Android Dilemma: Samsung Galaxy Nexus or Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx?

I'm starting to believe that Droid RAZR Maxx is the best Android on the market right now - though I lament that it means sacrificing the original's sublime thin design. Can't we have it all?!

Which is the better phone, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus or Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx?

It likely depends if you prefer to run the latest and greatest OS (Android 4, aka Ice Cream Sandwich on Nexys) or value impressively long battery life (2x the talk time of the “original” on Maxx).

For any Android upgraders out there, this is a tough call.

At the end of 2011 hundreds of thousands of us OG Droid owners (November 2009) came off Verizon contracts. Then the three top runners for upgrades were the HTC Rezound, Motorola DROID Razr and Samsung Galaxy Nexus (for the patient… it finally landed in December). I flirted with Nexus, a fine handset by Samsung, but ultimately sacked it because of what I called atrocious battery life. I wasn’t alone. Scores of others returned the handset. It was love, hate. We love ICS, and the fast performance. But that battery life – woe! I’m not one to carry multiple chargers, and constantly babysit my Android’s energy use; so unfortunately I had to look for another option.

CES was a disappointment. There are far bigger issues at play that I’ll cover in the coming days and weeks. The short form: it’s dead, dead, dead. Irrelevant. Keynotes were dull reenactments of press releases. What happened to the glory days of surprises, vision? And when it came to Androids, I admit to be being way off the mark in predicting that quad-core would be a big deal. It wasn’t. Although there were some quad-core based tablets here and there, Android smartphone news was lackluster (though the Sony Xperias and Huawei Ascend are welcome additions). Instead, look to Mobile World Conference (MWC). My suggestion: combine CES and NAIAS. Cars are morphing into smartphones anyways and are the hottest consumer gadgets out there.

Since quad-core was a no show, my plan to skip Nexus and wait a few months before upgrading my trusty, but severely slow OG Droid has backfired. There’s nothing compelling and new.

Now I find myself back in the upgrade game: Samsung Galaxy Nexus or Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx? (I could throw the Droid 4 into the mix, but I hardly every use the slider on my Droid, so it’s time to go full-time virtual keyboard). To the tape:

Nexus (full review)

4.65-inch Super AMOLED
Dual-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A9
720 x 1280
1.5 MP / 5 MP cameras
1,750 mAh battery
Android 4 (ICS)

Key advantages: runs the latest and greatest.

Tip: don’t buy it from retailer, you can get a Nexus for only $220 via Amazon Wireless.


4.3-inch Super AMOLED
Dual-core 1.2 GHz
540 x 960
1.3 MP / 8 MP cameras
3,300 mAh battery
Android 2.3.5 (Gingerbread)

Key advantages: thin (but at 8.9mm not as thin as original), stylish, kevlar, Google Wallet, battery life!

Droid RAZR Maxx: sacrifices thin for battery life. Is it worth it? (Photo: Slashgear)

I’m starting to believe that Maxx may be the best Android on the market right now – though I lament that it means sacrificing the original’s sublime thin design. Can’t we have it all?!

I don’t see much advantage to Nexus. If you want it and need it now – ICS that is – then no doubt it’s your smartphone of choice. But, man, that dreaded battery life is a real (mobile) burn; to be fair, I should point out that many out there claim to go for days on a charge (read the comments here for the he said/she said drama) – power to them, my test unit would go dead in a matter of hours, not even coming close to making it through 8 hours away from a charger.

The other option is to keep waiting. MWC is just around the corner, and surely quad-core will be landing.

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  • Gaulkes

    I (apparently) paid $100 for the privilege of owning a Droid RAZR for a whole extra month; now that it’s dropped to $199, it’s a steal compared to the Maxx in my opinion.  My message is simple: Don’t feel that you need the 2x battery.  I typically have 30-50% left at the end of a busy work day in which I’ll make numerous calls & texts (I’m in sales), navigate to businesses, look a few things up online, listen to music while tracking my run via GPS, and check email and google reader a few times as well. 

  • Anonymous

    How is this a comparison? the Nexus was a 1,750 mAh battery, and the MAXX has a 3,300 mAh battery.   Just get a higher capacity battery for your Nexus when available. Its not like the phones have the same mAh rating.

