Android Dilemma: Samsung Galaxy S III or Motorola RAZR HD?

But -- and this is a Big But -- here's the rub: I immediately upgraded to the S III before Verizon decided to pull the plug on grandfathered unlimited data plans.

King of Android: New Samsung Galaxy S III has got game, but is the Motorola RAZR HD a better choice?
King of Android: New Samsung Galaxy S III has got game, but is the Motorola RAZR HD a better choice?

The real summer blockbuster may very well be the battle royale now underway for Android supremacy. Manufacturers have stayed true to their word (from CES in January) that we’d see fewer Android smartphone models this year; instead we’d get Apple-like major launches. Sure enough, there are two models vying for your attention: the newly announced Samsung Galaxy S III and the upcoming Motorola RAZR HD. For upgraders or iPhone switchers (and I know many… what with the limited display size of the 4S, and inflexibility of iOS) the question remains: Which Android is the best – Samsung S III or Motorola RAZR HD?

As an OG Droid guy (November 2009) I passed on the Galaxy Nexus (bad battery) and waited and waited until finally the right Android came along. That was the Samsung Galaxy S III. Its predecessor was a smash hit. And the sim-less version I have — now rooted and running Ice Cream Sandwich — is testament to Samsung’s design prowess. Here’s hoping Apple gets off their high horse, and drops these fruitless, asinine, innovation stifling patent trolling vacations. Ultimately, competition is good for a free market, and, ultimately, consumers.

Here’s the thing. As soon as Verizon announced the S III last week I pre-ordered el pronto.

However, as I’m wont to do, I continued to research the upcoming Moto RAZR HD. Being an OG Droid owner, I’ve been impressed with Motorola’s build quality. And, there’s something about made … er, I mean designed … in America that feels right.

But I want to make the right choice.

Probably like a lot of you, I’ll be living with this new Android for years to come, so it’s got be as perfect as perfect can be. And the S III, while no doubt the best Android you can possibly order today (and smartly to be available on all major carriers: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile)  has a few shortcomings, that have me second-guessing my decision to go from OG Droid -> S III. But there’s at least one major, major reason why waiting for the RAZR HD might not be the best idea. More on that in a sec.

First, here’s a few of the reasons I’m considering cancelling my Galaxy S III pre-order and holding out for the upcoming Motorola Droid RAZR HD:

1. Kevlar 

Purported shot of the upcoming Motorola RAZR HD: Hmmmmm ... Kevlar!

Might sound weird to some of you, but I love that Kevlar backing and the overall rigidity and durability it adds to the device. Though I’ve yet to get my hands on the S III, it sounds like it is quite plastick-y. Not the worse thing in the world. The S II feels fine to me, but … Kevlar!

2. Better car dock, multimedia dock

It seems as though Motorola does a better job with accessories, specifically the car, and multimedia docks. These are both essential to me. I use Google Nav daily for our Stark Insider ventures which take us from Napa down to Carmel and up and down Silicon Valley.

3. Softkeys (like the Galaxy Nexus)

I like softkeys. The physical button on bottom-center of the S III has an old-school vibe (in a bad way). On the other hand, those softkeys as seen on the Nexus really give developers and future Android revs room to grow.

4. Battery life!

Okay, maybe this should be number 1 in terms of priority.

The S III will ship with a 2100mAh battery – keep in mind the screen is 4.8-inches (that’s large). Moto reportedly will up that by about 50% with 3300mAh of juice (same as the well performing RAZR Maxx). That’s a significant difference. I simply can’t stand running our of power in the middle of a work day- it can end up costing me money.

5. Anything but TouchWiz

Ultimately I prefer stock ICS/Android, as we see in the Galaxy Nexus. However, between Samsung’s TouchWiz and Motorola’s Blur/? I’d pick anything but TouchWiz.

While it matters less to me, the RAZR HD will also beat the S III when it comes to camera resolution (13 MP vs. 8 MP).

But — and this is a Big But — here’s the rub: I immediately upgraded to the S III before Verizon decided to pull the plug on grandfathered unlimited data plans. Thankfully my unlimited plan ported over with no issue (though it annoys me to no end out of principal, that Verizon charges a $30 “upgrade fee” to a loyal customer).

The risk is if I decide to cancel the S III, and wait for the Moto for the reasons mentioned above I risk not being able to port the unlimited plan when the RAZR HD comes out. Since we have no date yet on the new RAZR this can be cause for concern.

I’m oh-so-close to cancelling the S III and waiting for the RAZR HD, and taking the chance Verizon will give us ample notice before pulling the magical unlimited data carpet from underneath our stream-loving feet.

