Okay, so the Moto RAZR is starting to get really long in the tooth - it was introduced at the end of 2004 and we're just starting 2006, so as a phone that's on the cutting edge, this isn't it (despite its name *rimshot*). Still - it's a damn sexy little phone and very, very popular. For good reason - there's something about that thin form factor which is incredibly appealing - I was trying to figure it out the other day and I think it's because it fits so comfortably between your thumb and index finger, like a good pen or a deck of cards or something. It has a light, sleek design which is completely unnoticable in your pocket, yet still comfortable in your hand. It's just feels good! As an example of hardware design, it's a gem - up there with the iPod, Palm V, and Canon ELF.
As an example of software design, however, it's the polar opposite. Everyone - and I mean everyone - asks me what I think of the phone before they buy it, ignore my warnings about how user-hostile the UI is, and then proceed to complain to me afterwards about how sucky the phone is and how it does this or that badly. (And even worse, some use it as example of why all mobility is crap. Urgh!) But you know, the phone is just so freakin' widespread, complaining about how bad it is almost a part of popular culture - I've heard people share misery stories about the phone the way others repeat episodes of Seinfeld. There was an article in the New York Times the other day comparing the RAZR to a new Samsung thin-model and all the writer could do was bitch about this or that. It's a phone we love to love and love to hate.
Anyways, seeing how popular it is and how much neat software and services have been released for it lately, I figured it was time to actually use it in earnest to see the pain of the everyman, and to see if I coudl get it to fit my needs as a mobile power user. I've done that, and I'm here to share my thoughts, and if you've got any more tips, please share them as well. A warning, much of what I'm going to talk about is based on my Cingular phone, but you can take much of the same advice regardless of what carrier you got the phone from.
Okay. So let's just start with the apps. There's quite a few decent Java apps and tons of games out there now. Some are free, but many are charged as subscriptions, so you should watch carefully before installing from your operators deck. On my phone right now I've got:
- Opera Mini,
- Yahoo! IM
- Yahoo! Mail,
- Bejewled and
The Yahoo! IM Java client may not be needed, it depends on how old your RAZR is - it could be installed by default as a standard IMPS chat client, or if not you can grab a free Java client from Cingular. Other apps I can recommend:
- Google Maps is really nice (though it's a bit sluggish on GPRS),
- Pocket Auctions from Bonfire Media if you're an eBay junkie,
- Rabble for cutting edge mobile social networking,
- Sudoku, Tetris, Zuma, World Poker Tour, Pac-Man, Monopoly, and more...
The point is there's some essentials, but there's also a lot of "nice to haves" too - so go snag some apps and install them.
Next up are the Menus, Settings and Preferences. It seems that everything on the RAZR is set to the dumbest defaults possible. I really recommend taking some time and tweaking the UI to your liking. It'll save you lots of frustration while you're out and about later. One thing though, I'm not going to spell out how to do every little thing (this is a Power users guide after all), I'm just going to point out where to go in general and you'll have to figure it out. The general rule is that almost every screen with a menu option has a Settings choice with ways to tweak the UI, so just start exploring and you'll find interesting things to turn off and on.
The Home Screen is actually the main area where you can customize your phone's UI. Go to the Menu->Settings->Personalize option and set it up to make quick paths to the commonly used apps. I turned on the joypad icons so I could remember more easily which direction was which app, made the clock display digital, aligned things to the left, made the left soft key to point at the Shortcuts app (more on this in a sec) and the right one to point at the Camera. Left is for Recent Calls (since the green button stupidly only shows you calls you've made), Up is Calendar, Down is Address Book, and Right is Opera Mini. Remember that you have access to the internal WAP 2.0 Browser and your Messages via buttons on the face of the keypad, so there's no reason to waste Home Keys on those options. There's also the "Smart Key" above the volume keys which I always forget is there, so I just leave it pointing at Voice Record. If you can remember its there and can press it easily enough, might as well assign that button to something you use a lot as well.
Okay, next you'll want to "fill up" the Shortcuts menu, which is blank by default. This is done by navigating around, highlighting icons or menu opions in the apps you want to add a shortcut to, and holding down the menu key for a few seconds until you get a confirmation to save the shortcut. You'd be amazed at how deep into some menus this will work. In my shortcuts menu I have: Web Shortcuts, Stored Pages, Sync, Pictures, Mobile IM, Calculator, Games, Audio and Bluetooth. Basically 95% of the apps or screens that I'd ever want to get to are there in one menu now, handily placed on my left soft key on the main screen. No more trying to remember all the wonky places Moto put the apps by default.
