RAZR V3 4

Ok, so I couldn't resist it anymore and broke down and bought Motorola's new RAZR V3 superskinny cellphone. Click to see a mess of pics and some initial impressions.

Design

Without question, the biggest draw of the RAZR V3 is the looks, and in those incessant Cingular ads the RAZR slices and dices away, as if it really were razorsharp when it's unfolded. What you don't see in the ads is that the phone is a bit wide. Not obnoxiously wide, thankfully, but wider than my last two cellphones, the Motorola T720 and a Nokia 8290. I found that it's still easy to hold even while talking for 30 minutes, and there's no external antenna marring the RAZR V3's shapey looks.

Motorola made the casing out magnesium and aluminum to keep the RAZR at a scant 3.3 ounces. The phone has a solid feel, with no creaking or cheap plastic feeling during normal use. It is easy to flip open or close with one hand, I prefer to open it up with my middle finger of my left hand as it is less stress than bending my thumb in an odd way to open the phone. One-handed operation is important to me, as I often do several things at once and try to be as efficient as possible.

I left the phone out in the living room and it got quite cold rather fast, no doubt due to its aluminum housing. There have been reports of the phone getting pretty hot sitting out in the sun as well, but as this isn't sunny season right now in Seattle, I have yet to find that out first-hand, and probably won't until sometime in the middle of next year.

The mini-USB port also jets out just a bit on the back of the phone, ruining the smooth design in the back. I'm surprised they didn't position the port just up a bit and further down, as that would have made the design on the back more symmetrical.

Packaging

While Cingular might be offering Motorola's RAZR V3 for $500 (with two-year contract), they do skimp a little bit with what they include in the box. Regular retail versions of the RAZR V 3 include extras like a nice aluminum case, a Motorola PhoneTools CD, a USB sync cable, and 3 Java games. What Cingular does offer, though, is just about the cheapest price you'll find on the slickest-looking new cellphone available this holiday season. They do lock the quad-band (GSM/GRPS 850/900/1800/1900 MHz) to Cingular service only, but there are stores that provide unlocking service or if you are so inclined, you can probably hack it yourself. Unlocked RAZR V3s are going for around $650 on eBay.

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RAZR V3 2

The packaging is very weak and is boxed like any other Cingular phone, there's no wow factor at all to give the user of what they are getting. There's not even a side shot of the phone on the box showing the RAZR slimness. I usually keep product boxes and I'll probably keep this one, but the box is just flat-out plain and boring.

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Screens
The main screen is absolutely gorgeous, a 176x220 pixel TFT LCD screen with 262k colors. It's a beauty and there's three skins included to choose from (Moto, Scarlet, and Silver) of which I'm partial to Silver. It's the most 'business' like color and isn't overly colorful like the others. The front cover LCD looks good and also doubles as the self-portrait LCD (no look at the silver reflection here) after you turn on the camera and close the lid. Look, there's Yoda, my Yorkshire Terrier, posing for my wallpaper.


Startup
The startup time is quite lengthy, I timed 32 seconds from when I pressed On to when I got to my default page with my custom wallpaper. That seems unnecessarily long, so I'll just turn the ringer off where cellphones aren't welcome rather than turn it off.

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Keypad and Buttons
The keypad buttons have a tactile feel to them, I've found them to have a slight sticky feel to them even after cleaning. While the buttons are flat and do not stick up from the keypad, you can push them in and get a good responsive feel. I found the buttons on the top lid (on the side of the phone) to be a bit of a reach, as you have to move your thumb quite a bit to press those buttons on the left. The top left button on the lid is for Voice Records, the button below that is for Volume (up and down). The button on the right of the LCD is for Voice Name dialing, which is in an easy position to press. Since the keypad lights up blue, it's easy to dial and use the phone at night or in the dark.

When you flip open the phone, the Camera and AOL Instant Messenger are default options which are prominently displayed and selectable by two of the three top buttons. The usual navigational icons (up, down, left, right functions) are hidden by default, but if you press any of them, the selected option will appear. All of the default menu options can be changed in the Personalize section of the phone.
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Cingular Branding
I find the Cingular branding to be obnoxious. There's the cingular logo (at least it's in white and not over the top) on the back of the phone, and when the phone is in use, the bright orange Cingular logo shows up on the top cover LCD until you close the phone. It's one thing to have the LCD display the cellular network you are on, but the orange logo turns you into an easily seen walking billboard for them. I'd definitely be interested in learning how to hack the phone to remove or change this picture.

Digital Camera
The RAZR V3 can take VGA resolution pictures, at 640x480 resolution. There is a 4x zoom, but it's digital and as digital zooms go, it's pretty awful. The pictures it takes are of a okay quality, but the camera is definitely not this phone's strong suit. It's there and it works, but in the age of cheap multi-megapixel cameras, the RAZR's onboard camera isn't that impressive. When considering that Nokia has quality 1.3 megapixel cellphone cams, it's yet another knock on this phone's camera. Here's some images (resized) taken with the RAZR's camera:

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Call Quality
Call quality was superb, very clear, especially for not having an external antenna. It's definitely the best call quality that I have personally experienced on any cellphone, and the friends I called commented I sounded fine. One in particular said that he couldn't tell I was calling from a cellphone, whereas before he had always complained when I called on a cell that I sounded like I had just drank a fifth of vodka because of the raspiness in my voice from bad cellphone voice quality.

