First Australian review of Motorola’s 4G RAZR HD

Performance

The first of two 4G phones Motorola that will be launching this year, the Motorola RAZR HD is the result of Google and Motorola really working together, thanks to the search engine’s acquisition of the owner of the RAZR brand.

Designed to be strong, competitive, long-lasting, and stylish, it’s a different machine from the RAZR we saw last year when Motorola relaunched the once seriously successful brand.

While obvious things like the screen size, chip, operating system, and connection have changed, so too has the thickness, which has actually increased from 7.1mm to 8.4mm, no doubt thanks to the bigger battery in the new handset.

In the hand, it’s a better experience than last year’s RAZR. Even if you have small hands, you’ll find the grip is noticeably better, with a slight curvature of the back – compared to none on the original RAZR – that makes it rest in the palm much more easily.

There’s a touch more heft here – 20 grams, actually – and all up, the RAZR HD manages to feel like a solid phone.

You can feel the quality in its design too, with the Kevlar-backed handset exhibiting an almost rubberised feel, making it just that much harder to fall from the hands. Motorola’s power button has little lines cut into it too, which provide a touch of resistance and help to point out which of the two buttons you’re touching.

The left side of the RAZR features a SIM card slot hidden by a tray, with a microSD slot underneath. The microUSB charge and data port is further along the right, next to the microHDMI out.

The same water-resistant coating from the first RAZR is included here, so don’t worry if you get caught in a flash storm. Likewise, Corning’s scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass will protect the screen from your keys, adding more robustness to this already well-built handset.

While the use of Kevlar on the back is an awesome concept that lends itself to more protection, you’ll be surprised just how dirty this can get with simple touches. Chances are that you won’t notice the grubbiness until you shine some light on the back, and the good news is that it’s easily wiped down with a cloth, but it’s worth noting just how easily it can pick up on smudges.

Using the phone, you’ll find Motorola has provided a reasonably recent installation of Google’s Android operating system, with version 4.0 here, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich, with 4.1 or ‘Jelly Bean’ set to arrive later in the year.

The main screen on Motorola's RAZR HD starts in the middle. Swipe left and you'll have a quick option toggle, while swiping right yields the page creation screen.

We’re used to seeing the different overlays that various manufacturers bring to Android, but Motorola’s unique perspective means its handsets can take on an approach more in line with what the company that owns it – Google – wants.

That means that the look of Android on the RAZR HD is very close to stock Android Ice Cream Sandwich: it’s clean, simple, and close to what we’ve seen on recent tablets, so if you have one of those, you’ll very much be at home here.

Like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus released late last year – the first phone with Ice Cream Sandwich – there are no printed-on soft buttons like other handsets, with the screen reserving a section of the 720p display at the bottom for on-screen soft buttons that can change based on what you’re doing and what app you happen to be running.

Most of the design here appears to come from Google, with a four icon dock with menu shortcut in the middle, the blue and black dropdown menu and status bar, and horizontal scrolling application menu.

The latter of these works by scrolling left to right, with tabs set out for your favourite apps, the Google Play Store, widgets, and every app or game you have in general. Getting around the menu can take repeated finger swipes, as there doesn’t appear to be shortcuts to let you jump from page one of your widgets to page ten, which appears to be one of the negatives of this layout.

It’s not all Google though, and Motorola has provided some neat changes, with the home screen offering a settings toggle page when you scroll all the way to the left, and extra home screens easily created from either a blank page or one of several pre-loaded templates.

The phone’s regular lockscreen is Google’s typical “drag the circle to a different spot,” but Motorola has pre-mapped applications to load when you pull the unlocking circle up (phone), left (camera), or down (text messaging), with the right direction bringing you back into whatever app you had before you locked your phone. A touchscreen volume switch also sits at the top of this lockscreen, allowing you to quickly turn the ringer on and off.

Smart Actions

Motorola has also programmed in a feature called “Smart Actions” which is a series of programmed variables that can save you battery power, send you notifications, and do a lot more. You can design your own actions by selecting certain things – GPS location, time of day, date – and then get the phone to respond by acting on something, such as playing music automatically, running an alarm, sending an SMS, or turning off data and letting you get some sleep.

The phone will even monitor your battery life over time and pop up with a message informing you that these exist, and that maybe you should run them, which is useful, especially if you’re trying to conserve power.

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  1. That’s a big misrepresentation what was said in the Whirlpool link. It says Telstra asked some people to return their phone for assessment.

  2. I have both the S3 and this RAZR HD in both, With the two I love the Motorola The elegant look I love it more that the S3. T RAZR have great sound quality. regarding the quality of the camera well it could’ve been improve.
    Overall I AM A DIEHARD MOTO fan.
    Neal

  3. got one of these a fortnight ago. its a spectacular upgrade from the galaxy s2 i had. super fast everything and the bubble display is sweet. feels like a solid phone. only problem ive had is that they dont make covers or screen protectors for them yet so ive resorted to modifying an earlier model razr cover (exactly the same size but holes in different locations lol)

  4. Tried IPhone for 5/7, not comfortable with it. Had Galaxy S3. Loved it but dropped it and smashed glass. Got Motorola Razr HD. Absolutely love it . Fast, lovely to handle, right size for big screen. Much better than Apple or Samsung.

