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If looks count, then the Motorola Razr V3 quad band cell phone is definitely a winner.

But as in life, looks aren't everything.  If you're looking for the fullest set of state of the art features, you might be disappointed.

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Motorola Razr V3 Cell Phone Review

The thinnest and coolest looking phone out there

Motorola is re-affirming its design leadership with the lovely Razr V3 cell phone.

This phone has proved to be very popular indeed, but its popularity seems to be primarily due to its looks rather than its functionality.



The Motorola Razr V3 cell phone is both very distinctive and also very attractive.

Combining its classy and stylish appearance with quadband GSM service, super-strength Bluetooth, color displays on both sides of the flip, long battery life, and a camera, it seems to have everything anyone would want.  But for high end road warriors, the phone sadly omits some of the latest and greatest features.

Normal people will probably find it more than satisfactory, and with the recent price drop on Amazon - now offering the phone for free with new service from either Cingular or T-mobile - the phone is now very affordable.

The Razr V3 can be readily unlocked, and will then work with any GSM service, anywhere in the world.

The Motorola Razr V3 - What you get

The Motorola Razr V3 is being sold in conjunction with service by both Cingular and T-mobile, and is an extraordinarily popular best seller for Motorola.  They have sold over 12 million V3 phones, with half that number occurring in the third quarter of 2005 alone.

Although this phone used to be expensive (but - great news - it can now be 'purchased' for free through Amazon), both Cingular and T-mobile sell it in a bare bones basic cardboard box, and with very little in the way of extras.

In contrast, some of the other companies that sell the phone by itself, such as Telestial (where I got mine) supply the phone in a lovely brushed aluminium case with viewing window in the top that slides open, and with a more complete kit of accessories, including a regular headset (the V3 supports either Bluetooth or regular headsets), belt pouch, CD with connectivity software and USB cable for both data connections to a computer and as an alternate method of charging the phone.

The Razr V3's capabilities and specifications

The manual which comes with the phone is surprisingly silent about the phone's technical specifications, and some of the other reviews on the internet quote incorrect data.  I'm basing my facts and figures on the material on Motorola's own site, except where it too is wrong.

The V3 measures 3.5" x 2.1" x 0.55" when folded closed and weighs 3.4 ounces.  This makes it moderately - but not very - compact in terms of length and breadth; its most notable feature being how thin it is.

The phone came with four different manuals - a warranty brochure, a quick start guide, a service guide, and the main user manual.  Interestingly the main user manual was very much shorter than the V600 manual - a mere 104 pages compared to 268 for the V600.

The phone's external case is predominantly made out of brushed aluminium, but there is a small section at the bottom made out of plastic (although it looks the same as the metal).  The reason for the plastic section is because this is where the antenna is located - if it were covered in metal then the signal would be prevented from efficiently radiated.

It is nice to have a phone that doesn't have a stub antenna on it, and Motorola seems to have achieved this with no loss of sensitivity.  My V3 and V600 perform almost identically in terms of places where they'll lose and gain signal.  There doesn't seem to be any way to plug in an external antenna.

The V3 can accept a wide range of different types of downloadable ringtones, and has 24 voice polyphony to give great sound.  It also has some pre-loaded games and more games can be downloaded to the phone, too, supporting the J2ME standard.

The Razr takes about the same 22 seconds to power on as does the V600.  Unlike most phones, you don't need to push and hold the power on button for a second or two to turn the phone on - the slightest tap will turn the phone on.

Its internal phone book can hold up to 1000 names and phone numbers, although the SIM is limited to 'only' 250 contacts on the SIM.  Motorola's phone book/contact manager is more clunky and less elegant than most other phone manufacturers - Motorola has tried to keep more compatibility with the very limited features that the SIM itself supports; this is helpful when copying numbers to or from the SIM, but not so helpful if you're trying to set up a sophisticated contact management system with multiple phone numbers for each person in your phone book.

It has an excellent speakerphone feature with good clear loud sound.  The phone is also reasonably loud when generating normal ring sounds, although this depends a bit on the ring tone or tune that you choose.

Carrying the phone

The phone has a loop point to put a carry-loop on it, subtly located on one of the two chrome hinges.  However, although very thin, the phone is larger than many other phones in terms of its length and breadth and perhaps is too large to dangle around your neck.  I usually add a neck strap to my phones, even if I then carry the phone in a shirt pocket - I use the neck strap as a safety device so that if the phone slips out of my pocket (something that happens to an amazing number of people when, ahem, leaning over to flush a toilet!) it won't then fall and go somewhere that I don't want to have to reach into to retrieve it!   The neck strap also makes it harder for me to forget about the phone and leave it behind somewhere (eg in a taxi).  Here's an online store that sells them for about $2 each.   A great investment and highly recommended.

