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Motorola Shows Off First Smartphones Under Google

Three new Razr devices boast big screens and long battery life—and hope to steal some of the new iPhone’s thunder.

Just four hours after Nokia announced two new smartphones on Wednesday—and a week before Apple was expected to unveil its latest iPhone—Motorola Mobility announced three new devices: the Droid Razr M, Razr HD, and Razr Maxx HD. These smartphones boast more screen area than previous models, plus HDTV display quality, faster performance, and a power management system that promises to greatly extend battery life—long a bane of smartphones generally.

These are the first phones Google has announced since acquiring Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in May of this year. Competition in the smartphone market is becoming  increasingly fierce as the importance of mobile computing grows, and both Motorola Mobility and Nokia seem determined to draw some attention away from Apple’s forthcoming release (see “New Smartphones May Be Nokia’s Last Stand”).

That competition has lately spilled over into the courtroom (see “Apple/Samsung: The Verdict on Innovation”), where a U.S. jury found two weeks ago that Samsung had infringed on Apple’s patents in using Google’s Android operating system. During today’s presentation, executives from both companies made indirect but pointed references to Apple.

All the new Razr smartphones come with a dual-core 1.5-gigahertz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and one gigabyte of RAM. The smallest, the Razr M, is about the same size as an iPhone 4S but has a screen area 40 percent larger (the 4.3-inch OLED screen covers most of its front), and it comes with eight gigabytes of storage. The Droid Razr HD and the Droid Razr Maxx HD have four- to seven-inch displays and pack more storage and battery life than their smaller brother. The Razr HD has 16 gigabytes of storage, expandable via a microSD card slot, and the Razr Maxx HD comes with 32 gigabytes of storage and a battery big enough for 13 hours of video playback, 10 hours of YouTube HD content, or eight hours of Web browsing.

All three phones can learn from your habits and automatically adjust settings to minimize battery usage—for example, by suggesting that you shut down battery-draining apps you rarely use.

Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, pointed to Android’s global dominance, saying that some 480 million Android devices are in use and 1.3 million are activated every day (most of  those are smartphones; only 70,000 are tablet computers). “There is something about the Android ecosystem and Android approach that has produced a platform, an ecosystem, of enormous global scale—so much greater than I expected,” Schmidt said. “To me, that’s why we needed Motorola Mobility to be part of it. We have to play in this ecosystem, we have to be competitive, and we have to do it at the state of the art.”

A few minutes later, Dennis Woodside, Motorola Mobility’s CEO, stood in front of a huge screen image of Martin Cooper, the former Motorola engineer who led the team that invented the mobile phone in the 1970s. Then Woodside pointed out Cooper himself, now 83 years old, sitting near the front. “I think first, it’s important to understand the remarkable history of Motorola Mobility. There is a lot of debate out there about who invented what, and when,” Woodside said in a veiled reference to the Samsung-Apple patent ruling. “There is one thing that is not in debate. Motorola invented the technology that underpins the mobile industry.” Later he added, “We will bring the best Android innovation to our devices as fast as we can.”

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