With New Droid, Motorola Hopes for Another Razr Hit

New 4G smartphone resurrects popular brand

Can the name “Razr” help put Motorola devices back on the must-have list? Seems like we’ll soon find out.

At a New York press event Tuesday afternoon, Motorola Mobility released its newest smartphone, the Droid Razr, resurrecting the name of its 2004 hit flip phone.

Just as the original Razr was the world’s thinnest cell phone, Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha said the new Droid Razr is the “thinnest smartphone” on the market. The lightweight device has a 4.3-inch display, but is just 7.1 mm thick (compared to 9.3 mm for the newest iPhone).

“When we started thinking about developing a new smartphone, our mission was not to only create a true object of desire… but deliver them without compromise,” he said. “The question was what does it take to make the best smartphone on the planet?”

The new device, which will cost $299, not only offers a sleeker form factor than Apple’s new iPhone 4S (the Droid Razr is 127 grams, compared to 140 g for the iPhone), Motorola says it will run on Verizon’s faster 4G LTE network and will be the first smartphone that can download HD movies from Netflix.

Beyond the lean design and high-speed performance, Jha said the phone offers a “smart actions” app that automatically adjusts settings to preserve battery, turns off the ringer at work, and reminds you to charge the phone at night.

The phone’s most important feature in Motorola's eyes, however, is MotoCast, a system that automatically syncs content on the phone with a user’s personal computer. For example, he demonstrated a video taken with the Droid Razr can be accessed on a PC seconds later, without connecting the two devices.

In announcing the new phone, Motorola and Verizon made a point of positioning it as a high-end device.

“People often ask this: Are all Androids Droid? And what I would tell them is no they’re not,” said Marni Walden, vice president and chief marketing officer for Verizon. “Not every Android device is a Droid. Droid stands for quality, performance and state-of-the-art technology. A premium device on a premium network."

As the Android device continues to expand—Google says the operating system now includes more than 400 devices on 231 carriers—it’s easier for a premium device to get lost in the crowd.

But Motorola’s chief marketing officer Bill Ogle said the Droid stands out because of its design and software experience—from the tapered edges, Kevlar back and diamond-cut metal highlights to the enterprise-ready software and government-grade encryption.

“As soon as they touch and feel it they can tell that it’s a premium high-end device,” he said.

He also said that the company’s research indicates that the Razr branding (both in name and design) should help the new phone reach a wider audience.

“When we did our research on Razr [people said the original phone] just looked cool and it was so thin and it was so different from what was in the market place,” he said. “I think Droids are just very powerful phones, but if they look cool and they have the power, I think it just broadens the potential marketplace to a lot more people.”