Almost everyone can remember the Motorola RAZR V3, the razor-thin clamshell that sold in the millions. For a while, it seemed like everyone had one.

Sadly for Motorola, people eventually got tired of the disappointing hardware that couldn't match the competition.

With nothing special to replace the RAZR V3, Motorola suddenly went quiet and almost risked going under for a while. That was before it decided to cosy up to Google and start releasing Android smartphones. It probably shouldn't be a surprise to see the name return, although I have to admit that I didn't expect it.

Nor might you expect the form factor: the latest RAZR isn't a clamshell. The only similarity to its forebear is the thin design (just 7.5mm thick at its thinnest point), but that's essentially enough.

Like the original V3 and its subsequent successors, there's a lump that sticks out that housed the antenna. This time around, it also houses the 8-megapixel/ autofocus video camera, LED flash and speaker.

There's no removable battery, so the entire rear of the phone is made with a Teflon Kevlar skin that is incredibly strong, to ensure the phone remains rigid and won't flex. Trust me when I say it really doesn't.

There's also a clever coating to give the phone resistance to accidental splashes and spills, which extends to the components inside. Motorola points out that you can't chuck the phone in a pool, but it shouldn't be fazed by getting wet in the rain, or when you tip a drink over it.

To top things off, the screen is also made of Gorilla Glass to resist scratches. All in all, it might be slim, but it's still exceptionally strong.

Like the iPhone, iPad, and Nokia's new Lumia 800, the RAZR uses a micro-SIM card. The card is hidden behind a flap that requires no tools to open, alongside a microSDHC card slot.

This extends the existing 8GB of internal storage by up to 32GB, although it's not yet clear whether the phone can actually accept the new SanDisk 64GB microSDXC cards. If it can, that means a potential of 72GB of storage, with an extra 4GB of storage in the phone purely for apps and games.

Throw in 1GB of RAM to let you run all of those apps and games at once, plus a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, and this phone continues to impress. Despite its slimness, Motorola has also been able to squeeze in a 1,780mAh battery, which is essential if you want to be able to enjoy any of its features.

There's a real battle going on in the smartphone market right now, and this phone does pretty well on all fronts. The 4.3-inch screen displays 540x960 pixels, which isn't as high as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (1280x720 pixels) but still a lot higher than most of the competition.

Motorola is shipping the RAZR with Android 2.3.5, but will roll out an update to Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) in the new year. It means that Motorola has retained the Android buttons on the casing, rather than giving up part of the screen to display virtual ones.

Green screen

There's something wonderful about AMOLED screens, which give you dark backgrounds and amazingly crisp and defined text. They also allow the screen to virtually disappear within the fascia, as well as offering strong power-saving benefits.

As each pixel is independently illuminated, a black pixel takes no power. For this reason, the user interface uses plenty of white text on black, except for the settings menu where it's reversed for some odd reason.

While an amazing contrast ratio is great to look at, the colours are rather off on the phone. Images display too much orange and green, which is very unnatural, and photos taken on the camera will often look strange when viewed on the phone but great when viewed on a computer or TV.

This is a stark contrast to the usual scenario, where photos look good on a small screen but poor when viewed at a higher resolution on a PC.

Another problem is that when the brightness is lowered, either automatically or manually in the settings, the contrast gets too harsh and the colours appear even worse. To top things off, the RAZR screen uses the same PenTile-matrix layout as the Atrix, meaning a number of pixels is dropped.

The reason for this is to further reduce power consumption, but it can affect the sharpness of text and images in some situations.

Focus on the Camera

Moving on to the camera, there's an 8-megapixel camera with flash on the rear that can record HD video at 1080p, and a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera. The square cut out for the front-facing camera does spoil the otherwise smooth black fascia, which is a shame – especially for a camera that most people will rarely use.

There's no dedicated camera button, but you can launch the camera directly from the lock screen. Unlike Windows Phone devices, you'll still need to enter a PIN or draw your security pattern afterwards if it's enabled, which might cause you to miss out on those spontaneous photographic opportunities.

To ensure you focus correctly, you need to touch on the appropriate part of the screen first and then press the virtual shutter button. If you don't, it can fail to focus completely. There's also a bit of a lag, so if you move the camera away too quickly you'll find a lot of your photos end up blurred, even if you do get the focus right. Despite the large screen, it's not always easy to spot this on the phone itself.

