We saw a couple of big announcements in the Android world yesterday: Motorola's new flagship DROID RAZR and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Since Verizon customers at least may soon have to make a hard choice, we've put up a direct comparison between the two devices. Which one will reign supreme at the top of the Android heap?
Both devices feature a Super AMOLED screen, which by our reckoning is just about the best out there ate the moment. Technically the Galaxy Nexus' screen is larger at 4.65 inches to the DROID RAZR's 4.3, but as we reported earlier, that extra real-estate will mostly be used by Ice Cream Sandwich's soft navigation buttons, and since the RAZR has the standard capacitive buttons, I invite you to judge for yourself which is better. What doesn't need any judgement is the resolution: the Galaxy Nexus features a 1280 x 720 screen, while the DROID RAZR uses a less sharp but still impressive 960 x 540. This is a big deal for resolution junkies, but honestly, many won't be able to tell the difference - if you've never found yourself counting pixels on your phone's screen before, rest assured that either device will blow you away. The choice here depends on whether you prefer the standard capacitive navigation buttons or Ice Cream Sandwich's virtual ones.
Processor and RAM
The Galaxy Nexus and the DROID RAZR both use a dual-core 1.2Ghz processor and a full gigabyte of memory, matching up with the latest of high-end Android smartphones. But here the Nexus has a slight edge: the Samsung phone uses the TI OMAP4460 model, while the RAZR uses OMAP4430. The difference is in the graphics processor, and on that score, the Nexus wins out. The difference between the two is subtle, but definitely quantifiable. Also, the 4460 is designed to run at clocks speeds of up to 1.5GHz, so overclockers should have an easy time getting even more speed out of the Galaxy Nexus. Both phones will start at 16GB of internal memory, with some models of the Nexus getting a bump up to 32GB.
As much as we love Samsung's Galaxy line of phones, the DROID RAZR is undeniably slick, with its exposed 7.1mm steel frame and Kevlar accents. The Motorola phone will turn heads wherever it goes, whereas the Galaxy Nexus just looks like a Galaxy S II with some curvy design elements. For strength and style the RAZR wins out, but don't forget that it's sacrificing a removable battery. Both phones use Gorilla Glass for their large screens, so durability shouldn't be a problem. Both phones will have HSPA+ or LTE depending upon which market they're being sold in - the international version of the DROID RAZR will simply be known as the Motorola RAZR.
Samsung will shout to the heavens that their 5 megapixel CMOS sensor is superior to other 8 megapixel phone cameras like the DROID RAZR's, but until we can hold both phones in our hands and do some direct comparisons, we're going to have to give this one to Motorola. We've taken a few shots with both phones, and while each is a solid shooter, in an ideal situation I want as many pixels as I can get. Assuming that the DROID RAZR will have access to Ice Cream Sandwich's enhanced camera software at some point, it should be able to best the Galaxy Nexus.
Technically speaking, the DROID RAZR has the larger battery of the two, at 1800 mAh to 1750 mAh. But I'm giving this one to the Galaxy Nexus on account of its being a traditional removable battery. The DROID RAZR's will be non-removable. Motorola can say all they like about extended battery managers in the software (and the other customizations they add aren't going to help), but at the end of the day, nothing's going to beat a quick battery swap when you're on the run.
It hardly seems fair to compare a developer phone to a standard Android handset, but given Motorola's awful track record when it comes to updates, it should be an important factor in your purchasing decision. The simple fact is that the DROID RAZR won't be on the Galaxy Nexus' level of Ice Cream Sandwich for several months at the least, and when it finally is upgraded, you can rely on Motorola to supply their generally undesirable "UI enhancements" and slow down the experience.
Motorola is touting their new MotoCast as a cloud initiative, but in reality, it's remote file access. While that's certainly appreciated, it requires you to keep a computer on at home at all times - something that might not be typical in a laptop-dominated market. The fact that much of its functionality is duplicated with real cloud services like Google Music, Google Docs and Dropbox doesn't help. The rest of Motorola's customizations aren't exactly bad, but they do slow down Android, and most of us would prefer a "clean" Android experience on the Nexus.
Even worse, the mod community probably won't be able to bring Ice Cream Sandwich any sooner, since Motorola and Verizon have made the infuriating decision to lock the bootloader. That means that custom ROMs will likely be stuck with the latest kernel that Motorola provides, and you won't see Ice Cream Sandwich on the DROID RAZR any sooner than Motorola wants you to. The Galaxy Nexus will have better software from day one, and unless Motorola shows a shocking change in corporate policy, it's likely to stay that way.
Do you even need to ask? For superior software, an incredible screen resolution, a slight edge in hardware and a removable battery, the Galaxy Nexus wins in a knockout. If hardware was the only consideration the DROID RAZR might have held up on style alone, but the locked bootloader means RAZR owners won't be getting Ice Cream Sandwich in any capacity for several months at the least. Since the leaked price for the Galaxy Nexus matches the $299 MSRP of the DROID RAZR, there's just no reason not to go with Google's official developer phone, at least until we get both of them in for a full review. Now we've just got to wait for both of them to become available.
Galaxy Nexus Hands-on
Ice Cream Sandwich Hands-on
And our hands-on of the Motorola DROID RAZR:
Motorola DROID RAZR hands-on: