Gadget Review – Motorola V3i
If I were truly hip or lived in Southern California, I would have been one of the first people on the planet to own a Motorola RAZR V3 cell phone. Having neither qualification, I waited until Motorola fixed some issues with the phone and picked up what is, essentially, v1.2 – the RAZR V3i. Apparently, this phone is scheduled to be offered by Cingular, but for some reason is still not available through them. It is readily available, however, in unlocked form from many vendors on eBay and I’m sure through other dealers as well.
In terms of the main feature list, the V3i adds a memory card (transcard) expanding the V3’s puny memory (I put a 1GB card in mine) and a built-in MP3 player. Less publicized are fixes to speaker volume (greatly appreciated as rock concerts in the 70’s eliminated most of my hearing) and improved reception.
The V3i is the same size and weight as the V3 and shares the same clamshell design. Like the V3, the V3i is a quad-band GSM phone (the V3c, offered by Verizon, is a CDMA phone). While there have been some changes in the UI, the bright displays both inside and outside the phone remain the same as on the original version.
The biggest buzz about the V3i concerns its inclusion of iTunes. After doing a bit of research, though, I learned that not all V3i’s come with iTunes. Only most Asian and Middle Eastern phones ship with Apple’s music player built in. V3is for other locations, like North America, ship with Motorola’s own digital music player installed. With my purchase, I wanted iTunes, so I had to pick up a gray-market phone via a supplier on eBay. The particular one I bought was a phone destined for Thailand. Of course, I didn’t know this before I bought it.
When the box arrived, I cracked it open to find the main documentation written in Thai. As panic began to set in, I also noticed a smaller guide written in English. Whew! Not that I really expect to ever look at the manual . . . The phone itself presented bigger problems. Once I powered it up, virtually all of the menus were in Thai. It took me a while to figure our how to change the language to English by hunting through the menus and making some logical choices about which entries might effect the display language. Once I changed the phone’s language to English, everything was cool except for the SIM card menu, which remained in Thai. Not a big deal, though – totally manageable.
I’ve been using the phone for a couple of months now and here’s the low down:
- The phone fits easily in a pocket
- Speaker volume is very good
- Reception is pretty good (given that Cingular’s coverage – my SIM card is from Cingular – is just OK around where I live anyway).
- Phone functions are fast
- Screen is very clear
- I always end up pressing the volume or camera buttons when pulling the phone from my pocket or opening it up
- iTunes is limited to 100 songs (WTF?) regardless of the amount of memory you have in the phone. IMO, this makes it virtually useless for music.
- PDA functions suck – there are limits to numbers of contacts and total memory usage (apparently also regardless of the amount of memory you put in the device) and the Motorola Phone Tools used for syncing with a PIM are very weak.
- The buttons on the phone don’t give much tactile feedback, but they look really cool!
- Weak email client
- No EDGE.
If you’re looking for a small GSM phone with good reception, this should be on your list. If you want decent PDA functionality, web browsing or email, though, this is not going to be a good phone for you. Even if you do go this way, I wouldn’t bother with the iTunes model – the normal model has no arbitrary limits on the number of songs on the phone and the iTunes interface isn’t compelling enough to make up for the limited song storage.