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.
The navigation controls are well organized, with a circular five-way navigation key at the center. The menu key is immediately above it, with two soft keys alongside. The keys themselves could be larger, but they have little recessed portions that make them easy to locate with your fingertips. The numerical keypad is similarly cramped, though the buttons are raised above the surface of the phone. The volume controls are on the side of the phone, and a short stub antenna extends from the top. There is a standard headset jack and a USB-capable data port, which is a nice bonus for a bargain-priced device.The Motorola V188 packs an awful lot of features into this entry-level phone. The phone book stores up to 500 entries, including phone numbers, as well as e-mail and AOL Instant Messenger addresses. The phone also comes with a speakerphone, call waiting, conference calling, a calculator, a currency converter, an alarm clock, a voice recorder, automatic redial, and a vibrating alert. The handset has more than 40 polyphonic ring tones, and it supports MP3 ring tones. By using the included MotoMixer application, you can even mix your own ring tones from portions of songs and other audio clips.
We were pleased with the breadth of the multimedia offerings. The mobile comes with a built-in AOL Instant Messenger client, which is fast becoming the standard item on wireless phones. The small screen makes text messaging a little tiresome, but it's nice to have nonetheless. You also get text and multimedia messaging, as well as enhanced messaging.