General Performance and Battery Life
RAZR M Overall Performance -Now that the specifics are out of the way, let's talk performance. The 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8960 Snapdragon S4 processor is a great choice, and the inclusion of 1GB of RAM is another plus. While downloading a dozen apps, we were still able to flip across home screens, sort icons in folders and generally hop into and out of anything we wanted without so much as a stutter. We've come a long, long way in terms of performance for a $99 on-contract phone.
We found ourselves briefly obsessed with simply flipping through apps and multi-tasking just to prove to ourselves that the speed really was as good as it felt. When Android 4.1 arrives, it'll be even smoother thanks to Project Butter, but even as it stands we think a new "smoothness bar" has been set when it comes to $99 on-contract phones.
While the 720p display on the 4.65" panel on the Galaxy Nexus does indeed offer more pixels, having 960x540 pixels on the 4.3" panel feels like plenty for a mid-range phone. The pixel density is enough that you don't see the pixels standing out on the display, and overall, we didn't feel as if Motorola skimped on the display.
RAZR M Camera Performance -The 8MP rear camera with LED flash is actually one of the better ones in the Android universe. Quality and sharpness were above average, and the ability to take multiple shots without experiencing much shutter lag was impressive. There's also an incredible amount of options in the stock Camera app. You can adjust the scene mode, flash, exposure, and effects, while the "Modes" screen lets you select Panorama, Multi-shot, Timed shots and HDR.
One of our biggest gripes with iOS 6 was Apple's refusal to open up more advanced options in its camera app; it's great to see Motorola going against that grain and providing shooters with far more tools. It should be noted that stock images feel a tad bit flat in terms of color saturation, but inbuilt editing help pull out the colors and generally makes them "pop" without too much effort.
Even in dim lighting, the RAZR M camera held its own. The only major gripe we had was the omission of a hardware shutter button. With many Android and Windows Phone products, as well as iPhones with iOS 6, there's an option to use a dedicated shutter key or the volume rocker. But on this phone, you have to tap the screen to capture an image, which introduces a subtle but notable amount of camera shake, particularly when trying to capture an image in low lighting.
RAZR M Call Quality -As for call quality---Outstanding. We tested mobile-to-mobile calls an they were clear and loud throughout. It's also worth restating that Verizon's LTE network is great. It's easily quicker than many home broadband connections, which in turn makes it super easy to blow through your monthly data allowance. A major question, though, is how the LTE network will stand up now that the iPhone supports LTE and millions of additional devices are going to be taking advantage of it.
You may remember how the introduction of the iPhone 3G, 3GS and 4 put AT&T's 3G network in a world of hurt, particularly in major areas like New York City and San Francisco. There's little doubt that more devices on LTE will saturate those towers more and degrade performance overall for everyone, but only time will tell just how bad it gets. Hopefully, all of the major carriers have had enough time to properly ramp up for the onslaught.
RAZR M Battery Life -As for battery life, we may have stumbled upon the longest-lasting Android 4.0 smartphone at the $99 on-contract price point. No, this isn't a member of the DROID MAXX family, which is now well known for having above-average lifespans on a charge. But, the RAZR family as a whole has had pretty good battery life, and the 2,000mAh sealed Li-ion here is a very capable one.
In average use, which includes browsing the web, checking social networks, sifting through e-mails, making a few calls, navigating to a few nearby locations and just generally enjoying the spoils of having Instagram and Foursquare at our fingertips, we were able to get around 18 hours of use. Lighter, more casual users could easily get through a full day, and perhaps two full work days if you don't use an app like Navigation which keeps the display on for an extended period of time.
On a more measured note, we put the phone through our typical browser refresh test, which loads a page automatically every three minutes. Display brightness was set to 50%, while LTE was flipped on and social networks and e-mails were set to refresh every 15 to 30 minutes. As you can see in the chart above, it outperformed the excellent HTC One X, but fell short of the flagship Galaxy S III and HTC Arrive. Still, for a mid-level phone, its battery life is solid. It beats out a fair number of prior flagship phones that retailed for much more when originally launched.