For years Motorola has been associated with the clamshell form factor phone, being one of the first to ever introduce a folding GSM handset, based on the StarTac series. Motorola have faithfully produced folding clamshell models ever since, with their most recent development being the triplet V series phones (V300, V500/525 and V600). However, with their latest creation, Motorola has reached a new level in clamshell design.
Enter the Motorola V3, the thinnest clamshell in the world. Made out of aircraft-grade aluminium, the V3 measures a mere 14 millimetres thick when closed, making it thinner than some open clamshells. This is in addition to the V3’s feature set, where no compromise has been made. Featuring full quad-band GSM with GPRS support, the V3 has a 2.2 inch 176x220 pixel 262,000 colour main screen, as well as a colour STN external LCD. An integrated VGA camera allows for taking of still pictures. All the standard features such as SMS, MMS, Java and WAP 2.0 are all included.
Designed from the ground up as a fashion model, the V3’s design is simply amazing. No phone has ever achieved such a thin design, although it would seem that the V3 has had to become a little bit wider to compensate. The keypad has also had a thorough workout, utilising a chemical-etching design with electroluminescent blue backlighting. What this means in English is that the keypad is one complete sheet of metal where the keys are separated by smoothly etched lines. The backlighting is uniform across the keypad, meaning there are no bright spots or dark spots here and there.
However technologically the V3 does not break any new ground – the feature set of the V3 is almost identical to that of the V600 – VGA camera, 24 tone polyphonic ringtones, Java MIDP 2.0 support and WAP 2.0 support. Internal memory remains unchanged at 5.5 megabytes, and there is no memory card support, although I can’t imagine where they would put a memory card slot in such a thin phone. The main screen has been enlarged to 2.2 inches from 1.8 and had its colours upgraded to 262,000 from 65,000, although the resolution remains the same. The V3 also gets a colour passive matrix LCD on the front of the flip, which can be used with the integrated camera to take self portraits. Skin support has also been added.
As mentioned earlier, the V3 is a clamshell, or folding form factor phone that utilises a super-thin design developed from the ground up by Motorola. The phone measures 98 x 53 x 13.9 millimetres when closed, making the V3 thinner than most clamshells even when they are opened. However at 53 millimetres wide it is slightly wider than other clamshells. It weighs in at a light 95 grams. In addition the antenna is integrated into the phone, which is a first for Motorola and makes the V3’s design all-the-more appealing.
The phone is manufactured entirely out of aluminium, and Motorola claim the building material to be of the same grade as used in the construction of aircraft. Indeed the phone felt extremely durable and solid, and the smooth metallic feel was a marked change to the plastic materials common to most mobile phones. The chemically etched keypad is also aluminium and features smooth lines and electroluminescent blue backlighting, which is extremely pleasing to the eye. The keypad’s layout is standard Motorola, although two new keys have been added. The layout consists of two soft keys and menu key at the top, followed by the typical four arrows keys and confirm key in the middle. Around this are the new mail and web browser shortcut keys as well as the dial and end call keys, with the 12 key numerical keypad below. Worth noting is the fact that this is the first Motorola phone to have the dial key on the left and the hang up key on the right, as Motorola have finally begun following the world standard in this key layout.
There is only one connector on the V3 and that is a miniUSB port – the phone does not even feature Motorola’s standard connection terminal, so other Motorola accessories will not work with this phone. This is likely due to constraints of the design, however Motorola include an adaptor in the retail package allowing you to recharge the phone with a standard Motorola adaptor if necessary. Motorola include a miniUSB based AC charger in the package as well. If you connect the miniUSB data cable to the phone and a PC and the Mobile Phonetools software is installed correctly, the PC will charge the V3’s battery.
There are various side buttons on the flip part of the handset – on the left you have a volume rocker switch and button for changing ringing profiles, and on the right you have a multi-purpose button that can activate voice dialling or act as the shutter button for the camera.
The battery compartment is in the back top half of the phone, and is slightly difficult to get to. I was not able to figure out how to remove the cover without referencing the V3’s user manual, although once I did it was simple enough to remove. The SIM card slot is below the battery. Replacing the cover was simple enough but sometimes the cover must be forced closed as it does not always latch in correctly.
User Interface & display
The main screen used in the V3 is a new one made by Sharp for Motorola. It is 2.2 inches in size and can display up to 262,000 colours at 176x220 pixel resolution. It is reasonably bright and colourful, although in bright sunlight the display fades out slightly. On the outside of the flip is a new colour STN LCD display, capable of displaying 4,096 colours at 96x80 pixel resolution. The addition of such a screen allows for you to use it as a viewfinder when taking self-portraits, but other than that I personally preferred the monochrome screen from the V600 as it is much brighter and doesn’t require backlighting to read it – the V3’s external screen goes completely black when the backlighting turns off, making it impossible to read without lighting it up again (by pushing one of the side keys).
