Recently, I had the pleasure of trying out the Motorola SLVR L7 mobile phone for a couple of weeks. While making the switch from one company?s phone interface to another was a task in itself, by the end of my time testing it, I was hard pressed to let it go.
When I first got the phone, still in the box with an uncharged battery, I decided to give it it?s first real test: I put it in my pocket. Now, let?s compare to another MP3 phone, the Sony Ericsson w600i. When I put that in my pocket, not much else can go in there besides my keys. With the SLVR, I can throw my wallet in that same pocket, my iPod, my satellite radio, a second cell phone, whatever I want. It truly is that thin. When all I have in my pocket is the phone, it really feels like it?s empty. Big plus on the design for this little gizmo.
First thing I did with a charged battery, I hooked it up to my Mac. Forget making calls, or anything like that. Who uses a cell phone to make calls anymore? This baby has iTunes, and I want to know what it?s like on my phone. A sort of disappointment is I can?t synchronize my iTunes with the phone over Bluetooth. Bit of a bummer, because my desk is pretty cluttered and I almost had to buy a new USB hub just to test a cell phone. There is a 100 song limit, no matter the size of the card you have, which is a little disappointing too. However, iTunes has features that make updating the SLVR a treat, like randomly putting songs on it everytime you connect it, and even giving you the option of favouring certain songs using iTunes? ?My Ratings? feature. I just saved iTunes a hassle and synchronized from the ?My Top Rated? playlist. Good enough.
A couple of quirks with the music features though: Songs downloaded using iTunes can not be used as ringtones. Apple is a little paranoid about messing with the RIAA, and it?s slightly annoying. But considering many of the songs I loaded weren?t paid for, I can understand Apple wanting me to pay Rogers to have a song play when my phone rings. Also, the only plug in or out of the SLVR is a mini USB port. There is no sound-out, so you can?t use any standard headphones to listen, and you can?t play music in your car. Bummer?
While I was connected, I opened iSync to synchronize my contacts and calendars to the phone. I made a change an hour later and tried to resync over Bluetooth. No dice. I actually had to delete the phone from iSync and readd it using Bluetooth. Like I said, if all I?m doing is syncing my contacts and calendars on the fly, I use Bluetooth.
I finally unplugged it from the computer and was ready to really use it. Not to make calls, of course. Who uses cell phones to make phone calls anymore? I had to test out iTunes on the phone. The phone has a built-in speaker, but note I only mention one. Whereas a ROKR plays music in stereo, the SLVR itself can only play mono. I gave it my favourite, the Switchfoot Test. Play the first 5 seconds of Switchfoot?s Meant to Live to see how good the stereo is on your speakers. However, the included headset was all I needed to listen to the music, and enjoy it. No one ever called me while I was listening to music. I really wanted to reenact that scene from the commercials.
The interface itself is really good. I like being able to customize a lot of it, like what appears on the standby screen and where, as well as how things appear in the main menu. I don?t need something like camera to appear twice on the main screen, so I could put Tools on there instead. And I don?t want to go on the internet when I go to the main menu, especially if there?s a button for internet on the phone, so I can put Settings in that prime spot at the centre of the menu. Motorola does a great job of letting you make your phone your own.
Hey, guess what happened after a while? I got a phone call! I felt the vibrate in my pocket, and the ring was heard very well, when I was in a crowded outdoor environment. As for the reception, the phone is a quad-band. What does that mean? I know, but I don?t care. I can?t afford to roam in other countries (or even get to them), so all I care about, seeing as how this phone is sold exclusively by Rogers, is how will it work on the Rogers network. I had ample opportunity to test it out in the suburbs around Toronto, outdoors in downtown Toronto, and even in the cavernous Rogers Centre (as in underneath the 100 level). It works. I got good reception everytime I used it, and no drops. I heard the people I was speaking to clearly, and they heard me. Nothing fancy, this is what I want a phone to do, and it does it.
The address book had an unusual quirk. First of all, each phone number is a separate entry. So ?Mike ? Home? and ?Mike ? Mobile? appear next to eachother. Also, I backed up my contacts to a SIM card. SIM card entries appear among the phonebook entries. So ?Mike ? Home? appeared twice, as did ?Mike ? Mobile?. The search function is very easy to use though.
Other features I make good use of are the calendar and the alarm clock. I like my phone to include these. One of the things I love is if I have to be up urgently in the morning, I sleep with my phone under my pillow, and set the alarm. My phone will play a song I designate, as well as vibrate. On the SLVR, you have to choose; ringtone, or vibrate. And special features didn?t include something like jotting down notes. I need something like that.
I love the text messaging. Motorola?s phones have a great grasp of English, as well as proper names and locations, and slang. It learns new words very easily, and is pretty good at guessing some of the words I type. If it didn?t know a word, it?ll remember it once I use it. And teaching it the word isn?t all that bad either. Just try and catch it before you?ve typed too much, and it?s trying to learn a word that isn?t any language!
I didn?t play with the camera features much. For some reason, anytime a person pulls out a cameraphone, I see a lot of people get very paranoid. So now I find it very easy to keep people pleased. The camera itself takes a decent photo, and it is a fairly basic camera, so no weird tricks or anything to use it. You just use it and have fun.
Apple, Motorola and Cingular do a very good job of advertising the phone?s strong points: It?s a good phone, it?s a good music player, and it?s small! While a power user would probably choose a phone with more advanced features and capabilities, this phone is great for any basic user. Now you can go jogging in the park, and not have to bring both your iPod and cell phone. And it?s so small, it won?t even weigh you down or bother you. Above all else, I have to rave about that size. No unsightly bulges in any pockets, and in fact room for all my other junk. For a cell phone that you actually use to make phone calls, it doesn?t get much better than this.
The Motorola SLVR is available from Rogers for as low as $209.99 with a 3-year contract. For more information, click over to www.rogers.com.