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  • rj5555

    After my last two experiences with Motorola the choice is real simple. Anything but Motorola.

    • Sky_Guy

      Agreed, three Moto Razrs and a Droid X with overheating problems not covered under warranty means count me out.

  • Rotch Groblin

    Here is one major reason you should not cancel your S3 preorder…the Razr HD hasn’t even been announced yet.

    I too was waiting for the Fighter now maybe Razr HD, but even that name isn’t known for sure. The leaked pictures are not for sure. What is the screen size? It used to be 4.8″ now it may be 4.6″. The release date, well that was a couple months ago…other than it didn’t pan out, and still hasn’t been announced, and in fact the latest rumor is that it is delayed. How do you delay a product that has not been announced and doesn’t have a release date? Not sure…

    Anyway, I would most likely go with the Motorola product also if I knew it was coming out soon (Have had many of their phones (currently Droid X), pagers, and worked there). I don’t know when it is coming out though…so S3 it is for me. Unless they announce something before the S3 ships and I can keep my unlimited data plan.

  • Yessir

    With so many Galaxy S3s out there on all major US carriers, it’d bet that an extended battery option will be available in the future. Either a cheapo from ebay or the more premium option from a more prominent name.

    • An extended battery for the S III would definitely tilt the table in its favor.

    • trob6969

      As popular as the s3 is, there will definitely be an extended battery available.

  • Steven Iams

    im in the same boat…choices choices err. If verizon would just carry the HTC One X i would grab that up in a heartbeat…

  • Discipulus

    I am in the same predicament, there’s a lot to like about both phone’s although I am erring on the side of the RAZR HD.

    For me I like my current Motorola Droid 2 Global so I am inclined to stick with them, I like what I have seen of Motorola’s build quality on the current RAZR MAXX and I love the idea of having a massive 3300 mAh battery standard.

    My guess is that the Motorola folks don’t want to have to compete for attention with the Galaxy SIII launch that’s happening right now and they also probably want to sell a few more current model phones before launching their new flagship device. I can deal with that for a little while longer as long as they get something announced for launch by the end of the summer. Otherwise that Galaxy SIII might just be too hard to resist.

    • Yes, it seems as though launch timing is somewhat more controlled now. First, HTC One X had its day in the sun earlier this year. Now the S III. Next, the RAZR HD.

  • If the Razr HD has a locked bootloader, avoid at all costs.

    • That would concern me, esp. how rooting S II gives it extra life with ICS. Quite brilliant w/ CyanogenMod 9.

  • Lucky Options

    A tough choice indeed. Both these phones are going to be superb phones and I don’t think you would be unhappy with either choice. I personally am just going to stick with the Samsung Galaxy S3. (I have been told that Verizon has the right to apply a $35 re-stocking fee for returns). It’s another fee I am not looking to pay. I am also really surprised that for loyal customers that Verizon will be taking away the grandfather unlimited data plans. If they do, I for one will have no reason to remain loyal to Verizon customer and will jump ships just to spite things. I am sure in 2 more years, AT&T’s 4G LTE network will have expanded.

    • Yep, probably splitting hairs, as they’ll both be top tier phones, and I’d take either in a heartbeat over the iPhone (even 5)!

  • Tony

    Clinton, we have talked about upgrading before, I’m still rocking my OG as well. But here’s the rub, there has not been any legitimate info to indicate the Droid HD will have 2Gig of ram. On a performance basis the S3 is going to mop the floor with the HD Running the same processor with half the ram. So now I’m just looking for a black Kevlar case for my soon to be new S3.
    Also with all the carriers selling the S3, the aftermarket supply of quality docking options will be greater than anything we have seen yet for an Android phone.

    • Good points, The volume of S III sales should result in huge aftermarket. I didn’t realize the extra 1GB would make that much difference. Would be surprised if RAZR HD didn’t match it, but like you said no official word yet on that.

    • Spunky

      Where do you get your data? Just recently migrated to an S2 and then dumped it for a DR Maxx because the Moto phone “mopped the floor” with the Sammy. Give me a moto anyday. Build quality, ruggedness, speed, etc. But if it cuteness you are after, go head on for smsung

      • Steve

        Um, motorola is never known for speed. Samsung on the other hand is.

        Where does he get his data? Literally every benchmark done by mankind.

    • trob6969

      Yeah, and the s3 DOES beat the razor HD in the battery catagory also because the S3’s battery is swappable! That’s a biggie for me.

      • Josh McNattin

        I’d much (MUCH) rather have one battery that lasts all day and night, with some left over as the 3300 mah does. I’ve had Androids with swappable batteries and it’s a pain. (Did I get that other one charged? Where did I leave it?) No thanks.