The user interface installed is the standard Motorola one, so if you have used any recent V series phone (V300, V525, V600, V620 or V80) then you will have no problem working with the V3. Pushing the menu key will bring up the 3 x 3 grid of nine icons, allowing you to get to the following menus: Recent Calls, Settings, Phonebook, Messages, Multimedia, Office Tools, Web Access, Games & Apps and IM (instant messaging). As is typical with Motorola phones there are a myriad of settings that can be played around with.
Making and receiving calls
Calls can be made either through talking directly through the handset, the integrated loudspeaker, or the included HS-810 Bluetooth headset. When talking through the handset call quality is very good – the other caller is heard clearly and could hear me clearly as well. The loudspeaker unfortunately is still standard Motorola fare, meaning that it could be better. While I can hear the other caller clearly enough, he was having trouble hearing me at all, with the V3 apparently muting the microphone at times. It would seem that Motorola’s noise cancellation technology for their speakerphones still needs some work. The Bluetooth headset was much better, working well once paired with the V3.
Reception was on par with the V series triplets, the V3 able to receive a signal from Vodafone’s network wherever I went, including many indoor locations notorious for their lack of reception. When you consider the fact that the V3’s antenna is hidden inside the phone, the V3’s reception characteristics are very good indeed.
The 22KHz polyphonic speaker on the bottom-back of the phone supports up to 24 tones, and plays ringtones with more than adequate volume. The volume can be set to a really high level if need be, and it’s good that Motorola have made it that way as it’s always better to have more volume than needed, rather than having the phone ring in your pocket and you not being able to hear it. The media player in the phone also supports MP3 files, more practical for ringtones rather than full songs considering the small amount of internal memory.
There are more than enough supported messaging formats in the V3, including even some not used in Australia. The V3 supports SMS (including concatenated ones – meaning that you can send SMS longer than 160 characters, that get broken up into single SMS messages when sent and recombined when received), MMS, POP3/IMAP e-mail and instant messaging based on the wireless village specification, which is not supported in Australia at the moment. You can access the messaging menu from the main menu, and from there decide which type of message you want to compose. Text input can be performed using traditional triple-tap, or through Motorola’s proprietary iTap predictive text system. iTap is fairly advanced and much better than it was in the past, being just as convenient as T9 for text input. It differs from T9 in that it can predict entire words even if they’re incomplete, and it’s quite accurate too. If you spend some time getting used to how it works, it proves to be very helpful with speedy text input. The keypad is also very responsive, with keys easily clicking in, although the extreme thinness of the phone meant that grasping it properly was a slightly difficult task, and that caused me to hit the wrong key at times.
Unfortunately the phone has trouble keeping up with a fast thumbs, and small delays while the phone gasps for breath are quite common. This problem plagued the previous V series triplet phones as well. The phone can sometimes sit for up to a second at times wondering what to do.
MMS is simple to use, with the phone able to add slides containing pictures and sounds. Videos cannot be attached as the digital camera is not capable of recording video. MMS of up to 100 kilobytes can be sent. As all networks in Australia are limited to this size there are no surprises here. Text-based email can be sent and received through a POP or IMAP server, or through MMS as well.
The Motorola V3 is a quad-band GSM device, meaning it will work with any GSM network currently in existence, supporting 900/1800 MHz dual-band European and Asian networks, as well as 850 and 1900 MHz American networks. GPRS Class 10 support allows for packet data transmission at the highest possible GPRS speeds available, typically peaking at about 48 kilobytes per second. Internet access is through Motorola’s WAP 2.0 compliant browser. This browser can view xHTML and older WML pages, and is quick to load them as well.
Local connectivity consists of USB and Bluetooth, with Motorola seemingly having given up on infra-red technology. As the phone has a miniUSB slot on its side, all you need is a standard, cheap USB cable to connect your phone directly to your PC, with Motorola having conveniently including one in the retail package. If you have a Bluetooth dongle (adapter), you can use the Bluetooth radio to connect instead. Regardless of which method you use to connect, the V3 can be used as a GPRS modem for your PC, as well as being able to offload pictures and sounds, and synchronise with programs like Microsoft Outlook.
As mentioned earlier, the V3’s all aluminium design has meant build quality is excellent. The phone is firm and does not have any loose components moving around. The only problem (if you can call it a problem) that I had was that the battery cover was difficult to remove, and required me to read the manual to figure out how to properly operate it.
The V3 has a slim Lithium-ion battery installed with a capacity of 750 mAh, and officially is capable of up to 250 hours of standby time and six and a half hours of talk time. In practice the V3 lasted me a good three days on a single charge, with average usage of the phone – an hour of phone calls, 20 minutes of game playing and 20 minutes of camera usage, on average, per day.