Since the days of the StarTac, Motorola has made its name on trend-setting clamshell handset design as much as it has on technical innovation. The V3 RAZR has continued this heritage of fashion-forward cell phone design, keeping Motorola on the tongue-tips of future first style mavens across the globe.
The RAZR line now includes a Verizon-compatible CDMA phone (the V3c) and two updated handsets not yet available in the United States: the V3i, featuring a 1.3 megapixel camera and (in some iterations) Apple's iTunes music software, and the V3x, a slightly thicker RAZR phone packing a 2MP camera amongst other bleeding edge goodies. The RAZR V3, however, is still the mainstay of Motorola's slim flip phones, and is now available in several color choices from both Cingular and T-Mobile.
Featuring a VGA camera, Bluetooth connectivity, and cellular modem functionality, the RAZR V3 offers functionality alongside its form. But is the V3 a formidable phone in today's marketplace, or is it truly an example of style over substance?
Cast more in metal than plastic, the RAZR's anodized aluminum exterior, etched metal internal keypad, and glass screen covers lend a subtle heft to this extremely thin phone. One's first impression of the RAZR is just that: "It's so thin!" Soon after, the second impression sets in: "And it's so wide." Measuring 98mm wide x 53 mm high x 15 mm thick, the RAZR is in fact both an extremely thin and rather wide phone. This flip can rest in your front pocket without messing up the line of your pants, but will sometimes feel overly-large in your hand. Visually, the RAZR is amazingly sleek and cool, and the matte finish of the aluminum exterior screams elegance. Currently available in magenta, pink, black, and silver, Moto's RAZR has achieved fashion icon status.
An external display capable of 4,000 colors provides data about the time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (where available), The external display also functions as a digital camera viewfinder when the phone is closed, as there is no self-portrait mirror.
External controls are few and far between on the RAZR. On the right side, a voice-recorder button is the sole control, while a volume rocker and a dedicated camera key sit on the left. The camera button also does dual-duty as a third soft key when the handset is open. Fitting of a RAZR, all three external buttons are very thin, but easily discerned by touch.
The internal 2.5-inch, 260,000-color display that greets you upon opening the phone is nothing short of gorgeous, even in direct light. Motrola's UI has always left many wanting a bit more, but everything from icons to photos are rendered with razor sharpness on this screen. The phone's extra width is best justified by the luxurious feel of the internal display..
Out of the box, the Motorola RAZR V3 comes with a standard 680 mAh Li-Ion Battery, Home Charger, Quick Start Guide, Software CD, and User Manual.
The Motorola RAZR V'3's 0.3-megapixel (VGA) camera is activated by pressing the Camera Key located on the left exterior of the handset. Both the internal and external LCD displays can function as viewfinders, though the internal is by far the more accurate display. When the phone is open, left and right key presses manage brightness levels, while up and down movements on the navigational keypad control the 4X digital zoom. The RAZR V3's digital zoom crops the image rather than actually moving closer, so photos will not gain in resolution.
The camera performs similarly to VGA cameras found in other Motorola handsets such as the V551/557 models. For a VGA camera, picture quality is excellent. However, current state-of-the-art cell phones carry with them 1.3 or 2.0 megapixel cameras (or even better outside of the U.S.), so the RAZR's cam is nothing to write home about. Still, pictures come out relatively sharp and accurate, if a bit small.
The RAZR is able to capture images in JPG format at up to 640 x 480 px, and other resolution sizes include QVGA (320 x 240 px) and QQVGA (160 x 120 px). Image file sizes average 50 KB for VGA, 16K for QVGA, and 3 KB for QQVGA, so the internal 6MB memory will prove adequate for the casual picture taker but frustrating for the more frequent shutterbug.
Unlike most cameraphones on today's market, including Motorola's own VGA-equipped v551/557 series, the RAZR V3 does not incorporate camcorder technology. While video capture on most of today's cell phones is more of a novelty than a true feature due to inadequate resolution, frame rates, and sound quality, one would still expect a handset as striking as the V3 to provide such "standard" functionality.
