Motorola's RAZR, or V3, appeared in late 2004, and has since has found its way into the trembling hands of over 100 million owners -- including everyone's favourite hedonistic jailbird, Paris Hilton.
In the years since the RAZR's launch, Motorola has released a string of V3 variations, including the V3i (and its garish golden Dolce & Gabbana cousin), the V3x and the HSDPA V3xx. While each sported a slightly enhanced specs list, the sameness of the form factor and lack of interface updates made us wonder if Motorola was resting on its design laurels.
Enter the RAZR2. Far from being another update, the sequel is a whole different kind of RAZR, with rounder edges, shiny surfaces and -- somehow -- a thinner silhouette.
There are three models in the RAZR line-up: the GSM V8, the HSDPA V9 and the CDMA V9m. Though the Shanghai launch event put the V8 centre stage, Australia will be focusing on the V9. The handset is initially available in grey on Telstra's Next G network.
Just when we were getting mighty sick of the V3 design -- which looks dated and blocky in the wake of super-sleek models from other phone makers -- Moto has ponied up the goods with the V9. The overall look is more streamlined and sassy -- gone is the big bump at the base of the keypad, and two millimetres have been skimmed from the depth. The hinge has also been smoothed down, shined up and fashioned into an oval, making it fit better against the keypad and main display.
The 320 x 240-pixel outer display is much bigger at two inches -- that's just 0.2 of an inch smaller than the main screen -- and incorporates three touch-sensitive music keys at the bottom. We've seen these song-focused touch keys on phones like the Samsung A701 and Motorola's own MAXX V6. However, the RAZR2 sports a nifty upgrade -- haptics technology has been employed to give a vibration response whenever a key is pressed. This itty bitty buzz will please those who have been frustrated by the intangibility of touch interfaces.
The V9 sports a shiny chrome coat, and though it does attract fingerprints, the surfaces are not quite the smudge farm found on phones like the LG Shine.
While the V9 was a good fit in our palm, people with petite hands may struggle to wrap their digits around the phone. At 53 millimetres across, it's the same width as the first RAZR.
Things have also gotten better on the inside; the ageing interface has been given an overhaul, with a Linux/Java-based operating system allowing for add-on apps.
The 2-megapixel, flash-free camera is a bit of a let-down given the litany of 3-megapixel-plus phones out there.
The Next G V9 comes with a BigPond-branded music player, which offers a direct link to the BigPond music store. It's not as fancy as the players we've seen on Samsung and Nokia phones lately, but the basic interface is a cinch to get your head around.
Our V9 came with a 512MB microSD card, which tacks on nicely to the 45MB of built-in space.
Connection-wise, you've got Bluetooth (A2DP) and USB to contend with. One thing to note: the mini-USB port that served as an all-purpose connector on previous RAZRs has been nixed in favour of a micro USB socket, so don't count on using old chargers and cables with the V9.
We loved the super-fast interface -- tasks that used to have us twiddling our thumbs (such as deleting a folder full of high-res photos) were done and dusted in no time. There was also no text lag during fast-fingered messaging.
Photos taken during the day were clear and vibrant, but night-time shots fared poorly due to the lack of flash.
WAP pages and Telstra's portal looked good on the V9's browser, but standard HTML pages had trouble adapting to the confines of the display. In the browser preferences you can choose whether to fit the page to screen or not, so toggle according to your liking.
Even though the speed of the interface has improved, the menu structure is the same, and it can be difficult to find how to change settings or access features. For example, the music player -- which might logically be found under "Multimedia" or as its own menu option -- is hidden among the Java games in the "Games & Apps" category.
After the procession of clonish V3 variants over the last few years, the new RAZR is a pleasing sequel, and should invigorate interest in what is now a hallmark franchise for Motorola. The original RAZR's success was largely due to the fact that it looked completely different to all the other phones cluttering the market; whippet-thin clamshells are now readily available, but the RAZR2 should still capture the hearts of those who fell for the V3 as well as enticing newcomers.