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Motorola Razr ‚ thin, but at a price

The new Motorola Razr is the slimmest smartphone in the world. It is also one of the most robust, with its Kevlar shell. However, SEAN BACHER believes it is quite possibly one of the most expensive too.

When Motorola first announced the first Razr in 2004, it was initially marketed purely as a fashion accessory. However, within a year, its price was lowered and its popularity soared. The phone was such a hit that it became one of the best selling clamshell phones of all time, with more than 130 million units sold until it was discontinued in 2007.

But Motorola made the mistake of relying too heavily on the Razr and its derivatives, and so missed the boat when it came to 3G and touchscreen smartphones. Earlier this year it heralded its comeback with the Attrix ‚ its first Android smartphone. It then upped the ante with a new, smarter Razr.

Will this Android version of the Razr be as popular and iconic as the original? We put it through the Gadget Five Question User test to find out.

1. Is it ready to use?

The Motorola Razr uses a microSIM, meaning that the standard SIM used in most other phones wont fit. It also means that when the phone is bought, a SIM swap will need to be done at the same time for the phone to connect to the networks.

If you are migrating from the Nokia N9 or, dare I say, the iPhone 4, there will be no problems, as both these phones use a microSIM.

Once booted up, the phone shows its unlock screen, which is different to other Android phones in that instead of only being able to unlock the screen by swiping a finger to the right, it will switch to camera mode with a finger flick to the left. It will also change into silent mode with a finger swipe up.

With a SIM inserted, the Razr is ready to make phone calls, send SMSs and MMSs. The camera is now also operational, as is the pre-installed software on the phone that don’t need connectivity to the Android Market. However, before e-mail can be downloaded, tweets received and additional applications installed, the respective usernames and passwords must be input.

2. Is it easy to use?

The Motorola uses Android 2.3.5 or Gingerbread, but the only way you would know this is by going to Settings and clicking on the About Phone option. Motorola has skinned the phone ‚ meaning it’s placed its own user interface on top of the underlying operating system ‚ to the point where it seems to be running a completely different operating system. The icons are completely different, and the widgets or smart applications populated on all five home screens have a different look and feel ‚ even from the Attrix.

That said, the positioning of the applications doesn’t differ too much from other Android handsets, so Android users will still have a sense of familiarity.

As with most other manufacturers that skin their phones, Motorola has placed its widgets and applications in an ad-hoc manner, making it frustrating when looking for space to place your own widgets.

On the perimeters though, the phone is relatively clutter free. Only two buttons jut out from the side ‚ one to switch the phone on and off and another to adjust the volume. On the phone’s front are the standard Menu, Home, Back and Search buttons. At the top of the phone is a 3.5mm headphone jack, mini USB port and mini HDMI port.

In short, it is all as intuitive as you could wish from a smartphone.

3. Does it operate as advertised?

The Razr uses a dual-core 1.2Ghz processor, backed up by 1Gb of RAM. A pretty standard setup, but nothing to be sneezed at. Flipping through home screens is fluid and lag-free: applications open in a flash and continue to do so as more and more are opened.

Our first speed benchmark test, Angry Birds, ran fluidly throughout. However, we did notice a slight lag during the first few seconds of playing Lane Splitter.

The Razr includes a few great applications, like the MotoLounge app. It allows customisation of the device by downloading new wallpapers, games and applications, each specifically designed to work on the Razr and many not available on the Android Market. The most impressive, though, is the MotoCast application. It allows the phone to connect to any Wi-Fi enabled computer and stream video and music from that computer. It’s a great application, as there is now no need to physically connect the phone to a computer as you would have to do with other handsets.

The Razr also offers something called Smart Actions. I skipped over it for the first couple of days, but once I worked out what it did, I couldn’t stop using it. It works in conjunction with your location and a set of instructions that it performs when in that location. For instance, I set up Home Mode Smart Action, and when the Razr detected that I had arrived home, it automatically switched the phone over to Airplane mode, and located and logged on to my local wireless network.

Each of a range of pre-installed smart actions is fully customisable. However, new ones can be created from scratch to suit numerous situations.

The Motorola Razr is marketed as one of the slimmest phones in the world, and at 7.1mm this is quite believable. It slips into a shirt’s breast pocket with ease and with only the slightest of bulges.

However, the most exciting aspect of the phone is the fact that the shell is manufactured from Kevlar. That is the same material used in the manufacture of bulletproof vests and can only mean one thing: the phone is built to be durable. In fact, Motorola is so confident about it robustness, that it put its money where its mouth is at the Razr launch when a representative let me drop the phone. The phone bounced and slid, but did not show a scratch or dent and worked perfectly afterwards.

The phone is dazzlingly bright, sharp and crisp with a Super Active-Matirx organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) capacitive touch screen. And the screen didn’t even show a hint of a scratch, nor were there any ‚dead‚ pixels after it was dropped.

The Razr is said to be water resistant. The case is not only sealed to keep water out but, according to Motorola, the circuitry inside is coated in a special rubber to stop water shorting it out. That said, it is only water resistant and not waterproof, meaning it will do well at the local bar when a beer is knocked over it, but it is NOT designed to be fully submerged in water when the pool party gets rough.

4. Is it innovative?

The Razr packs a few innovative apps, like the MotoPrint app, which will send documents from the phone to a printer over WiFi, and the MotoCast app, which is one of those innovations we always hear about but seldom see operate as advertised.

Its use of Kevlar, combined with its sleekness, bright screen and ability to fend of liquid attacks, does earn it a few points in the innovation department.

5. Is it value for money?

The Razr is available from most cellular retail outlets for R7 000. Even though the device does have strong selling points, Motorola needs to rethink its pricing if it wants to compete aggressively in the Android smartphone market.

* Follow Sean on Twitter on @seanbacher

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