  • rajamar

    Same here – OG Droid – checked today and can keep unlimited data with an online pre-order. With all the talk about no more grandfathering, paying full price for phone to keep unlimited, family data plans, etc. I’m going to go ahead and spring for the S3. I suspect if they do roll out the big changes it will be after S3 ships and before Fighter/HD is official. I would probably rather have the Moto HD and will eat the $35 to switch if the timing makes that an option

    Luckily, we are a two carrier family and I can amuse myself with my wife’s new Sprint HTC Evo 4G LTE while waiting for my new phone (whatever it turns out to be). It really is too bad VZ opted out of carrying the HTC One family of phones!

    • Didn’t realize there was a $35 switch option. That would be interesting.

      • rajamar

        Hmmm, I’m pretty sure I saw a $35 “restocking” fee if you return the phone within 14 days of receipt. “Lucky Options” mentioned it below too. That said, I’m sure VZ would factor that into their HD announcement/release schedule. (If you activate a new phone and move your number to it and return it within 14 days does VZ just put the number back onto your old phone? Or does it become a hassle that spans hours or days?)

  • Lloyd garrison

    You do realize that 13 MP isn’t always > 8 MP, right??? This should be common knowledge by now.

  • Charles Bagood

    i think the upcoming motorola has the more elegant n distinctive look of course, after taking the side design cue from d current iphone. They will be using softwares mostly from outside suppliers so softwarewise, they are almost evenly match except for the skin which is a matter of personal choice and prejudgements. S o then, what is the deal maker? Maybe on the hardware; camera, battery, material use and the extra features like the voice command capability, cloud storage n for the S3 its eye sensor which is real cool however, the HD, may also have the web top capability n its motocast functionality like its predecessor, So maybe, the yet to announced HD has the more practical n compelling features, n my opinion.

    • trob6969

      What?! The razor HD looks NOTHING like the current iPhone.

  • You have a lot to think about as do I. I’m currently using the Motorola Photon (still the best phone out there IMO) on Sprint, non-root. You have to worry if Samsung brought their radios up to the quality of Moto. That is the one thing I hear most from people that use Samsung phones. From the reviews so far it looks like this may have happened, we will see.

    Bigger batter out of the box and not having to spend extra for an add-on.

    Soft keys, for me that is a big deal.

    Off Topic: Google now owns Motorola, which I’m sure you know, but it comes into play for my decision.

    Good luck sir.

  • Jim S

    You MUST remember and I think you forgot you cant take the battery out of the Motorola’s so when battery wont take charge any longer you have a paper wieght and batteries do have a limited amount of cycles. Also my car dock makes my phone start acting goofy after about 3 or 4 months everytime i know that sounds goofy in its self but ive had three motorolas currently have razr maxx

    • Ken

      The battery can be replaced. Just takes a little bit more work to get at.

      • trob6969

        The razor’s casing is sealed isn’t it? So if that’s true how can you get to the battery?

      • Jim S

        If most folks are like me they wont know how to get the phone apart to change the battery or worse yet with my luck I would break the damn thing

    • trob6969

      Yeah, most people don’t know or consider what you said about the battery…and when it is time to charge the battery I’d much rather have the option to pop a spare in my phone while the other charges if I have to leave home in a hurry as opposed to having to choose between being tethered to a wall socket or leaving without my phone.

      • Ketih

        What most people forget about it (and I will not ever again) is that the Samsung radios simply suck. Although I like my Nexus, the radio pales by comparison to the Razr Max. I have both now and trust me, there is a world of difference. The Nexus gives me frequent ‘no data connectivity’ messages and it’s not just my sample, I’ve seen it on every Nexus in this area.

        I had the Charge before that and yes, the Samsung radio in that sucked too.

        I’m done with Samsung and their inferior radios. For people living in strong signal areas, they may never see this. For people in marginal areas or when switching from 3G to 4G and back, the Motorola smokes the Samsung. There is just no comparison. For me that’s the single most important part of the phone, the damn radio!

        • trob6969

          …that’s a legitimate reason not to want the s3. I can relate to that because I feel the same way about Motorola: coincidently, my og Droid was fine up until my 2yr. contract was up, then almost half of the physical keys dropped off the phone and no matter where i happened to be when TRYING to talk on the phone, I would lose the connection over and over again. So I don’t know if the connection problem was a ploy by Verizon to force me to buy a new phone or if Motorola deliberately designed it to fall apart around the end of my 2yr. contract!…or maybe it was neither, and was just coincidental but either way, I’m NOT buying another Motorola phone.

