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Motorola v70: good looking, but not compelling

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Review The Motorola v70 is a startling new phone with a brushed titanium look finish, aimed at the fashion conscious user. The most striking thing about it is its unique rotating mechanism. The sliding front panel revolves through 360 degrees to reveal a flattened keypad.

At 93x45x16mm, it's super sleek, and feels good to hold. It’s impressively light at under 80g, which is something of an engineering feat in metal. No price has been set but when this phone hits the shops later in the year we expect it to be as expensive as it looks.

The rotating front panel works well because when it's opened out, it’s the right length to reach your from ear to your mouth, yet the display is still visible when the phone is closed.

In October 1993 What Mobile interviewed Frank Nuovo, Nokia’s head of industrial design, and he talked about phones becoming jewellery. As we were reviewing phones that weighed half a kilo and were resplendent in cheap grey plastic, this seemed a bit of a joke. Now that the v70 is here and Nokia has announced it’s to develop a line of mobile phones crossed with jewellery, it doesn’t seem so starry-eyed.

Swivelling the front panel slider answers an incoming call. It's just about possible to do it one-handed, but rather tricky and uncomfortable. The buttons are well spaced, but small, and not ideal for large hands. The v70 looks even cooler when open as the keypad has a bright blue backlight. The screen is a reversed LCD, giving white text on a black background. It’s dramatic but hard to read. There are just two lines of text plus labels for the soft keys and icons to show battery and signal.

Talktime is quoted at three hours and standby at 120 hours which is impressive for such a light phone. The software is much like the v66, two soft keys and a central menu button.

The v70 is a GPRS WAP phone. Like its v60 and v66 siblings it doesn’t have an infra-red port but does have a USB cable option. Omitting infra-red, particularly GPRS phones, always seems strange as is pretty cheap to add. More baffling is the decision to make the v70 dual-band, rather than triple-band, which will limit the appeal of the phone to globetrotting users.

An aspect of the user interface that works well is a selection of beeps that tell you when you have done something, a bit like the Dolmansaxlil training computer in the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy. Cute peeps don’t hide the horrors of the iTAP predictive text that Motorola uses. In general this is not a phone you want to use for text messaging. The screen and buttons are too small and it’s not easy to work out how to do things like capitalize text. There is no user dictionary for iTap.

You can re-order items in the main menu but not move things from submenus to the main menu. So while it is possible to move ‘messages’ to be the first thing you see when you press the menu key, this still takes you to a menu where ‘call voicemail’ is first and you then have to scroll to ‘write message’. In an ideal world you would be able to make ‘write message’ the first thing on the first menu—or for choice, you’d forget about the menu system and have a dedicated text messaging button that brought up an empty screen to type into.

The ring tone composer is quite good. There is full control of the notes over three octaves with rests and speed, but tones can’t be downloaded or assigned to individuals. There is no support for many features that are already becmoing commonplace—enhanced messaging, polyphonic ring tones and a colour screen.

As a rule Motorola has been better at good-looking design and reliable performance (not always in the same phone) than in compelling applications. This continues to be true of the v70. Technologically it points the way but what it lacks is the kind of feature that makes a user addicted to the phone.

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