  • realtyagent

    I, too, was the owner of the original Droid and waited and waited..thought I wanted the Bionic, but when it came out it had no “wow” factor for me….so then I waited and waited again for the Galaxy Nexus….  I love this phone…the one downside is the terrible battery life…even for someone who doesn’t spend the day watching movies… I solved the problem by buying two enhanced batteries; one is in the phone and the other, fully charged, is in a small pouch in my purse…  this may not work for the guys, but works for me…got the batteries from Verizon for $24+ each on sale…

  • scatman

    How about the nexus is a pure google phone supported by google directly! No messing around with vzw or samsung for updates, that makes it far ahead of the competition IMO. pluse the extended battery was available the same time the phone was.. and discounted by 50%
    NEXUS wins .

    • Bob

      Nexus does not win at all. The hardware is CHEAP. I own the Razr and it is amazing – fast and solid. The only people that care about incremental updates that the Nexus will allegedly get faster are nerds. The Razr with ICS will be good to go for a long time and no update will be necessary til the contract is up again. There may not even be another major OS overhaul for a couple years anyway. Get the Razr, trust me.

  • Chris Long

    I was in the exact same position as you, off contract on my OG droid and waiting. Recently bought the Nexus and I love it. I could not go multiple days on a charge for sure, but I can easily go one full day. The removable battery alone would have pushed me towards the Nexus over the razr – batteries just don’t last 2+ years. There will be bigger and better batteries, and unlike those who bought razrs or iphones… I don’t need a new phone to take advantage. I would be really PO’d right now if I had the first razr and knew there was a better battery I couldn’t use.

    I have to say, I do like the look and feel of the razr better; Moto makes nice phones. But it’s not a Nexus.

  • Trob6969

    After researching the razr and the galaxy nexus i ditched the idea of upgrading my og moto droid for either of them. I dont wear ‘skinny’ jeans so the razr doesnt appeal to me, and i can wait for ics so neither does the galaxy nexus. I upgraded to the phone with the superior specs, the htc rezound. Im glad i did!

    • Rageboardr

      I too picked up the Nexus for three days, and returned it because if the battery, and i didnt care for the pure ICS experience. It didn’t seem polished, and i really missed the dedicated search button at the bottom of the screen. My brother had the Razr, and also had a tough time with the battery life. I purchased the Rezound and havent looked back. It definitely outlasts my brothers Razr, as we gamed together for three hours till his phone died. i still had 39% battery. Also the Razr takes forever to charge.

  • Bill Kilpatrick

    This debate is immaterial.  The quality of both the Razr and the Nexus are such that you can’t go wrong with either.  I know because I’ve owned both and loved what I had in each case.  Their differences don’t amount to much compared to the fact that both sport large Super AMOLED screens, with terrific processors, and both at 4G LTE, unlike the iPhone.

    The Razr has a nicer build to it – with Gorilla glass on the front and Kevlar on the back – but I prefer the Nexus’s decision to put the jacks at the bottom rather than the top.

    The Nexus has ICS and, without haptic buttons, does a better job of using all of its slightly larger display, which has greater pixel density, though I found the contrast and vividness of Super AMOLED – on both phones – to be much more dramatic than the Nexus’s superior pixel count.  

    The Razr has memory card expandability (which the Nexus doesn’t) while the Nexus allows battery swaps (which the Razr doesn’t).  In either case, it’s a wash for me, as I don’t need either.  

    The Nexus camera scandal is also a wash.  The Razr has an 8 mp camera while the Nexus’s camera is 5 mp.  Attempts to expose its “weaknesses” have focused on comparatively grainy, sometimes washed-out, pictures of objects similarly shot by other cameras, particularly the iPhone 4S.  Such issues really come down to exposure setting.    Because the Super AMOLED screen has greater contrast, producing blacker blacks, its default auto-setting tends to overcompensate.  Manually adjusting the exposure level and the white balance produces some pretty sweet pictures.

    In the end, I found that the 4G speeds, eye-popping displays and variety of cool Android  apps available to both phones eclipse the other differences.  If you can get the Razr for less, go for it.  I prefer ICS to Gingerbread but even there, I found the glories of ICS to matter less to me than the speed and pop both phones sport.

  • Anonymous

    please read this if you want the truth about the Razr Maxx’s battery

  • motorola droid

    Razr Maxx build quality, stainless steel core, gorilla glass, kevlar
    back…is much more of a premium phone than the Galaxy Nexus, which
    feels cheap, it’s very plasticky. Having the better battery life and
    having to wait for a month or 2 for ICS is a no brainer, then you’d have
    the best of both worlds.