The Motorola V188 raises the bar for what you should expect from a "free" phone. Although it has a list price of $119, the V188 is an entry-level phone that is often free if you sign a T-Mobile service contract. Its plastic construction and dim screen are nothing to shout about, but its external display, built-in IM support, and integrated speakerphone make up for these shortcomings. In some ways, Motorola designed the V188 to look just a bit better than your generic clamshell phone. The silver and shiny black color scheme is a pleasant change from the standard silver, and it's a step above its predecessor, the . The phone itself measures a compact 3.4 by 1.8 by 0.9 inches and weighs a slim 3.3 ounces. As a result, however, it doesn't feel as sturdy and durable as premium models when you hold it. In fact, the phone seems almost too light. Also, as with the V180, the overall construction isn't very solid. The plastic casing creaks a bit when you give it a squeeze, and its long-term durability shows some cause for concern.
The external monochrome display shows the time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (where available). Although its rectangular shape makes it a bit small, it's still relatively easy to see in low light. Unfortunately, the internal display isn't much better. It supports 65,000 colors, but the 1.5-inch-diagonal screen is neither bright nor vivid; plus, it is tiny, so don't expect to enjoy too much multimedia with it. It is, nonetheless, sufficient for navigating the phone's user-friendly menu systems, but it should be noted that you can't change the font size.