The story of T-Mobile's Motorola Renew W233 lies not in what it offers--its features are quite minimal--but rather in what it is. Billed as the world's first carbon neutral cell phone, the Renew is made entirely of recycled water bottles (at least the plastic parts) and it comes in packaging made from 100 percent recycled material. As such, the Renew goes far beyond the Nokia 3110, which is made from just 50 percent recycled plastic. Moto is also promising that with an estimated talk time of nine hours, the Renew will use less energy.
Though the idea of a green gadget may send some eyes rolling, other users might find comfort in the idea. In any case, the Renew isn't a bad phone. Even with its minimal features and low-resolution display, it offers good call quality thanks to Moto's CrystalTalk feature. It's also a bargain, at just $9.99 with service.
The Renew has a unique color scheme that fits perfectly with its Earth-friendly image. A lime green trim on three sides of the handset contrasts nicely with the cream keypad and black rear cover. Green highlights also surround the navigation array. The Renew is compact (4.4 inches tall by 1.8 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick) and lightweight, so it's easy to carry around in a pocket or bag. Though its shell is entirely plastic, it feels somewhat solid in the hand. Still, this is not a phone for the danger-prone.
The Renew's display is about what you'd expect from a basic handset--it's small (1.44 inches, 128x128 pixels) and has a low resolution. With support for just 65,000-colors, graphics aren't terribly sharp and most hues are muted. On the upside, the display is bright with readable text, but the brightness and font size can't be changed. You can alter the backlight timer and choose from list and icon menu designs. Both interfaces follow Moto's standard organizational system, which remains dated and a bit convoluted.
The navigation array consists of a four-way toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, and the Talk and End/power buttons. The left soft key doubles as a music player shortcut and you can set the toggle to give one-touch-access to four user-defined features. Though the navigation controls are plastic, they don't feel too flimsy and the arrangement is relatively spacious. Also, we like that the toggle is raised above the surface of the phone. We'd prefer a dedicated clear button and a speakerphone control, but that's a minor point.
The keypad does well with its relatively cramped space. Though they're flush, the individual buttons are clearly separated form each other and there's a bright backlighting. Dialing by feel was a bit difficult at first, but we were able to text quickly after a short learning period.
The remaining controls are few; in fact, they're a little too few. A 2.5mm headset jack and a Mini-USB/charger port sit conveniently on opposite sides of the phone, but the Renew doesn't offer a dedicated volume rocker. That means you have to remove the phone from your face during a conversation so you can adjust the volume with the toggle. That's not the most convenient arrangement. What's more, the microSD card slot is stashed behind the battery.