Motorola RAZR V3i

Preamble

The first mobile phone that I ever used was made by Nokia, was extremely heavy and came in a satchel. It comprised a handset attached to a base unit by a coiled cable.

The first mobile phone that I as ever issued was also made by Nokia and could be carried in a pocket – if the pocket were large enough.

Recently, I have used various Nokia models, all of which broke in some way or other, and a couple of Ericsson R320s, which have possibly the worst battery life of any hand-held appliance.

Not being able to obtain spare battery contacts for my broken Nokias (the ones that fell apart through poor design rather than the ones that had accidents) and my Ericssons not being much use unless they could be charged daily, I realised that the time had come to bite the bullet and get my hands on something that was probably designed in this, not the last, century.

Desperately Seeking Mobile

front view of phone when closed

After going through the models listed by the Australian Choice Magazine (a bit like Which? in the UK, and researching them further through Google, I had not seen anything I particularly liked at a price that I was prepared to pay.

Furthermore, restricting myself to manufacturers with a good pedigree – ones that have been making mobile phones since they first came out – things were not looking good.

Moto

Only when I started looking at vendor Web sites did I start to see anything of interest, and these were products of Motorola. As I am something of a fan of Freescale, what was Motorola Semiconductors, I thought that these would warrant further investigation.

I remember the original Motorola flip phones – a breakage just waiting to happen and the reason that I never touched a phone with moving parts until I acquired a second-hand Nokia 7110 earlier this year (the battery contacts broke).

Despite my wariness of such phones, the Motorola RAZR V3 caught my interest. PC World magazine ran a feature about a year ago, "The 50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years"; the RAZR found itself in 12th place.

With an aluminium shell and what appears to be a well-engineered hinge, my RAZR V3i (an upgrade on the original model) seems to be anything but a flimsy flip-phone.

Motorola OS

Software-wise, this phone runs a proprietary operating system of Motorola’s own devising. Had I not needed this phone for another year, I could have obtained a subsequent model running Linux, with a QT interface.

Although it may be a proprietary operating system, this does not mean that I cannot do things with it. The phone sports a Java virtual machine and Motorola provides a free SDK, documentation and code examples. It appears that I should be able to develop applications for this phone using the Netbeans development environment. I have downloaded Netbeans, the latest Java SDK and runtime and all the appropriate Motorola stuff. All I have to do now is to learn to programme in Java, something that I have now been meaning to do for the best part of the last ten years.

As regards the operating system itself, it appears to be
very hackable and much hacked – there are many sites, such as
MotoModders, devoted
to the subject. I will be leaving this well alone until
such time as I can obtain an official Motorola firmware backup.

As one who has to travel with a bag of various mains adapters,
the RAZR has won my heart as it can be charged through a USB cable. Therefore, if I have a laptop with me, I do not need
the mains charger for the phone. The fact that this phone is also genuinely pocket sized (and not just for large pockets) is another big plus for the traveller.

Camera

Like nearly every other phone on the market nowadays, the V3i has a camera on board. Whilst the original V3 only had VGA resolution of 640×480px, the V3i has a resolution of 1.3 Megapixels – a meaningless figure that can be translated as 960x1280px, a shade better than SVGA.

How exactly one is supposed to hold steady a device so light and – for a camera – with poor ergonomics, I have yet to find out. In good light, this is not an issue, but as soon as a long exposure is required, there is a problem. I would imagine that this would be even more so when using it to record MPEG video.

The greatest annoyance with the camera is that when I hold the phone in what I consider to be a comfortable and steady position, the lens is totally obscured by my hand.

I intend to persevere and will treat it as another novel form of photography like building your own camera and making your own plates with egg and silver nitrate – something different and interesting, but with less than perfect results.

Faults

  • Sometimes, when going out of camera mode and shutting the phone quickly, the outer display goes grey and stays that way until the phone is power-cycled.
  • Date and time formats are restricted – the inability to set 24 hour clock is very annoying. Come on Motorola, please read ISO8601 and realise that we are in the twenty-first century.
  • Whilst used to and forgiving of the linguistic quirks of translated instruction manuals, when I took the time to RTFM, I was less than impressed. The manual was written in English and is really no better than some of the more iffy translations I have seen.
    I found it easier to work some things out by working through the phone’s menu system than by using the manual. If I had a dollar for every good product marred by poor documentation…
  • Saving the best to last, this phone can act as a media player. With the possibility to have up to half a Gigabyte of SD memory fitted, this seems quite good. What is more, the phone has Bluetooth and Motorola
    offers a good Bluetooth stereo headset. What the developers neglected to do is include the Bluetooth A2DP profile (part of the firmware) that allows stereo audio to be sent over Bluetooth. To me, this seems really, really stupid. I am rather hoping to see a new firmware release that can be applied to these phones to fix this issue. It is probably just as well that I do not use portable audio devices otherwise I really would not be happy.

Conclusion

So far, I like this phone. None of my issue with it relate to the actual hardware, which has always been my cause for complaint with previous phones. I hope to have it long enough to do some software development on it, although my track record with mobile phones so far has not been that good.

I look forward to hearing from anyone from Motorola who might read this, regarding where and when I can get my firmware update.

Software

For the technically minded, who know something about RAZRs,
here are the specifications given by the phone:

Flash
R479_G_08.B4.89R
Flex
GSPSLQAT678RS146
DSP
63242400
Java (J2ME)
CLDC v1.1
MIDP v2.0
Language Pack
0055 (UK English, Chinese simplified, Greek, Italian, Tieng Viet [Vietnamese])