The Motorola RAZR i is an intriguing beast. It straddles the line between being a high-end and a mid-range phone with top-end features such as its edge-to-edge screen and fast Intel processor coming into contrast with its modest screen resolution and lack of 4G. Overall though, it’s an impressive mid-range Android smartphone that should tempt many.
Motorola has never been shy of doing things a bit differently when it comes to design, what with classics like the RAZR and more recent examples such as the Flipout, and so it is here. While the overall feel is one of just-another-black-slab, Motorola has added some distinguishing touches that are sure to divide opinion.
For instance the back is covered in a weaved-Kevlar finish that while tough and non-slip, does have that slightly overtly macho vibe. This in combination with the Torx-head screws running down the phone’s edges – in true tough camera fashion – will put off those that like a more delicate touch to their phones.
There are a few more subtle elements we’re not overly keen on too. There’s the rather cheap-looking glossy black plastic panel surrounding the camera and the strange Motorola symbol covering the earpiece. It’s strange because Motorola has only cut sound holes through the T, O and R, making them appear darker than the rest of the word, giving the whole logo an untidy look. Also, the sides of the phone are quite thick and rise slightly above the edge of the screen making them appear more prominent, and decidedly less ‘edge-to-edge’.
So the RAZR i may lack a little on the finesse front, it certainly doesn’t when it comes to the stuff that really matters. While those sides may look a bit funny protruding above the screen, the lip they create keeps the screen protected when the phone is placed face down. They’re also nicely curved for a comfortable fit in the hand.
In fact, the overall size and ergonomics of this phone are superb. Despite having a sizeable 4.3in screen, the whole phone is little larger than an iPhone 4S (3.5in screen) and about the same height and width as an iPhone 5 (4in screen). The result is that it fits comfortably in your hand and is easy to operate with one hand.
Helping here is the power button that sits on the right edge where it’s easy to tap with thumb or finger without having to shift your grip. Plus, the decent sized section of metal at the base gives you somewhere that’s easy to grip without pressing a button (particularly useful for snapping a photo one handed),. In contrast, the Samsung Galaxy S3 in particular, requires a bit of dexterity not to constantly accidentally touch the screen or touch-sensitive buttons.
Motorola has even splashproofed the phone by giving it a water-repellent nano-coating. You can’t take it under water but it should survive a good raining on.
Then there’s the fact that Motorola hasn’t skimped when it comes to those extras that Android users like - yes, there’s a microSD slot for expanding the storage! You get a fairly modest 8GB built-in but up to 32GB more can be added with a microSD card. You also get a shutter button for the camera for easy photo taking, and there are the standard headphone jack and microUSB sockets too.
Inside you also get NFC along with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and 3G, though not 4G.
We’re not too keen on the plastic flap that covers the microSD and SIM slots but it’s a minor point. As with most new phones the SIM is of the smaller microSIM variety.
If the Motorola RAZR i’s overall ergonomics get it off to a good start, it’s in combination with its screen that things really start to look up. Motorola has managed to make the display reach very nearly right to the edges of the front pane of glass, making it appear as though it’s only the aluminium sides that stop it. This extra width is what allows Motorola to fit a 4.3in screen in a phone-size more associated with a 4in display.
The idea of edge-to-edge sounded a bit gimmicky to us at first but, at least here, it works incredibly well. You really feel the benefit of a bigger screen in a smaller chassis, with greater visibility but no compromise in usability.
Helping is that Motorola has complied with Google’s latest suggestions and used software navigation buttons, rather than separate buttons beneath the screen. This allows room for the aforementioned space to rest your thumb below the screen. What’s more, with the bigger screen, the software buttons don’t feel like they get in the way of what you're viewing, particularly as they disappear when you’re watching widescreen video or viewing pictures.
So we’re big fans of the overall big screen, small phone idea, and in particular the way Motorola has done it. But it’s not all rosy as Motorola hasn’t used an HD (720 x 1280) screen like on the Samsung Galaxy S3 or LG Optimus 4X HD but instead has opted for a 540 x 960 pixel resolution. This actually wouldn’t be so bad were it not for the fact that the sub-pixel arrangement is Pentile.
As a result there is a slight graininess to the image along with coloured fringing to white text. It’s fine for multimedia - in fact it’s great, as the AMOLED display tech makes colours really vibrant with amazing contrast - but reading text isn’t as nice an experience as on the best phones. All that said, it’s essentially the same viewing experience as on the Samsung Galaxy S2, so if you found that phone okay, you’ll be happy with this one too.
All told, for a phone in this price range we think the Motorola RAZR i offers a seriously compelling combination of hardware features. But what of its interface?...