I upgraded my plan and bought a Droid RAZR MAXX from Verizon a week or two ago, and my face has been basking in the glow of its screen ever since. I previously had a LG Cosmos, and before that phone I had a LG TracFone. Talk about an upgrade. I’m still on a family plan with my parents with 550 shared minutes and 500 texts for my plan (my parents don’t text), but now I have a 2GB data plan to go along with it. I have been using it quite a bit, but I’ll save details for the rest of the review.
With that said, know that my perspective on the phone is going to be from the perspective of a person who just got a smartphone for the first time. A lot of the features I may get excited about and write about extensively may be features you have used for years on a smartphone.
The most unique feature of the Droid RAZR MAXX is the Kevlar on the back of the phone. The design on the Kevlar is pretty nice and it feels pretty cool, but I don’t really see the need for the Kevlar except for the novelty aspect. It is pretty interesting to know that the material on the back of your phone in your pocket is used to make bulletproof vests – I’m curious to know how durable it really is. While I’m not going to test its durability for this review (sorry, I won’t point my gun at this phone), it is interesting to ponder whether your phone would stop a bullet should someone try to shoot you in the leg through your pocket. I seriously doubt it.
While I’m talking about the Kevlar, note that the phone comes with a protective plastic covering over the back of the phone. The plastic covering is roughly the same size of the Kevlar backplate, so it’s hard to notice. I did not notice this covering at first, and when it started to deform from the heat of the phone, I thought the Kevlar was melting! Don’t worry – even though it seems like you’re peeling the Kevlar off, you’re really peeling off the plastic covering. Peel away.
My last phone was an LG Cosmos with a 1.3 megapixel camera. The Droid RAZR MAXX has a camera on both sides, making video chatting possible. The front-facing camera (on the side with the screen) is a 2 megapixel camera, and the rear camera is a nice 8 MP 1080p camera. I’m not used to carrying such a nice camera around in my pocket; both cameras take better quality pictures than the camera on my old phone. The really bright flash with the 8 MP camera makes this phone a legitimate replacement for a camera to me.
The flash also has other benefits besides use with the camera. You can download a flashlight app to control your flash manually. I’d definitely recommend installing Tiny Flashlight by Nickolay Ananiev on Google Play – you’ll thank me once you’ve used it walking across the yard in the dark.
I like the screen on this phone, but I suspect its durability isn’t the best. When a certain section of the screen is at a certain level of gray, one irregularly shaped part of the screen seems darker than the rest of the screen. I don’t notice it enough for it to really bother me, but I’m just afraid that if it is damaged, it might get damaged more. I do have the insurance for the phone, but I have everything set up the way I want it, so I don’t really want to return it.
Otherwise, I like the screen. I don’t have a problem with seeing it in any light, and there is an auto brightness feature if you prefer it. Even though your fingers are all over the screen, it somehow tends to remain relatively fingerprint-free. When looking at battery usage, the display is often the most power-hungry part of the phone, so if you run low on battery life often with the RAZR MAXX, you may want to consider your display settings as a possible suspect.
The Droid RAZR MAXX comes with a SIM card that must be installed in the phone prior to turning it on. I had never used a phone that required a SIM card, so I was confused for a few minutes when I first turned the phone on only to be told “No SIM card, so I’m not turning on!”
The SIM card holds data about your phone number, your account, etc. so that when you want to change phones, you can just transfer the SIM card. You can find the SIM card with the RAZR MAXX alongside the instructions and manuals, but it’s concealed in a little cardboard protector. You’ll have to take out the perforated card (which is about the size of a credit card) and pop the SIM card out of the center of the card. Open the side door on the left of the phone (Keep pulling, it’s kind of hard to open at times) and push the card into its slot just like you would insert a SD Card or MicroSD card.
While I’ve mentioned MicroSD cards, this phone comes with a 16 gigabyte MicroSD card. Don’t worry about buying a SD card for the phone.
The power cord is simple enough, but I wish it was a little longer. It’s about a meter long, and it has a detachable end using USB, so you can plug your phone into either an outlet or a USB port. The detachable end has an AC plug that folds, so you don’t have to worry about stabbing your luggage with your phone charger while traveling. It’s also small enough that you won’t be wasting outlet space while charging; it won’t cover your other outlets.
The RAZR MAXX has speakers right beside the 8 MP camera. While these speakers naturally won’t give you the best bass or the best quality sound, I have used the phone quite a number of times to listen to my music rather than my laptop. Pandora with this phone would work wonderfully, but I’ve been reluctant to use something so data-intensive so far.
The phone comes with the standard Android buttons at the bottom of the screen (options, home, back, and search). These buttons are nice, but they are too easy to slide your finger across and activate. I’ve hit the search button numerous times while holding the phone sideways to play a game, and hitting home while using an app is rather annoying. Sometimes bumping back while inserting data into a form on a page inside the browser will make me lose the data (usually a forum post). Overall, those accidental touches don’t pose too much of a problem for me.
