Motorola RAZR V3 - a status symbol. How one clamshell conquered the world

Original author: David Pierce
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Preface from the translator: A

lot of materials have been written on the cult things of their time RAZR V3 and the stories around it. Today I present to your attention a translation of the article by David Pierce. I decided to translate it, because personally I would like to see more really worthwhile products from a design point of view.

Status symbols are things that convey their functions and features and become something beautiful and luxurious in themselves. These are the things that can live after the wars of megapixels and megahertz, regardless of them, the eternal beauties of design and innovation.

In 2003, Nokia created the three most popular phones in the world. All three were short stumps, nine-button bricks and a small monochrome screen. All three looked and worked just like any other mobile phone on the market, but they cost $ 50, $ 20, or generally free. Therefore, they were sold like hot cakes.

But at the beginning of next year, under a glass case inside the Arken Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen, a select group of 110 fashion journalists received an unexpected fleeting high-tech look into the future. It was a Motorola RAZR V3, a phone that changed the world.


Jim Wicks, chief designer at Motorola since 2000 (or since 2001, he himself doesn’t remember exactly), reports that there have always been plans to change the world. “At that time, all phones began to turn into such clumsy, without bright features, shapeless little things. That’s why the idea of ​​going beyond the framework was very, very unusual, contrary to everything that the others were developing in the field of mobile devices at that time. ”

Motorola started this project with two settings, even mantras. Wicks and his team were obsessed with the idea of ​​being “kings of subtlety” without “making any compromises.” These things sound obvious today, but they were unusually contradictory to intuition ten years ago. Even without mentioning the complexity of production: in the process of creating the thinnest phone on the market, Motorola had to invent and improve technology by technology. Wicks wanted the phone to be made of metal, “a high quality alloy, not stamped cheap stuff.” But the metal blocked the radio transmitter of the phone, so Motorola repackaged the wiring so that all antennas and chips were at the bottom of the device. Now the notorious “chin” at RAZR was created by necessity, and not according to sketches of designers. Even the keyboard was rethought in the name of war for millimeters. “All the keyboards started to get very small,” says Wicks. “And if you install the keyboard more, then you would not want these typical keys with bumps and bulges, which would take more than 5-10% of the thickness of the device. Thus, the case led to searches in the field of a superthin keyboard, but if you make a superthin keyboard, you cannot make it from membrane plastic pieces. So we made metal. ”

The phone looked and felt like nothing else on the market. RAZR was not created for millions of copies, but to simply prove what Motorola is capable of. Wicks recalls: “when we showed the device to operators, many said something like:“ No. Will not take off. ” Quite a few people were interested, but not so much as to sign everyone under the contract. ” The announced price is $ 449, which was almost unheard of at that time. Publications called the phone a fashionable little thing , a curiosity.

But here's what Vicks learned in Copenhagen, the RAZR, in addition to all the motions around him, had one feature that really meant something: it was cool. The phone stood out in gift bags at the Oscars, in an advertisement with Maria Sharapova , in Jason Bourne’s pocket , likefigure in the desktop Monopoly . According to Vicks, this was the first device that became more than just a phone, and a message to the outside world, which Motorola supported with a huge and merciless advertising campaign. “This is the first device that has truly moved from a medium for calls to a genuine consumer product and has even become a fashionable thing.” Ed Bagg from USA Today compared the phone to an expensive watch or a sports car - no one got the RAZR out of purely utilitarian arguments, but if you could afford it, he was out of competition.

In 2005 and 2006, everyone I knew either already owned the RAZR, or wanted to buy it for myself. My Motorola T193 with wireless charging from Voicestream (T-Mobile) was one of the legion of impersonal monoblock phones, but my friends' RAZRs were like little things from Philippe Dick's short stories. They were so thin, expertly crafted, with apprehensively sharp contours.


For many years, the price was all that mattered - the operators were selling phones as cheaply as possible in a desperate attempt to sell as many contracts as possible. RAZR ushered in a new era: Motorola has proven that people will pay good money for great devices. Without such competitive advantages as an application store or a good operating system, there was only hardware in which no company could compare with Motorola. Many tried, from Sanyo Katana (even a blade-like name was confused) to the Samsung A900, but no one could even close repeat the success. During a period of excellence unsurpassed neither before nor after, for 12 consecutive quarters from 2004 to 2008, RAZR remained the best-selling phone in the United States.

But on the crest of the wave of popularity of the RAZR, over time reducing prices and margins so that the phone continued to be swept off the shelves, Motorola missed the appearance of the next stage in the development of phones: software and services. “We didn’t figure out that [RAZR] could undermine him,” says Wicks. “We did not invest in undermining our superiority. It was someone else. ” And even when Motorola tried to develop and improve, it met the resistance of the almighty operators. “We were in a stupor from an unfortunate position when we slowed down the future product line and specifications due to the fact that everyone said“ we want something similar, ”and when one day we recorded wishes everyone started saying:“ Good, but this new the model looks like a RAZR. ” Then an iPhone came out and the market made the next turn in the mobile industry.

Smartphones killed the RAZR once and for all, but it didn't have to happen in this way. Wicks points to the Ming line of phones that Motorola launched for China in 2006, clamshells with a stylus and handwriting recognition could give Motorola a new life in the market for touch devices. “It was one of the most unknown, but one of the coolest products,” says Wicks. But the phones of the Ming line never appeared anywhere else and the iPhone almost decided what the next generation of phones would look like anyway.


Motorola was the first company to prove that design can sell a phone, and for three years, an eternity in the world of consumer electronics, it could not be stopped. The environment may have changed since then, but the lessons learned by Wicks and his team have remained unchanged. According to him, Motorola has learned that companies need excellence in engineering, design, marketing or nothing will come of it. Design is the most difficult and most important: “If you have flawless design and development without creating great design, you will not go far.”

The RAZR is gone, the clamshells are out of date - although Wicks doesn't rule out the return of this form factor. “I think technology will evolve. I mean, damn it, if you don't have to touch the phone to use it ... ”He trails off. Suddenly, I thought we were both dreaming of the Moto X clamshell. There are 130 million former RAZR owners who may be very worried about this thought.

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