Motorola has been having quite a good run lately with the release of some innovative handsets including the flawed MP3 ROKR and the highly successful V3 RAZR phones. Cashing in on the success of its V3 platform, Motorola has decided to produce an upgraded version of the V3 for the 3G market. The result is a slightly heavier, bigger and feature rich V3x. However donít panic Ė the V3x still retains most of the look and feel of its predecessor while addressing some of the flaws inherent in the first incarnation of the RAZR line. Does the V3x live up to its predecessorís appeal? Read on to find out.
The Motorola V3x has many improvements over the company's previous handset, the V3 RAZR. The most prominent of those upgrades is that now V3 fans have a handset able to make use of the 3G UTMS network, including access to all the extras that come with being connected to it. The V3x is now able to connect to and browse the internet at broadband speed. Motorola has also added a VGA camera to the internal side of the phone which enables the V3x to perform video calling and self portraits.
The external camera has been upgraded from the V3's 0.3 mega pixel version to two megapixels and includes an 8x digital zoom. The V3x also includes a modified operating system compared to the traditional one implemented in the V3. While Motorola has retained the original V3ís look, the additional features have had an impact on the size of the handset. Unfortunately, the V3x is not thin anymore. In fact, it is the size of the average 3G handset (i.e. big and bulky) and as a result this aspect may discourage potential buyers as the V3x has lost its original appeal of being a slick phone.
As mentioned earlier, the V3x has a similar look to the original V3. Its width and height are about the same but it is a lot thicker than the original due to the new features incorporated. Motorola has changed the outer slick sliver plastic to a more scratch proof rubber like material. In terms of practicality it is a much better choice and the new material doesnít hinder the classy look of the phone. The antenna is internal; there is no protrusion sticking out from the handset.
Positioned on the front of the handset is the external CLI screen, an LED flash light and the two mega pixel camera, as well as Motorolaís hallmark M logo. The bottom lip of the front panel includes the microphone and a nice blue indicator light which comes on when charging the handset. On the left and right side are buttons to control volume, adjust the current profile and activate a customised function such as voice dialling and to activate the camera. The bottom left hand side of the phone also includes the miniUSB interface for recharging and connecting the phone to a PC. This is the only connector on the phone. On the back is the loudspeaker and a compartment which when slid away reveals the battery compartment, and beneath that is the traditional hiding spot for the SIM card and the microSD card slot.
When opening up the phone the first thing that can be noticed is that Motorola has upgraded the keypad Ė itís no longer silver but a new gunmetal black, with a familiar but slightly changed keypad pattern. Like the original V3 RAZR there are no separate buttons, but rather the keypad is one flat surface. Motorola has grooved areas between the buttons to make the keypad more tactful, however it isnít the most messaging friendly phone as it is easy to press the wrong button. The keys themselves are self-explanatory enough Ė two soft keys, a five-way arrow pad, dedicated browser and recent calls keys and the dial and end call keys, followed by the 12-button number pad.
User interface & display
Another item of note is the upgraded main display and the V3x doesnít disappoint now, sporting a 2.2 inch 240x320 pixel display at 256k colours Ė it looks brilliant. It is situated on the top half of the flip phone with company branding above it. It is possible to adjust the backlight and screen timeout as well as the screenís brightness in seven step increments, and at the highest setting the screen is very bright, making it clearly visible in broad daylight. There are three preset skins that can be used to customise each menuís look, background screensaver etc. and further skins may be downloaded from Motorola or other providers.
The user interface remains the same confused shamble as many previous Motorolas and is upgraded to include 3G features. Navigation is a tad sluggish, however the menu needs to be customised from its factory setting as there is no logical order to how the accessible items are laid out. Furthermore, submenus that arenít customisable are even worse, so it seems like there has been no thought put into design of the interface. Text editing is sluggish and the phone can get bogged down with commands and lag while the phone processor tries to catch up.
The main menu luckily is customisable and itís possible to reorder the icons. The menu can also be changed between being displayed as a 3x4 grid of 12 icons, or as a simple list. Itís not possible add and delete icons from the menu. The menu options are Multimedia, Aeroplane Mode, Games and Apps, Video Camera, Messages, Recent Calls, Camera, Tools, Connection, WebAccess, Contacts and Settings.
Number shortcuts are not supported in the V3x, so only the arrow pad can be used to navigate through menus and options. This is a shame because it makes navigation that much more cumbersome. Motorola still has a long way to go in terms of developing a user interface that is easy and fast to use.
