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I’ve been enamored with the Droid RAZR since the unveiling event last month.  It is everything about the “anti-iPhone” Droid message multiplied by 100.  From the excellent commercials to the handsome styling to the robot-y motif.  Where Samsung and to a lesser extent HTC make efforts to assimilate to the smartphone (read: iPhone) norms, Motorola’s Droids try to differentiate.

On hardware alone, this is probably my favorite Android device so far.  It is incredibly thin but also much more sturdy than the typical Galaxy handset.  Somehow, however, it manages to be just as light.  Compared to HTC’s latest offerings (including the monstrous Beats Rezound that I am also testing now – see pictures) and frankly Motorola’s previous Droid Bionic, Droid X, this thing is in a totally different class.

Droid Bionic (right) is thicker at its thinnest point than the RAZR at its thickest

And about that Bionic.  Pity the people who bought that device in the previous months knowing that Amazon sells the Droid RAZR for $111 on launch with $100 gift card for tethering.  Effectively, that is the best Android phone you can have for $11…

The RAZR is a head turner as well.  It has already been “outed” by friends and family even though I try to keep a low profile with it.  It is almost universally impressive.  Even iPhone owners are impressed.   This is definitely a statement phone that isn’t going to get confused with something else.

The RAZR is incredibly fast as well.  Applications open up almost immediately, don’t crash and The battery lasts as long if not longer than Galaxy SII phones.  Again, this seems like a phone from the future – a few generations beyond the logical next step.  The difference between the Bionic and the RAZR seems like two years, not two months.

New York City’s LTE service ends a few towns away from mine so I wasn’t able to test the LTE as much as I wanted.  But  it is just as good as the Bionic, Charge, Thunderbolt or any other LTE device I’ve used.  It didn’t seem to tax the battery as much as the other devices but I haven’t measured it specifically.  It works great as a hotspot as well.

GPS is excellent.  Out of the box it is immediately faster than a typical Samsung Galaxy GPS.  For me, this is a huge factor because I use the GPS almost every day, if not for driving then for finding nearby stores, restaurants and venues.  The RAZR knows where it is almost as soon as the maps or other app opens up.

Rezound, AT&T Sky Rocket, Droid RAZR and iPhone 4

The screen is fantastic.  Some reviews have panned it but the unit I have has an excellent screen with amazing angles. The SuperAMOLED screen is as bright as the Galaxy SII and it has more pixels and looks just as good outside.   My only complaint about the screen is it doesn’t go closer to the edges on the sides.

So digging into usage, there are some flaws.  

The camera, like the Bionic, takes too long to snap.  I get about a second or two between firing and snapping.  Taking a picture of my kid on a swing for instance is always a miss.  Perhaps most perplexing is that the lag isn’t consistent which makes timing even more frustrating. The quality of the 8 megapixel camera however is top notch.  Both 1080P videos and stills are at the higher end of the smartphone spectrum.  The camera software is also intuitive.

As with other Droid phones, there is a heavy overlay which may not be appreciated.  This phone is so fast, I’m willing to forgive it and managed not to install Launcher Pro.  That being said, I would like the option to just have pure Android.  Perhaps when the Motorola acquisition by Google closes, those types of options will exist.

The phone is also a little wider than I would have hoped.  There is noticeable extra chrome around the glass which makes it wider that similar phones in its class.  Some reviewers have said it inhibits one handed usage.  I had no problems with this however and I certainly don’t have huge hands.

Motorola also sent their Lapdock along with this and while it has made improvements since the introduction with the Atrix, it still doesn’t make sense as a product for me and here’s why:

With the Lapdock, you are getting a very low powered, slightly clunky netbook accessory that uses the brains of the Motrola phone as the interface.  But for the additional $300+, I’d rather just have a full featured netbook that syncs via the Cloud.  Beyond that, people who buy high end smartphones aren’t netbook users.  They are more likely to purchase a Sony or Samsung ultrabook or Apple Macbook Air.  For me, the Lapdock is still a parlor trick.  If it cost $100, and was smaller than a MacBook Air and ran almost as fast, we’d be talking.

They also sent over the car dock which works great. If you are a car phone user, you’ll want to get it.  The MotoACTV accessory is still in the box, which may or may not be because I threw out my back last week.

Wrapup:

This phone is awesome. I haven’t been this impressed with a phone since the original Samsung Galaxy S phones landed in my lap over a year ago.  Just as those phones were a huge step in form factor, this phone seems like a generation ahead of anything else out there.  I’m reviewing the Rezound right now and while it might have a bigger screen and better sound, for me, it is already “beat” before launch.

Obviously, the elephant in the room is the Samsung Galaxy Nexus which comes out sometime in the next month on Verizon.  I haven’t played with that yet but getting Android 4.0 is compelling (Motorola says they will put ICS on the RAZR as fast as possible – which would be faster if it didn’t have the Droid overlay).  I’m also obviously a fan of the pure Android experience.  Tough call.  Wait or dive in?

In any case, Verizon seems to have locked up the high end of the Android line this holiday season.The Galaxy S2 devices on the other carriers are great, the RAZR is “Wow!”

Here’s a great comparison of the three high end devices Verizon carries.

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