The matt, Kevlar-enforced back feels classy and protects the phone, while the bright Super AMOLED display is great for movies and web browsing
Android Gingerbread is as ever easy to use and customise exactly the way you want, and Motorola’s helpful startup menu guides you through syncing all your email and social network accounts
Moto’s file synching service, MotoCast, is an incredibly useful, comprehensive feature for media and business use, and the phone is actually preloaded with a good suite of document editing apps too. The eight-megapixel camera and its HD video recording is subpar however
The dual-core 1.2GHz chip is fairly snappy in dealing with web browsing and general navigation, and there are several small, aesthetically pleasing visual effects when swiping round the phone
The 3,300mAh battery is the largest on any smartphone and easily trumped all the latest releases in battery life, lasting well over two days with Wi-Fi, HSDPA and GPS on, and lots of media and background data running
In a time when most smartphone manufacturers are pushing the vein-popping power of their quad-core devices, Motorola has decided to tread a more practical road – that of battery power. The Android-powered RAZR Maxx is a minor upgrade to its skinny predecessor, the RAZR, with the exact same specs bar a giant new battery.
If your current phone doesn’t even last a day – and you’d be in good company – the RAZR Maxx will sound very, very tasty indeed. But with rapidly evolving super-smart devices from HTC and Samsung, can the Maxx really compete with the same package as the RAZR had a whole seven months ago?
One thing about the RAZR, it was superbly sleek and thin, and it’s still the skinniest phone on the block now at 7.1mm. The RAZR Maxx has bulked up to squeeze in its 3300mAh battery, which claims a continuous use time of 17 hours.
This means it’s gone up to 9mm thick (roughly the width of the iPhone 4S) and 145g, but it actually feels more balanced than the top-heavy RAZR, which was forced to jut out at the top to fit the camera lens. Instead, its thicker, 130.7x68.9x9mm chassis now only needs to curve out ever so slightly to fit the eight-megapixel snapper.
The back cover is covered in Kevlar, the same material used for bullet-proof vests, and it feels gorgeous in the hand. A houndstooth pattern on the almost downy, matt surface adds a touch of individuality to distinguish the Razr Maxx from all the other rectangular black phones about. Of course it also protects the phone, as does the 4.3-inch Gorilla Glass-fronted screen (look ma, no cracks!), and the splashguard coating the outside and inner parts for water resistance. In fact, its hardware design is almost unfaultable, with the Super AMOLED 540x960 display offering hyper-bright colours, and a metal-sheen plastic chassis that has no removable parts. Instead, the microSIM and microSD slots are hidden behind a discreetly seamed door.
A micro HDMI port for hooking up to an HDTV sits next to the microUSB charging port along the phone's top, and the 3.5mm audio jack is conveniently situated in right corner. The screen on/off button is also ergonomically placed at the top of the right hand side, with volume control buttons beneath. Underneath the hood, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor ticks away. General navigation and web browsing is pretty snappy, though with quad-core processors and NFC chips becoming commonplace in the likes of the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III, it could be outdated in a year for HD and gaming apps - which won't necessarily be an issue for many people.
Despite the new version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, knocking around for several months now, the Razr Maxx still runs on the previous one, Gingerbread, albeit with some handy Motorola software extras. Considering Google actually owns Motorola’s mobile division, it remains a mystery why Motorola has decided to release this phone still running on Gingerbread, though it has at least confirmed the update will be rolling out at some point, to both Razr and Razr Maxx.
What’s the difference between Ice Cream Sandwich and Gingerbread?
Motorola has dialed down its Motoblur skin on the vanilla Android interface in a few phones now, so that it mainly involves a comprehensive social networking all-in-one app and some unique widgets.
On the RAZR Maxx, the Favourite Contacts widget is particularly swish – pop it onto the home screen and swipe down to reveal a 4x5 grid of squares you can add your bestest friends too. Only the four in the top row will display on the home screen, where you can tap on the friend and reveal a row of methods by which to contact them.
There’s also a very useful lock screen widget that lets you switch between ring or vibrate without having to unlock the phone, and the option to automatically lock the screen when the phone detects it’s in a bag or pocket.
Like other Android Gingerbread phones, there are four buttons for Menu, Home, Back and Search. Along the base of each home screen is a customisable shortcut dock for your most used apps. The five home screens can be personalised with your own combo of widgets and app. In the all-apps menu, you can sort programs in a few different ways – alphabetically, last used and most used.