  5. Hi Leigh, Just wondering if you can confirm something for me? I’ve read reports that the Razr HD won’t charge off a PC USB port unless you install a driver, can you confirm that? I’m also wondering about charging via a standard wall wart type USB adapter? Any ideas? Thanks

    1. Just tested this by plugging it into the work Mac and this looks to be the case. Sort of.

      The Razr picks up on the charge, flicks over into charge mode, and then drops it. And then picks up on it again, and drops it. Will try it at home on my PC, but I suspect a driver is needed.

      Works on a wall wart USB adapter though. Plugged it into my dual-port USB wall piece at home when i was reviewing it, and there were no problems.

      1. Thanks for the reply, and for testing it. Good news about the wall wart, but the PC usb charging is a bit of a worry. I wonder if the Telstra show would let me bring in my laptop to see if it can charge it… no, probably not. Times like this I wish there was a phone rental/try-out service :/

  6. Based on the reviews I’m pretty impressed with the phone, a little disappointed that it comes with ICS rather than JB, but I’m sure that’s not too far off. One thing I haven’t seen anywhere is if it supports UBS OTG. Can you confirm one way or the other? Thanks

  7. Hello, Leigh. Didn´t you experience any overheat?! I’ve been using the new Razr HD since the day it was launched in Brazil (September 22), and it definetly overheats. Just by using google gps turn-by-turn by 10 minutes, temperature hits 43,6 celsius (110,48 Fharenheint)! It´s really uncomfortable. It isn´t normal, is it? (my former galaxy s advance, although had many problems, never hit such temperature).

    Another thing: I had to recover the phone to fabric settings three times after using launchers (Apex and Go launcher ex), because the phone was restarting without stoping. I had to redownload and reorganize my 170 apps in folders again. I don´t think this kind of crash should be normal with so much popular launchers…

    1. Didn’t experience any heating that I would consider abnormal, and nothing that certainly made it uncomfortable, but I didn’t get a chance to test the GPS.

      Could be a temperature thing for your location. How hot is Brazil, and is it mounted to your dashboard in your car?

      I’ve certainly seen other devices – including an iPhone – overheat from sun exposure while providing GPS, and wonder if it could be related.

      Not sure about the other launchers. Regular review methods have us test using the stock launcher, though on my Droid, I usually use Nova.

      What you may be feeling with Apex and Go is a bug that just needs to be patched for use with the Motorola version of ICS. I’ve seen apps that don’t perform the same way on every device.

      1. Hi Leigh. Thanks for your answer.
        Well, it is really hot here (but i believe Australia can be as hot as here). The day the phone hit 43,6 Celsius, temperature was about 30 Celsius in São Paulo. I was inside the car, with phone in my hands. Another thing that maybe is relevant: I´ve been using 3 g (given that 4 g is not yet ready for Brazil), and I overtook the limits of my monthly phone plan. I have what they call “3g plus”, and normally I get speed between 1 and 3 megabites. But, once I hit the share limit, speed decreases to 60 kbps! Maybe I was pushing the phone too much when using gps with such poor data speed (even it was just for 10 minutes). Wathever it is, I can feel it normally heat much easier than my former Galaxy s Advance (which I got to use with 60kbps sometimes as well, and I used to deal well with the phone when under the sun, in swimming pool). And, 43,6 Celsius is really hot for just 10 minutes of gps use.
        I hope you are right about the launchers. Anyway, I don´t intend to use any of them anymore, at least for the next months …
        regards.

        1. Australia’s not that hot at the moment, so obviously my testing environment is different.

          Sydney – where GadgetGuy is – currently hits between 16 and 25ºC, so cool to warm, not yet hot. Give us a couple of months. 🙂

          It’s certainly possible that the modem is making it hotter, though it could also be a combination of the processor, screen, modem, GPS, and temperature in the car. Lots of factors there.

  8. Reports are that the Galaxy S3 4G has pretty ordainary battery life as well. It has a smaller battery than the motorola and comments have been that it relates to the 4G usage. I don’t know anybody with an Iphone 5 to find out from them about their experiances of it and 4g usage but my understanding was that it was slightly smaller than the samsung, so could be an issue there. I am leaning towards this one particularly since Google bought Mototorola mobility it will be in their interest to push through any OS upgrades.

    1. Hi mate, I just bought the phone as well but I’m getting shitty bat life. With wifi on and surfing it drops from 100% to 90 within 30% use. How do you get it to last that long?

      1. Yeah sane here man when I watch YouTube or even leave the phone alone the battery life drops straight away its really weird cause some people say it last them a while like in 20 mins of doing some the battery life would go from 100 to 80 battery fukn sucks phone only last about 10 hours on the lowest brightness with WiFi on

  9. My friend just bought this phone through telstra and its awesome. The build quality is excellent the design and screen are beautiful too.
    The only negative with this phone, is that the camera isnt anything special.
    Believe it or not, the audio quality with headphones plugged is unreal. When comparing it to my iphone 4S which has great sound quality, the motorola sounds better although does not have quite as high volume.
    This is a real winner for Motorola however the jellybean update is a must as it is much smoother than ICS.
    Reports on battery……. excellent also.
    With moderate use on the 4G network only 15% battery power usage for one entire day.
    If anyone wants an opinion on this phone hit me up
    [email protected]

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