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National Geographic Motorola Razr V3 (Cellular Abroad) review: National Geographic Motorola Razr V3 (Cellular Abroad)

National Geographic Motorola Razr V3 (Cellular Abroad)

Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German
4 min read

Editors' note: For National Geographic's dual-SIM card international phone, check out our Duet D888 review.


National Geographic Motorola Razr V3 (Cellular Abroad)

The Good

The National Geographic Motorola Razr V3 offers affordable calling rates and international long distance. Also, the phone comes unlocked and without a contract.

The Bad

The National Geographic Motorola Razr V3 is a dated choice for a specialty cell phone. Also, it offers minimal themed content and few features.

The Bottom Line

The National Geographic Motorola Razr V3 offers cheap international calling, but we don't see any other reason to buy it.

It makes perfect sense that National Geographic would sell a themed cell phone for international travel, but we were a little surprised when the organization partnered again with Cellular Abroad to offer a domestic phone. Though the need for the former is very real, particularly when it is coupled with a prepaid service, the U.S. domestic market is a different story. With so many prepaid options already available, we wondered how National Geographic could differentiate itself from the crowd. A unique phone with cool National Geographic content could be a draw, but we were disappointed to see that the final product that we reviewed offers neither.

You'd have to admit that the Razr is a boring choice for a phone.

Of all the cell phones National Geographic could have picked for its domestic service, to our bewilderment it chose the Motorola Razr V3. Sure, the Razr remains a decent device even four and a half years after its original debut, but it's pretty much an antique in the gadget world. The camera is just VGA, extra features are few, and its entire design--while certainly trendsetting--is dated. Your other choice is the Motorola C139. It isn't a terrible phone either, but it's about a basic as a handset that you can get. While we understand that National Geographic is trying to appeal to budget-minded users who want a simple, affordable phone for basic communication, we still feel as if they could have picked more exciting handsets while keeping costs down. Alternatively, you can just get a National Geographic SIM card and use it in the GSM phone of your choice.

National Geographic's Razr V3 offers themed wallpapers. This was our favorite.

From the outside, the black Razr V3 shows no signs of its National Geographic status, but inside it offers a selection of themed content. You can choose wallpapers featuring animals or a world travel destination, though they don't look fantastic on the Razr V3's low-resolution display. You'll also find a series of animal and travel-themed ringtones such as a lion's roar or Calypso music. They're a nice touch, but we were hoping for more fluff--maybe a game or a National Geographic photo library. And while we're at it, a phone with a rugged design, a GPS application, and a full-fledged music player would be more than appropriate for frequent travelers.

Fortunately, the reasonable calling rates are the service's saving grace, particularly if you're ringing internationally. Domestic calls are a flat rate of 15 cents per minute at all times. As with any other prepaid service, you buy a block of time before you start using the phone. Then, once your balance is up, you must buy additional minutes before you can start using the phone again. Of course, you'll have to pay for the phone as well, but it's just $199. No contracts are required and the phone comes unlocked. And as we said earlier, you can buy just a $69 SIM card and get the same services.

Overall, the calling rates compare favorably with prepaid leader Virgin Mobile, which can charge anywhere from 5 cents to 20 cents per minute. It is a bit more expensive than Boost Mobile, T-Mobile, and AT&T, which charge 10 cents per minute for prepaid use, but unlike AT&T and T-Mobile, Cellular Abroad does not charge you $1 for each day that you use the phone.

International calls cost an extra 2 cents per minute to a variety of countries including Mexico, Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Other countries cost more, but the cheapest rate should cover the nation you'll call the most. Overall, 17 cents per minute for international calling is pretty reasonable.

Text messages are 10 cents per sent and received message for both domestic and international. As of this writing, Cellular Abroad does not offer multimedia messaging or Web browsing on the National Geographic Razr V3, but these services should be available later this year. Hopefully, customers will have the option to buy messages in bulk.

Cellular Abroad does not operate its own network, but instead leases space from AT&T. When testing the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Razr V3 world phone in San Francisco, we experienced decent call quality. The audio was clear, the signal was relatively strong, and we heard no voice distortion. On their end, callers said they could hear us without any problems, though they could tell we were using a phone. Our only real issue was that like the first Razr V3 we tested, the volume was rather low. However, on the upside, since the phone is unlocked you can use it with other carriers in the United States and abroad.