Motorola DROID RAZR M Smartphone Review

Software and User Experience

One of the biggest gripes lobbed at Motorola during the earlier days of their Android phone production had to do with MOTOBLUR. MOTOBLUR was Motorola's custom Android skin and it has some issues. MOTOBLUR was somewhat of a resource hog and significantly changed the look of the Android OS. We recognize that smartphone manufacturers feel that they need to customize the Android experience to some degree in order to differentiate their products from the competition, but it's clear that there's a fine line to walk. When people buy an Android phone, there are certain aspects that they expect to be similar across the board.

The RAZR M ships with Android 4.0.4, and there's only a minor skin present. In other words, Motorola has tweaked the vanilla experience that you'd get on phones like the Galaxy Nexus, but they don't go nearly as far as MOTOBLUR used to. When you boot the phone up, that iconic red DROID eye is sitting on the wallpaper, and there's a typical clock / weather / charger widget up top, but the rest is fully customizable. And honestly, the ability to customize is huge for Android. It's one area where iOS is very limited, and Motorola was wise to not really hold users back with this phone. Everything you'd want to change, you can with few exceptions.

There are oodles of widgets to choose from, and creating folders couldn't be easier. Motorola has also wisely programmed the phone to flip to a Settings menu when you swipe from right to left. This gives you one-swipe access to Bluetooth, Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi settings, etc. It's a cool move given that users will likely need to access this menu frequently. Even the included clock / weather / charge widget is great. A swipe over each circle flips to something else (changing the clock from digital to analog, or flipping to different cities on the weather circle, for example).

One disappointment is on the lock screen. When your phone is off, and you mash the power button, you have a four-icon shortcut window. One of those unlocks the screen, but the other three cannot be changed or customized. This feels like an obvious oversight, but hopefully that'll be addressed in future updates.

Speaking of updates, you may be puzzled as to why the RAZR M is shipping with Ice Cream Sandwich instead of Jelly Bean. It's a reasonable thing to consider, particularly because Motorola -- of all companies -- should have the most direct access to Android builds given that it's now under the Google umbrella. Motorola will obviously update this phone to Android 4.1, which includes Google Now and a Project Butter code improvements, when it can. But as usual, updates generally come much slower to Verizon phones. The extra carrier layer means that plenty of additional testing is needed in labs before it's pushed to the masses, so those who place a high priority on Android updates should take note: Nexus phones are still your best bet, as they ship with vanilla Android and always get first dibs on updates. That said, even the Galaxy Nexus on Verizon is having a tough time getting Jelly Bean. It's part of the "cons" of using what's otherwise America's broadest and most complete 4G network.

One thing that's particularly important around here is bloatware. Per usual, Verizon crams a decent amount onto the RAZR M. Amazon, Kindle and Amazon MP3 are onboard, as is a specific Verizon "Apps" market, the Amazon Appstore, Audible, a Mobile Hotspot app, NFL Mobile, QuickOffice, Setup Wizard, Slacker Radio, Smart Actions, Voicemail, VZ Navigator (particularly useless given the awesomeness of Google Maps Navigation), and Zappos. It's annoying that you can't outright delete programs like VZ Navigator, which we'd never recommend using over Google's own Navigation program. Thankfully you can remove them from home panes, but it doesn't prevent them from taking up precious space on the handset's internal storage.

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