The RAZR V3's camera is yesterday's technology on a very futuristic phone. Perhaps nothing illustrates this better than a look at the imaging capabilities of the new members of the V3 family: The V3i features a 1.3 MP camera, and the V3x sports a more up to date 2 megapixel model. Sadly, neither phone is yet supported by a major US cellular carrier. The CDMA RAZR V3c also features a 1.3 MP camera with video capture, giving Verizon a leg up on the stateside RAZR market.
The Cingular and T-Mobile versions of the Motorola RAZR V3 are both GSM quad-band (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz) phones which can be used around the world, provided they are unlocked. Built on Motorola's standard user interface, a basic menu structure provides a no frills fundamental navigation structure.
Motorola rated the V3's 680 mAh Li-Ion battery at an average of 5.25 and 240 hours (10 days) of talk and standby times respectively. However, manufacturers and carriers often list maximum talk and standby times as rated under optimal conditions, where normal usage yields significantly worse results. The more power-hungry features such as image capturing, media viewing, and Bluetooth connectivity are used, the faster the battery will drain
The external screen provides convenient access to call status, date and time, caller ID, and signal and battery levels. The 4,000 color, 96 x 80 screen is capable of four lines of text and one line of icons, and as mentioned earlier also serves as a viewfinder for the camera when the handset is shut.
While color LCDs do put a more significant strain on batteries than more utilitarian monochrome screens, the RAZR is all about beauty and the outer display is quite pretty to look at against the V3s steely exterior. One thing to keep in mind is that the backlight on the external display is not user-adjustable. When it turns off, the screen is rendered so dim as to be virtually unreadable.
Inside the phone, the main display is spectacular. The 2.5", 260K color screen is crisp and vivid, making both mundane tasks such as menu navigation, and more enjoyable fare including photo viewing a pleasure. A note: text size on the internal display is fixed, so even though you've quite a bit of real estate to play with, you can't make those fonts appear any larger.
Motorola's handset lineup includes MP3 digital audio support nearly across the board. The RAZR V3 supports MP3 playback, including the use of MP3s as ringtones. So in addition to the included polyphonic ringtones, you may also transfer bits of recorded digital audio to your phone via USB or Bluetooth, making custom ringtone creation easy for the tech-savvy user. Additional ringtones are of course available for download from Cingular and T-Mobile.
The RAZR V3 features an integrated speakerphone and Bluetooth headset support, allowing for two forms of hands-free usage while driving or engaging in other activities. The speakerphone can only be activated once in a call is in progress, which some may find a minor inconvenience. Call volume was good using the earpiece speaker, rear-mounted speakerphone speaker, and a Bluetooth hand's free kit. This phone also features a vibrating alert which can be used on its own or in conjunction with a ringtone. The vibrations were somewhat weak, but proved adequate when the phone was kept in a pants or shirt pocket.
Motorola has included a plethora of messaging capabilities on the RAZR V3, including support for SMS (Short Messaging Service), EMS (Extended Messaging Service), and MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) protocols. The ITAP predictive text technology is effective at suggesting commonly used words to make messaging faster, and the system expands its vocabulary and sharpens its predictions based on individual usage.
The RAZR V3 also supports IM (Instant Messaging) via the Wireless Village 1.1 embedded client. Both Cingular and T-Mobile support AOL Instant Messaging on the V3 so you can stay in real-time contact with online buddies. Support for POP3, SMTP, and IMAP4 e-mail is also found. Messaging using the etched metal keypad takes some getting used to as the keys do not provide the same sort of tactile feedback common to standard pushbutton keypads. In short time, however, the metal keys should become familiar and comfortable to most users.
The RAZR V3 comes with common applications such as Alarm Clock, Calculator, Datebook, Instant Messaging, and Voice Records. Motorola has also included their Motomixer application for remixing custom MIDI ringtones, a photo slideshow application, and one game, Jawbreaker, which runs on the J2ME platform.
J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition) allows users to purchase myriad additional games and productivity applications direct from Cingular or T-Mobile. With its built-in USB port and Bluetooth connectivity, the RAZR V3 is also capable of receiving new programs for installation direct from a computer, bypassing carrier-based downloads entirely.
