Razr Burn: My Month With 2004’s Most Exciting Phone

Razr Burn: My Month With 2004’s Most Exciting Phone

In July of 2004, Motorola debuted the Razr V3, one of the most iconic mobile phones of all time. Exactly 10 years later, I shed my iPhone for a month to experience the world where apps don’t exist and T9 reigns king. Maybe I did it for the nostalgia. Maybe I did it because I hate myself just a little bit. Either way, one thing is certain: Using 2004’s hottest phone in 2014 is hell.

It may be hard to remember now — or to believe at all, if you’re under 20 — but at the time of its release the Razr was the final word in mobile technology. For the first time, you got a sleek, powerful, and wildly expensive bit of metal to call not only your mobile phone but your status symbol, too. A couple of years and a few slashes into the $US700 price tag later, you could barely go outside without seeing someone flip open a Razr. In four years, Motorola sold 130 million of them, a record that wouldn’t be touched until well into the iPhone’s run.

That lingering coolness factor only makes it all the more depressing when you realise that, today, the Razr is a barely functional, actively-out-to-sabotage you bit of technological refuse. What was once displayed with pride on a shiny store pedestal, I found on eBay for $36 and sandwiched between a bulk set of broken chargers and discontinued memory cards.

As someone with a moderate to severe smartphone dependency, I knew my Razr month would be an adjustment. But I would have never guessed which things actually ended up needing the adjusting. Here’s everything I learned during 30 days soundtracked by polyphonic ringtones and my own, gentle cries of defeat. Kids, please, don’t try this at home.

The Things I Missed

Maps are hard. I am perhaps the most directionally inept person I know. I always assumed that, were it not for my phone’s GPS, I would have been forced to settle down in the nearest park to build a new life for myself long ago.

In retrospect this is obvious, but I hadn’t even considered the fact that my Razr wouldn’t have access to a maps app. And since I don’t have a printer because why would you, I rediscovered the long-lost art of our ancestors.

That said, there were several occasion in which I was forced to admit defeat and catch a cab because I had no conceivable idea where I was. Cartography is not my strong suit.

There was a reason we used to carry around digital cameras. As far as the casual consumer is concerned, mobile phones today are more than capable of handling our various photo-taking needs. I was quickly reminded that this was not always the case.

Although, if there’s one thing the early aughts did right, it was the the Fun Frame™.

Foolishly, I waited until after I had deactivated my Razr try to get the photos I had taken off of it. And while I’m sure it would have been a snap to upload photos 10 years ago, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to bring these 1.3 megapixel wonders into the modern world. During my quest, I found multiple message boards with people bewailing similar problems, and they’d found solutions! My problem was solved, is something I would say were it 2009. Because as far as I can tell, that is the last time someone successfully got photos off a Razr V3 using the software itself.

Instead, I had to journey back to the Verizon store (my Razr naturally couldn’t be activated online), switch service from my recently reinstated iPhone back to my Razr, spend about 20 minutes texting a friend a total of five-ish photos, and then ask the kind people at Verizon to switch service back to my iPhone. I’m still not sure it was worth it.

We take threaded conversations for granted. And they have made me impossibly lazy. I’m so used to being able to see entire messaging conversations at a swipe that I hardly even bother to absorb the words I’m looking at. Because normally, I can take an absentminded glance (mostly to stave off notification anxiety), and later, when I’m ready to respond, the entire back-and-forth is staring me in the face.

During one of my earlier, more naive days of #RazrLyf, I’d been absentmindedly opening a barrage of texts from a friend while working on something else. No big deal. Later, when I’d finally decided to transfer my full attention over to my newly activated relic, there was just one message left waiting for me:

Did I remember anything I had glanced at not ten minutes ago? No. Did I want to go through the obscene series of clicks to take me back through each individual message? Please — I’m not an animal.

And that is an absurd way to think — I know! But spending tens of seconds on actual clicks is torture to my attention-addled brain, and frankly, I would rather T9 my way through pure guesswork before subjecting myself to that kind of abuse.

