A day after Motorola released its new Razr 2 cell phones, I got the chance to play with the handsets up close. Though I've grown quite weary of recycled Razrs, I have to admit I liked what I saw. The Razr 2 design is more a refresh of the popular thin handset than a revolution, but it wins new points for beauty. The redesigned hinge and the flattened bottom end are eye-catching, and they contribute to the overall sleek and shiny appearance. And though the V9, V9m, and V8 are just a hair's (0.07 inch) slimmer than the original Razr V3, the change is quite noticeable. As for colors, I'm partial to the maroon hue on the V9 but the dark blue on the V8 and V9m is attractive as well. Meanwhile, the metal casing gives the cell phone a relatively solid feel. Check out more pictures in our slide show.
The external displays are a huge improvement over the original screen on the V3. It's rich with color and detail, and the tactile feedback for the on-screen touch controls is definitely cool. It's disappointing that Moto made some messaging functions available only on the V8's external display. Why the company can't do the same for every Razr is beyond me.
Inside I liked the internal display as well. It's also bright and vivid, though again I don't understand why Moto doesn't spread the love when adding new features to a phone. Though the V8 features a slick new interface thanks to a Linux/Java platform, the V9 and V9m include the same boring and stodgy Moto interface that we're thoroughly over.
The keypad shows some changes as well. It covers nearly the whole surface of the phone's bottom half. The alphanumeric buttons are completely flat with the surface of the phone and have no definition between them but we'll hold our firm assessment on their usability until we get a review model. The navigation array features the same round four-way toggle with the central OK button.
The V9 and V9m have a microSD card slot but it's crammed behind the battery cover. The V8 doesn't have expandable memory but it comes with 512MB of shared memory plus an additional 2GB of internal storage--impressive indeed.
Motorola wouldn't tell which carriers will get the Razr 2 but we can say that the V9 was running on Cingular, the V8 was operating on T-Mobile, and the V9m was using Alltel. While the V9 and V8 could be flukes since they could use any carrier's SIM card, it seems pretty clear that the V9m will land at Alltel. I can't imagine Alltel hooking up a strange phone on its network unless they were thinking about supporting it. All three Razr 2s will be out by the end of the summer.