Motorola has been hard at work lately, introducing new messaging phones. Besides the recent Motorola Clutch and the Motorola Hint, the company also just released the Motorola Rival, available from Verizon Wireless. Offering multimedia features and high-speed EV-DO, the Rival has a similar shape to the LG Neon, with its sideways keyboard and touch-sensitive number keypad, but its design is significantly less refined. The Rival is available for $99.99 after a two-year service agreement and a $50 rebate.
The Motorola Rival has a rather boring, industrial look, with a rectangular shape and slightly curved corners. The outer shell comes in either tin silver or purple, though it's accented with hints of black and red. Measuring 3.8 inches long by 2 inches wide by 0.71 inch deep, the Rival is quite compact, and at 4.4 ounces, it has a nice heft when held in the hand. The sliding mechanism is smooth yet sturdy.
The Rival has a glossy, black finish and a 2.2-inch display. It supports only 65,000 colors and has a 176x220 resolution, which results in a rather lackluster display. You can set up the backlight time, the brightness, the display themes, the menu layout, the dial fonts, the menu font size, the clock format, and whether to show toggle shortcuts on the home screen.
Like the LG Neon, the Rival's display acts as a touch screen for the phone dialer only. Press the phone dialer key on the navigation array, and a virtual number keypad will show up on the display. You can then dial a number by tapping the digits on the screen--there's even vibrating feedback whenever your touch registers.
Underneath the display is the navigation array, which consists of two touch-sensitive soft keys (they're indicated by two tiny lights on the left and the right), the aforementioned phone dialer key, the back key, a four-way circular toggle, and the Send and End/Power keys. There's an additional touch-sensitive soft key on the top left of the display, also indicated by a tiny light, which is only activated when the display is in landscape mode. The circular toggle can be mapped to three user-defined shortcuts for the up, left, and down directions, and the right direction leads to a My Shortcuts menu that lists up to four additional shortcuts.
We weren't pleased with the navigation array overall. The physical keys are flat, stiff, and hard to press, plus you couldn't adjust the touch sensitivity of the soft keys. What's more, because the soft keys are touch-sensitive, we had to keep disabling the screen lock on the phone in order to use them.
Slide the phone sideways and you'll reveal a full QWERTY keyboard on the left side. The display will change orientation automatically from portrait to landscape mode. The keyboard is quite spacious and the keys are raised above the surface, but they're a little stiff when pressed. There are dedicated keys for instant messaging, a new text message, and even an emoticon key.