New York: If you're after a durable smartphone then Motorola's Razr M is designed for you.
In addition to the rugged 4.3-inch LCD smartphone having 40 per cent more screen space and purportedly 40 per cent more battery life than Apple's iPhone 4S, it feels much sturdier than Samsung's Galaxy S III.
The likely reason for this is because its back is made of Kevlar, like the Motorola Razr currently on the market in Australia, and the sides are built from a stronger plastic than Samsung's. The screen is also protected by a water-repellent coating (more on that later).
With a Qualcomm 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, NFC, and a powerful 2000 mAh battery that Motorola says can last up to 20 hours on one charge (quite impressive, if true), it is super compact for a 4G LTE device.
Weighing in at 125 grams, it is noticeably lighter than the iPhone 4S (140 grams) but a little thicker and taller to allow for the extra screen real estate.
Speaking of screen real estate, it's the first thing you'll likely notice when holding the Razr M in your hands. The near edge-to-edge screen takes up most of the front face. A tiny portion of the front's top and sides are taken up by bezel, while the bottom has a centimetre or two of plastic to allow for somewhere to put the microphone (and probably some other components that are jam-packed inside of the phone). When I placed my iPhone 4 next to it (see first picture on this article) it made the iPhone's screen look tiny in comparison.
The first word that comes to mind when I look at the Razr M is "premium". It has been put together with 6 tiny screws and the materials it's made with feels great in your hands. It's things like haptic feedback (vibration when you press a key) that make it feel premium, as well as the Kevlar back.
On the right of the phone you'll find a volume rocker and power button, on the top a headphone jack, and on the left a micro-SD card slot (for expanding memory) and SIM slot hidden behind a piece of plastic you need to pick out with a nail to get to (not ideal). A USB slot for charging and transferring files to a PC also exists on the left. On the front of the device is a 3 megapixel camera and on the back a back-facing 8MP camera with flash.
The Razr M - which goes on sale in the US next week and in Australia later this year in the fourth quarter on Telstra - will ship with Google's Ice Cream Sandwich software, at least to begin with in the US. But by the time it reaches Australia it may already have been upgraded to Jelly Bean (the latest Google Android software for smartphones) by Telstra.
Software features I like include the Motorola-designed Circle widget and Smart Actions. Smart Actions allows you to automate tasks such as silencing the ringer when in meetings, while the Circle widget shows notifications about text messages, the weather and so on.
Available in the Google Play store not only for Motorola handsets, but other Google Android phones too, Motorola's Smart Actions app can be set-up to automatically send texts to those who try to call you while in a meeting to indicate that you're busy. Other cool Smart Actions include power management automation settings that can turn off the phone's GPS, dim the screen and postpone email, social network and other background updates when you reach a certain battery percentage to save battery life.
I also like the unlock screen, which features a key within a circle. When the key is pressed four options are presented in the circle around it: Phone, Camera, Text and Unlock. To do one of the tasks presented, you just press it after tapping the key and it takes you right to the task you wanted. This makes it really simple - and fast - to open popular apps you want to use without having to first unlock your phone and then navigate to them.
After a brief play with the 8 megapixel back-facing camera I didn't find that it was amazing. When I zoomed in on a photo it began to get grainy fairly fast. It's important to remember that it's not a standalone camera, I guess, and maybe my expectations are a little high. I've attached pictures I took with my iPhone 4 and the Razr M for you to compare for yourself.
Other notable features I like include the ability to see all of your open apps by clicking one of the three on-screen menu buttons at the bottom of the screen. Another nice feature is being able to swipe left to open apps or right to close them while looking at them in this mode. This has been done before in other scenarios on other phones but I like how Motorola implemented it into its phone. It's things like this that show Motorola have paid attention to detail and created a phone that is simplistic to use and elegant.
The phone also comes with some pretty cool data-usage applications which show you exactly which apps are using the most data, which can be helpful when trying to identify data-hungry apps that are chewing up all of your phone plan's data allowance.
Lastly, I just wanted to mention the screen. When you spill water onto the Razr M and other Razr phones it turns into a bead and slides right off, unlike when you spill water onto other phones like the iPhone, where it tends to stick to the screen and require a wipe.
Overall I think the Razr M, although not the flagship Motorola phone, is a good contender to go up against the likes of the Galaxy S III and Apple iPhone 4S.
Ben Grubb travelled to New York as a guest of Motorola
This reporter is on Facebook: /bengrubb