Editor's note: the RAZR V9m is available for both Sprint and Verizon, we look at the Sprint version in this review.
As much as I love my iPhone, there are some features I wish it had that it doesn’t; for example, it doesn’t have access to a highspeed 3G data service, and it can’t play back music over A2DP to Bluetooth headphones. Sprint’s new RAZR2 V9m, on the other hand, has these two capabilities readily available for reliable use, along with a variety of other advanced features. In fact, users looking to take digital entertainment on the go will likely find that the phone’s slick user interface and speedy data access will leave them (mostly) quite impressed.
In case you have been lost in the jungle for the last 10 years, Motorola’s RAZR phones are slim, sleek flip-phones known for their compactness and elegance. Measuring just 14.05 x 2.09 x 0.46 inches and 4.16 ounces, the RAZR2 V9m is no exception. The phone’s internal and external displays each have a resolution of 320 x 240 and can display 65,000 colors, measuring 2.2 inches and 2.0 inches, respectively. This means you can watch detailed multimedia content, whether the phone is opened or closed, which is clever and convenient.
The phone’s overall design is pretty standard for a flip-phone; the internal screen is on the top half, and the numeric keypad is on the bottom half. (The phone supports text input via iTAP, which is essentially a T9 clone.) The keys are gently illuminated and are large and comfortable enough that you won’t have any difficulty hitting the right keys. The bottom half also houses the removable lithium-ion battery and the USB 2.0 high-speed connector that can be used to sync data with your computer.
The phone gains a bit of weight compared to the 3.5 ounce RAZR V3m, and that's a good thing. Build quality is improved with a sturdy hinge and "vacuume metalized finish". The phone feels solid and well made which isn't something we said about 1st generation RAZR phones.
The RAZR2 V9m consistently finding a strong signal in my testing. Voice clarity and volume are both strong. The voice features work well, but let’s face it—it’s not really that exciting to see a cell phone work as... a phone. What makes the RAZR2 truly impressive is its support for high-speed, 3G data via Sprint’s EVDO services.
EVDO is fast—in fact, you can watch streaming video, called SprintTV, on the phone with virtually no lag. SprintTV features a variety of content, from the likes of ABC, MTV, and others, including full episodes of some TV shows, although there isn’t really any guarantee that the programming you want to see will be available at the time you want to see it. Many of the channels are free, although some require a additional subscription fee. This isn’t “slideshow TV” either—it is really full-motion video.
Additionally, the RAZR2 supports Sprint Music Store with a wide selection of tracks available (most cost 99 cents). Downloading tracks isn’t quite as fast as WiFi, but it sometimes feels pretty close, since the phone downloads entire songs in about a minute anywhere EVDO is available. The next time you check your account from your computer, your computer will also download a copy of the purchased song at no additional charge, although this does only support Windows PCs. Standard downloadable items, such as games, ringtones, and wallpapers, also complete very rapidly.
Gaming capability on the RAZR2 is on par with other cell phones, with classics like Tetris available for purchase along with many others. As with most cell phones, the games’ graphics look good and the controls are responsive, although there isn’t much in the way of sound effects.
The phone’s data features also incorporate well with its GPS capability. In my tests, the phone located itself and downloaded an accurate map in a matter of seconds. (Most other phones I have tested in my area have simply never contacted a GPS satellite successfully). The phone also has an instant messenger available, although it requires you to sign up for an IM service for a small monthly fee.
Thankfully, Motorola did include expandable memory for the RAZR2 V9m, in the form of a microSD slot. You can store downloaded music and other content on removable microSD cards (which are currently available in capacities up to 2 GB), so, in theory at least, you don’t have to worry about running out of storage space.
Another cool data feature on the RAZR2 is wireless backup, which allows you to store a copy of your phone book on Sprint’s computers, in case your phone is lost, stolen, erased, or destroyed. Even though customers frequently request this feature, relatively few phones provide it; however, you do still have the option to disable it if you are concerned about data privacy.
