While Bluetooth has made extensive inroads into the GSM cell phone world, the CDMA camp has been less eager to embrace it. So when we heard about the Motorola V710--Verizon's first Bluetooth phone--we were anxious to get one in our hands. Sadly, our initial euphoria quickly faded once it arrived. While the V710 has excellent sound quality, its Bluetooth capabilities are severely limited. Similarly, while we were excited by the prospect of an expandable memory slot, a 1.2-megapixel camera, and an MP3 player, the player and the card slot were not well integrated, the photo quality was average, and the handset's standby battery life was below par. Add in the V710's $319 price tag (without a service agreement), and you get a second-rate mobile that will disappoint beginner and experienced users alike. In the case of the Motorola V710, size comes as a trade-off. While the mobile is by no means small (3.7 by 1.9 by 0.9 inches; 4.5 ounces) and fits only in larger pockets, you're assured of a solid construction and a flip cover that opens and shuts with authority. Styled in an attractive black and silver, it's also comfortable to hold while you're talking, and the prominent front-facing camera lens is well placed for taking photos. The V710's 4,096-color external screen shows the date, the time, battery life, signal strength, and photo caller ID (where available). Generously sized, the external screen also functions as a viewfinder for the camera when taking self-portraits, and it shows clear but tiny pictures for photo caller ID. We did have some complaints though. The display goes completely dark when the backlighting is off, a setting that you can't adjust. Also, you can't change the blue and white wallpaper.
The V710's left spine has a volume rocker and a dedicated button that activates the speakerphone--a particularly nice touch since you can turn it on before making a call. On the right spine, you'll notice a camera button and a key for activating voice commands. While we found the buttons useful, they were tiny and hard to activate by feel alone. We also had some trouble with the TransFlash card slot, located on top of the phone; you must have nimble fingers to insert a card since it's so deeply recessed in the case.
Open the handset and you're immediately drawn to the outstanding display. It supports a vibrant 262,000 colors and measures a whopping 2.25 inches diagonally. As is the case with most LCD screens, it's difficult to see in direct sunlight, but it's sufficiently bright for dim situations. It's also great for displaying photos and the phone's animated menus. For such a large screen, though, the text size is quite small. A useful, though somewhat diminutive, five-way toggle gives one-touch access to messaging, the Web browser, Verizon's Get It Now service, and a list of user-defined shortcuts. There are also a dedicated camera button and two soft keys, which can be set to access various features. A Clear button is also present, but it didn't function in some menus, so we were forced to use the Call End button.
The keypad buttons on the V710 are amply spaced and are lit by a bright backlight. The middle row of keys is a bit smaller than those on either side, but they are still large enough for big fingers. Still, we aren't completely pleased with its design. Covered in a slippery plastic material, the keys aren't terribly tactile, and it's difficult to dial by feel.Criticisms aside, basic features on the Motorola V710 were satisfactory. You get a 500-name contact book with room for six numbers and an e-mail address in each entry. Callers also can be assigned to groups or paired with a picture or any of 8 monophonic or 18 polyphonic (64-chord) ring tones. Other features include a vibrate mode, text- and multimedia messaging, a calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, voice memos, a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser, and voice dialing. The speakerphone is easy to use, but it will not function when the flip is closed.
Data features, on the other hand, were beyond frustrating and completely undermine the V710's appeal. Though Bluetooth may be the handset's star attraction, its integration and limited usefulness left us wondering why it was included at all. You can use it to connect with a Bluetooth headset but not to sync with a PC or to transfer pictures, MP3s, your contacts, or any applications. And since there's no infrared port, you're left either paying for Verizon's Get It Now service or using Motorola's Mobile Office Kit (available from Verizon for $39.99) or a TransFlash card ($30 to $40). Verizon said it limited the Bluetooth functionality to protect security agreements with its Get It Now partners. It promises a software upgrade in the future but only for address book syncing.
These Bluetooth restrictions are a marked change from other Motorola Bluetooth phones, such as the, where data transfer is possible without paying a fee to the carrier. Plus, even if you buy the Mobile Office Kit, you must use a USB cable, which defeats the purpose of a wireless connection. E-mail support also is inadequate. You can access Hotmail and AOL POP3 accounts via the browser (again, for a fee), but you must download Verizon's SodaPop application from Get It Now for access to an SMTP or IMAP4 account.