The first phone I ever had was a Motorola Razr. The Razr’s buttons are among the best to ever grace a mobile device. The keyboard is laser-etched from a sheet of glittering aluminum, and when pressed, it ignites in a lambing blue glow that watched like the sci-fi future.
But there was one button I was terrified of. In all my years of owning a Razr, I can’t say I tapped it more than once or twice, and never on purpose: the Internet button.
The Internet button, located at the top left of the keyboard, was decorated with a blue globe and would open the Razr’s built-in Internet browser. The problem, of course, was that in the heady days of 2007, when I first got a cell phone, I wasn’t paying for data. Which meant pushing the button was a recipe for getting hit with dreaded overage charges.
Would AT&T have charged me (and by extension my family’s shared mobile plan) hundreds of dollars for the crime of using precious kilobytes of data to accidentally load Google’s rudimentary mobile site? I honestly have no idea. But with things like texting and calling minutes already heavily regulated by the carrier — leading to high overage charges — I wasn’t taking any chances.
Unfortunately, the basic design of the Razr meant that those intentions were often unquestioned. The internet button was at conveniently located right next to the green “call button” and placed right next to the directional path. It was far too easy to just accidentally hit the button, transferring you to the bare-bones web browser and impending charges. My memories of the Internet button are those of accidental brushing followed by frantically pounding the hang up or menu buttons in a desperate attempt to exit before using up all the data.
The Razr’s internet button was ambitious. It’s hard to remember now, when the Razr is seen as the ultimate expression of the feature phone. It was the last, towering pinnacle of the era before smartphones took over, with the iPhone and Android phones debuting just a few years later. When it was released in 2004 it cost $500 of a two-year contract; the same price that the “entry-level” of the original iPhone would charge when it debuted in 2007.
The Razr was a luxury phone that was so ripped from the future, so it’s had to offer features like email and the web, even if the mobile and technology infrastructure we had back then wasn’t ready for the Razr’s ambitions.
Looking back from the lofty prospect of 2021, where internet-connected devices are a table game and having mobile data on a smartphone is a given, where even devices that want to avoid “smartphone” status offer some sort of mobile data, it seems almost funny. But in Razr’s heyday of the early 2000s, the lethargic 2G internet that the flip phone provided was cutting edge technology — and it took a heavy toll on the data plans of anyone who dared to push it.
Motorola eventually seemed to realize that, despite the best of intentions, the Internet and email weren’t really the Razr’s main draws either. And later versions of the device (like the V3m) would ditch those buttons entirely in favor of a dedicated camera shortcut and clear button, neither of which cost money.
And Motorola may have had the last laugh: When the company revived the Razr brand in 2020, it added an Easter egg that allowed users to mimic the original neon-toned interface of the 2004 flip phone. And on it was an Internet button, which, when tapped, would open Google Chrome—with all the benefits of LTE and Wi-Fi we have today.