Though cell 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 autumn, 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 adds a ton of much-needed bling to Cingular's formerly staid lineup. Indeed, even we were frothing at the mouth to give it a test spin--not only for the flashy form factor but also for the promised high-end goodies. Fortunately, the V3 delivers in all areas and is one instance where a cell phone has stood up to the excitement. Though the V3 is expensive at $449, consumers looking for a conversation-piece cell phone can do no better. Hopefully, Cingular will lower the price in the near future.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more. When viewed straight on, the Motorola Razr V3 looks no different from many flip phones. In fact, with its brushed-silver coloring (it also comes in black) 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 3.8 by 2.0 by 0.5 inches and weighing 3.3 ounces, 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. Still, due to the slim form factor, this is not a phone for the danger prone. We couldn't help noticing the V3 is wider and a bit taller than many flip phones, but its paper-thin profile more than makes up for it.
A postage-stamp-size external display supports 4,000 colors 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 flip 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, 2.5-inch, 260,000-color 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, navigation buttons lie completely flush with the surface of the phone. Using the slippery controls took some acclimation, but they're decently sized, so we got the hang of it eventually. 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. And like the, the Razr has Talk and End buttons that are in different positions than those of the company's other handsets. For the keypad, we were wary initially of the flat design and the lack of individual buttons, but the brightly backlit keys turned out to be easier to use than we expected. It should be noted, though, that the buttons lack any texture, so dialing by feel is difficult. The design has drawn mixed emotions for users, so you should give the buttons a test-drive first.