“Thanks to its capability to view widescreen video clips, the RAZR is the best V CAST video-viewing phone Verizon now offers.”
- Coolest looking cell phone extant; now with access to Verizon's high speed EV-DO network
- No stereo headphone capability; no removable memory slot
Unless you’ve been living in Antarctica, you know and probably crave a Motorola RAZR. No other cell phone looks more at home in our futuristic view of the 21st century as the art-techno RAZR, which has made it the world’s most popular cell phone. According to Motorola, around 13 million RAZRs have been sold worldwide. Amazingly, that total was achieved without the phone being available from the U.S.’s second largest carrier, Verizon. That oversight has been corrected with the RAZR V3c. Desirous Verizon customers will find their RAZR is superior to their friends proudly showing off their Cingular version, primarily because it is compatible with Verizon’s broadband EV-DO network and Verizon’s V CAST multimedia service. Unfortunately, while currently cool, the VC3, priced at $199.99 with a two-year contract, may face a quick obsolescence. Verizon is due to launch a music service early in 2006, and the RAZR lacks both an external memory slot to easily import your MP3s and a stereo headset option. But if you’re more concerned with impressing your co-workers than listening to music on your cell phone, the RAZR in any version is likely to remain the coolest phone around.
*Update 12/21/2005 – There is a Stereo Headset available for this phone that connects to the phones USB interface. It is available on Verizon’s website. The Bluetooth headset is 1.1 compatible and does not support Stereo sound however.
Features and Design
The RAZR’s most distinctive physical feature is its thinness — 3.86″ by 2.08″ by only 0.57-inches thick. This makes the RAZR the easiest phone to stick in your pants pocket right next to your money clip.
Verizon’s RAZR is nearly identical to Cingular’s, and just as skinny. Instead of black, silver or magenta, Verizon’s RAZR is shimmering gray that doesn’t look as dull as it should be. On its face is a 1-inch external color LCD, with the 1.3 megapixel camera lens at the top. Inside is the bright 2.2-inch diagonal, 176 x 220 pixel color LCD screen, and below that is the distinctively etched metal keypad illuminated by a brighter and bluer electro-luminescence backlighting than the near turquoise of Cingular’s RAZRs.
Below the keypad is a distinctive chin, which houses the phone’s main radio transmitter and receiver. This location — or, more precisely, relocation is significant. Most manufacturers place the radiation-emitting radio up near the top of the phone, close to the brain. Placing the radio at the bottom of the phone reduces the RAZR’s SAR — Specific Absorption Rate — as reported to the FCC. (There have been no definitive studies that link excessive cell phone use with any adverse radiation-related effects, but then we didn’t know tobacco could kill you until relatively recently.)
On the rear of the chin is the RAZR’s primary speaker, used both to listen to V CAST video clips and speakerphone combinations. Again, this placement is significant. Your palm acts like a speaker cabinet and reflects the sound back at you.
There are three buttons arrayed around the perimeter of the top flap. Because each of these keys serve multiple functions depending on the application, they are unmarked. Primarily, the largest of the three is the up/down volume toggle, above that the speaker activation key and, on the opposite side, is the key that activates the RAZR’s voice-dialing feature. The power connector jack on the side of the chin resembles a mini-FireWire connector, and the box includes a right-angle adapter for charging in tight quarters.
What’s missing is a headphone jack. Like the Cingular version, the V3c is equipped with Bluetooth version 1.1, which is fine for conversations but is incapable of transmitting stereo (you need Bluetooth 1.2 and beyond for wireless stereo). Almost all higher-end cell phones are equipped with stereo headphone jacks for game play and anticipating their use as a music listening device. And even though there isn’t music available on V CAST right now, there are music videos to view and games to play, but you’ll hear them only in mono.
As with most new phones these days, the RAZR is equipped with a variety of helpful applications — calendar, alarm clock, world clock, notepad and calculator.
Image Courtesy of Verizon
Like a supermodel, the RAZR really doesn’t have to do much but look good. But the V3c does improve on the original in one way — video viewing. Cell phones are plagued by portrait-oriented view screens, which is the wrong shape for any video. But Verizon lets you blow the video up and view it in landscape mode by turning the phone horizontally, resulting in a screen nearly as large as the Video iPod.
Unfortunately, the speaker placement at the bottom of the phone actually works against the RAZR’s widescreen video capabilities. Music and especially words emanate from so far away from the screen (around five inches) that you lose the perception of synchronized sound and vision. Motorola’s speech recognition for voice dialing works as advertised, but we found that simply scrolling through the contact list far easier.
All of Verizon’s data and V CAST clips load quickly, usually in less than 15 seconds. On screen text, even the smallest fonts, is crisp and easily readable. Colors are bright and sharp and video and images offer plenty of contrast. But as you enlarge images or video you’ll notice more color splotches and pixelization.
Verizon’s signal quality has always been exemplary, and the RAZR delivers both a clean signal with very few dropouts and near landline quality sound. Full duplex (meaning both you and your co-conversationalist can talk over each other) speakerphone quality also is above average, and improves once you drop the flap down.
Image and camcorder quality is average, meaning shots are as grainy and blurry as any other cell phone camera expect in bright sunlight and especially since there’s no flash to provide even a hint of help for indoor shots. Addressing, attaching and sending images via picture messaging or email is a bit less unnecessarily convoluted compared to other phones, which means you’ll likely mess up only once or twice per transmission rather than be completely frustrated.
Both the LCD screen and the backlighting eat up battery power, rated at 3 hours of talk and 200 hours of standby. To achieve these figures, the LCD screen and dial pad backlighting dim relatively quickly. You can turn the power saving feature off, however, keeping the screen and dial pad bright. You’ll just have to remember to recharge every night.
Thanks to its capability to view widescreen video clips, the RAZR is the best V CAST video-viewing phone Verizon now offers. More importantly, you will feel technologically fulfilled. But the RAZR’s lack of a stereo headphone connection could limit its prominence much beyond the middle of next year. Before rushing in to plunk 200 bucks and a two-year commitment to get one, you need to think about how much you may want to use your cell phone for gaming or music listening. In a world of nearly instantaneous tech obsolesce; Verizon’s version of the RAZR could be over even before it starts.
- Thin and light
- Big, bright LCD screen
- EV-DO compatible
- No wired headphone jack
- Not stereo capable
- No external memory card slot
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