I do have to note, however, that while the earpiece is very clear while talking, if you move your ear a bit and cover up the small speaker hole, it becomes very muddled and hard to hear. So you don't want to be jostling too much while talking, or you could miss some important details.

Ringer
I left the ringer to both ring and vibrate when I get a call, and in my pants pocket, the speaker is loud enough that I notice and the vibrate buzzed me enough, much better than my previous phones. I do like the fact that I can set any MP3 as my ringer, but I haven't decided what I want yet, though, perhaps some Britney Spears will do.

Memory
Built-in storage is only 6MB, and to top it off, there's no memory card slot at all. So while the RAZR can play MPEG-4 videos, MP3s, and view JPGs, you're not going to be able to store many of the space hogging videos or MP3 files on the phone. This is a glaring omission, and with some Nokias having 96MB onboard, with even more possible with a memory card, 6MB is just flat-out pathetic.

Battery
The RAZR V3 battery is rated for 7 hours talk time and 10 days of standby, during my testing (talking quite a bit, taking many pictures, Bluetooth file transfers, and playing around with menus) I found that the battery lasted about a day and a half, which is quite a bit, as this would translate to three days with my usual phone usage. I'm satisfied with the battery life, you can't expect too much out of 680mAh battery. The back cover is a bit awkward to take off and put on, I still can't do it smoothly. Removing the battery cover will need a fingernail, it's a tight fit to push in the cover release button.

WAP/Internet
The WAP and Internet experience on this phone is passable, I'm not one for much WAP use at all, I just can't stand typing without a keyboard of some sort. Since my Cingular plan is not at all geared towards data usage, I did not try to pair it up and use it as a Bluetooth data modem, which I'm not sure is even possible with this phone.

Bluetooth
I was able to successfully connect via Bluetooth to my Dell Inspiron 8600 laptop, a Dell Axim X30 Pocket PC, and a Motorola HS810 Bluetooth headset after some initial difficulty. I still think it should be easier (I spent quite a while getting them all to talk to each other), and the Motorola manual was pretty lacking when it came to Bluetooth instructions. For the record, the default passkey for the RAZR V3 is 0000 (are all Bluetooth passkeys set to 0000 as default?), which I couldn't find anywhere in the manual. That is, I set the passkeys to 0000 on every device and it worked in my case. Bluetooth connectivity definitely should be easier to use.

Using Pocket Informer 5 on my Axim X30, I am able to send a number from my contacts list to be automatically dialed on the RAZR. Pretty neat and useful, however, due to the phone's limitation, I was not able to use my Motorola HS810 Bluetooth headset if I wanted to use the Axim X30 to dial. I believe it's the phone can only have one Bluetooth connection at a time, since I successfully used Bluetooth with two devices simultaneously on my laptop, sending a file from the RAZR to my laptop while syncing my Axim X30 at the same time.

Gripes
Yes, even this chic phone isn't flawless. The front cover does not sit flush with the bottom of the phone. I'm not sure if it's just my phone, but when closed, the cover sticks up about 1 or 2mm and isn't smooth when running your fingers up and down. When I push the cover down as much as I can, the cover will sit flush, so it may just be my particular phone (I have yet to see the phone in person at a Cingular store). There also seems like there are some imprints on the LCD screen of the keypad graphics. I don't think the LCD has been scratched at all, but it is something to watch out for in the long run.

Ideally, I'd like the top cover LCD to always be on so that a thumbnail of my wallpaper and the time would always be bright, but I couldn't find anything in the options menus to do so. It would also probably be a battery drain, but it'd be nice if I could choose to have that. As it is now, the

LCD backlight turns off 10 seconds after the lid is closed. After the cover is closed, the top LCD shows the current time and wallpaper. But without the backlight on, it's rather hard to see the top LCD without some light shining on it. In a completely dark room, there's no way to see the time without flipping the cover open. As I use my phone quite a bit to check the time (no watches for me), I would like to easily see the time without having to fumble with it.

Also, the center Select button, in the middle of the directional arrows, is a bit hard to use, as the circle button is quite small. Using a thumb to control the navigational buttons as most would do, I found myself to accidentally press down or left instead of the center Select button. Fortunately, in almost all menus, you can choose to use the bigger top right button which is also the Select button. You could use your thumbnail to use the circular Select button, but then you may scratch the keys, which I've read can happen. And that'll be one sad day if you scratch up this beauty at all.

Conclusion
Overall, I like this phone a lot. Yes, I'm a sucker for good design, but the phone functions as it should and its features work as advertised. Did I mention the phone looks cool? Do I even have to mention that? Motorola has a winner here and I'm sure that more designer fashion phones are headed our way since this phone will be a success. The only real critical aspect missing in the RAZR V3 is the lack of a memory card slot, or perhaps more onboard memory. The average fashion phone buyer may not care about memory and only about looks, but the fact is there are power users that like nice-looking phones as well, and many will be put off by the lack of memory.

The phone is definitely pricy and it isn't for everyone, so one should definitely try to scope it out in person before purchasing. I do think it's a bit overpriced, maybe by $100 or so, but you often do have to pay a bit more to have the absolute latest gadget as you well know.

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Dan Wu's personal reviews and commentaries can be read on his personal site, http://www.wooba.com.

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Hands-on with Motorola's RAZR V3 for Cingular