My New Motorola SLVR L7 – Updated

I was a bit upset last week when my Motorola V635 phone crapped out. I got this phone from France and have had a good time playing with it over the past year. It had a full array of features, a nice, compact clamshell design and a fairly good 1.3 megapixel camera. One day, however, it decided that it was going to wake up and stop getting receiption. Since I never really played the pre-loaded version of Tetris, a cell phone without reception is of little use to me.

This wasn’t too big of a deal, however – I had my eye on the upcoming Motorola RAZR v3i for a while and, although it wasn’t available from a US carrier, the price had dropped significantly over the past 4 or 5 months. It essentally had the same features as the V635 with the sleek RAZR profile (the US version of this phone is supposed to have iTunes on it, although the European version simply comes with Moto’s MP3 player). I figured that I would just pick this up from an importer, assuming I could get it quickly – very quickly.

I was surprised, however, when I logged onto Cingular’s website on January 30th to find that Moto’s newest release, the SLVR L7 (pronounced “sliver”), was now available from Cingular for $199. I have been a former ATT-cum-Cingular customer for almost 10 years now, and have two lines that are both on month-to-month plans. When I went to the Cingular store to inquire about a phone upgrade, they told me they could give me an additional loyalty discount of $50, plus a free car charger (maybe this is because I have been a long time customer, but it’s probably because my monthly bills are often between $300 – $500 when you rack up my international calls and roaming). So, for $149, I figured “What the hell…”.

At first impressions, the design is sharp. The full-metal, brushed and polished steel case is sturdy and doesn’t seem as cheap as 98% of the phones on the market today. The screen is bright and large (just a tad bit smaller than the RAZR’s) and the buttons have a nice feel to them. I’ve read a few reviews where the revierwers complain that the buttons are too small, but I have large fingers and have yet to fat finger anything. The buttons have a nice feel and I can text as quickly as I did on any of my previous phones.

The Cingular kit preloads the phone with a 512MB MicroSD/Transflash card, which is handy if you are actually going to put music on it, or take a lot of pictures. The UI is pretty much the same as most of the Motos on the market today, which isn’t saying much (MOTO’s UI design is poor, IMO, but I have trained myself to get used to it).

It includes iTunes software, which wasn’t an important selling point to me, but is a neat little toy to have. I plugged it into my Mac and iTunes immediately recognized the phone, using iTunes 6. The SLVR has the same USB 1.1 data transfer limitation as the (failed) ROKR, but this isn’t such a big deal…you’re not going to use this thing like an iPod (well, at least I’m not, I own 3 flavors of the iPod as it is). There is also the same 100-song upload max as the ROCKR, so Apple ensures that you won’t use this as an iPod substitute. Sound quality via the included headphone is good, but the bass is very lacking. The dual-purpose handsfree-talk/music-listening headphones are not that great, but functional. The are much less comfortable than the iPod “white” earbuds. The phone comes with a headphone mini-plug adapter, which allows you to use standard headphones with the phone, although they must be removed if you want to accept an incoming call.

The camera has VGA (640×480) resolution – a step down from the 1.3MP camera in my old V635 and the upcoming RAZR v3i, but the cell phone camera novelty has worn off for me, so this isn’t a big deal. As I stated earlier, the RAZR v3i includes a 1.3MP camera, for those of you who really need the extra resolution and can wait for it’s “official” release here in the US.

The SLVR worked out-of-the-box with iTunes and Mac OS X’s iSync software (I was able to load my phone book via Bluetooth in less than a minute). It also paired with the hands-free bluetooth speakerphone in my 2005 BMW X3 without any problems, as well as my Motorola Bluetooth headset. The USB cable is included and the phone can charge from your PC with its use. The kit also comes with a standard wall charger. Moto uses the RAZR-style power/input plug for this phone…it looks like the old-fashioned, poorly-designed, 3-pin Moto charging plug is on its way out.

All in all, this is a sleek, well-built phone. I’m happy with the features and the sound quality. I think it provides a good bang for the buck, compared to other phones on the market today, particulary if you can get it for $150. Cingular seems to be pushing it hard and I’m sure this will be purchased by a lot of people who don’t know megapixels from MP3s, but who will want to “look good” while talking.

Here are a couple of pics taken with the camera (click for full size). As you can see, photo quality is a bit blurry:

Office Toys Philadelphia - Chris and Kurt, Feb 5, 2005 (camera phone)

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