Last year, Motorola brought a familiar brand back from the dead. The Razr moniker, famous for a legion of feature flip-phones from the mid-2000s, was revived and updated for the age of smartphones. The original Razr (Droid Razr in the US) smartphone was a super-thin, high-powered LTE handset, and its companion – the Droid Razr Maxx – added great battery life. Sales were good, with the Razr Maxx reportedly outselling the iPhone 4S at Verizon for a period earlier this year.
After the release of Samsung's Galaxy S III, though, the Razr line got lost in the shuffle. Now Moto returns with its first true follow-ups: the (Droid) Razr HD and the (Droid) Razr Maxx HD. How do the two sequels compare to Android's King, the Galaxy S3?
When Motorola released the original Droid Razr, it was billed as the thinnest smartphone ever. At 7.1 mm (discounting its hump), it broke new ground. Unfortunately, squeezing all of those high-powered components – and LTE – into such a svelte package compromised battery life.
Moto is determined to avoid releasing another battery hog, as the Razr HD is thicker than its predecessor – a rarity in the world of personal technology. Gone is the hump and the unprecedented razor-thin design. The Razr HD is beefier than the iPhone 5, and only a hair thinner than the Galaxy S III. The Razr Maxx HD, meanwhile, is almost a full millimeter thicker than its cousin.
In addition to adding some girth, the Razr HD also puts on some weight. Both the Razr HD and Razr Maxx HD pack on nearly 20 g (0.7 oz) each over their predecessors. The standard model is 13 g (0.45 oz) heavier than the Galaxy S3, with the Maxx adding 24 g (0.84 oz) of extra heft over the S3.
At least on paper, the two displays are similar. Samsung's is a hair larger, while the Razr's has slightly higher resolution.
Though their resolution and display tech aren't unprecedented, the new Razr's sport larger displays than last year's editions. The original Droid Razr and Razr Maxx rocked smaller 4.3-inch displays. Much of that difference, though, is dedicated to the on-screen navigation buttons in Ice Cream Sandwich (the older versions had capacitive buttons below the display).
In North America, both phones have identical Snapdragon S4 chips. The international version of the Galaxy S3, meanwhile, rocks a quad-core Samsung Exynos processor.
Here's another split between the international and U.S./Canadian versions of the Galaxy S III. The global version is limited to 1 GB of RAM, while the North America edition compensates for its lack of a quad-core processor with 2 GB.
Motorola offers less options than Samsung, but - with expandable microSD storage - it should be plenty for most people.
While Samsung sells the S3 in multiple storage sizes, each version of the Razr HD only offers one option: 16 GB for the standard, and 32 GB for the Maxx. All handsets sport microSD slots, though, so that can be expanded.
You aren't going to see any high-end smartphones today that aren't compatible with LTE. These two are no exception.
In the U.S., the Droid Razr HD and Droid Razr HD Maxx are exclusive to Verizon. The Galaxy S3, meanwhile, is available on all the major carriers.
This is where we see the other end of the thicker/heavier tradeoff. The standard Razr HD has more juice than the battery in the Galaxy S3, and the Maxx version blows it away with 3,300 mAh of power. Other factors influence actual battery life, though, so we'll need to wait for real-world testing before concluding that the Razr HD outlasts the Galaxy S3.
It looks like most manufacturers have settled on 8-megapixels as a good resting place for smartphone cameras. Most high-end handsets from the last year have been hitting that mark, and these two (three if you count the Razr Maxx HD) add to that list.
Holy kevlar, Batman! Moto has been marketing the protective coating of the material in all of its Razr phones, and the new models continue that trend. Kevlar protected the Dark Knight from gunshots in Christopher Nolan's recent trilogy, and it may help shield your Razr HD from damage in an unfortunate spill.
The Galaxy S III is the undisputed King of Android. Unlike in previous years when there was a new Android "it" phone every month, Samsung has cemented its lead, and nobody else is close. Until Google releases its next Nexus phone (or phones?), the S3 should continue its reign.
Both handsets still ship with the nearly year-old Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Both should eventually be updated to 4.1 Jellybean, but without firm release dates it would be wise to only buy either because you're happy with them as they are now. Consider it a bonus when they finally get updated.
When the Razr was reincarnated, it made headlines with its absurd thinness. That got customers' attention, and then Motorola remedied its biggest flaw – battery life – at the expense of its sexiest feature. This was either a clever, premeditated strategy (get our attention with an extreme, then balance things out), or a quick adjustment on the fly. Either way, the Razr line is one of the most notable series of Android devices. It may not be able to save Motorola from losing money, but it at least gives customers another option.
What do you think? Are the new Razr HD phones worth checking out, or are they merely placeholders until Google drops the next Nexus powerhouse(s)? Let us know what you think in the comments.