Motorola RAZR V3i Review / Complaint List
Another Unrequested Service, Courtesy of..
I went to great expense and difficulty to obtain an early Motorola RAZR V3i
before it was available in the USA. It seemed like the "final" phone,
the perfect solution that I was looking for at the time. The V3i was similar to
the RAZR V3, but with a better camera, microSD storage and supposedly
with "iTunes" software. It also has a swanky blue lit "M" on the case.
The V3x is similar, slightly bigger and with a 2M camera and 240x320 display.
Sadly, the V3i didn't live up to expectations. It had so much potential,
and it fell short, mostly because of poor software. It's
clear that the V3i software is just the V3 software with some crappy MP3
player slapped on (paying off Apple for the "iTunes" label). And
furthermore, the V3 software is just some update of some generic Motorola
phone software, probably originally developed when cell phones weighed
30 pounds and ran on kerosene.
It's still a nifty phone, it's just frustrating to use in many instances,
and people often ask me *why* I find my V3i not so perfect and I tell
them the list is too long to enumerate.
I realized that with enough determination that wouldn't be true, and
to demonstrate, I shall hereby enumerate the failings of the RAZR
V3i. Perhaps this venting will help me emotionally heal enough to
come to terms with using this completely handicapped phone.
The hardware is pretty nice and fairly sleek and metallic. Disregarding the
weird battery cover closure (see the manual :), the only serious complaint
I have about the hardware is that it doesn't have a headphone jack. Seriously,
this thing is supposed to be an iTunes device, but the only way I can
plug it in to headphones or a stereo is if I order the Motorola OEM USB
adapter (which is $20 and very noisy when the phone isn't plugged in) and
carry this around with me? I'll gladly take an extra 2 or 3 mm or length
to fit a plug on there. And btw, don't bother with the cheap USB->headphone
adapters on ebay, they don't work (at least on my V3i).
But that's the only hardware issue - the rest is all software, and should
This thing doesn't work on Macintosh. Seriously?! After some hand tweaking
of your iSync XML settings and some magical incantations, you can get it
to work in iSync over USB. Allegedly it might work over Bluetooth, but
I haven't seen it. And forget about using your phone as a modem.
No plain Macintosh connectivity. Is that a joke?
In fact, remember how it has "iTunes" software? It doesn't connect
to iTunes on a Macintosh. It's like Motorola is playing a big joke
Update: Bluetooth finally syncs with OSX 10.4.7
When you have a device that is so input limited (28 input keys) then
you want to make sure you utilize as much of the input keys as
consistently as possible, and require as few keystrokes as possible.
Unfortunately, nobody mentioned this to Motorola.
- The number keys pretty much do nothing except dial and type.
The rest of the time they are dead. An example of when they would
be particularly useful is in menus - I should be able to access the
4th menu item by pressing 4. Instead, pressing 4 in a menu will only
give me the satisfaction of having pressed 4. It does nothing to the phone.
And I should be able to access the home menu grid by using the number
grid. Shortcuts can alleviate this, but then I've used up all my shortcuts.
- Shortcuts, btw, are nice, but they are flaky. Sometimes they
work, sometimes they don't - I think it's a timing issue, but I can't
figure out the magic formula and there's no setting for it.
- One good point, the home menu customization is great. Thanks for that.
- The phone has no timezone capabilities, nor can it auto set your time.
I guess travellers need to get a more sophisticated phone than this.
- Speaking of setting the time, it's hidden in the "Initial Setup" menu
for some strange reason. I guess they really don't want you
travelling with this phone.
Supposedly the RAZR V3i has "iTunes" software. Evidently, if I pay Apple
enough money, I could add a memory stick reader to a bucket of lard and
slap the "iTunes" label on it.
The mp3 player on the RAZR V3i looks nothing like iTunes and is, frankly, awful.
Hence, for the rest of this article I will hereby refer to the player
as "xTunes" instead of "iTunes," since "xTunes" sounds mysterious, and
the interface to "xTunes" is exactly that.
