Editor's note: This review refers to a preproduction model of the Razr2 V8. The final model of the handset may be different.
Yes, it's late to the party, as it often tends to be, but T-Mobile finally has picked up the Motorola Razr2. Sprint, Verizon Wireless, Alltel, and AT&T have been offering the Razr revamp since the summer, but only today did T-Mobile make its membership in the Moto club official. Wrapped in a lovely blue skin, T-Mobile's Razr2 is just as sleek and shiny, but you'll find an important change inside. While its competitors are selling the 3G Razr2 V9 or V9m, T-Mobile stuck with the Razr2 V8, which supports the slower EDGE networks. You can blame it on T-Mobile's lack of 3G--that's another party the carrier is late to--but the result is an equally attractive but far less powerful phone. And don't get us started on the less-effective external display. The Razr2 V8 is $249 with service. To find accessories for this phone, see our cell phone ringtones and accessories guide.
We've made no secret of the fact that we think the Razr2 is downright gorgeous. The more streamlined shape, glossy exterior, and metal finish add up to a huge aesthetic improvement over the original
The V8 features the large and visually rich Razr2 external display, but it's disappointing that T-Mobile does not utilize it fully. Though the screen shows photo caller ID and it works as a camera viewfinder for self portraits, the nifty touch controls that the V9 and V9m carriers used so effectively aren't available in the standby mode on our review model. You can't access your recent calls list or the messaging menu; rather, you can use them only to control the music player. You still get the tactile feedback with the controls, but even then you must open the phone to start the player first. Since Motorola gave carriers a lot of room to customize the controls to their liking, we can't understand why T-Mobile didn't do the same.
We also weren't thrilled with the controls on either spine. Yes, they give you the same tactile feedback as on the other Razr2s, but you can't activate the camera when the phone is closed. Instead, you must open the phone, start the camera, and then close it again to get your shot. Why couldn't T-Mobile let us activate the music player or camera with the flip closed? We haven't the slightest idea. Of course, you can use the volume rocker and the Motorola smart key on the left spine to change the V8's profile, but that's hardly unique among Motorola phones. The smart key also locks the external controls but the sole control on the right spine only activates the voice-dialing feature when the flip is open.
The remaining features on the V8's exterior are mostly standard. The camera sits above the external display sans a flash while the Micro-USB port sits on the left spine. The speaker is on the rear face of the phone at its bottom end. But in an important change, the Razr2 V8 does not offer an external memory card slot.
The V8's interior also shows no changes from the other Razr2 models. The 2.2-inch (320x240 pixels), 262,000-color display is equally pleasing to the eye and the navigation controls and keypad buttons, while flush with the surface of the phone, are user-friendly. T-Mobile did a decent job with the shortcut keys. You can program the toggle to open four functions of your choice while a second customizable shortcuts menu gives you one-touch access to more applications. Pressing the smart key will open the music player, but we would have appreciated a specific speakerphone key as well. The only dedicated keys are a Web-browser control and a back button.
T-Mobile replaced Motorola's dated menu user interface with its own design, but it's not much of an improvement. Though the animated icons are pretty, the organizational system didn't always make sense. For example, to change the backlight time or the display brightness you most open the Display Settings option under the Phone Settings menu. But if you want to change the wallpapers, you most open the Themes menu instead.
The Razr2 V8 has a large phonebook with room in each entry for five phone numbers, two-e-mail addresses, an instant messaging handle, two street addresses, and notes (the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts). You can assign callers to groups and pair them with one of 32 polyphonic ringtones. And for safekeeping purposes, you can sync your contacts with T-Mobile's servers. Other essential features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calculator, a calendar, a world clock, a task list, a voice memo recorder, and a notepad. Also onboard are full Bluetooth (with a stereo profile), instant messaging, voice dialing and commands, POP3 e-mail, PC syncing, and USB (2.0) mass storage.