          • Keith

            You found the Samsung radio better than the Motorola? Wow, never heard that one.

            Well the nice thing with the new phones is that there’s almost no physical buttons anymore. So that’s not much of an issue with most new phones.

          • trob6969

            No I’m not saying Samsung’s is any better than Motorola’s because I’ve never owned a Samsung phone. It might be worse.

  • Touchwiz is generally very good and responsive actually; especially when you compare it to the “motoblur” successor (whatever MMI is calling it these days). It’s one of the most horrible pieces of UI software ever devised by man, it’s completely sluggish, unintuitive, and unusable. I would take Samsung or HTC skin over Motorla’s any day; and I own a Droid3 right now.

    • Ijack

      Agree. It’s almost universally known motoblur is a POS, so i was shocked to hear this writer pick it.

      • BBC

        It’s almost universally parrotted you mean. Motorola’s Application Platform is minialist by design, which is what I want. I am actually not surprised in the least to see an actual user of it choosit over touchwiz or sense. I most certainly would as well.

  • SanDiegoDave

    Clinton, are you aware that if you simply pay CASH for the new phone (as I have been doing for over a decade now) you will not be changing your “contract” with VZW in any way, shape or form? This enables you to CONTINUE with the “grandfathered” unlimited data plan regardless if it’s a 3G or 4G phone. When you allow VZW to subsidize your purchase, you in fact enter into a “new” contract which leaves any of the “grandfathered” benefits behind. Simply put: The benefit to being a month-to-month customer with VZW is that you don’t lose any of your current benefits. I bought my current DROID X from a Qualcomm employee. He had 2, one for him and one for his wife. Seems that Qualcomm didn’t take kindly to employees using phones that utilized competitors’ chipsets, so much to my benefit, his phones had to go. The benefit to me was that I only paid $300 for the phone when it was a mere 2 months old! When I sell it to get either the Samsung Galaxy S III or the Motorola Droid Razr HD, I will use the proceeds from that sale toward the purchase my new phone…once again, a CASH purchase, and I will continue enjoying my “grandfathered” unlimited data!!! Oh, by the way, even though I bought the phone “3rd party”, Ashurion enabled me to have it insured via my VZW account, even though VZW initially said I could NOT insure it. Seems that VZW was wrong, indeed. Dave

  • Grumpton

    I understand all the pro S3 guys. For me, I just need a reliable phone – thus 100% verizon no matter what they do to me, 100% motorola since nobody on earth can beat their phone antennas for sound quality and clarity, and 100% motorola for a phone that lasts the whole day. If you want to sacrifice any of the above (a legitimate choice for many), go for it. At the end of the day, it’s a phone to me first, and any other decision criteria lags so far behind it doesn’t matter.

  • ringsgeek

    Wow. I don’t see how this is even a dilemma. SGS3. End of story. Good luck.

  • Waiting to upgrade my Droid 2 at the end of July. Hoping the HD is out. I was probably going to save the cash and get a regular RAZR because I already charge my phone everyday so changing the behavior isn’t an issue from a moderate use standpoint. But if they price this competitively with the S3 then I’m in.

  • justinscustoms

    Locked bootloaders have been resolved with bootstraps since the Droid X but getting rom chefs like Cyanogen or AOKP to take on projects that require significant extra steps is difficult. Having the old Razr I can admit that using root to remove some of the fat is almost enough and sparingly present in comparison to previous iterations. I can however admit that OEM’s need to make a consistent effort on making hardware drivers available to developers which appears to be the major wrench in the works of the current Razr in opposition to taking the ICS upgrade into our own hands.

  • 5


  • Josh McNattin

    Since purchasing the Razr Maxx, the 3300 mah battery is the benchmark for me. If it doesn’t match or exceed that kind of battery life, it’s not worth considering.

  • The new Verizon plans dropped a couple hours ago. The Grandfathered plans/upgradable are being killed June 28th. Keep the far better phone on pre-order and enjoy unlimited goodness for 2+ more years.

  • bsalyers

    Simply put: which will be easier to root? I own a Droid X, and while I do like it, I remember the hassles the community had overcoming the locked bootloader. Custom ROMs are a godsend, and relative ease in getting to them should be a major concern for any power-user.
    I’ve never owned a Samsung; are they easy to root?
    Thanks for the article!

  • Pego99

    What does og droid mean? Original G droid makes no sense.

    • Whitebread

      “Original gangsta” you fool ass clown ass fool ass fool.

  • violasvegas

    Word on the interwebs re: ram is that the HD will run on 1.5 gig. Speaking of deadline for porting the unlimited plan – I’ve heard June 28th, but that’s a rumor, so take it with a grain of salt.