I figured I would play it safe by answering with a simple “Haha.” I never received a response.

The Things I Didn’t

SMS sucks, but at least it works. If you thought switching to Android was iMessage purgatory, Razrland is the deepest, darkest pit of iMessage hell. I quickly learned that whenever I was going anywhere, I’d need to tell anyone who might need to contact me for whatever reason that they had to switch off their iMessage function. Otherwise, this would happen.

There is no greater test of a relationship than the iMessage black hole. Half the time, messages were re-routed to fester on my computer, where they’d live as inactionable relics to what could have been. This was the better of the two outcomes.

The other? The messages you see above along with countless others, sent to that unfathomable abyss where iMessages go to die. Say goodbye to messages filled with potential plans and burgeoning friendships — the early aughts have spoken.

Using a password manager is a dangerous game. I’m loath to admit it, but until just about a year ago, I’d been using the same several passwords I’d been assigned in middle school for pretty much everything. Finally coming to terms with the fact that this was a) lazy and b) dumb, I gave in and surrendered the money for a password manager.

It’s worth noting that, for those using technology manufactured after Bush was in office, 1Password and password managers like it tend to work spectacularly. They’re secure and, more importantly, do all the dirty work for you. So much so, in fact, that you can’t physically do the dirty work (read: memorise a dozen or so 13-character keys) even if you wanted to. Rainmen of the world excluded.

So when I log in to, say, a friend’s smartphone to check Twitter because my phone does not know what a Twitter is (ok technically it might but if I was going to tweet I was going to do it in style) we run into a bit of a problem: I need to use my password manager (which I don’t have) to get my Twitter password (which I can’t remember) to log onto a website (which I can’t access). Because even if I tried to reset it, my email accounts are equally impenetrable.

I have a hardwired swiping tick. I’m fully aware of my unhealthy relationship with smartphone games, but a new low was reached when, about two-and-a-half weeks in, I found myself unconsciously clawing at my deficient device every five minutes in an attempt at quality Threes! time.

We’ve become far too complacent with shitty battery life. For example — and this is an admittedly extreme-ish case — but on a recent plane trip I brought two backup battery cases to supplement my fully charged iPhone. Granted, I currently have the iOS 8 beta on my phone which ravages my battery more than I ever dreamed possible, but this isn’t that dissimilar to who people would prepare for a trip under more normal circumstances.

During my month in Razr darkness, I had to charge my Razr a total of eight times. Eight times. In a whole month. That’s about two days’ worth of charges in iPhone years.

It’s not just the iPhone, though. The best any modern smartphone strives for — at least in terms of battery life — is being just slightly less awful than totally defective. But in 2014, that’s life.

The Things I Couldn’t Let Go

Answers to every question, public transit info, impromptu flashlights, music players, photo editors, private taxi-hailers, your actual concert ticket — all at my literal fingertips one second and gone the next. Yes, we hear about these digital detox clinics and envision idyllic, open fields and blood pressure plummeting to near-stasis, but that’s a) fantasy and b) essentially taking place in Amish country. In the real world, being without a smartphone is goddamn miserable.

Smartphones are so ingrained in our daily lives that we swipe them open with the same unconscious instinct we’d use to swat a fly on our arm. Five idle minutes would pass by in a subway car. I’d reach for my phone, realise just a little too late that it had nothing to offer me, and then self-consciously pretend that I had just wanted to look at my impotent lump of a phone.

And impotent it was. Friends were fed up with me. I was late to pretty much everything. And more than once my mother nearly filed a missing persons report after I didn’t respond to her texts — because I’d never actually received her texts.

If you’re thinking that a break from the constant connection of the real world sounds nice, by all means, take a break; turn off your phone. It is nice! For a very, very short while. But as soon as you’ve had your fill, turn your phone the hell back on and be grateful. I guarantee someone’s been trying to call you, and they’re about to get pissed.