As the most popular mobile platform, thousands of J2ME programs have been developed by major software companies and individuals covering virtually every genre available. Some are free, but others require a small fee.
The RAZR V3 is somewhat outdated in the Internet connectivity category. Capable of only GPRS radio connections, the handset cannot take advantage of newly deployed, faster EDGE technology. As such, Internet performance is quite slow. Anyone interested in anything more than occasional mobile Internet use should look elsewhere for an EDGE-capable phone that can take advantage of Cingular's MEdia Net or T-Mobile's T-Zones mobile services.
Newer Motorola handsets like the EDGE-capable V557 also feature the company's SCREEN3 push technology, enabling automatic updates of live information on a regular basis. Cingular's MEdia Net Live Ticker service is one example of the technology in action: Blog-style headlines are automatically pushed to the phone several times a day, appearing as a ticker that crawls across the bottom of the display. Users can select any headline of interest and connect to the service to read the entire article.
Again, newer members of the RAZR family feature both high-speed connectivity and SCREEN3 technologies. The Verizon-compatible V3c incorporates EVDO technology for high-speed data transfer on their network, while the V3i and V3x both pack SCREEN3.
Containing 5.0 MB of free space, the RAZR V3 dynamically allocates memory between all multimedia stored. Since the V557 is not a multimedia-intense device, there are no high-resolution photos, full-length MP3 files, or video clips that hog storage, and the allocated memory should be more than enough for wallpapers, ringtones, text messages, and applications. However should more resources be needed, consumers will need to do a bit of deleting since the V3 lacks any expansion card slot.
You guessed it, the new-generation RAZR phones do feature more internal memory and expansion card memory slots. Features such as megapixel cameras and iTunes music playback software found on the V3c/i/x models demand this additional storage space.
Through the V3's Bluetooth 1.1 wireless technology, users can pair with other Bluetooth-capable devices within a range of 10 meters. Linking the V557 with headsets, car hand's free equipment, PCs, printers, PDAs, or digital cameras, consumers can conveniently link to a wide range of peripherals without a mess of wires. For those with older PCs and consumer electronics, the V3's built-in USB 1.0 port is also a convenient means of transferring data to and from the phone.
The RAZR V3 is also out of date when it comes to supporting the latest PAN (Personal Area Network) and OTA (Over-The-Air) technologies for synchronization. Basic syncing of contact and calendar information is possible using Bluetooth, but newer Motorola sets such as the V557 are capable of far more sophisticated and flexible data management and synchronization.
The introduction RAZR V3 was a watershed moment for Motorola similar to the unveiling of the StarTac clamshell phone at the turn of the Century. Slim and sharp as a razor, the V3's industrial design has stood up well to the competition over the two years it has been on the market. However, its feature set now shows the signs of age, and consumers in the market for a phone with substance to match its style may be hard pressed to stick with the V3.
Whereas Motorola handsets such as the V557 feature a utilitarian design with modest looks and features built around a stable platform, the RAZR is all about show. Built to be noticed from its ultra-thin, wide profile to the alloy construction, etched metal keypad, and large, bright internal LCD, the V3 quickly became the handset of choice for celebrities, style-conscious executives, and trendsetting fashionistas everywhere.
Now available from T-Mobile and Cingular for very low costs after contract incentives, the original RAZR V3 has become something of a commodity, bringing its high-tech style to the hands of the everyday consumer user. Next-gen RAZRs like the V3c, V3i, and V3x feature upgraded hardware and feature sets more in line with current technology. However, none of these phones are yet available for GSM carriers in the United States. As such, the power user attracted to RAZR's style is caught in a dilemma for the time being: Go with Verizon and the CDMA V3c, spend extra for an import-only V3i or V3x, or stick with the original V3 and its circa 2004 technology?
The RAZR V3 is still a more than workable phone with its Quad-Band GMS reception, E-mail and IM support, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, speakerphone functionality, and VGA camera. What draws people to the RAZR most of all is the bling factor, and even at the ripe old age of two, the V3 still draws attention in spades. If you're not concerned with the latest tech and want a phone that works well and looks as cool as can be, the Motorola RAZR V3 might still be the choice for you.