I’ve had my Motorola Razr V3 now for about 3 months now, so yes, this review is a bit old, but it still seems to be the trendy mobile to get, especially in the US so I still think this review might be relevant. Anyway, I was desperately languishing with my very useless Nokia 7610. I should have done a review on that too, but in short, it’s not a very good phone and I don’t like it. So much so that I didn’t have it long enough to take pictures of the phone so that made any review less appealing. I just wanted to move on from that handset and what came next was the V3. At the time, I was struggling between the V3 and the Sony Ericsson S700. Both had just come out and although the S700 was supposed to retail for about US$120 less, because it was so new, they were both selling at about the same price – just over US$750.
To me that’s a really steep price for a mobile phone, especially these days. I went to a local electronic store to play with both phones. Honestly, if the S700 didn’t have a “premium above retail” at the time, I would have bought that one (the S700 had just come out and most retailers were asking a US$150-200 premium above the retail price). But as they were the same price, I had to consider both in the same light. The V3 is incredibly small and light, and that has to be its main appeal. In contrast, the S700 has better features (better camera, larger/better screen, etc.) but it is incredibly big and much heavier. Plus, the V3 was being offered with an “expansion pack” that included a Bluetooth headset, extra battery, and a quick charger. That plus I managed to get a little bit of a discount so the deal was done. I walked away with the V3.
The V3 has to be one of the thinnest, lightest phones available in the market. It’s so incredibly small that sometimes you can easily forget it’s in your pocket or where you put the darn phone (I keep thinking I lost the darn thing, only to find it stuck between a few files or something). That has both its pros and cons and anyone wanting a very small phone should definitely look no further than the V3. The V3 reminds me a lot of an updated, modern Motorola StarTac. Who could forget those early GSM StarTac phones that cost a bomb but were incredibly small and light relative to anything else in the market (I remember having paid what US$1500 for one in 1996 I think it was). The V3 must have incorporated some new technologies and innovative design to justify the price.
The metallic finish is a very nice matte silver – extremely sleek and low profile. It’s a nice enough finish that it doesn’t scratch that easily. Having said that, small scratches can appear, especially on the bottom of the phone (where some paint have already chipped off mine) so it’s best to have it in a case or small pouch. Flip the phone open and you reveal a very high-tech looking keypad. I like the design of the keypad. The numbers are very big and light up so it’s easily seen. The keypad has a nice touch sensor which makes it easy to dial or SMS.
Button layout is very good and the multi-directional keypad is very user friendly.
The buttons at the side of the screen also provide some easy shortcuts for certain things but I just prefer to go straight into the menus. The battery sits nicely in the back of the phone, but removing the lid on the battery cover takes some effort and this was definitely a poor design flaw on Motorola. As I have two batteries, changing them can be a pain as I have to scrape and claw at the cover with my fingernails to remove the cover. Getting it back on also takes practice as you have to evenly distribute the sides correctly or else it won’t correctly slot back in.
The V3 comes with two color screens. The inside screen is a very nice 2″ 260k color screen which produces vibrant colors and images. The outside screen though… I mean why bother? The screen is so small and dark, I can barely see the black and white time much less any images in color. Although it’s supposed to be a 4k color screen, you’ll almost never need to use it so it’s almost a design (and a cost) waste. Motorola could take some lessons from the Japanese and Korean makers that produce bright color sub-displays on the outside (even some mono-color sub-displays look better than this one). It’s certainly something that was designed for looks than for actual usage.
One of my gripes with the V3 is the design of its flip. The spring that is loaded into my V3 is way too strong for what it needs to do. Let me put it another way, when you flip open the phone, the V3 feels as if it wants to leap out of your hands because the flip is so powerful. When you shut the phone, you get this very affirmative slap of metal. I don’t like this because if you flip the phone with one hand, the chance of you dropping the phone is actually quite high. It just seems a little to spring loaded for my taste. If you happen not to close the phone properly, the spring pops the phone back open and this can easily result in you dropping this phone.