Next is the Web Shortcuts menu and the Stored Pages. When you launch your browser from the web icon, you'll arrive at your carrier's home page, whatever that is, which normally isn't particularly useful. You'll want to add some intelligent bookmarks to your browser's Web Shortcuts so you can go directly to them. I've got two links which serve me quite well: http://wap.oa.yahoo.com and http://wap.oa.yahoo.com/raw?dp=yms (Yahoo! and Yahoo! Search, did you think I was going to point to soemthing else? :-) ). Of course you can't just bite the bullet and type these URLs into the Bookmarks app directly, you actually have to use your WAP browser to navigate to the pages, and then hold down the menu key (like for the other type of shortcuts) and the phone will prompt you to save the URL as a bookmark. Now here's a nice trick - it's sort of a pain to have to wait for your phone to connect and spend time downloading a page just to get a search form, right? So you can skip at least 30 seconds round trip by "Storing" the search page instead, using the Menu -> Store option. Now when you want to use mobile search, you can just quickly go into the Stored Pages menu, and pull the search form right up with no delay, then when you submit the query, you're waiting for the results, not just the initial form. Since the RAZR is just GPRS, this tip can save you lots of time. Sadly, you can't make a Shortcut right to a Stored Page, otherwise the search page would be #1 in the list.
While I'm talking about the WAP browser, another tip is that if you get a URL in a text message or email, you can open it by simply going to the menu and choosing "Go To". It's not a great menu option by any stretch, but that's what it does. I'm not sure what happenes if there are two URLs in your text message, so don't do that. :-)
Yahoo! Sync is a must. Go set it up and use it - address book and calendar sync is SUCH a killer app. Easily the number one reason I'm using this phone right now. Hopefully we'll be rolling it out to more phones soon - they're just really cautious. They don't want you to be using some random phone and have us erase all your contact or scheduling data because of some weird bug we don't know about, so theyr'e testing each phone thoroughly. Anyways, you have to sync manually (this is probably a good thing), which is why I put that option as the third item in my Shortcuts. A couple clicks and it starts syncin.
Next is the Address Book. Everyone bitches about how inane it is that your contacts are listed multiple times depending on how many ways you have to contact them. So if you have a contact with a work, mobile and email address, you have three entries. And since only three address book entries are shown by default, it means a LOT of scrolling. Even the guy in the New York Times bitched about this one. This can be changed. Go into your Address Book, and down to Settings. Change the View By option from "Picture" to "List", and then go down to the View option and choose "Primary Contacts". Now when you hit Done and go back to your address book, you'll have 8 entries per page, and only one entry per person. Here's the pain: You have to go through and choose which of the forms of contacting each person is the "primary" way which is displayed by default. You do this by selecting the person, clicking right or left to choose the contact option you want (say mobile) then going into the menu and choosing "set primary". It's the suck, but at the end you actually have a usable address book.
Next you want to go into the Messaging Center app and set up your IMAP/POP3/SMTP email servers and password and all that. There are actually some interesting settings in there - you can have your phone check your email every 30 minutes to every hour or few hours, only retrieve unread email or just with today's date. You can also tell it to have a certain size restriction and to not download attachments (which should've been off by default if you ask me). Even if you aren't into getting email on your phone, having that option to send photos is great - especially if you've got an unlimited data plan (no MMS charges) and now that you've synced all your contacts via SyncML. Perfect for services like Fickr which can upload photos via an email - I've got that address saved in my contacts (along with Y! photos and 360). Makes it quick and easy to throw photos up online.
Okay, here's a bunch of miscellaneous items:
- There's an option for "Wrap Around" when scrolling menus in the Initial Setup menu. Turn that on, it makes navigating fast.
- Also in the Initial Setup menu, change the TTY Setup to "TTY" from Voice. This will allow you to actually use your voice mail by hitting the touch tones on your phone (God knows why this was turned off on my phone).
- Make sure the Camera is set to the highest resolution, otherwise your photos may be blurrier than they need to be.
- Also, turn off the shutter sound. Not because you want to be stealthy, but because it slows down the camera and makes it less responsive.
- Add some good defaults to your Opera's bookmarks too, no reason to have to type them in when you're in a hurry.
- Set up your IM. The phone uses what was called Wireless Village, or IMPS - which means that you can sign in, and then close the app (and the data traffic) and still be signed in. The server will send your phone a wakeup call if it gets a new IM for you (its' via SMS, but it's special and in the background).
- Take two minutes and actually learn how to use iTAP - it's not T9, but it's definitely helpful. I actually like how it predicts words you've already entered which you can choose by pressing the joypad up or to the right - it makes entering in your 15 letter username (why is my name so long?!?!) much easier.
- The Calculator has a built in currency exchange, make sure to enter in the proper rate when you get to a foreign land. :-)
- You can put Java apps in suspend mode by clicking the red hangup key and choosing Suspend. You can't start another Java app, but you can make a phone call or do other native functions, which is handy.
Okay, the final thing is something I found by accident even though later on I discovered it was on page three of the manual the entire time: taking self portraits. Close the phone. Hold down the "smart key" (the small side button under the volume keys on the left) and after a few seconds, the camera will turn on, and the preview will show on the external display (right side up). Click the little button again to take a picture. Perfect for those group shots where you want to be in the frame as well. :-)
So there, your old GPRS Java phone should actually be quite styling now. It has a full-on Web browser, IM, Email, Synced Calendar and Address Book, Games, Maps, Streaming Video, and reasonable User Interface settings to deal with now. If there are some must-haves or must-do's that I missed, please share them. I don't use the voice record stuff much at all. Am I missing out?
Hope that's useful to someone out there!