Software - Android 2.3.5

As of this writing, the RAZR is running Android 2.3.5, and in almost any other context it’d be easy to applaud Motorola for shipping close to the absolute bleeding edge branch of Android 2.3, but there’s no way to ignore the fact that this isn’t Android 4.0. It’s a bit unfortunate for everyone that we’re seeing a repeat of last year with devices on the market running an older version of Android than what’s currently available on AOSP, but porting and certification takes time. We’ve outlined it already, but Motorola has stated that the RAZR will get its own Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update before 2Q 2012, but that’s a long potential 6 months to wait for the latest version of Android - a quarter of your 2 year contract.

The flipside of the argument is that it’s at least guaranteed to happen sometime before then, and thus the more important comparison for the RAZR becomes how its hardware compares to the Galaxy Nexus, which we’ll talk about in the context of that device review. The short thing to note is that the two are both based on an OMAP4 SoC, so performance will likely be close between the two.

 

Anyhow, Android 2.3.5 on the RAZR is almost identical to the software and Blur skin we saw running on the Droid Bionic. That is to say, both come with Motorola’s not-Blur motoblur skin replete with resizable widgets, 3D launcher with a paginated 4x5 grid of icons, Motorola’s own slightly tweaked home screens, blue and grey Android UI colors, and basically the same software preload, but that’s not to say there aren’t some major changes.

 

If you recall back to the Bionic review, I noted that device’s Blur version, which was 5.5.886. On the RAZR, Blur is now:

Blur_Version.6.11.777.XT912.Verizon.en.US

This change incorporates a bunch of new features. First up is a new lock screen with a quick shortcut that gets you right into the camera (something that basically everyone seems to be doing right now) and still gives the same vibrate/silent and date/time informatics at the top.

The other big change is the addition of so-called “Smart Actions” which really are location, time, and other trigger defined rules. There are a variety of preconfigured samples that you can tailor and build off of, for example to silence your phone when your location is at work or between certain hours, or remind you to charge your phone before sleep. It’s similar to Reminders for iOS but with more system integration and using other hooks in the OS for doing more than just location or time based alerts.

 

I usually have all my mobile devices on vibrate all the time, but having time and location-triggered silence mode is a far-overdue functionality for smartphones. It’s a lifesaver if you’re in a workplace or classroom where email and SMS alerts are frowned upon - or worse.

 

The other big change (and a welcome one) is the relocation of Motorola’s battery management and sync restriction system under the smart action umbrella. I’ve complained a few times in other reviews that both other tech press and end users are confused by the default power saving setting on the previous builds of Blur which disabled account sync between some hours. This is now totally removed and again an optional smart action (battery extender or nighttime battery saver). Instead, under settings is “battery information” which just gives you the percentage and a shortcut to Android’s battery use view.

The rest of Android on the RAZR is again much the same as other Motorola devices of this latest generation. There’s no doubt that Motorola’s suite of skins and customizations will also roll over to its Android 4.0 port - as they’ve noted in blog posts a few times already - the question is what that will look like when the time comes.

The storage situation on the RAZR is important, again you get 16 GB of internal NAND and a microSDHC port that’ll take up to 32 GB cards, and out of the box you get a 16 GB class 4 card preinstalled. Of course, that 16 GB of internal NAND can be divied up in multiple ways, but running df clears things up.

Filesystem             Size   Used   Free   Blksize
/dev                   460M   380K   459M   4096
/mnt/asec              460M     0K   460M   4096
/mnt/obb               460M     0K   460M   4096
/system                636M   402M   234M   1024
/pds                     3M     1M     2M   1024
/preinstall            605M   440M   164M   1024
/data                    3G   518M     2G   4096
/cache                1007M    17M   990M   4096
/osh                     1G     1G   275M   2048
/mnt/sdcard-ext         14G   432M    14G   8192
/mnt/sdcard              8G    47M     7G   8192

There’s an 8 GB internal storage partition which works like an SD card (/mnt/sdcard), 3 GB for applications (/data), and then the 16 GB /mnt/sdcard-ext partition which is actually the external card. I’m assuming the rest of the space from that 16 GB of NAND is actually used for the lapdock.

