The Motorola V950 is the fifth QChat phone that Sprint has released this year. We've seen the Sanyo Pro 200, the Sanyo Pro 700, the LG LX400, and the Samsung Z400, and now we come back to the company that pioneered push-to-talk in the first place . As a QChat phone, the V950 uses Sprint's CDMA network for regular voice calls, but it connects to Nextel's iDEN network through a gateway for Direct Connect PTT communication. The result is an ideal best-of-both-worlds device with a durable, intuitive design, decent call quality, and functional features. At $329, it's expensive if you pay full price, but you can get it for as low as $129 with service.
The Motorola V950, aka the "Renegade," looks a little like a Razr that has been outfitted with body armor. A somewhat sleek profile remains, but the rubber covering ensures that it should withstand a lot of blows. Indeed, the phone feels rock solid in the hand and the hinge snaps open and shut with authority. Naturally, the padding gives the V950 extra girth than a regular Razr--it measures 4.0 inches long by 2.1 inches across and 0.64 inch wide and weighs 4.9 ounces--but that's really the whole point of a rugged, durable phone. Like most other phones in its class, it meets military specifications for dust, moisture, shock, vibration, and so on.
The external display is a sizeable 1.5 inches and it supports 65,536 colors. It shows all the information you need including the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and photo caller ID. Oddly, it doesn't act as a view finder for the camera, which is disappointing on a 2-megapixel phone. The camera lens and flash sit just above the display. You can change the screensaver, the backlight time, and the clock type.
Below the display are controls for the music player. They're not touch sensitive, so they need a firm press, but they're convenient just the same. You can open the music player and shuffle through songs without opening the phone. The arrangement reminds us of the Moto V750 for Verizon Wireless. In the middle of the controls is a tiny speaker.
The exterior controls are limited to a rocker and a push-to-talk button on the left spine, and a speakerphone control and recent-calls button on the top of the phone' all are covered in the rubber material. On the left spine, you'll find the micro USB charger port and a 2.5mm headset jack; rubber flaps secure both ports. You need to remove the battery to access the microSD card slot. Normally, we'd complain about the inconvenience, but on a phone designed for extreme lifestyles we don't mind.
The internal screen measures 2 inches and displays 262,000 colors. It's big, bright, beautiful, and everything shows up well. The menus have the same easy-to-use design as Sprint's Razr VE20's. The home screen shows the six menu shortcuts in the "bubble" style, and you can click through to the main menu in a standard list or grid format. You can change the backlighting time and the messaging and browser font sizes.
The navigation controls are tactile, spacious, and intuitive. There's a four-way toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, a camera shortcut, a back key, and the Talk and End/power controls. We had no issue with misdials. The keypad buttons also have a great design. The individual buttons are large and they're raised above the surface of the phone. The numbers on the keys are also big, and they have bright backlighting. We could text quickly, dial by feel, and use the phone in dim lighting without any problems.
The V950 has a 600-contact phone book with room in each entry for seven phone numbers (including a PTT number), an e-mail address, a Web address, a job title and company, a street address, and notes. You can save callers to groups and you can pair them to a photo or one of 34 polyphonic ringtones. Alternatively, you also can pair them with a video ringtone or a voice recording.
Essential features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calculator, a calendar, a notepad, a world clock, a voice memo recorder, unit and currency converters, a tip calculator, and a stopwatch. Besides Direct Connect, the V950 supports Group Connect, which lets you make PTT calls to up to 20 people simultaneously, and TeamDC, which lets you contact up to 35 people at one.
Outside of the basics, the phone also features USB mass storage, instant messaging and chat, a file manager, a speakerphone, stereo Bluetooth, phone-as-modem capability, voice dialing, and remote backup for your contacts. E-mail is also onboard for POP3 accounts such as Yahoo, Hotmail, and AOL, and you even can get work e-mail if your company uses Outlook Web Access. The e-mail user experience is pretty clunky, and your work access is limited only to your in-box, but it's usable in a pinch if you need it.
As an EV-DO phone, the V950 offers full support for Sprint's 3G services. You can connect to Sprint's Power Vision for Sprint TV, which includes live and on-demand programming from a wide variety of sports, entertainment, and new channels. You also can check out movie previews and stream more than 150 channels from Sprint Radio. We've said it before and we'll say it again: it's an exhaustive selection of programming with much of it exclusive to Sprint. And to top it off, the TV interface is intuitive.
The V950's music player is relatively similar to that on Sprint's other music phones. You can access the Sprint Music Store for simultaneous downloads both to your PC and wirelessly to your phone, or you can transfer music from a PC using a USB cable. The music-player interface is pretty plain, but you get album art and the controls are easy to use. We also like the multiple searching options in the online music store. Features are limited to playlists, repeat, and shuffle modes, and you can't use MP3s as ringtones. There is an airplane mode, however, and you can send the music player to the background while you're using other phone functions. When a call comes in, the music will pause automatically and will resume again after you hang up. Our only knock is that we'd prefer a 3.5mm headset jack.