Rising or Coasting?

5 min read Networks & Network Services
Motorola tries some technology this time (but not enough)The name Motorola these days is about as synonymous with the razor as Gillette is.
The past few years have been spent by both companies trying to redesign their particular razor to up-sell the consumers to the latest model, which in Gillette’s case has a much better specification, has had a huge amount of R & D and is genuinely a better and evolving solution. Motorola, and this is really clever, have just painted it in different colours. Genius.

Well, up until now that is anyway.The Don has been fondling the latest extensions to the family, and especially the RIZR. Another paint job? Or a real advance for mankind?
The RAZR hit our shores and the world went mad. It was the best thing since sliced GPRS, and everyone in the business world wanted the world’s slimmest flip phone. It had an aluminium finish, sported a neon-lit metal keypad and made calming noises when it rang. Great! So how do we create mass market appeal to hit the younger man come cool dude market? We paint it black. You see – genius. Paint it pink and you have the quickest ever selling girl’s phone. Add a blue one …well, you get the picture.

With the addition of a memory card and iTunes, the next model was an improvement – but not really enough to fend off the Nokia, Samsung and Walkman handsets that did this in newer, better and more exciting ways. Motorola, and the Razr, became a one-trick pony. Dull and done before, like a weathered old lady of the night, still turning tricks to try and compete with her younger counterparts.

The next-stage PEBLs and SLVRs stayed on the shelves rather than in the hands of consumers, so Motorola needed something fresh, something new, something …well, totally different? Nah. If it ain’t broke you don’t need to fix it.

So it produced two new phones; A KRZR (a high end RAZR with gloss finish, slightly narrower and a bit taller), and a RIZR (a slidy RAZR).

The KRZR has been around for a while now. It’s a high end RAZR with a slightly better spec and looks top class, but what about Motorola’s first bash at a slider? I’ve got one, and from first glance it seems that the Motorola stable is coming away from being a one-trick pony to becoming more products-on-a-theme, if you get my drift.

Being a slider, and indeed Moto’s first, the RIZR Z3 (to use it’s full title) comes in a box which slides open to reveal the phone. And much like our stoical woman of the night as mentioned earlier, you have to open the box to get the full benefits of the handset; under it you’ll find a set of decent stereo headphones and a data cable. It would be nice for Motorola to have included a memory card at this point, but apparently you can’t have it all. Or rather, you can’t have one at all. Not for free, anyhow.

The handset is about the same thickness as the 3G RAZR that came out a while ago. It’s also the same blue colour and boasts that nice soft-touch housing. It’s narrower though, and taller. The screen is nice and bright with a good resolution (see specs), but this is not enough to compete with the phones that are out on the shelves this Christmas.

Under the screen is the navigation dial, akin to a RAZR, yet this model boasts a smoother operation than the earlier versions. Pop the slide up using a very well-styled raised ridge and you get – yes, you guessed it: a neon-lit metallic keypad. The 2mp camera and light are nicely tucked away on the rear, and the speaker is a neat groove at the base (also on the rear) this makes it a nice looking handset, and in fairness it is.

It looks and feels great and is a great compliment to the RAZR stable. I refer once again to the phones-on-a-theme idea.

Also, the soft-touch finish is a strange one. It’s a little like the silicon implant argument. It feels different, not how you’d expect it to feel, but in a very good way. I like the look of this phone very much, and although a little tall – when opened it’s about the same length as a small kayak (well almost) – it’s fab to look at. Everyone picks it up. On the amazement scale that’s as good as it gets. But then, Motorola is used to that, since they do spend a lot of time reworking (and respraying) existing phones rather than innovating with wizzy new technology.

The personalisation options on the soft keys are what I liked about this phone. Closed, you can do so much with it, and make it really easy to navigate or use for those little things you need. Like setting an alarm without going through the menu when you’ve been out on the lash and can’t even see straight.

The fact that you shut it and the keypad waits a couple of seconds before locking is quite a nice idea. It means that you can shut it and still play with it, without opening it and mashing the slider through frustration, or pressing key-sequences that are akin to that Simon game from when you were younger.

You want a camera that at 2mp takes a competitive picture, but I have found that standing this against many other (and older) 2mp camera phones of similar value, it doesn’t hold it’s ground. The screen and graphics are not really that refined, akin to a K750i more than something modern; and without a memory card bundled in, you’re not really going to take on the iPod or indeed Walkman phone handsets.

This is a shame as this is the first RAZR-theme handset that looks and feels like a young person’s best friend, and a memory card would surely seal the deal at this price point …

It does OK online, with lots of pre-loaded bookmarks to places more interesting than T-Zones, but there’s no 3G for speedy access.

Also, you’d have to assume that these days something designed to look and feel like this, with slightly lower specifications to keep the price down, really should be punted out to the networks offering suitable tariffs; and 3 has to be one of those.

Maybe someone should tell these guys that you can’t judge a book by its cover, and it is time to put into place some better specs and something a little bit new.

So has my one-trick pony returned to dazzle us with nothing more than an oddly revised canter? Is my weathered call-girl still flouting the same old routine just on a different corner? Or is this the cosmetic enhancement Motorola needs to revive their market share from what has been its best-selling offering – the V3?

The answer is ...I don’t know. I love sliding phones, but Motorolas, as gorgeously designed as they are, always seem to be lower in specification than their competitors. And they have a menu system and indeed application offering that is less entertaining than the handsets available from Nokia, Samsung or SE.

But they must be doing something right as the V3 was an incredible handset sales wise, and these versions on a theme are a hit amongst the business and Motorola-loyal fraternity. Also, we must remember that with so many people having RAZR-theme phones, to keep them evolving with similar features and layouts, means that upgrading no longer involves getting used to a new, overloaded handset.

Clever, and it works for the consumer. For us, though, we want something new to sell. Yes, it integrates brilliantly with your computer. Yes, it has good battery life. Yes, it looks great. But this industry needs to be wowed by things like a D900 or an M600i, not just choice-ridden on the design front. Or maybe it does.

In conclusion, if you want a new Motorola, and aren’t to fussed about how your phone opens itself in your hand, then the KRZR is the way forward. It’s a better phone and looks the business. I think it’s the same on the sales front. There’s nothing really new or exciting here. The KRZR has a wow factor that makes it desirable. This handset … well it’s just nice, and quite frankly that’s not enough to get the public to part with their pennies. Right then, I’m off to find that street corner.
Length 106mm
Width 46mm
Depth 16mm
Main display
TFT, 256K colours,
176x220 pixels
20MB internal memory, microSD memory card slot
Quadband GSM, EDGE, Bluetooth 2.0, USB 2.0
2MP, flash, video
Other functions
Music player, WAP web browser, instant messaging
Standby 350h
Talk time 6h40