Though mobile phones should only be as good as the calls they make, the hype over a trendsetting design is not something that mobile manufacturers have ignored. And this spring there's no better example of supercool design than the long-awaited Motorola Razr V3. Fashioned like no other handset before it, the razor-thin V3 combines a ton of bling with the promise of high-end goodies. Fortunately, the V3 delivers in all areas and is one instance where a mobile phone has stood up to the excitement.
When viewed straight on, the Motorola Razr V3 looks no different from many clamshell phones. In fact, with its brushed-silver colouring and rectangular shape, it almost leaves you wondering exactly what the big deal is. Turn the handset on its side, however, and the wow factor begins. Measuring 53 by 99 by 15mm and weighing 96g, the Razr V3 is so pocket-friendly and portable that it's smaller than many wallets. It also feels light -- almost too light -- in the hand, and its distinctive styling is sure to win looks on the street and in the boardroom. Fortunately, Motorola did not compromise a solid construction for the cutting-edge design, and the burly hinge ensures the phone snaps open and shut with authority. We couldn't help noticing the V3 is wider and bit taller than many clamshell phones, but its paper-thin profile more than makes up for it.
A postage-stamp-size external display supports 4,000 colours and shows the time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (where available). Though it can be viewed in most lighting situations, it goes completely dark when the backlighting -- which cannot be changed -- turns off. Above the screen and well out of the way of fingers is the VGA camera lens. You don't get a flash or a self-portrait mirror, but the external screen acts as a viewfinder when the phone is closed. Controls on the outside of the phone are few. A voice-recorder button sits on the right side of the front flap, while a volume rocker and a dedicated camera key sit on the left; when the phone is open, the camera button acts as a third soft key. As they are on the side of the phone, the buttons are rather thin, but we had no trouble finding them by feel.
Open the phone, and you're treated to a gorgeous, 64mm (2.5-inch) 260,000-colour display. Wonderfully vivid and crisp, it does a fine job of showing photos and graphics, and it's easy to view in direct light. The text size, however, cannot be changed. Immediately below the screen are the unique navigation controls and keypad. To ensure the Razr's slim stature, all buttons lie completely flat against the surface of the phone and resemble a single touch pad. Though we were wary of the new design and the lack of individual buttons, we found the V3's controls pleasantly tactile and easy to use. For menu navigation, you get a five-way toggle that acts as a shortcut to four user-defined features. There also are two soft keys, Talk and End buttons, and dedicated keys for the Web browser and messaging. As with most Motorola handsets, there are no dedicated Back or camera keys. Dialling by feel takes some acclimation, but all keys are backlit.
The Motorola Razr V3 has a generous set of features. The 1,000-name phone book can hold six phone numbers and an e-mail address in each entry. Contacts can be assigned to caller groups and be paired with a picture (which shows up on the external screen) or any of 14 monophonic or 5 polyphonic ring tones. Other features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, MP3 file support, a calculator, voice dialling, a date book, an alarm clock, AOL Instant Messenger, a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser, and a voice recorder. You also get support for POP3, SMTP, and IMAP4 e-mail; full Bluetooth connectivity; a USB port; and a speakerphone. Our only complaint is that the speakerphone can be turned on only when a call is in progress. You can personalise the V3 with a variety of wallpaper, colours, screensavers, and sounds.
The Razr V3 has a VGA camera that can snap photos in three resolutions: 640x480, 320x240, and 160x120. We would have preferred to see a megapixel camera on such an expensive handset, but it gets the job done and takes good-quality pics. You can use the 4X zoom and the self-timer, adjust the brightness or exposure setting, and choose from six lighting conditions and five shutter sounds, as well as a silent option. When finished with your shots, you can send them to friends, pair them with contacts, or save them as wallpaper. A convenient meter keeps track of how much space in the 5MB of memory is left. Though 5MB should be fine for many people, we'd prefer a bit more to play with. The handset supports video playback but not video recording -- a disappointing omission.
Call quality was generally admirable. Though we enjoyed the excellent clarity, the volume level was somewhat low, so anyone with a hearing impairment should test the phone first. Speakerphone quality was mostly good, though it sounded a bit tinny at times and also suffered volume-wise. We made calls using a Logitech Mobile Bluetooth headset. The reception came through with a bit at of static, but we had no problem pairing the two devices.
Battery life was commendable. We fell short of the rated talk time of 7 hours by 30 minutes but were still pleased. Likewise, though we managed 10 days of standby time, compared with the promised 12 days, that's still a good time.
Edited by William O'Neal
Additional editing by Mary Lojkine