One unusual feature is the preloaded Swype keyboard app; in fact, it’s the only possible keyboard. Swype involves dragging a finger from letter to letter to create words, with spaces automatically inserted. It can be much faster than text messaging, but does also take some getting used to. You can type like normal on the keyboard as well, but the autocorrect that is a genuine necessity on touch-phones only works when you Swype. While we’re fans of Swype, we’re bigger fans of having a choice.
On startup, you’ll be greeted with a menu taking you through the synching of nearly a dozen social networks, from the usual Facebook and Twitter to Photobucket and LastFM. This is Motorola’s super comprehensive social networking app and it’ll run in the background to deliver notifications of anything happening anywhere – but the app itself isn’t particularly pretty to use. Though we received all alerts we expected to, once we were in the app, not all alerts were displayed. You can of course separately download social network apps that will integrate just as deeply with the rest of the phone.
Like HTC’s similarly comprehensive Friend Stream, you need only sync your accounts for the phonebook to automatically merge a friend’s different contact profiles.
However, there’s a small glitch with the Facebook app where contacts don’t sync with those in the phonebook, while all other networks, such as WhatsApp or Twitter, do. It’s not a huge problem, though it is the easiest way of automatically adding pictures to your friends’ profiles.
There’s an eight-megapixel camera with touch-focus and LED flash here, but unfortunately it’s mediocre even in best lighting conditions.
Clarity is average, particularly considering the high resolution of the lens, and colours are slightly faded even in bright sunlight. Indoors, colours are not accurately reproduced, a slight green tingeing most shots.
Clarity is decent, though colours aren't bright despite the sunlight
Indoors, there's a light green tinge
This simple shot came out the best with good detail
There is a multi-shot mode that can snap several shots at once – theoretically good for those action moments where you can then save the best one to share with friends – and some fun effects to play with after you've taken your photo. The enhance option in particular can take the pictures from that seasick green to a more I-meant-it-this-way retro saturation.
The video function can record 1080p video, though like all mobile video, that doesn’t mean you get the same level of clarity and colour reproduction as a dedicated 1080p camcorder. The frame rate is smooth but there’s a slight blurriness to video and colours are also a bit faded. The touch-focus works really well here though – we were able to tap on particular bits of the scene to focus on in the middle of recording, which is handy if the subject of your video changes.
In both video and still recording, there’s a small issue with light – like most mobile snappers, the camera focuses on the area of most light, resulting in darkened shots if you just leave it to do its thing. Tapping to focus on a darker area results in a better lit scene – though then the light areas can come off slightly overexposed and blurred.
Like the original RAZR, the Maxx comes with Smart Actions, which allows you to set triggers to load particular apps or actions in the phone. It’s a cool feature that becomes more useful the more geeky attention you give it. For example, you can set a Sleep mode with ringer off to kick in on set days of the week at particular times – and only when you’re at a particular GPS location. You can even specify exceptions for VIP callers to get through. Another useful one is triggering a playlist when you plug in headphones. There’s a myriad options and if you nurse an OCD about your own schedule, you’ll get a lot out of this.
Even if you don’t, a really useful application of Smart Actions is related to that other biggie about this phone – the battery life. You can set a trigger of battery life hitting below 50, 35, 25 or 10%, then slap on a whole bunch of actions including turning down brightness, turning off background data and more.
If you don’t do this, that 3300mAh battery still ponies up well over two days on moderate use. Motorola is claiming 17 hours of straight talktime – on regular use with Wi-Fi, HSDPA and GPS on with background data going the whole time, it lasted nearly 48 hours. For comparison’s sake, the HTC One X boasts 36 hours in similar testing conditions – which begs the question, is a two-day battery life really that much of an advantage when its camera is substantially inferior?
The RAZR Maxx can easily be turned to more work-oriented tasks, with preloaded QuickOffice and MotoCast, Motorola’s remote access app available for all Motorola smartphones and tablets. A great update for the newer ones like the Maxx is that there isn’t actually a dedicated MotoCast app. More intuitively, you can go into the gallery, music and documents apps to access these files on computers that you’ve paired to MotoCast.
On a PC, you can select the folders you want to sync with MotoCast
On the phone itself, you can enable an auto-upload of pictures and videos to all MotoCast computers – much like how Google+ or Apple’s iCloud works. The gallery app is incredibly comprehensive and will also display photos you and friends have posted in any social networks.
The RAZR Maxx is a good looking, sturdy phone and its enormous battery life gives it a serious advantage over similarly-specced phones. The problem is, battery life may not be as giant a problem as Motorola seems to think – at least, enough to balance out the fact that shorter-lived smartphones have better cameras and newer hardware and software. While an older version of Android and slightly less powerful processor won't be a dealbreaker for most, a mediocre camera in a smartphone that costs over £400 could be.