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Torn between two Motorola Droids: Droid 4 or Droid Razr Maxx

Having trouble deciding between the new Droid 4 and the Droid Razr Maxx? Or anxious for an HTC phone with Ice Cream Sandwich? Ask Maggie offers some advice.

Don't you wish you could have it all? Sadly, sometimes we can't, especially when it comes to smartphones.

In this edition of Ask Maggie, I help a reader decide between two Motorola Droid smartphones. The new Droid 4, which comes with a full-QWERTY keyboard or the Droid Razr Maxx, a flashy new touch-screen device with the longest battery life of any 4G LTE device on the market. I also offer some advice to an Android customer who is patiently waiting for HTC to introduce a new smartphone with Ice Cream Sandwich.

Physical keyboard vs. Long battery life

Dear Maggie,
I am really torn. I am a Verizon Wireless customer. I'm eligible for a new phone, and I am looking for a new Google Android smartphone. I've been using the Droid 2. Now I am considering getting the Droid 4 or the Razr Maxx. I really like having a physical keyboard. And I'm not sure I want to give that up. But I've heard great things about the Razr Maxx and its long battery life. So which should I chose?


Dear Nate,
Your dilemma comes down to a very fundamental choice. Do you want a physical keyboard more than you want a better battery life?

Motorola Droid Razr Maxx

The Droid 4 and the Razr Maxx are both 4G LTE devices. And many of the other specs on the devices match up as well. They each have 8-megapixel cameras. They use the same dual-core 1.2GHz GHz processor.

The biggest difference between the devices is the the Droid 4 has the physical keyboard, and the Razr Maxx, as you mentioned, has a bigger and longer-lasting battery.

Each of these devices supports 4G LTE, which is great. That means you'll be able to download Web pages and e-mail much faster than on a 3G network. On average, Verizon says that users get between 10Mbps and 12 Mbps download speeds on 4G, which is much faster than typical 3G service.

But the one downside to all this speed is that most devices on a 4G LTE network have terrible battery life. In fact, I'd say the No. 1 complaint among 4G device owners is that their battery doesn't generally last them through the day. They must recharge their devices, even when they aren't using it much, because the 4G network eats up the power so much.

Thanks to its standard Li-ion 3300 mAh battery, the Droid Razr Maxx is able to provide significantly more battery life than any other 4G LTE phone on the market. In terms of raw specs, Motorola claims that the Droid Razr Maxx offers up to 21.5 hours of talk time and up to 380 hours of standby time. Meanwhile, the Droid 4 uses a standard Li-Ion 1785 mAh battery that can give up to 12.5 hours of continuous talk-time and up to 205 hours of standby time.

For me, I'd say that battery life is more important to me than the full physical keypad. I made the transition from a full keypad on an old Samsung Blackjack to the iPhone 3G more than two years ago, and I haven't looked back to the physical keyboard since. But I have tiny hands. If you are really attached to your physical keyboard than you may have different experience.

The other thing to consider is that the Razr Maxx is about $100 more than than the Droid 4, at least for the time being. The Droid 4 costs $200 with a two-year contract and the Razr Maxx is $300 with a contract. So if you're on a tight budget and you'd prefer the keyboard, then the Droid 4 is the device for you. And I think it will be a fine choice for you.

Motorola Droid 4

In all fairness, the Droid 4 battery life isn't horrible. It's not as bad as some of the earliest 4G LTE devices. I've been using the device for the past week, and I haven't noticed a major problem with the battery. But if you're a heavy user or you are moving in and out of LTE coverage a lot, then the battery may tend to drain faster than you'd like.

There are several things you can do the optimize the battery life of your device too. For example, you can turn off Wi-Fi when you're not using it. Dim the screen on the device. Turn off push notifications and location services. And even turn off 4G if it's killing the battery life. (These tricks will also help you conserve the battery life of your Droid Razr Maxx or any other smartphone for that matter.)

It's a shame that Motorola wasn't able to put the bigger battery in the Droid 4, as well. But if it had, you probably wouldn't have wanted to lug it around. The bigger battery on the Razr Maxx increased the size of the device over its predecessor the Droid Razr, which is the thinnest smartphone around. But because the Razr was already so thin, it didn't make the device feel too bulky. The same battery in the Droid 4, which already feels substantial with its slide-out keyboard, would likely have made you feel like you were lugging around a brick.

I think either smartphone is a good choice. So you will likely be happy with either one. I hope this advice was helpful. And good luck making your decision!

In love with HTC Android smartphones

Dear Maggie,
Ever since I upgraded my Droid Incredible to the Gingerbread update, it randomly reboots itself a number of times. And when it does this, it killed my 16GB Micro SD card, TWICE! I lost everything! Hence I am reaching my limit with the phone. My contract will be up in September, so I am interested in upgrading to a 4G phone. I am eligible for a new phone now before my contract ends. Should I upgrade now or wait? Despite the hype on the new Galaxy Nexus, the lack of a Micro SD card slot for memory increase is a huge minus. Also I really love my HTC Droid Incredible and its HTC Sense user interface before the "Gingerbreak" fiasco.

I would prefer another HTC phone, but I see that the HTC Rezound is not an Ice Cream Sandwich phone. I want to get a new phone with ICS pre-installed to avoid the upgrade nightmare. Will more great HTC with Ice Cream Sandwich come out this year and when? Or should I try another brand? Should I wait or upgrade now at a discounted price? September seems rather far away! I can be patient so long as my Droid Incredible works! And there is a phone worth waiting for!

Droid Incredible fan

Dear Droid Incredible fan,
I definitely think you should exercise patience and wait.

It takes a few months for handset makers, such as HTC, to get new software from Google, test it and then upgrade devices. The Ice Cream Sandwich flavor of Android has been out for a few months now, so HTC is expected to start updating current devices with the software as well as introduce new devices with ICS already installed.

In fact, earlier this month, HTC provided some information about its Ice Cream Sandwich updates. The company said via its Facebook page that the HTC Incredible S, HTC Desire S, HTC Desire HD, HTC Amaze 4G, HTC Evo 3D, and HTC Rezound will get Android 4.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich "later this year."

Some phones will be getting the updates sooner. For example the HTC Sensation, Sensation 4G, and Sensation XE phones are expected to get Ice Cream Sandwich updates by the end of March. And the Sensation XL will get it next.

Meanwhile, I am certain that HTC will also soon introduce new devices with Ice Cream Sandwich already installed. On Tuesday, there were reports circulating that an unannounced HTC smartphone running Ice Cream Sandwich has been spotted, according to the blog PhoneArena.

Unfortunately, I don't know when exactly new Ice Cream Sandwich HTC devices will hit the market. But my guess is that at least one will be announced in the next few months. And by summer we could see more.

I know that September seems like a long time away, but I think you'll probably be able to upgrade to a new HTC phone with Ice Cream Sandwich before then anyway. Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is right at the end of this month, HTC is expected to make some announcements there, too. So don't buy anything yet. If you already like HTC and its user interface, I don't see any reason why you would have to switch to a different manufacturer. Just hang in there a little while longer and you should be able to an Ice Cream Sandwich HTC smartphone by September. Good luck!

Ask Maggie is an advice column that answers readers' wireless and broadband questions. The column now appears twice a week on CNET offering readers a double dosage of Ask Maggie's advice. If you have a question, I'd love to hear from you. Please send me an e-mail at maggie dot reardon at cbs dot com. And please put "Ask Maggie" in the subject header. You can also follow me on Facebook on my Ask Maggie page.