Jan, 16 2015

There are a boat load of people trying to decide between the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the Motorola Droid RAZR. As you found out in my “First Impressions: Galaxy Nexus & Android 4.0” article, I’m one of them (and Kevin’s praises in his RAZR First Look didn’t help). It’s easy enough to take a look at side-by-side specs of the two phones, but I wanted to open a dialogue about each area of the device to help further the discussion of how these phones compare.

To preface this epic showdown, I’d like to proclaim that BOTH of these devices are beasts, and potential customers should be confident that regardless of which they choose, they’re probably making the right choice either way. In addition, both of these phones are unreleased, and we’ll be updating this article once we learn more from our full reviews.

DISPLAY

While the Droid RAZR has a solid screen of its own, the Galaxy Nexus display is larger, higher resolution, and Samsung’s Super AMOLED line of screens always seem to outshine the competition: literally. While both phones can display HD quality video, the Galazy Nexus stunning… and not just because of its larger size. (Winner: Galaxy Nexus)

SOFTWARE

While I have some slight hesitation about Android 4.0, they aren’t (mostly) concerns with the Galaxy Nexus itself, but rather the ideological direction of the Android Platform as a whole. From a tech elite standpoint, the Galaxy Nexus’ software is far ahead of the Droid RAZR’s as it debuts Android’s new version: Ice Cream Sandwich.

Features such as Face Unlock, Android Beam, and Instant Voice-to-Text are immediate improvements. Small touches to core apps – like pinch-to-zoom in the calendar and offline GMail search – go a long way. Added focus on widgets and mobile gestures are a natural progression that makes your device “feel” more advanced and a completely revamped UI and style with new fonts and a picturesque magazine feel make the Nexus uniquely modern.

But the Galaxy Nexus has a downfall: Android 4.0 has (at least it seems) a higher learning curve than the RAZR’s Android 2.3.x. But that’s a caveat more than an arguing point and the Galaxy Nexus doesn’t just “edge” the RAZR – it solidly defeats it. Still… one could understand how some people might prefer the software of Android 2.3.x on the Droid RAZR. (Winner: Galaxy Nexus)

CAMERA

Most consumers will see the 8MP camera on the RAZR and 5MP camera on the Galaxy Nexus, with identical megapixel counts on the front cams and think, “RAZR wins hands down. Obviously.”

They would be wrong. First of all, megapixels shouldn’t be the primary measuring stick of mobile cameras unless you’re printing out posters. Second of all, Samsung has a knack for making amazing mobile cams as I first noticed on my Droid Charge Review and have appreciated ever since. But it doesn’t stop there.

Thanks largely to Android 4.0’s software, the Galaxy Nexus software provides a vastly superior camera experience. There is zero-shutter lag which means as soon as you press the “take it” button, your picture snaps. This also enables the “rapid fire” or “burst” capabilities that mobile phones typically lack- a huge advantage. Pile on an awesome panoramic option that’s better than similar options and a very slick and intuitive UI and the Galaxy Nexus runs away with the camera category. (Winner: Galaxy Nexus)

CONNECTIVITY

This category is a succession of gives and takes. When you make a remarkably powerful mobile phone packed into teeny tiny dimensions, you’ve got to make sacrifices here and there. Both devices have 4G connectivity, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, MicroUSB ports, and 3.5mm headset jacks- current top-smartphone staples.

The differences?

  • Only the Galaxy Nexus has NFC – not something hugely important now, but a feature whose importance will grow over the life of a two year contract, starting with Android Beam.
  • Only the Droid RAZR has HDMI-out, allowing you to connect your phone to TVs and monitors for big screen viewing of movies, playing of games.
To many people, NFC and HDMI are more buzz words than practical power features, so let’s just say they cancel each other out. NFC might gain a lot of ground in the next two years, but we’re not going to give it the edge on the possibility that a specific standard takes off. How many people use the NFC on their Nexus S? I know I don’t. (Winner: Draw)

BATTERY

The Droid RAZR has a slightly larger battery than the Galaxy Nexus (1780 mAh to 1750 mAh) but just like camera megapixels, this number isn’t everything. More important are factors such as:

  • How big of a memory/battery hog are the features on the phone?
  • How efficient is the OS in the processing various types of data?
  • Any extenuating circumstances that would cause one to largely out perform the other?

This is an absolute tie, can’t even be discussed until the phone’s are in the wild and put to good use, and even then the results are subjective. If Android 4.0 involved significant advancements in battery efficiency this would be a different story, but it doesn’t so far as we’ve heard.
One potential pitfall of the Droid RAZR battery is that you can’t remove it. Like most anything this is probably part of a tradeoff whose other end is being more thin, more compact, and more sturdy, but for the purposes of this category, not being able to remove/replace the battery is enough of a fear (whether realistic or not) to give the ridiculously slim margin to the Galaxy Nexus.
Tie… at least until further notice. (Winner: Galaxy Nexus)

STORAGE

Because the Droid RAZR has a removeable MicroSD slot and higher storage capacity it enjoys a slight edge in this category. While it’s become a very public point of contention, think about how often you actually remove or replace your MicroSD card and think rationally about the important of this factor in your decision making process.