The first Motorola Milestone had similar camera problems in the early days, which were fixed by subsequent updates, so I hope that this is a temporary glitch.

Although there's also an LED lamp on the back, which can be used for stills and video recording, the image sensor copes very well in the dark on its own. Given the relatively short distance that an LED can illuminate, I found myself turning the flash off completely in the end.

Once you get used to the little quirks in the camera interface, you can get some very good quality pictures on the RAZR, and the results can stand up proud against the iPhone 4S, Sony Ericsson Xperia models with Sony's Exmor-R sensor, and the new HTC devices that ship with decent camera sensors.

This phone is too smart for you

The screen isn't the only way that Motorola helps keep power consumption down. It has also developed an app called 'Smart actions', which is an incredibly advanced application that can perform a number of tasks based on a huge number of parameters, like the time of day, battery level, your location, and what accessories are connected (including the charger).

It might sound rather daunting, but Motorola has come up with a series of presets to get you going. At the very least, you should enable the action that will turn off wi-fi, GPS, and background data synchronisation during the night.

You might also want to turn the ringer off when you go to bed, or let it fire up an app in the morning, such as an app that can show the state of play on the roads or public transport.

Other presets include 'Workout', which will start music playing when you connect your headphones. If you want, you can add additional parameters to only do it if you're within range of your local gym. If the RAZR is your personal phone, you might want to automatically silence the ringer whenever you're in range of your office.

Setting up new actions is incredibly easy, and the feature is something that users of other mobile phones may come to envy.

Your own personal cloud

There's another feature that will create envy. Motorola recently purchased a company called ZumoCast, prompting the launch of its own version called MotoCast (must have taken ages to think of that).

By installing a small application on your home PC or Mac, you can stream content from your home or work computer (or multiple machines) to the phone over wi-fi or 3G. You can view documents, view pictures and movies, or listen to your music collection.

All you need to do is ensure the computer with the content is left on and connected to the internet. It's totally free, as long as you've got no limits on your data usage. Although video is re-encoded on the fly to reduce bandwidth, it's still going to consume an awful lot of data if you're not careful.


Don't think things end there, either. The next big feature was already introduced on the Motorola Atrix, but it's improved here.

The 'Webtop' mode turns the RAZR into a portable computer, with a desktop display that can be output to a PC or one of the optional laptop docks that have their own screen, keyboard, and battery. The standalone Firefox web browser can not only view the web, with multiple windows, but also run apps like Google Docs. The phone displays itself within its own window, which can be dragged around or maximised.

There's also a standalone media player to let you enjoy music, video, and photos on your HDTV via the HDMI output at the top of the phone.

You can see more of the Motorola RAZR accessories in our hands-on published when the phone was first announced.

Motorola has clearly thought of everything, and I've not even mentioned the Smart Controller, an optional Bluetooth remote that can control your phone from a distance (ideal when connected to a TV) with the additional benefit of doubling up as a handset for when you receive a call. Simply flip the Smart Controller over and you can talk into the remote.

It's the Webtop mode that really makes the best use of the power of the RAZR, but ordinary apps in everyday use will benefit too. There are now many games that, having been designed to work on tablets, will really make full use of the high-resolution display.

Attention to detail

It's rare to see a hardware manufacturer coming up with such a comprehensive range of accessories to accompany a new release.

Although you'll be stuck with the hardware, there's plenty of expandability built in. You don't need to buy any of the accessories straight away, but if you do develop the need for them later on, you won't have to buy a new phone.

The update to Android 4 is also going to be another bonus, which will bring improved voice control and the ability to unlock the phone using facial recognition. Given that the RAZR has ditched the fingerprint sensor on the Atrix, this may attract the interest of business users.

Like every other smartphone, the big problem with the RAZR is enjoying all of the power and performance and still managing to get a full day of usage before having to recharge. The phone does drain power quite quickly, but if you're clever with the Smart actions app you can stretch the time quite a bit further.

You can also consider dropping the screen brightness, although that does mean an unavoidable impact on the quality of the screen.

In fact, the screen is the only real weakness with the Motorola RAZR. In most other respects, there's nothing else on the market that can offer everything this handset can.