But with the V3 I'm currently using the belt holder that came with it.  However this is not without its limitations.  Twice I've had it catch on the side of my seat when exiting the car; this has rotated the belt pouch so that the opening is facing down and opened the flap, all without me realizing it.  A few steps out of the car, I then hear the ugly clatter of my Razr V3 falling onto the concrete pavement.  It is a testament to the ruggedness of the phone that it has now survived two such falls with only the slightest of scratching.

I might instead put a neck strap on the phone.

Two color screens

It has two color screens.  A small external screen on the outside of the flip measures just over " by just under " and has a resolution of 96 x 80 pixels, and can display up to 4096 different color shades.  This external screen can show you who is calling without needing to open up the phone, but most of the time it effectively shows you nothing at all - when the phone is in standby mode with the screen powered down, you see nothing on the screen.

One effective use of the external screen is to use it as a viewfinder if you're taking a picture of yourself.  It shows you the picture the camera is about to capture, so you can accurately see if your head will be cut off or not.

The inside screen, visible only when the flip is opened, is much larger than on the V300-600 series of phones (measuring 1 3/8" x 1 3/4"), but has the same pixel resolution as their earlier phones of 176 x 220 pixels.  This screen shows up to 262,000 color shades (compared to 'only' 65,000 on the V300-600 phones).

The screens both show a puzzling array of little icons along the top to indicate things like if you have any messages, if GPRS is functioning, whether Bluetooth is enabled, signal strength, battery life, ring or vibrate setting, and probably other things, too.  Perhaps because I change phones regularly these days, I find it harder and harder to remember what each of the various different icons mean, and wish the industry would settle on a standard set of icons across all phones.


The camera appears to be identical in function and quality as the V600 camera (sample pictures here).  It has a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels, and offers an electronic zoom function that you're best advised to never use.  Pictures are stored in the phone's 5MB internal memory.

Unfortunately there is no removable memory card in the phone.  There is also no infra-red port, which could be a suitable alternate means of file transfer.   To transfer pictures from the phone to anywhere else you have a choice of three methods, with varying degrees of cost and complexity :

  • Connect the phone to a computer and transfer the files if you have the Motorola data connectivity software

  • Send the pictures by MMS or email (this will probably incur a fee from the wireless service you use)

  • Send the pictures by Bluetooth to some other Bluetooth device nearby

The lack of easy and free ways of transferring pictures makes this part of the phone of less value than it otherwise could be.  And the camera's low resolution and quality is inappropriate for an otherwise 'state of the art' phone.

The camera on my unit will not take video clips, although the phone will play back short MPEG4 video files.  More recent units have been upgraded to allow for the capture of short video clips.


The phone has a Java enabled micro-browser so can access some but not all websites.  It can also be configured to receive and send email.  It offers WAP 2.0 compatibility.

These functions probably will require you spending more money a month with your wireless provider.

The phone can be used as a modem to connect a computer to the internet, either via regular dialup service, which connects at a very slow speed (9600 baud) and costs you airtime, or via instant-on Class 10 (2U4D) GPRS which doesn't cost you any airtime but which is probably a separately charged extra service.

In GPRS use you can expect usually faster connections (15k - 20k baud) than in regular dialup, but both GPRS and regular dialup have more latency than if using a wired phone and regular modem, meaning that your effective communication speed is lower than a regular wired dialup connection showing the same baud rate.

A disappointment of the V3 is that it doesn't support any of the new higher speed types of wireless internet service, unlike its close relative, the V551, which supports EDGE internet at speeds in excess of 100k.


The phone supports Bluetooth connections to headsets and hands-free units and has quite a good range.  Most phones and other devices use the Bluetooth Class 2 specification which has a designed range of 10 meters (33 feet), but for some strange reason, Motorola built the V3 to a Class 1 specification which has a 100m/330ft range.

This is not as good as it might seem on paper.  Firstly, the extra range means extra battery drain.  Secondly, you'll only get this extra range when communicating with another Class 1 device, of which there are very few.

Thirdly, Bluetooth's limited range doubles as a de facto security feature.  By increasing the range ten-fold, you're increasing your exposure to other devices which might simply cause interference, or which might cause active security problems.

Fourthly, there are times when you actually don't want increased range.  In my case, I use my phone with my lovely Parrot CK3000 hands-free kit in my car.  With other Bluetooth phones, the phone automatically switches over to the Parrot when it gets in range (ie, when I'm in the car) and switches back when it goes out of range (ie when I leave the car).  With the V3, it stays connected to the CK3000 even when I'm some distance from the car (if the Parrot CK3000 remains switched on) and this can be unhelpful rather than helpful.

Strangely, I couldn't get the Bluetooth in my Motorola V3 to see the Bluetooth in my Motorola V600!

When using the phone with a headset, I generally use a regular wired headset rather than a Bluetooth headset - much as I want to like them, I tend to find Bluetooth headsets too much bother to be truly convenient.  Unfortunately, to use the phone with a regular headset, you are limited to only those headsets with a mini-USB plug on them.  Motorola chose not to offer a standard type headset plug for this phone, thereby greatly restricting your choice of after-market headsets.