There is, however, a bit of an issue with the RAZR2’s multitasking capabilities: it pretty much doesn’t have any. For example, you can browse the music store while listening to music tracks, but you can’t access any other areas of the phone while listening to music, so if you were hoping to listen to music while you work on, say, composing some text messages, you couldn’t really do that with this phone (unless you’re planning to buy two!). Additionally, loading certain programs on the phone sometimes causes an uninterruptible 5-10 second delay while the program starts up, which makes switching back and forth among programs even more frustrating—especially if you happen to start up the wrong program by mistake. Although limitations of this type are fairly standard on cell phones, this is one area where the iPhone beats the RAZR2 easily. (Fortunately, the RAZR2 does still have the ability to receive phone calls when you are using a different program on the phone.)
The RAZR2’s built-in camera is 2.0 megapixels for still pictures and also captures video (in the standard 3gp format). The camera also includes digital zoom, up to 4x. In my tests, the pictures were sharper with truer colors than last generation Moto phones-- a big improvement in fact. Exposure was generally correct and indoor noise is accepible for the class. The camera can take still photos at a maximum 1600 x 1200 resolution and at smaller sizes suitable for MMS and photo caller ID. Video max resolution is QVGA at 15 fps, and the quality is average among US feature phones.
The RAZR2’s Bluetooth capabilities, certified as version 1.2, are impressive. It can, of course, handle basic tasks, like pairing with a Bluetooth headset and maintaining a connection so you can use the headset to make and receive calls (connections were stable and had good voice quality in testing), but in addition to the basics, it also supports A2DP, meaning that you can pair the phone with a set of Bluetooth headphones and listen to music playback wirelessly (in stereo). When used with Bluetooth headphones, the RAZR2 consistently produced high-quality audio.
The one drawback here is that the RAZR2 does not have any sort of standard headphone jack. You can play music through the Moto's speaker, or you can listen over an A2DP-compatible Bluetooth headset, but if you want to use a wired headset, you will have to use a proprietary Motorola headset or adaptor.
The RAZR V3m and the RAZR2 V9m
Finally, the RAZR2 supports the OBEX File Transfer profile, meaning that you can navigate its file system and transfer files over Bluetooth. (Most likely, you would pair the phone with your Bluetooth-capable computer to use these features.) It also supports DUN, so you can use it as a wireless high speed modem for a notebook over Bluetooth.
The standard lithium-ion battery included with the RAZR2 is rated at 3 hours of talk time, which is a bit low relative to other cell phones. The phone obviously has quite a few features, and the battery life will vary greatly depending on how you are using the phone. However, my tests indicate that three hours is indeed a reasonable estimate for talk time, provided that you minimize usage of any features that put extra drain on the battery. This is one phone that you’ll need to be careful about recharging frequently.
In addition to the music player, SprintTV, Sprint Music Store, Sprint Radio, standard messaging programs, and the web browser, the RAZR2 includes a calendar, address book capable of storing 1,000 contacts, alarm clock, stopwatch, as well as calculators for converting units and currencies and for determining an appropriate tip, along with a general-purpose calculator. An application for recording and storing voice memos is also provided. Motorola has also included a file browser app for browsing and deleting files on the internal memory or the expansion card, which is a handy tool that should be included with all cell phones (but isn’t). Also included is OnDemand for access to the latest news and sports scores.
The RAZR2 V9m has a lot to offer: great looks, solid built quality and a good set of features including EVDO (Sprint Power Vision) with Sprint TV, Sprint Radio, Sprint Music store and A2DP for wireless stereo music playback. We love the large external display that's the same resolution as the main display and almost as large. Nice, very nice. But is it worth the premium over other Sprint phones with a similar feature set? Currently it costs as much as the HTC Touch and Treo 700wx PDA phones, which is steep. If the looks and metallic finish along with the RAZR-chic are your thing, it might be worth the bucks. And the price will likely come down in a few months.
Pros: Dual QVGA screens, great looks and solid build, streaming SprintTV, over-the-air music purchasing, supports A2DP, sharp camera.
Cons: Web browser is limited; very little multitasking capability; some user interface lags; battery life is a little short. Pricey.
Size:4.05 x 2.09 x 0.46 inches. Weight: 4.16 ounces.
Phone:CDMA dual band digital 800/1900MHz with 1xRTT and EVDO rev. 0 for data.
Camera:2.0 megapixel with 4x digital zoom. Max photo resolution 1600 x 1200.
in speakerphone, mic and Motorola micro-USB stereo headphone
jack. MP3 player supports MP3, AAC, AAC+ and WMA formats. Video player handles H.263, H.264, MPEG4. Has Sprint TV, Sprint Radio and Sprint Music Store.