With more and more of computing moving to the cloud, it’s likely that MicroSD card slots will soon become a thing of the past. But because the cloud isn’t quite there, and the RAZR offers expandable/removeable memory, it wins the battle. With 16GB of internal memory and potentially 32GB of external storage the RAZR reaches 48GB of total storage while the Galaxy Nexus maxes out at its 32GB internal storage option. (Winner: Droid RAZR)

HORSEPOWER

They’ve got the exact same processor (the 1.2 GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4460) and the same amount of RAM (1GB), so it’s hard to argue this one. (Winner: Draw)

BUILD QUALITY

Save the best for last? While the “build quality” is often a matter of opinion, it cannot be overlooked in this comparison. It may normally be a subjective factor, but the Droid RAZR feels much sturdier while being both thinner AND lighter. And it’s not all perception: Gorilla Glass, Kevlar, Diamond Cut Aluminum Accents… the Galaxy Nexus may act/display superior but the Droid RAZR looks/feels superior. And that has to count for something (how much is up to you). (Winner: Droid RAZR)

WILDCARDS & KICKERS:

I’ve already stated that both of these phones are winners, but depending on your personal preferences you might lean one way or another. Here are a couple factors that have no clear winner, but should be considered when choosing between the two.

Galaxy Nexus = Future Proof, Droid RAZR = Future Promise
When will my device be upgraded to Android 4.X? Users are always eager to get the latest OS upgrade and the Galaxy Nexus – because of Google’s role in the phone’s creation – essentially stands first in line. Although Motorola is promising a swift upgrade to Android 4.0 from Android 2.3.x, Android fans have learned the hard way to buy phones based on their CURRENT state and not future promises (Case in point: the Motorola XOOM’s 4G upgrade). And then there is the potential of NFC to become a household utility.

Droid RAZR = Bullet Proof, Galaxy Nexus = Feather Weight
A common criticism Samsung phones receive is they’ve got a plasticky toy feel. On the flip side, others praise the same characteristic for it’s light portability. Far fewer people criticize Motorola for creating heavy/clunky phones, instead praising their weight and heft with compliments like “good build quality” and “feels nice in the hand”. In addition to perhaps FEELING more sturdy, the Droid RAZR is built with water-resistant Kevlar fiber and scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass. If durability and heft are primary preferences you seek in a phone, you’ll likely prefer the Droid RAZR. (Side note: a Samsung official told me the GN has Gorilla Glass but I have my doubts)

WINNER: Galaxy Nexus (technical victory)
Exceptions: see the 6 user types below

It’s tough to beat an Android Phone when Google partners in its creation from the ground up, but the Motorola Droid RAZR gets about as close as one could hope. Samsung didn’t exactly throw every snowball in their fort (ex: 5MP camera vs. 8MP camera), but they didn’t need to. Perhaps most of all, we may finally be learning that the purpose of the Nexus line of phones isn’t to blow other devices out of the water, but instead create a balanced harmony between the hardware and software without having to go overboard.

The Galaxy Nexus achieves that hardware/software feng shui, but leaves the door open for competitors like the Droid RAZR – with a tougher feel, alternative ports, more manageable size, etc – to make their own case for adoption. Don’t forget about Motorola’s accessories – such as the Laptop Dock and newly announced MOTO ACTV – which will work in tight integration with the RAZR. And then there is the intangible unexplainable desires: the RAZR was a truly iconic phone and “Droid” is the newest gadget icon… how cool would it be to have the nostalgically modern Droid RAZR?

So there you have it: two phones, both winners, requiring each person strongly investigate their gadget value system to determine which is the best to buy. If it’s too difficult, throw your hands up and choose the Galaxy Nexus: 2 years is a long contract and the future proof nature is the key kicker. Otherwise, find your smartphone horoscope below to determine your calling:

  1. Software obsessors: Galaxy Nexus
  2. Hardware obsessors: Droid RAZR
  3. Camera lovers: Galaxy Nexus
  4. Early adopting tech elite: Galaxy Nexus
  5. Average Joe: Droid RAZR
  6. Former RAZR Users Who Want To Return To Nostalgia: Droid RAZR
I think that’s how it goes: define the category most important to you, decide which phone is better in that category, and let that be the direction the wind blows you.

Head-to-Head Specs: Galaxy Nexus (left), Droid RAZR (right)

So what do you think?

Before either of these phones were announced (and specs/features known) we posted a poll asking which phone you want more and over 75% said they wanted the Galaxy Nexus. So now, with all the information revealed, we ask you again. Don’t forget to tell us WHY in the comments!

Don’t forget to check out our First impressions of the Galaxy Nexus and our first look at the Droid RAZR!

Check out the Droid RAZR Forum and the Galaxy Nexus Forum where conversations are already bumping!

[Note: this article will be revised after we fully review each product]

local_offer    Motorola  Motorola Droid RAZR  Resources  Samsung