- Everytime you start xTunes it runs through "Updating Music
Database." I have about 100 songs on my V3i, and it takes about
a minute. Have they never heard of checking file timestamps?
I know the phone O.S. can handle timestamps, seeing as how
this causes a Java bug (mentioned in "Java" section below).
Update: I've put 400 songs on my card now, and xTunes won't even
start anymore because it never finishes updating the music directory.
- There's no way to seek in a song. Seriously. You just can't.
I'm not making this up.
- It doesn't save any options. It should save all the
options as well as the current song, play state, song location, etc..
Instead, everytime I start up I have to turn on the shuffle option
(default is OFF for some reason?!) pick a random song and hit play.
- There's no search function. You can't even type song/album/artist names.
- "Options" doesn't show up on the first page, the "Options" button
- The two other buttons on the side should do something, like
song skip and pause, especially when the case is closed.
- When I think of all the controls I want to have over
my mp3 player, it's amazing that all the keypad keys do nothing!
- Because it's Java based, it sucks battery life (and requires
that no other Java apps are running). Why is this necessary? Especially
considering how rudimentary xTunes is, and considering that mp3s
can be played directly on the phone without xTunes, why Java?
- I'm told that some xTunes phones are limited to 50 songs
and some are limited to 100. Apart from this random lottery,
why is there any limit (apart from memory space) to how
many songs you can store?
- Some kbps settings don't seem to work. More investigation needed.
Whenever you need to select from a potentially large list of data
(such as ringers, songs, videos, phonebook, etc..) it should be
as easy and quick as possible. Apart from the clunky but useful
"categorize" feature, Motorola doesn't care about your ability to
pick a new ringer from a list of 100.
- Lists have no sorting capabilities. Add ringtones and
they will get inserted haphazhardly into the list. Just try to
find that Muppets ringtone you added 6 months ago.
- There should be a search feature, or at least a "type the
first few letters" feature. The only list that has anything like this
is the phonebook, though it's limited to just the first letter.
The Java isn't bad though it has some issues:
- It can't seem to run many public domain apps that are available,
though I must confess that might not be Motorola's fault.
- It sucks battery life.
- Java checks to see if your timestamps on your apps have changed,
and if so, then it won't let you run them. This isn't particularly useful, and it
makes it slightly more complicated to backup your phone state to computer.
- Installing apps from memory is convoluted at best.
- It's also not as fast as a PDA phone, but what'ya expect?
Profiles ("Ring Styles")
- When the case is closed you can change the profile, but for
some reason you hit either up or down to go into "profile changing
mode" and then you use the select button to scroll only forward through
profiles to find the right one.
Golly, I have an idea, why not make it so you use the select button to go
into "profile changing mode" and use up/down to scroll
up or down through the profiles. I can't count the number of
times I've tried scrolling in one direction and passed the profile I
wanted, only to have to scroll through all the profiles again to find it.
- The phone inconsistently changes profiles when I plug it into the
charger. There should be a setting to control how and if this happens.
- Choosing a new ringer should start the ringer select at the current
ringer, not at the top of the whole list. This is another example
of "Selection Issues"
- The auto-cleanup feature is broken. It does nothing.
- The phone claims it's out of memory when it has about 50 messages,
regardless of how much memory the phone may have leftover. It
then starts throwing away any attempts to type new messages (after
you've typed them of course, because we all know that first drafts
are for losers).
- Speaking of memory, I've got half a gig card in there, why
can't I select that as my message repository? I should be able
to keep every message I've ever sent or received, and back them
up to my computer.
- When sending a message, I shouldn't have to select the recipient,
check them, and then hit send. The "send" button should check the
current selection instead of giving me an error.
- When choosing a number to send messages to, the V3i treats
each contact number as a different option (this is what the normal phonebook
default is, for reasons I can't understand). Unlike the phonebook, you
can't turn it off, which means you have to run through people's
home phone, office phone, and even fax. You should be able to
compress to one contact per line (like they do for the phonebook)
or in the very least have an option to only look at cell numbers,
since most other numbers usually don't accept SMS.
