RAZR side-by-side with V60c

About a month ago, I realized that my two-year anniversary with Verizon Wireless was coming up, meaning that I was able to receive a new free (or highly-subsidized) phone from them so long as I was willing to renew my contract. For a variety of reasons, Shannon and I had already decided that I should stick with VW (and that she should join onto a family plan with me), so I went hunting to see what phones Verizon was willing to provide as part of the deal. Having putzed around with a friend’s Motorola RAZR a little bit, I was happy to see that the phone was available to me for free; after going into a store and getting some hands-on time with its competitors, I went with the RAZR. Now that I’ve had the phone for about a month, I figure it’s time for a review.

(First, to clarify: Verizon Wireless offers the RAZR V3C, which is the CDMA version of the device. Other providers in the US offer the GSM version; I’ve never played with them, and don’t know if anything I say applies to those phones at all.)

RAZR from the side

Let’s start with the positives, and accordingly, with the obvious one: the phone is really thin and incredibly pretty. Prior to this, I had a Motorola V60c — an incredibly good phone when it came to raw quality (reliability, durability, etc.), but it was thick and it wasn’t much to look at. And while how a phone looks doesn’t matter that much to me, it’s actually nice to be able to slide it into a pocket and not have a bruise on my leg a few hours later. A corollary to the size of the RAZR is that it’s very well-balanced; in order to maintain the thin width, Motorola put the antenna below the mouthpiece, and it makes the whole phone comfortable to hold in both the closed and open positions.

The final pure positive is that I’ve been pretty impressed with the signal reception of the RAZR. With my old phone, there were plenty of places in my day-to-day life in which I had no signal, and it seems like the RAZR is able to get onto the network in a lot of them. (I’ll freely admit that I didn’t embark on scientific research on this point, though — for all I know, Verizon has recently put up a few extra cells around my neighborhood.)

Now, for the things that aren’t terrific, but also aren’t terrible. The logical first member of this group is the RAZR’s camera, which has the ability to take decent pictures, but has the tendency to take average to subpar pictures. (A friend recently referred to it as “the RAZR’s GlaucomaVision.”) I’ve figured out little bits of voodoo that help my pictures (like religiously setting the brightness to fit each shot, and holding as still as I can when taking the picture), but I’ve also figured out not to expect too much from the camera.

Similarly, the audio quality isn’t fabulous, at times a bit tinny and at other times a bit choppy. Certainly, one of the contributors to this is the fact that you have to have relatively good positioning of the earpiece in order to clearly hear the speaker in the phone, something I’ve heard is true with a lot of the newer and thinner phones. But there’s something more to it than that, something to which I haven’t found a solution.

Lastly, I’m not a huge fan of the fact that there aren’t any real plug-into-the-phone options to allow hands-free use of the RAZR. I don’t have anything against all the new Bluetooth headsets (well, except that they makes everyone look a little toolish), but I wasn’t really looking for another battery-powered device that I need to keep charged.

Finally, we come to the overt negatives of the RAZR. To me, the biggest of these that’s intrinsic to the phone itself is the screen brightness (or lack thereof), something that I find makes the phone almost unusable in direct sunlight. There are times, walking outdoors, when I truly cannot see a single pixel on the screen of my RAZR, and have to duck into a shadow in order to use the menus or dial a call; to me, that’s pretty amazing. This is my first mobile phone with a color screen, so perhaps this is an issue that plagues many phones in this class, but I can tell you that it certainly plagues the RAZR.

Another negative for the RAZR is the size and action of the buttons, something that’s made me misdial quite a few phone calls. I know that this is part and parcel of Motorola being able to make the phone so damn thin (and might also be related to the girth of my fingers!), so it’s hard to complain too too much about it, but it’s an observation nonetheless.

The final group of negatives is made up of issues that are either certainly or likely to be unrelated to the RAZR itself, and instead related to the operating system that Verizon has put onto the phone. In this class of issues: the fact that the phone’s ability to communicate with computers over Bluetooth has been crippled (a Verizon-greed-related reason which I’ve covered enough elsewhere to not go into it here), the inability to charge the phone via a powered USB port on a consistent basis, and the lack of an option to have the phone both ring and vibrate on an incoming call. (The last of those issues is actually annoying as hell to me, as it means I have to remember to switch my phone to vibrate every single time I put my iPod headphones in my ears.)

All in all, despite the list above, I’m reasonably satisfied with my RAZR, but have reservations when it comes to the quality of the camera and audio, and I wish that it was able to free me from having to carry around two chargers whenever I travel (one for the phone, and one for the hands-free set). If it weren’t for how thin and light the RAZR is, these reservations would probably tilt the balance against the phone… but clearly, that’s what Motorola was banking on!


perhaps not being able to ring and vibrate is a verizon or non-gsm issue. i have the razr v3 gsm, and have it set for both ring and vibrate.

• Posted by: jim winstead on Apr 28, 2006, 10:48 AM

Yeah, Jim — I included it in that list (the “either certainly or likely to be unrelated to the RAZR itself, and instead related to the operating system that Verizon has put on the phone” list). It’s clearly not the fault of the phone itself, since there are known hacks to the phone that re-enable the functionality; it’s just baffling to me that Verizon somehow felt it necessary to disable this.

• Posted by: Jason on Apr 28, 2006, 10:57 AM
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