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The Motorola Droid Razr should have gone Maxx to start with

The Droid Razr Maxx's serendipitous start makes CNET's Jessica Dolcourt wonder why Motorola's original Droid Razr focused on rakishness over performance in the first place.

Jessica Dolcourt Editorial Director, Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt's career with CNET began in 2006, and spans reviews, reporting, analysis and commentary for desktop software; mobile software, including the very first Android and iPhone apps and operating systems; and mobile hardware, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of practical advice on expansive topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
Expertise Team leadership, audience engagement, iPhone, Android, iOS, tips and FAQs.
Jessica Dolcourt
Morotola Droid Razr
Do we really need two Droid Razrs? Sarah Tew/CNET

commentary The birth of the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx's extra-large battery may have been unintended, but it shouldn't have been.

Motorola's stars aligned, CNET learned, when an engineer began experimenting with a thicker, but more muscular battery than what's in the original Droid Razr. Moto's CEO Sanjay Jha loved it, Verizon came around, and as a result, the Droid Razr Maxx goes on sale today for $300, just months after the otherwise nearly-identical Droid Razr hit shelves in November.

The battery capacity and resulting thickness truly are the two devices' only differences. Where the Droid Razr ships with a 1,780mAh battery, the Razr Maxx packs a supersized lithium-ion juice pack of 3,300mAh. The extra-large battery boasts almost twice the talk time of the original (21 hours versus 12.5), but is only slightly thicker (0.35-inch deep at its thickest width versus 0.28-inch thick).

Beyond those variations, the two Droid Razrs share the same large, gorgeous screen, Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS with Motorola's Motoblur skin on top, and identical cameras, processors, and other specs.

So what's the problem? The Droid Razr Maxx is good for Motorola and Verizon customers. It doubles battery capacity without being bulky, and its presence lowered the price of the original, so people can spend $200 on a Droid Razr superphone, if $300 seems too steep.

Still, I can't help but wonder this: If Motorola had the resources to build a beautiful, cutting-edge superphone with the Razr Maxx's, then why not pour efforts into that device in the first place? Sourcing the batteries clearly wasn't a problem, if Motorola was able to produce the amped-up phones so quickly.

Instead, Motorola's first stab at the Droid Razr focused on getting the phone as thin as possible, creating a striking, yet austere look that some found mildly uncomfortable to hold--including Motorola's own CEO.

Now I'm not saying that the original Droid Razr is a waste of a device. Not at all. In fact, it earned CNET's Editors Choice award, a rare feat. However, had the original Droid Razr never existed, the beefier Maxx would have still given Motorola several advantages.

First, it's still slim enough to handle the catchy "Razr" moniker. Second and more importantly, Moto would have started making a name for itself based on a battery life unmatched by rivals. Samsung, HTC, and the gang would have caught up sooner rather than later, but having the early lead could have pushed instant sales during the busy holiday season against the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the first (and so far only) U.S. handset shipping with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

Motorola Droid Razr Maxx for Verizon (photos)

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Of course, it's easy to skewer Motorola for what it should have done, when in fact, some fast action on its part led to two excellent Razr devices in a short period of time. Still, I hope that Moto applies what it learned to future phones and continues to push on performance.

Its Droid Razr Maxx may be the first U.S. Android smartphone with this battery capacity, a worthy achievement, but the serendipitous genesis of the Razr Maxx leads me to believe that Motorola has been focusing too intently on the wrong things.

Next time, instead of spending R&D dollars making a phone as rakish as possible (an empty victory as far as I'm concerned), Motorola should channel its energy into making reasonable-size phones as powerful and as efficient as they can.

Now is its chance.