Though Motorola has been best known over the last couple of years for its unending thin phone collection, the company hasn't dropped basic, simple cell phones from its lineup completely. For the most part, they're pretty unremarkable, save for perhaps the Motorola V195, but it's good to know Moto isn't completely obsessed with flashy, design-centric models like the Razr. One of the company's latest basic phones is the Motorola W315 for Verizon Wireless. Behind the somewhat clunky design is a simple feature set designed for making calls. Call quality wasn't top-notch, and the battery life was much too low. It's a bargain at $9.99 with a two-year contract, but we'd recommend Verizon's LG VX3400 for a better overall experience.
At 3.48 by 1.96 by 0.98 inches and 4.06 ounces, the Motorola W315 is a bit hefty for such a basic phone. We didn't see it as a problem, but the dimensions can mean a trade-off for other users. Though the W315 slips easily into a bag, it can be a bit much for smaller pockets when you're out for a night on the town. A stubby antenna adds more girth, but we're used to that from a CDMA phone. On the whole, the W315 felt comfortable in the hand but we couldn't help notice the hinge mechanism was a tad loose. We didn't have any problems, but it didn't flip open with a sturdy click. On the other hand, we liked the blue color, the rounded edges, and the rubberized texture on the W315's exterior.
Moto must have gotten the memo that vertical external displays are an "in" feature in cell phone design. Like on the Samsung SGH-T329. The rectangular vertical display makes for a nice change and a unique look. Though it could be bigger (just under one inch, 96x32 pixels), it still crams in all the information you need--including the time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (where available). You also can change the orientation of the text from vertical to horizontal (the former is better). Since the W315 doesn't have a camera phone, we don't mind the monochrome resolution. Finishing off the exterior of the phone are a voice dialing button on the left spine while on the right spine sits a volume rocker, Moto's standard "smart" key, and the mini-USB charger port. The speaker lives on the rear face, which isn't the best place for it.
The navigation array just below the display is quite spacious, but the controls lack any real texture and are too flat with the surface of the phone. A four-way toggle with a central OK button sits in the midst of two soft keys, a clear button, and the standard Talk and End/Power keys. You can set the toggle as a shortcut to four user-defined shortcuts, while a secondary shortcut button opens a customizable menu of oft-used functions. The keypad buttons have a similar design--they're quite large, but they too are flush with the surface of the phone. Dialing by feel is difficult and the keys didn't feel very firm. On the other hand, they're lit by a bright backlighting with large numbers.
The W315's feature set is decidedly slim, but it gets the job done for making calls. The phone book holds 500 contacts with room in each entry for six phone numbers and an e-mail address. You can save contacts to groups or assign them one of 25 (32-chord) polyphonic ringtones (not a bad selection for a basic phone). You also can pair contacts with a photo, but keep in mind the photos won't show up on the external display. And since there's no multimedia messaging or wireless Web browser, your options are pretty limited. Other features include a vibrate mode, text messaging, voice dialing, a calculator, a calendar, a voice memo recorder, and an alarm clock. There's also a speakerphone on board.
You can personalize the W315 with a variety of menu colors, wallpaper, color themes, and sounds. Alternatively, you can program a customizable banner and greeting as well. Your options are limited to what comes in the phone, however, since there's no wireless Web browser.
We tested the dual-band, dual-mode (CDMA 800/1900; AMPS 800) Motorola W315 in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless service. Call quality was decent on the whole but not spectacular. Voices sounded natural on our end but at times the sound faded in and out. It's not that the audio turned off completely; rather it just became muffled for a second or two. When volume was working it was loud enough, even when we were in noisy environments. On their end, callers could hear us plainly and they didn't report the audio issues we encountered. They could tell we were using a cell phone though and reported a fair amount of wind noise. Speakerphone calls were quite loud with clear audio, but we don't like that the speaker faces the rear of the handset. To get the best speakerphone quality, you need to rest the W315 upside-down.
The Motorola W315 has a battery life of more than 8.5 hours talk time and 8.8 days standby time. It had a talk time of only 4 hours in our tests however. According to FCC radiation tests the W315 has a digital SAR rating of 1.5 watts per kilogram.