Motorola kicked things off in New York with its (re)introduction of the RAZR. The Motorola Droid RAZR is, by all accounts, one of the more exciting smartphones to come from Motorola's labs in recent years.
The Droid RAZR brings back the name of Motorola's most successful line of phones and slaps it on an Android 2.3 Gingerbread smartphone. First, it is one of the slimmest smartphones ever, at an astonishing 7.1mm thick. It has a Kevlar (you know the stuff they make bullet-proof vests out of) battery cover and "Splashguard" nanotech coatings inside and out to protect against liquid damage. Gorilla Glass protects the front of the phone, which so far sounds like a spy's dream device.
The Droid RAZR also includes a 4.3-inch qHD display (540 x 960 pixels), is powered by a 1.2-GHz dual-core processor and 1 GB of RAM, and boasts an 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video capture. Oh, and somehow Motorola managed to stick a Long Term Evolution 4G radio in that for Verizon Wireless's network.
Other features worth mentioning: Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy; 16-GB on-board memory (16-GB microSD card included); remote wipe, pin lock, and government-grade encryption; and voice and video chat conferencing. In hits Verizon's shelves in several weeks for $299.99.
Sounds good, no?
Barely nine hours later, Samsung's execs took the stage in Hong Kong to announce the Samsung Galaxy Nexus with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.
The Galaxy Nexus is the antithesis of the RAZR. Where the RAZR--even in name--is all angular and sharp, the Galaxy Nexus is about curved glass, smooth surfaces, and tight integration with the new system software from Google.
Rather than call out the hardware features of the device, Samsung and Google spent more time talking about the Android 4.0 heart of the device, which features things such as Face Unlock, Android Beam (for sharing contact details via NFC), and support for more complex voice actions.
On the spec side of the equation, the Galaxy Nexus includes a hefty set of capabilities. It includes a massive 4.65-inch Super AMOLED Plus display with 1280 x 720 pixels; dual-core 1.2-GHz processors; a 5-megapixel main camera with 1080p video capture and flash; and a 1.3-megapixel user-facing camera. It will include support for HSPA+ in world markets and support for Verizon's LTE 4G in the U.S. Samsung and Google said it will go on sale in the coming weeks.
Pitting the hardware head-to-head, the Motorola RAZR still comes out on top in my book, but this match-up isn't about the hardware. No, it's about the software.
By announcing the Galaxy Nexus with Android 4.0, Samsung and Google threw a fastball right past Motorola (and Google's actually trying to buy Motorola right now?). The appeal of the newer version of Android will push early adopters towards the Galaxy Nexus, especially if the phones are to be sold from the same carrier in the U.S.
Some Motorola representative, somewhere in a non-U.S. market, "confirmed" on Twitter that the RAZR would get Android 4.0 in January. But that has not yet been backed-up by Motorola in the U.S. Can the RAZR survive on Verizon's shelves that long next to the Galaxy Nexus? Probably, but it won't enjoy the holiday sales figures that it might have seen if it shipped with Android 4.0 rather than Android 2.3.
Google's Andy Rubin said that Google will make Android 4.0 available to some existing Android 2.3 Gingerbread handsets mere weeks after the Galaxy Nexus launches. Just how quickly the carriers and handset makers get around to distributing it to the dozens of devices is unknown.