Battery Life and Related Issues

Reviews commonly seem to quote battery life of as much as 200 hours of standby time or three hours of talk time.  Another source (Amazon) claims 6.67 hours of talk time or 250 hours of standby time.  Motorola itself says

Talk Time : Up to 200 to 430 minutes
Standby Time : Up to 180 to 290 hours
Standard Battery : 680 mAh Li-ion

Motorola's reference to a 680 mAh battery is rather surprising.  Although I'd assumed that Motorola's own website would be the best source of official data, the fact is I have never seen a 680 mAh battery.  Out of perhaps 50 V3s that I've inspected, all have had a 710 mAh battery.  Some other reviewers have even referred to a 750 mAh battery, but I've never seen one of those, either.

I tested my phone, and after 129 hours of standby and 76 minutes of airtime, the phone gave its first low battery beep warning.  The beeping lasted 6.5 hours before the phone finally died completely, representing 135.5 hours of standby and 1.25 hours of talk time.

This result is consistent with the first claim - if an hour of talk time is the same as 66.7 hours of standby, then in standby hour-equivalents, my experience represented 218 hours total.  If Amazon's figures are used as a measure, then an hour of talk time is the same as 37.5 hrs of standby time and my experience represents 182 hours total life, substantially shorter than their 250 hour claim.

Battery life is very dependent on the signal strength of the areas you are in.  GSM phones intelligently vary their signal power depending on if you're in an area of good coverage or bad coverage, so the better your coverage, the longer your battery life.  Coverage in my area seems to be average.

Battery life slightly reduces every time you charge the battery.  You can probably get as many as 500 charges out of the battery before its life has dropped to half that of a new battery.

The phone shows its battery life by a little battery icon on the screen with three bars inside it.  All three bars means a fully charged battery, and no bars means an almost dead battery.  Unfortunately, this is not a very accurate measure.  Several times I've left home in the morning with the phone showing two of its three bars, and after moderate usage during the day have had a battery crisis prior to returning home again that evening.  This is deceptive - two bars should imply two thirds full but plainly means much less than one third charge remaining.


Charging the phone with the plug-in wall charger takes 2 - 2.5 hours.  This is much faster and more convenient than the time it takes to charge my Motorola V600.  The supplied charger is a multi-voltage charger that works everywhere in the world (but you will need appropriate plug adapters).

A very clever and convenient feature of the phone is that it can charge itself from a USB connection's built-in power source.  Simply use the USB cable to plug into any USB hub and the phone starts charging itself.

This USB port is the only connector on the phone, which does triple duty as a data port, a headset port, and a charging port.  There may be times when you want to use it for two different purposes at the same time and won't be able to.


The phone is very attractive, and in some respects (eg quad-band and color) full featured.  So what are the limitations that you might encounter and be frustrated by?

  • It has no removable memory card.  It has just over 5MB of internal memory that is shared between the phone book, ring tunes, pictures and video clips, and downloaded files and programs.  This can quickly fill to overflowing.  In contrast, I have a removable 128MB memory card in my 'old' Nokia 3650 (released in mid 2003) so it never runs out of capacity.

  • A basic fixed focus low resolution camera - 0.3 megapixels, inadequate these days when other cameras offer 1 MP and some offer 2MP

  • No video recording

  • A closed proprietary operating system (albeit with a Java overlay) that limits the range of third party applications that can be added to the phone.

  • Reasonably large in terms of length and breadth, although definitely very thin

  • Basic and clutzy phone book/contact manager

  • Proprietary iTap rather than industry standard T9 text entry meaning you have to learn a whole new interface for efficient text messaging

  • No IR port and data connectivity is usually sold as an extra rather than as an included feature

  • No high speed data capability such as EDGE

  • Can't add an external antenna

How best to buy a Motorola Razr V3

The Motorola Razr V3 has already proven to be very successful and very popular.  Initially selling for about $500 when first released, the price recently dropped down to a new low of $0 - ie free - when signing up for new Cingular or T-mobile service, and if purchased through Amazon.  At this price, it is a definitely good value phone.

But what if you already have service?  If your current contract's minimum period has been completed, there is a clever way you can qualify for the Amazon deal.  Simply buy the phone from Amazon and, to start with, treat it as a second phone.  Then, once it has been activated and working, simply cancel your present service and (here's the clever part) have your old number transferred to your new service, assuming you want to keep your present number.

Of course, if you are switching from any other carrier, this becomes even easier, and you can have your number transfer to your new service in the same way.


This phone has been a runaway success for Motorola - so much so that they're introducing a range of similar looking phones with similar four letter names (eg, the Pebl V6 and the Slvr V8).

The phone could be more fully featured than it is, but for most users, it is sufficiently fully featured to satisfy all normal needs.

If you'd like a great looking phone with good performance, and now at a very affordable price, and if you're in an area where there is good GSM service, then this would be a great choice.

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Originally published 20 May 2005, last update 21 Jul 2020

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

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