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 Motorola V180, 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.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; an additional 250 names can be stored on the SIM card. 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 dialing, 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.
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 6MB of memory is left. Though 6MB 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.
You can personalize the V3 with a variety of wallpaper, colors, screensavers, and sounds. Additional options and ring tones are available from Cingular's Media Mall service. The mobile comes with one Java (J2ME)-enabled game (Jawbreaker) and a slide show for viewing your pictures. More titles can be downloaded from Cingular.We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS) Motorola Razr V3 world phone in San Francisco using Cingular Wireless service. Call quality generally was 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 the Logitech Mobile Bluetooth headset. The reception came through with a bit at of static, but we had no problem pairing the two devices. Ring-tone volume also was somewhat low, and because the phone is so small, it's difficult to feel the vibrating ring when it's in your pocket. Finally, Motorola's menus can be a bit buggy.
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. According to the FCC, the Razr V3 has a digital SAR rating of 0.89 watts per kilogram.