Battery Life - No Surprises Display - Super AMOLED Advanced
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  • ananduser - Friday, December 16, 2011 - link

    Much better than the one on The Verge. Reply
  • GrizzledYoungMan - Friday, December 16, 2011 - link

    As usual, the reviews of wireless devices here kick ass. I'm not really interested in this phone - the wide bezel around the screen and the motoblur really bugged me - but it is a treat to read something about it that amounts to more than "how is this not like an iphone?"

    Looking forward to the Galaxy Nexus review, even though I'll likely already own it by the time your review is published. On principle, I can't bring myself to buy any phone loaded down with skins and bloatware, so there's only really one Android phone choice for me.

    Maybe I'm just surly this morning, but Motorola's latest industrial design language really isn't doing it for me. It has this Tron Legacy-esque cheesy vibe to it that is going to age quickly and poorly, I think. By comparison, it seems like Samsung and Nokia are on the right track, focusing on designs that are respectively helpful and pragmatic, and personal and pleasurable to use.

    Apple has been disappointing lately on design. The iPhone 4S body still looks great, but their software is getting more decorated and literal with every revision. I like a lot of things about the 4S - especially the camera - but the software was a huge disappointment.
    Reply
  • zeagus - Friday, December 16, 2011 - link

    Keep in mind the Galaxy Nexus is suffering some controversy vs. the "Pure Google" GSM version by having had VZW remove Google Wallet from it and adding My Verizon Mobile and Backup Assistant.. Reply
  • medi01 - Friday, December 16, 2011 - link

    Why do mentioned manufacturers: Appl,Motorol,Noki need battery "tradeoffs" due to slimness and lightness, while Samsung doesn't? Hard to follow on this one. Reply
  • JasonInofuentes - Friday, December 16, 2011 - link

    Samsung makes an entirely different trade off, plastics. Sammy has perfected thin, hard plastics in their pursuit of slim, lightweight phones. The cost is feel. The RAZR feels as expensive as it is, the Samsung phones feel like shiny, low cost plastic. That said, using light plastics hasn't stopped Samsung from producing attractive designs, and though the plastics can scuff easily they are otherwise quite durable. Reply
  • TedG - Friday, December 16, 2011 - link

    I got sick of waiting for the Nexis (or iphone 5) and purchased the Razr about a month ago upgrading from the Droid X. In real life use it is pretty nice. It is quick responding and well built. The camera to me is just OK. I got a widget that turns the 4g off most of the time extending the battery life dramatically. Overall I really like this phone. Reply
  • loribeth - Tuesday, December 27, 2011 - link

    I wonder if I turn off my 4G, my hot spot would stay connected? Reply
  • geniekid - Friday, December 16, 2011 - link

    Two things.

    1) I second lemmo's request for an audio quality section like the one for the GS2 review. That particular review revealed some nasty things about interference and a poor codec that completely turned me off to the GS2.

    2) I completely agree about the importance of battery life. It's really the only complaint I have about my 1.5 year old Incredible running Cyanogen. Give me the same phone with 2x the battery life and I'd gladly take it over anything else in the market right now.
    Reply
  • lemmo - Saturday, December 17, 2011 - link

    Thanks geniekid, yep I reckon audio testing will be a real diferentiating factor for Anandtech, as no other sites do it... similar to Anand's battery testing methodology which set the reviews aside from all the rest.

    Maybe they will do a comparative audio test with other phones when they do the Nexus review...?
    Reply
  • ecuador - Friday, December 16, 2011 - link

    After so many Android reviews I am still waiting for Anandtech to review the only phone & OS I have tried that seems to me clearly better than iOS. I am talking about the Nokia N9 with MeeGo which blew me away so much when I tried it I bought it immediately despite the somewhat steep price. Am I alone to being unimpressed by most Android phones? Reply

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