Motorola’s Droid Razr has proven to be a commercial success for Motorola and Verizon. One reason was because how stunningly thin the Razr is at just 7.1mm.

The Droid Razr Maxx isn’t thin. It’s the same phone, but 9mm thick. Why? That extra 1.9mm is all battery. And that makes all the difference in the world. Let’s see why.

Size

The Droid Razr is a better size than the iPhone 4S, both with a larger 4.3″ display and 2mm thinner. The Razr Maxx doesn’t have that second benefit, and is almost the exact same thickness as the 4S. The only difference then is the length and width, which the Maxx is certainly larger.

Whether or not a bigger phone is better is questionable, but the combination of a larger screen and thinner body certainly help. In this case however, the Razr Maxx, thanks to the overall design, doesn’t look or feel as small and comfortable as the iPhone 4S.

Winner: iPhone 4S, which is smaller and barely thicker, but a more comfortable and less dense device.

Appearance

Between the Droid Razr and iPhone 4S, it’s a tough call. Does the glass front and back sandwiching a metal band beat out hardened plastic and kevlar? Very tough, but once again the thinness set the Razr on a pedestal. With the Maxx, it’s the same general body but bigger. Fatter. It looks just as good from the front, but like a they say about mullets, it’s business in the front, party in the back. And this party’s got back.

Winner: iPhone 4S, thanks to stunning design and the Razr Maxx just being fat.

Display

Unlike some recent Android phones, the Droid Razr maxed out at 960×540, which is a slightly lower resolution than the iPhone 4S’, with 960×640. That means lower pixel density, so the screen won’t appear as clear as the iPhone. The Droid Razr Maxx has the same exact screen, a Super AMOLED display, which will provide better color and light contrast but is harder to see in bright conditions and isn’t quite as clear for reading text. The bigger problem isn’t the comparison between LCD and OLED, but the resolution itself. As a 4.3″ phone, it should have at least the same screen resolution, but it doesn’t.

Winner: iPhone 4S, with a smaller but higher-density display with a better screen resolution.

Operating System

This one should be a draw. After extensively testing Android 4.0 (full review coming soon), I like it. It’s a far better OS than Android 2.3, enough to make Apple concerned. But the Droid Razr Maxx doesn’t ship with Android 4.0. It ships with 2.3.5, and can be upgraded, but not the normal way. It’s not a simple “click to update” process, which for the vast majority of consumers is a problem. The 4.0 release is available for the Maxx, but isn’t officially supported by Motorola just yet. If it were, it would be a definite tie.

Winner: iPhone 4S, because the Maxx isn’t shipping with Android 4.0, and upgrading to the far better OS version isn’t a simple one-step process.

Processor

Processor speed and power is really based on how the software utilizes it, but based on speed alone the Droid Razr Maxx is a faster chip at 1.2GHz. It has the same ARM Cortex A9 build, which gives the Maxx 400MHz over the iPhone 4S. This makes the CPU alone potentially more powerful than the iPhone 4S’ A5, but we’ll have to see how well Android can make use of it.

What really wins this is the battery life. More powerful CPUs require more power, so it’s not always better for the phone as a whole. With the additional battery life, the CPU power almost doesn’t matter. If anything, I wish Motorola gave the CPU a speed boost in light of the bigger battery, but even without it, the processor is 50% faster than the iPhone.

Winner: Droid Razr Maxx, with a beefier CPU.

Storage

The iPhone 4S has three models: 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. The Razr Maxx has 16GB of internal memory and is expandable with 32GB cards. With excellent pricing on flash storage these days, the Maxx is a better choice even if it doesn’t have as much space as the iPhone because SD cards can easily be swapped in and out.

Winner: Droid Razr Maxx, because flash memory is cheap and the Maxx has expandable memory.

Wireless Connectivity

The Razr Maxx has Verizon LTE while the iPhone 4S is still stuck on AT&T’s “4G”, which is anywhere from 5-10x slower. ’nuff said.

Winner: Droid Razr Maxx, because it has LTE.

Camera

We’re expecting the Droid Razr Maxx, but based on initial reports and reviews of the Droid Razr, the iPhone 4S has a stronger camera. We’ll have to test this for ourselves, to be sure, but by all accounts the iPhone 4S wins this bout. I’ve been using the iPhone 4S camera as well, and so far haven’t found a better smartphones camera that wasn’t a Nokia device. And even that’s a stretch.

Winner: iPhone 4S, because the Droid Razr camera isn’t as good and the Maxx shares the same camera.

Battery Life

The one major change to the Droid Razr to make it the Maxx is the battery. It takes up another 1.9mm of space alone, thickening the body from the previous industry-standard slim 7.1mm. And what did Motorola do with that space? Shove in a mind-boggling 3300mAh battery, which nearly doubles the iPhone’s 1420mAh battery. 21.5 hours of talk time? 6 hours of continuous video streaming over LTE? Nothing gets that close, except for tablets, and even they can’t claim such ridiculous battery live. Nothing can compete with that.

Winner: Droid Razr Maxx, with the largest smartphone battery ever used, almost doubling the iPhone 4S and nearly every other phone out today.

Carriers

The iPhone is available on AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. Any phone named Droid is owned by Verizon, since they own the copyright, so the Droid Razr Maxx is also a Verizon exclusive. This has been a serious problem for non-Verizon users who wanted the Droid Razr, and it’ll happen again with the Maxx.

Winner: iPhone 4S, which is available on more carriers.

Price

The iPhone 4S is $200 base, and $300 for the 32GB model and $400 for 64GB. The Droid Razr Maxx ships for $300, which ships with less memory. With an extra $30 you can get a 32GB SD card and more closely match the iPhone, but even then it’s more expensive. Verizon also has the most expensive service pricing, compared to both Sprint and AT&T.

Winner: iPhone 4S, with more pricing options and better service pricing across multiple carriers.

Overall Winner

It may seem like a big gap, but it really isn’t. I added two points for the Droid Razr Maxx because it practically doubles the battery life of the iPhone 4S, and because battery life is an extremely important aspect of smartphones that most of us don’t put too much weight behind because battery life generally sucks. It doesn’t on the Maxx. Battery life makes the Maxx worthwhile.

What keeps the Razr Maxx from winning, or at least tying, is the lack of an easy Android 4.0 upgrade. If the Maxx shipped with Android 4.0, or if Motorola offered it as an easy upgrade, then it would be a no brainer for most users. The problem is only educated users will even know how to do it, and many won’t want to because the OS isn’t fully tested on the device.

The Maxx was also a perfect opportunity for Motorola to improve in a few key areas, including the CPU, but the company didn’t. They made the Maxx the exact same phone as the Droid Razr, just with a bigger battery. And there’s nothing wrong with that; the Razr is only a few months old and is still considered an excellent phone. However, every part was developed specifically for that phone. The Maxx wasn’t. It was developed as the smaller Droid Razr…with a bigger battery. That larger battery life isn’t taken full advantage of, and that’s a shame.

However, even though the Maxx doesn’t win this comparison, just remember that for some of us battery life is the most important thing. If the phone doesn’t last all day for you today, the Droid Razr Maxx is the best phone you can get. If only it wasn’t tied to Verizon, then I would consider switching over myself.



James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.