The RAZR Taught Us That the iPhone is Priced Juuust RightS

Click to viewMuch of the press is now predictably engaged in full iPhone counterspin . Which makes now a great time to counter-counterspin, and make some sense of one of it's biggest perceived weaknesses by critics, consumers and the competition: That $599/$499 price point. It's what a kid makes in a month, working at McDonald's, after taxes. No matter what any fanboy says, that is a fair chunk of change for most of us, burger flipper or not.

But history has told us that such a price isn't too high for a cellphone. Get in your mental Delorean and remember that little handset called the Motorola RAZR.

It was 2004 when the RAZR launched in the US as a high-end design clamshell. It was $600, with a $100 dollar rebate from Cingular. Reviewers complained about the price, but back then the phone was revolutionary enough that no one could pan it. It dialed, like any other phone, and did basic text messaging, and more. But it was just a thin, beautiful design ahead of it's time. And it sold. Especially after it dropped in price, after launch, like all phones do. Within 2 years, it shipped its 50 millionth phone worldwide.

To help jog your memory, it's worth exploring the 2004 review of the phone by Master Technology Journalist Ed Baig, of USA Today, a review that reflected the sentiment of the general public at the time:

There's no shame admitting it; we're all human, after all. And surely you must take some pleasure from what folks might be whispering behind your back. "Wow, that son-of-a-gun must be doing really well. Did you see the gorgeous wristwatch he was wearing? Or the snazzy new sports car he was driving?"

How about his cell phone? The yummy new handset I've been testing is likely to elicit a similar response. I'm speaking of the Motorola Moto Razr V3, so named because Motorola wants to flaunt the device's chief selling point: that this isn't your typical plump phone....Alas, there's nothing slim about the price. Razr will set you back $500 under a current $100-off online promotion from Cingular Wireless; you have to commit to two years of wireless service with the carrier. Monthly rate plans start at $40. A business person might do better with a true "smartphone," such as the PalmOne Treo.

It might take you a minute or so to get used to the tactile feel of the keys. And you may find it difficult to master the art of blindly dialing a number, even if you routinely do so on another cell phone...

Razr isn't a great smartphone for e-mail. There's no qwerty, or traditional, keyboard or other clever way to input text...[But] Someone who buys an expensive sports car to show off probably doesn't fret much about gas mileage. Razr buyers — especially well-heeled ones — might not worry about such nicks.

The question remains how fast the phone's price will drop, and if that drop will just come in the form of a lower end model later on. But remember iSuppi's teardown? This thing theoretically has enough margin to sell for a lot less (not accounting for other costs like advertising, etc).

Of course, I'm sure you'll all let me know I'm crazy and be able to come up with lots of gadgets from the past that failed miserably. (Newton, Cube, Apple III, others I can't even imagine right now.)

So let's hear 'em in the comments. What do y'all think?



Ed Baig's RAZR Review from, like, 100 years ago
[USA Today]