  • hollywoodfrodo

    Guess I’m not the only one facing this dilemma! I’ve been mulling it over for several months, hoping that the Moto Rzr HD would be announced before grandfathering ended so I could check out its specs and make an intelligent decision bout it vs the Galaxy S3. Then the dreaded June 28th deadline dropped with still no word on the Moto Rzr HD. (My main reason for wanting it is the extended battery life – I don’t get why Samsung & HTC didn’t put at least 2800mAh batteries in their phones. To me that should be the minimum, especially with LTE.)

    Anyway, here is the one saving grace…possibly. Verizon’s Galaxy S3 isn’t shipping until July 10. With Verizon, we have 14 days to try out and phone and if we don’t like it, exchange it for a different phone. (You have to pay $35, but you get all the same promos/upgrade credits you got for the original purchase.) So my hope is that by mid July the Moto Rzr HD will be announced and I can check it out while I’m trying out my Galaxy S3. I can then after using the S3 decide if I want to keep it OR if the Moto is better than exchange it for the Moto.

    If the Moto does indeed have the 3300 Rzr HD battery, that may be hard to beat, but I’ve also heard reports that it may be somewhere between that and the S3, like a 2700mAh. Also I’d expect the same specs otherwise as the S3 – I agree with others that 2gbs of RAM is not something I’d want to give up. Anyway, for those of us debating between these 2 phones, but having to upgrade now for grandfathered unlimited data, Verizon’s delayed shipping date might enable us to still choose either one in the end.

  • jondrew55

    Stop the “inflexibility of iOS” nonsense. Bigger screens, replaceable batteries. Bam. Havnt seen ICS yet ( was supposed to be out on my Skyrocket in March, but so far nothing more than promises). I’m an iPhone switcher who wanted bigger screen and LTE speed. Happy with what I got. I’ve even switched up to a Galaxy Note which I love. But iOS vs Android? Its a tossup. Android has more “advanced features”, open API (love the integration between apps like note apps and Evernote), but iOS is much more stable, easier to figure out, and in general not only has more apps, but better ones.
    Will I switch over to an iPhone 5 whatever that is? Don’t know. But if they had dropped a bigger screen and LTE when the 4s came out I’d have never switched over, and probably would have never missed out on anything.

  • Zibah

    So, in July, what was the winner?

  • Frederico Amaral

    Hi, Clinton. I’ve been using the new Razr HD since the day it was launched in Brazil (September 22).

    The first week it was perfect. The handset is pretty beautiful and sturdy, and runs really fast. But, suddenly, i started having some big issues: the phone BEGAN TO RESTART WITHOUT STOPPING, and kept on. I had to restore to fabric settings and download all my data and reorganize in folders… This happened 3 times, in a week!

    Firs, I thought this could be because I had installed Apex launcher app, given that while I was using “go launcher ex”, i haven´t experienced any problems. But no! I turned to “go launcher ex” again, and, after hours customizing folders, the phone crashed again! I had about 170 apps organized in folders on home screens. It may be plenty of apps, but there is no reason to crash and have to recover the phone (at most, it could be slow).

    Well, since the last recovery, a week ago, I didn’t install any launcher anymore. I didn’t have the some issue, but the phone restarted twice (although I didn’t have to give another hard reset).

    Before this phone, I had a Samsung Galaxy S Advance. I had serious problems with that phone, and thought it would be okay now with motorola. Samsung problems were more common, actually. Probably I really bad lucky, and I believe this motorola came with some hardware problems…

    If such problem only affects my device, I can say, in a overall review, that the phone shines (When it works…)

    Really pretty, the screen is wonderful, call quality is great (REALLY better than may former Galaxy), very well built, camera is fine…

    Another thing i noticed is that the phone seens to heat a bit more than my former galaxy, but nothing too worrisome. I believe a case can solve this.

    I actually spent for this phone more money than I would have spent with the S3, but I don’t like S3 design, built materials and I can really notice that call quality in my razr HD is much better compared with the galaxy s advance I had.

    And, yeah, battery is great too, although not hugely better on the razr hd (probably on the razr hd maxx it will be).

    • Disappointing to hear about reboot issues with your RAZR. I haven’t experienced any with my Nexus. And, yep, a pita to reorganize all your apps/folders! I agree with you on Moto build quality. I like it better than Samsung. I wish Google would build a Motorola Nexus, but it sounds more and more like it’ll be LG (interestingly enough). Either way I’ll probably end up upgrading from my Nexus even though I just bought a few months ago. Ah, the joys of unlocked freedom!