To me, that’s a major design flaw because a phone this small is probably already really delicate. Who needs another design feature that makes the phone more delicate? How many of us have accidentally dropped or had a phone slip? Dropping the V3 would not be a pleasant experience. Luckily, I dropped mine on a cushioned floor the first (and only) time so it still works perfectly.
First things first, as a phone, the V3 is very good. Voice quality both ways is excellent and the speakerphone is nice and loud. Placing calls, SMS, etc. all comes very easy and naturally. Motorola has done a very good job of upgrading their ease of navigation in building this interface. I was pretty happy with navigating around all the different settings and functions and changing the features is not too difficult.
As I mentioned above, the outside sub-display is pretty useless so I’ll just leave it at that. The inside screen though is bright, vibrant, and clear. Although there are certainly better screens (like those on the Sharp GX32 or Z200) but this is definitely one of the better screens available today. I understand that given the design, there are of course limitations, but I did wish the screen could have been a little bigger (well longer actually) – the screen feels very “square” to me.
It did take me some time to get the phone configured for data use. GPRS functionality would not work until I messed around with a lot of different settings. It’s not as simple or as easy as a Nokia handset. However, I’m sure I could have saved myself the headache by just going to my phone provider to set the phone up for me.
The camera is really disappointing considering this is a high-end phone. VGA quality (640×480) means that most pictures are not good enough except for viewing on the phone. I’m surprised Motorola decided to put in such a poor camera in such a nice high-end phone. To make matters worse, the phone interface actually displays the images even smaller as they have this ugly menu bar below the image. Overall, images are fine for a phone but disappointing if you want to e-mail or even share them. Unfortunately, there is no video taking so the video function/playback of the phone is fairly wasted.
The V3 comes with a number of different applications and games. Navigating the menus is fairly easy with a very similar main menu as what we see on Sony Ericsson menus. The games are Java based and ok if you are trying to pass time. (Of course they are no match for my PSP so I don’t even bother playing with it.) The applications are fairly standard, from contacts to a calendar. One new application that they put in was a built in Instant Messenger software. Of course I had no one to IM nor could I even set it up properly to work. Still it’s an interesting application to have on there and who knows, may just catch on. I should add that there is no MP3 playback functionality as well.
By paying the super premium to own the V3, I guess Motorola felt bad and decided to throw in a bunch of freebies. I got an “expansion pack” for free which, as I mentioned, included an extra battery, standalone charger, and a Bluetooth headset. I chose not to use this headset as I already have a few others lying around the house. Connectivity is relatively easy and I had no problems getting it to recognize a few different headsets. Speaking of the battery, battery life is moderately good. You can pretty much run the phone for at least two full days of use before you’ll need to recharge or switch. Plus, I have an extra battery so this isn’t really an issue.
The phone can be charged through a normal wall charger or through the USB cable. Motorola offers you some connectivity with a USB charge/synch cable.
Unfortunately the software that you get with the phone (the Motorola Mobile Phone Tools) needs a lot of work. Other than to backup my contact lists, I had a lot of problems trying to change ringtones, uploading files, etc. The software just isn’t very user friendly and I couldn’t get it to work properly. It crashed when I tried to match it up to my Outlook so I gave up. I just use it in the office to charge the phone.
Overall, the V3 is probably one of the slimmest, nicest phones available. As it has continued to hit the markets over the past few months, it’s certainly gaining in popularity. When I bought it, the retail price was just over US$750. It’s since dropped to just under US$650 but to me that’s still way overpriced for this phone. I agree it has very impressive looks, but in terms of features, I’d probably look elsewhere. As the price drops, this phone will become more appealing. But by then, you’ll have more and certainly newer options. If you have MONEY TO BURN and still want one of the lightest, newer phones today, this is it – it certainly looks good. However, if you’re looking for a feature packed phone, there are some other options I’d consider today.