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Photos: The best and worst of Motorola cell phones

As news swirls that Motorola is considering spinning off its cell phone business, we take a look back at the company's noteworthy models since the mid-1990s. Way before its wildly popular Razr, the company had a major hits with its trend-setting Startac phone. And in between, it had its share of highs and lows.

Kent_German.jpg
Kent_German.jpg

Kent German

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Just over three years ago in November 2004, Motorola introduced its ultrathin Razr V3 for Cingular. Dozens of revamps, colors and imitators followed, and the thin-phone trend that the V3 sparked continues to this day. The GSM V3 eventually made it to T-Mobile as well, and the CDMA V3c and V3m landed at Verizon Wireless, Sprint, US Cellular, and Alltel.
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Announced in the autumn of 2005, the Rokr E1 may have been the first iTunes phone, but its dull design, limited features, and litany of restrictions caused it to bomb within a few months. Cingular later put iTunes on the Razr V3i, but it too was burdened by limitations.
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The E815 from 2005 was one of Verizon Wireless' earliest CDMA 3G phones. It was a great handset by most accounts, but Verizon Wireless was still being a control freak at the time by limiting Bluetooth file transfers. Still, it made up for the poor Motorola V710, which was Verizon's first Bluetooth phone.
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In early 2006 Cingular's Slvr L7 took the Razr design and hammered it flat. Though it was just as thin as its predecessor, it never generated the same level of hype that the V3 enjoyed. It also offered iTunes, but the annoying usage restrictions remained. Later came the GSM Slvr L6 and L2 and the CDMA L7c.
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Introduced in February 2006, the Pebl U6 offered an innovative sexy flip-phone design. It was a quality model, but it had limited carrier support (it only came to T-Mobile). T-Mobile tried to broaden the Pebl's appeal with four extra colors, but it went to the carrier's graveyard within a year.
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In 1996 during an age of chunky candy-bar phones, the Motorola Startac sparked a revolution in cell phones when it was introduced. As the first successful flip handset, it showed that cell phones could be slim and attractive while still being able to make a call. It came eight years before the Razr, but it set the stage for what was to come.
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The Krzr K1 for Cingular put new spin on the Razr design, though it didn't offer any new features. Born in 2006, it continues to enjoy a good run in a variety of colors. T-Mobile picked it up as well, while Sprint and Verizon offered the CDMA Krzr K1m.
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One of the first "designer phones," the Razr V3i Dolce & Gabbana, which ran briefly with T-Mobile in 2006, aimed to add more design flash to the Razr beyond its thin profile. And on that front, it succeeded.
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Of course you can't talk about Motorola without mentioning its successful iDEN line for Nextel. They gave birth to Push-to-talk and attracted a loyal set of followers. And though they weren't pretty, these sturdy handsets could take a licking and keep on ticking. The i580 was one of the better models in the series. After Nextel and Sprint merged in 2005, Moto started making dual-mode CDMA/iDEN phones like the ic902.
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The Rizr Z3 was a thoroughly decent model for T-Mobile. Moto did well at its first try at the slider phone, even if the public didn't snatch it up in a fury. Introduced in late 2006, we wouldn't see another Rizr until almost a year later when the Rizr Z6tv (with support for V Cast Mobile TV) landed at Verizon Wireless. A couple months later Verizon introduced the Z6c, which was the second Moto handset (after the A840) to offer dual-mode GSM/CDMA support.
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In late 2004 the bricklike A845 was one of the first 3G phones ever to land at a U.S carrier. The GSM handset certainly brought some new features, but AT&T Wireless's 3G service was available only in six markets. It vanished soon after.
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In 2006 Moto introduced thin handset design to the smart phone with the Q. It was a solid device but not as powerful as we had hoped. It came first to Verizon Wireless as the Q and Q9m, then later to Sprint as the Q9c and to AT&T as the Q9h. Though it has enjoyed a good run, it's been one of Moto's few smartphones in the last couple of years.
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Introduced in 2007, AT&T's HSDPA-capable Razr V3xx was the best GSM Razr to date. But ultimately, it was just another Razr. The Razr V3x also had 3G, but it never made to a North American carrier.
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The CDMA (and 3G) Razr Maxx Ve finally brought some design changes to the Razr family, and it added a much-needed camera flash. It's a solid phone on the whole, and Verizon Wireless still offers it almost a year after its introduction.
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Finally, Moto gave us a brand-new (and not recycled) Razr in the summer of 2007. The Razr2 series offered high-end features, gorgeous displays, satisfying performance, and a slick new profile. But after almost three years since the original V3, was it too late? Hitting stores a month after the iPhone didn't help, either. The V9 landed at AT&T. The V9m came to Sprint, Verizon Wireless, and Alltel, and the V8 landed at T-Mobile.
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Moto billed the unlocked Rizr Z8 as the "media monster." Was it a media monster? Not so much. But it did offer a unique "kick slide" design. The Z10, which Moto introduced at CES 2008, also used the "kick slide" form factor while offering a 3.2-megapixel camera and a camcorder that shoots at 30 frames per second.
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Though it's not available with a U.S. carrier, the unique Ming (A1200), which offers a Linux-based operating system, is a solid beginner smartphone nonetheless.
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Moto's T-Mobile Sidekick Slide was the first Sidekick not manufactured by Danger or Sharp. It also was the first Sidekick to feature a screen that slid, rather than swiveled, open. Unfortunately, Moto pulled the product shortly after its release due to battery defects. Moto later fixed the problem.
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Announced in 2003, the Motorola V600 preceded the Razr by about a year. Though hardly flashy, it was a dependable and popular model that spawned a wide array of V-series models. Its siblings included the V180, V220, V300, V400 and V505.
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Continuing with its trend-setting record, Moto's V70 was one of the first swivel phones available. Its front cover rotated 180 degrees to expose the keyboard. It became something of an "it" phone during after it was introduced in 2002.
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First sighted in 2004, the Motorola MPx caught a lot of interest when it was first introduced. Its dual-hinge design was unique and almost a little freakish (at least at the time). It never arrived at a North American carrier.
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Also introduced in 2002, the Motorola V60 was one of the most memorable "everyone has one" cell phones. Eventually, it made the full carrier rounds and morphed into a plethora of models for TDMA (remember that?), GSM and CDMA networks.
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Though boxy as they come, the Motorola A630 was one of the first regular cell phones to offer a full QWERTY keyboard for messaging. Introduced in 2004, it came first to T-Mobile.
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Introduced at the 2008 CES, the E8 made an attempt to reinvigorate the Rokr line. Forget iTunes, this handset offers an innovative keypad "morphing" technology. As you move between the phone, camera and music features, the backlighting on the keypad changes to illuminate only the applicable keys.
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The MPx200 was small as smartphones go. Not only was a flip phone, but also it lacked a alphabetic keyboard. It was a solid effort, but it didn't have Bluetooth, and its performance could be middling. Also, while it was introduced in 2003, it offered the 2002 version of Windows Mobile. A follow-up version, the MPx220, came in 2004.

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