. It’s also worth noting that voice calling on the handset was spot-on and provided clear audio on all ends. Now, is that enough to compete with the iPhone 5, One X, or Galaxy S III? We can’t speak on Apple’s handset as of yet, but the RAZR M is a serious threat on the Android front. Consider it the best $100 investment you can make on Verizon’s network at the moment.