Motorola RAZR V3i

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Cellular telephones have become something of a necessity in the modern world. These days it can be hard to even find a pay phone, and it costs you fifty cents to make a call. Even on some moderately expensive prepaid cellular, that's a five minute call from a cellphone, and you can make it without even getting out of your car, and it can be long distance.

My last provider was T-Mobile; my ex-girlfriend failed to pay her bill while I was still on her family plan and that was the end of that. My employer until recently had a deal with Edge Wireless to provide service to employees, with payment managed through the financial department, but they got tired of administering that and now we're all dumped directly on Edge. Edge was good enough to take us without doing credit checks, probably because they realized that most of us would no longer be subscribers. I told them that I would upgrade my phone, but I wouldn't be because they didn't have the RAZR V3i. I had just checked a bit over a week ago, and they informed me that they did in fact have the V3i. Bingo! With a two year contract, I paid $140, which is currently $100 less than simply buying the unlocked phone from Amazon.

Edge Wireless is unique in the US in that they do not provider-lock their phones. The immediate benefits of this are that you can use the phone with a prepaid SIM card if you need to for whatever reason, for example that you are traveling, and of course that you can resell the phone to users of any provider without having to first have it unlocked. Unfortunately, they are like other providers in that they configure the phone with their own settings beyond what is necessary to support the phone on their network, locking ringtones and backgrounds so that they cannot be deleted, and also setting (or simply failing to correct) several stupid and arbitrary limits. For example, although this phone has a MicroSD slot and supports up to 1GB cards, the phone was set to limit the length of video clips recorded from it to one megabyte, which allowed about fifty-five seconds of video. To be fair, in the process of fixing this problem, I did discover that a stock software load for European-region V3i phones has the same problem, so they are guilty only of failing to resolve the issue.

This model of RAZR fixes many of the problems with former phones. It replaces the VGA-resolution camera with a 1.2 megapixel one with a resolution of 1280x960. This is a fairly credible resolution and should cover your needs in terms of shooting for the web and the like. Reception has been dramatically improved and will reliably be superior to prior models; holding my V3i next to a V3 provided another bar in pretty much all situations. The RAZR also brings us into the modern age in general, dropping the big goofy motorola connector in favor of a simple Mini-USB one. The charger and headset both plug into this connector, which is somewhat unfortunate as you cannot charge and use a headset at the same time, although most people today are using bluetooth and will not have a problem. Speaking of bluetooth, this phone supports stereo bluetooth audio devices, as it is an MP3 player. Motorola sells some very nice headphones that also operate as a headset for $149 (!) but there are obviously other options. In fact I once saw a set of bluetooth headphones WITH a transmitter unit that hooks into a stereo miniplug jack for $100 in a vending machine in a Las Vegas hotel.

On the down side, it is horribly easy to press the disconnect button while pressing right on the keypad, especially if you are using your left hand to hold the phone. This means that java games must be played with the number pad, or far more precision than I am personally capable of while trying to play games. This won't harm you in, say, colin mcrae rally or splinter cell, but it's quite obnoxious if you're playing bejeweled. It's also hard to distinguish one key from another by touch simply because there is so little transition between them, so you really need to look at this phone to use it.

All in all, I'm very happy with the V3i and I don't feel that I lost anything as compared to the Motorola V555 it's replacing except easy bejeweled-playing... which I can live with.

Update Oct 4, 2007: I am on my second-and-a-half RAZR. My first one stopped receiving radio signals without an external antenna, so I got another. I broke the screen on the new one, so I removed the screen unit from the old one and transplanted it (this is a pain in the ass, by the way, and about ten times harder than doing the same thing to a "triplets" phone - i.e. V300, V500, V600, etc.) Oddly I now get better reception than before the swap. Admittedly, I am not a radio engineer, but what this says to me is that they do not have a handle on radio noise inside the phone, and this screen is somehow magically a better match for the rest of the phone than the one I broke. It also tells me that I need a more durable phone in the future. This is probably my last RAZR, sad as that is since the new one is touchscreen-equipped and linux-based.

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