The Droid RAZR MAXX was named for its battery, and the battery does not disappoint. At this moment I’ve had my phone unplugged for 16 hours and I’m still at 69 percent of my battery life. I’ve been playing music for a decently long time while writing this post, and I’ve been using my phone and looking at various things while writing. I’ve only once dropped below 40 percent, and that is when I was downloading the ICS update late in the day with the phone searching desperately for a signal.
The battery indicator on the phone isn’t very descriptive, so I installed an app to display my battery level in the bar along with my notifications. I use the Battery Indicatior app by Darshan Computing which also lists the battery temperature and how long the phone has been unplugged.
Finally, there are a number of LEDs on the phone beside the front-facing camera, and they’re kind of cool. There’s a purple one that Yahoo Messenger uses to alert you of new messages and there’s a green LED for normal notifications. With a little research, I find that there’s also a red LED, but it’s mainly used for low battery notifications.
Given that this is my first smartphone, I am blown away by how much you can do with the phone. I can create documents readable by Microsoft Office software, install any app imaginable, read a book, or do just about anything else I would ever want to do on this phone. I’ll go through just a few things that I find to be important since I’ll probably bore anyone who has ever owned a smartphone.
Operating System – Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS)
The Droid RAZR MAXX will probably have an older version of the Android operating system installed when you take it out of the box, but you will shortly be prompted to install an update. This update is the new Ice Cream Sandwich, or ICS update. The update will automatically install at some point, so don’t bother putting it off – you might as well get used to it. Downloading updates won’t affect your data plan, so if you use a limited-bandwidth Internet connection as I do, just use your data connection.
ICS allows for the screenshots that are seen in this post. Just press the power button and the volume down keys at the same time. If you don’t get the screenshot sound and visual effect, don’t hold the buttons too long. I hear that’s how you restart the phone in case something freezes as you can’t pull out the battery. It should take a screenshot after holding the buttons for about a second.
ICS also removes the task manager, which I used quite a lot before my phone updated. I miss it, but I haven’t had an instance where I really needed to end something yet. I do prefer to have control over what’s running on my system, but I guess that task will now be Android’s problem, not mine.
Email and Social Networking
The ability to check my email from anywhere is awesome. I have missed an email or two while at school just because of the sheer number of emails I receive. The ability to see and act upon an email the moment I receive it will greatly reduce my chances of missing an email.
This phone has also added to my interest in Twitter. Being able to read tweets from anywhere adds enormous value to the service which, in it’s online version, seems rather limited.
Tapatalk is a plugin for forum software that allows access to a forum via a Tapatalk client. I use the Convo Tapatalk client, and it makes it really easy to keep up with the posts on my forum and on others. You can’t post new threads and do a number of other things via the free Convo client, and I use it enough that I’m considering buying the official Tapatalk client. If you are active in forums, I would suggest installing a Tapatalk app on your smartphone to keep up with the posts.
With MotoCast set up on my laptop, I can access the files on my laptop from my phone at any time. Unfortunately, you can’t access files on your phone via the MotoCast software on your computer (as far as I know – if you can, let me know!), but you can use the RAZR MAXX to move files directly to your computer. All you have to do is set up certain folders in the MotoCast computer software to which your phone is granted access. There’s no need to connect your phone to your computer.
Make switching to the Swype keyboard on your Android-powered smartphone the first thing you do. It took me about two or three days to get used to the keyboard, but once I did, there was no looking back. I was composing forum posts with ease in no time, and I can reply to a text with a detailed reply immediately. Just slide your finger through the letters in the word you would like to insert and the phone will insert that word into your text field. Note that there are some combinations of letters that can be used with more than one word (for example, when I try to use the word “too”, the phone always assumes I’m trying to use “to”), but there are tricks to get around those shortcomings. Check out the Swype documentation for ways to use the keyboard more effectively!
Sending Web Pages to Your Computer
I realized after a few days of using my phone that I often stumble across a web pages with interesting content while using my phone, but reading something like a blog post on my RAZR MAXX’s screen is very taxing on my eyes. I installed the 2cloud app on my phone and the related app for Chrome on my laptop, and now I can send a web page directly to my laptop for reading! All I have to do to send the page to my laptop is press the settings button, select share page, select the 2cloud app, and click “Share”. The page then loads in Chrome for easy viewing.
However, I have not been able to get the computer to load a shared page if the computer isn’t on with Chrome open. If you now how to do this, let me know.
The TL;DR: This Phone is Legit
There are so many things I can do on this phone now that I couldn’t do on my old phone without data access and access to apps. Since I’m usually online all the time, there is no way I’m going back to a regular phone after using the Droid RAZR MAXX. If you’re in the market for a new smartphone, I would highly recommend this phone.
Did I miss something? Ask me about a certain feature of my phone in the comments! If you enjoyed this post and would like to be notified of future posts, check out the subscribe box in the sidebar to the right!