Making and receiving calls
Despite Motorolaís mediocre user interface, the V3x makes up for it with good call quality through its internal speaker and microphone. The V3x also has a loudspeaker for speakerphone voice calls. The speakerphone disappoints slightly as the external speaker is a bit too quiet so it is difficult to hear a conversation when in louder areas. The V3x can also make video calls through the secondary internal VGA camera. The quality of video calls is mediocre, however this is not because of the phone itself but because of the 3G network capability. Video calls on 3G are generally blurry and jerky and I would consider them to only be a novelty and not for serious use.
Calls can also be made through a Bluetooth headset and this worked well in both an in-car system as well as through a Motorola Bluetooth headset. The V3xís reception is reasonable but it did have trouble maintaining a connection to the 3G network in the black spot I live in. If there is no 3G reception the V3x will attempt to roam on the 2G network and it had no problem getting full reception in the same black spot.
The phone book can store a large amount of contacts with multiple sets of details, such as address, email, birthday and picture ID. It is possible to attach more numbers or email addresses per contact. Another Motorola interface problem is evident in searching through the phonebook, which is slow as it will only look for the first letter of each contact, rather than all of them as the user types. Contacts can be sent to other phones via MMS and the phone can also be synchronised with Outlook through the included PhoneTools software.
Motorola have included 50 sound files on the V3x. Unfortunately the V3x only has a 24-tone synthesiser and while the ringtones are loud they donít sound as good as other comparable handsets. It is recommended to use MP3 ringtones wherever possible. Ringtones can be set to play when the phone receives a voice call, message, or when an alarm goes off etc.
The V3x includes all the standard messaging standards used these days and this includes SMS, EMS, MMS and email (3 also provides an email account). Motorolaís iTap predictive text system is available for quick text input, but itís a far cry from the T9 standard which is far more intuitive and will take some getting used to before it is possible to type messages quickly. The iTap system has some good ideas behind it such as complete word prediction, but through typical Motorola user interface design there are other areas where improvement needs to be made. For example, in the T9 system typing the buttons 1 and 7 will create an apostrophe with an Ďsí afterwards, but in iTap, depending on what you input earlier, it could display a full stop or apostrophe no matter what has been entered.
The V3x is capable of composing large SMS messages, meaning multiple linked SMS will be sent. The V3x automatically switches to MMS support, when a sound or picture is attached to the message. MMS can be sent to phone numbers or email addresses. As with most 3G phones, the V3x incorporates an email client which can be configured to download email from POP3 and IMAP4 servers and view them on the phone. 3 Australia also includes an email account which is linked to the handset as part of their plans. The email client worked great and allowed viewing and notification of incoming emails on multiple accounts.
Text input speed is average due to iTap being a little slow and the keypad not being intuitive for text messaging, so if you are a text junkie there are other models of handsets out there that do a better job.
The most prominent feature of the V3x is that it is essentially a V3 with 3G support. The V3x is a dual-mode GSM/UTMS device. The handsetís network capabilities covers most GSM/UTMS frequencies so there shouldnít be any trouble connecting to most GSM networks around the world, provided the operator has roaming available. The V3x supports the 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz GSM bands, and has UTMS 3G support for internet access at up to 384kbps.
In terms of connectivity Motorola offers the choice of USB or Bluetooth. The phone uses a miniUSB connector for connection to a PC which is an excellent feature as this is a cheap standard plug. To transfer files between the PC and phone, Motorola includes its mobile PhoneTools software (made by BVRP). Like most mobile phone software, it is buggy but is good enough to do the job. One nice feature of the software is that is able to synchronise contacts in Microsoft Outlook.
The Bluetooth connectivity was tested to make phone calls with a Motorola wireless headset and transfer data between the phone and a computer and no problems were encountered. The Bluetooth (v1.2) support seems to be reliable and can also be used to send pictures or documents to Bluetooth enabled printers, however this feature was not tested.
Build quality is comparable to the original V3 and is excellent. The V3x is a lot chunkier and heavier than its predecessor but its weight along with the rubbery exterior adds to its durable feeling. All the components seem to have been fitted into place and are firmly fastened. There is no feeling of looseness and the flip does a good job of holding in position.
The Motorola V3x ships with an 880 mAh battery. Motorola claims official battery life figures of 227 hours standby, 131 minutes of talk time and 99 min of video calling. In practice tests the phone lasted for about three days with mixed usage. The phone takes about two hours to recharge but Motorola has now incorporated a handy miniUSB jack on the side of the phone which allows the handset to be charged through any USB port.
It is fair to say that the battery life on the V3x is fairly average, but this can be explained by the host of features included in the handset and the power used to drive the 240x320 pixel display and the 3G network support. The average battery life could also be explained by Australiaís patchy 3G network support as the handset has to constantly roam to 2G networks when 3G reception is bad or not available.