At first glance, we thought it unlikely that the Motorola V557 would warrant much attention, given its design similarity to its predecessor, the Motorola V551. Sorry, Moto, we were wrong. Unlike the snazzy , the V557 is noteworthy not because of its flashy design but instead of a technological breakthrough that improves the functionality and the connectivity of the Internet. We won't go so far to say the new Motorola exclusive Screen3 technology perfects the Web-browsing experience on a cell phone, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. And the even better news is that the innovative functionality comes at a reasonable $99 with service. The Motorola V557 is barely distinguishable from its predecessor, the V551. With the same exact dimensions and weight (1.9 by 1 by 3.5 inches; 4.23 ounces), the V557, like the V551, is a little on the large side, although it does not feel as clunky as the dimensions may lead one to believe. It fits just fine in a pocket, even with the protruding external antenna.
Sporting a two-tone black and chrome finish--as opposed to the blue and chrome color of the V551--the Motorola V557 still has the same slightly gripping, rubbery texture that Motorola calls soft touch to help it stay in place on slippery surfaces. The construction is solid, and the flip opens and closes easily. Overall, the design of the phone won't win any awards, but it should appeal to a wide audience anyway.
The Motorola V557's rectangular external display, while brighter and easier to read than on the Motorola V551, remains small and a disappointing monochrome blue. On this caliber of handset, and with a lot of unused room under the display, we think Motorola should have doubled its size and increased the resolution to allow for picture ID. The screen shows the time, battery life, message icon, signal strength, and caller ID (where available). Note, however, that you can't adjust the backlight time.
The Motorola V557's camera lens is well located on the top corner of the front flip next to a self-portrait mirror, but there's no flash for dim conditions. The handset jack is on the top of the phone next to the stubby external antenna, while the left spine features a volume rocker that changes the ring style and a bottom button that activates the backlight on the sub-LCD. That said, we have a complaint with the design of the volume rocker, as it is easy to accidentally press when in a purse or a pocket, inadvertently turning the ring tone to Soft, Silent, or Loud. Motorola still offers no way to lock this feature. On the right spine is a button for activating voice dialing, but there's no dedicated camera key on the exterior of the phone.
The interior of the Motorola V557 is also identical to the V551's. Here again, we were impressed with the quality of the 1.75-inch-diagonal interior display, which support 256,000 colors. The clarity is better than that of the majority phones on the market, and you can adjust the brightness, the contrast, and the font size.
The Motorola V557 has a four-way navigational button with a center select button, two soft keys, and a dedicated menu button. Other shortcuts include the Cingular Media Net button and a camera button. We can't stress how much we love that the navigational buttons and the soft keys are programmable to any menu item. The buttons are raised, backlit, and easy to use. The keypad buttons are also backlit. They are large, far enough apart, and adequately raised.The Motorola V557 has a phone book that holds 1,000 entries. Each contact stores a work, home, main, mobile, fax, and pager number, as well as a home address, a birthday, and an e-mail address. Contacts can be arranged in groups or paired with one of just 10 polyphonic ring tones. Memory is an insignificant 5MB, and there is no expandable memory card--not ideal, considering the advanced features of the handset.