The phone has a media section for images, sounds and video. The builtin
player isn't great.
- Can you say "full screen"? Is this an unreasonable feature request?
- It doesn't save video/sound position. I can store a number of full
length movies on my card, but let's hope I don't have to leave the player
until I'm done watching.
- Speaking of, this thing needs more play control. You can "seek"
only by holding down the arrow keys (which otherwise "skip") and yet
the number keypad again does NOTHING. And how about an option
to type in a time to jump to. It wouldn't help much, though, since
the player doesn't tell you what time you're currently at!
- You can't hide the player controls. If you're watching a video,
those ugly controls are going to take up the bottom THIRD of
the screen unless you have a piece of electrical tape handy.
- Speaking of the player controls, what if you could hide those
and rotate the video and then scale it up to fit - it would be
like having a 25% magically bigger screen, no extra cost!
- As an aside, it would be nice to have a USB adapter with video out.
- How about more zoom options than Fit, 50%, 75% and 100%?
- The camera should be easy to switch between photo/video.
- Go to "Videos setup" and set "Video length" to "Maximum."
Start recording a video. Don't stop. Notice that, with 1G
of memory (over 16 hours of video), the recorder stops at just under
a minute. After much research I discovered that Motorola added
this seemingly arbitrary restriction because the phone will
actually explode once it records a minute straight of video,
killing everyone in a 30 foot radius. Thank you for protecting us,
- It would be nice to be able to play scaled 320x240 3GP video.
- The most wonderful menu shortcut I could imagine, would be
for the audio player "Categories" menu item. Oh, wait - not allowed.
- Forget the possibility of a "random" shuffle play feature
for the audio player, this thing doesn't even have sequential
playing. That's right, when a song is over, it plays the same song
again. As far as I can tell, this is yet more of the Motorola
"Hate-Your-Phone-Interface" development group.
The builtin browser is a flaming piece of crap. I won't say anything
more about it except to recommend getting Opera Mini (though Opera could
stand to improve some of it's interface/setting shortcomings as well).
And while we're at it, why can't I redefine that browser button?
Right now I have one key out of my limited set of keys that I
never use. It would be dandy if I could launch Opera with that.
- As mentioned, the phonebook fails in the "Selection Issues" category.
- I should be able to attach a photo to all of a person's contacts
without having to do it one at a time.
- When someone calls that has a photo, this photo should show
up larger on both displays.
- There should be an available option for applying memory
card photos to the phonebook with an explanatory error, instead
of a useless explanatory alert when you try to apply phone memory
- Why regularly beep over the recordings? Can't this be a setting?
- Why can't I save (or even MOVE) voice recordings to the
- Voice records have their own notion of memory space. You will
run out of voice recording space after a minute or two even though
there may be many MB left on your phone.
- Getting voice records off the phone is a feat comparable to
killing a rabid clown, and is about as enjoyable. This can only
be done by buying a USB->headphone adaptor (and mind you, this needs
to be the OEM Motorola one that costs $20, the cheap ones on ebay
don't seem to work) and then use a male-male adaptor to plug into
the microphone port on a computer, then use recording software
and play back the file. It's like we're back in the 90's. At least
it doesn't require one of those suction-cup microphones.
- Alarms: It has multiple alarm capabilities. Great. But
it's clear that you'll be editing alarms more often than creating new
alarms, yet the first menu item for a selected alarm is "New" followed
by "Edit." More unnecessary key pushes.
- Incoming Calls: The buttons on the outside can only turn the
ringer off, you can't reject them, which means you can't open your phone
to use it until they've rung themselves to voicemail.
- Battery Meter: lies like a dead dog. It pretty much claims
that it's either full or empty. There's a middle state that it stays
in for about thirty seconds, right before it starts beeping all the
time to let you know the battery is low.
And yes, I realize that many of these problems can be hacked.
For more info, see: