Though Motorola threw much of its weight this year behind its new Razr2s, the company has given us a series of models that emphasize basic features and dependability rather then flashy designs and high-end offerings. Verizon Wireless' Moto W385, which we reviewed last month, was one such handset, but now we focus on the similar Motorola W490. Built for T-Mobile, the W490 follows the W385 in providing basic calling features in a simple, easy-to-use design. It's a solid phone on most fronts, despite its somewhat tinny voice quality and rather abysmal camera. The W490 is an affordable $49 with service. To find accessories for this phone, see our cell phone ringtones and accessories guide.
Like the W385, the W490 sports a design that's based loosely on the Motorola Krzr K1. Though it's not nearly as streamlined as its Krzr cousin--the W490 is boxier with sharper angles--it has the same slender shape with similar dimensions (3.89 inches by 1.89 inches by 0.68 inch). At 3.7 ounces, it's a bit on the heavy side for a flip phone, but you're rewarded with a handset that has a sturdy construction and a solid feel in the hand. Our W490 review model came in basic black, but T-Mobile also sells versions in purple and green.
Unlike the W385, the W490 has a square external display that supports 65,000 colors. Besides showing the date, time, battery life, and signal strength, it also shows photo caller ID, which makes it more useful than the W385's exterior screen. On the other hand, we couldn't use it as a viewfinder for vanity shots. That's disappointing, particularly since the display certainly has the potential to do so.
A volume rocker and the standard Moto smart key sit on the left spine, while a voice-dialing button rests on the right spine. As expected, the latter control works only when the phone is open. The mini USB port is also on the right spine, but we noticed it was a little hard to pry off if you don't have sharp nails. The speaker is on the rear face of the W490 while the aforementioned camera lens is just above the external display.
The W490's internal display also is also improved over the W385's. It's the same size (1.8 inches) but it has a higher resolution (262,000 colors, 176x220 pixels). Therefore, colors were bright and graphics were sharp. The menu interface shows Moto's standard design, of which we've never been fans. You can alter the brightness or the backlight time, but you can't enlarge the small text size.
The navigation array on the W490 has the same basic design as on the W385, but the controls are covered in metal (like the Krzr) rather than the rubbery soft-touch material found on the Verizon handset. Though the metal finish means that the keys are a tad slippery, they're relatively easy to use. There's a four-way toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, a Web browser shortcut, a clear button, and the Talk and End/Power controls. The toggle also gives one-touch access to four user-defined functions, while you can program a secondary shortcut menu with your favorite features (like the camera). The keypad buttons are flush with the surface of the phone, but there are tactile lines between the individual keys. Both the navigation array and the keypad buttons are brightly backlit.
The W490 has a 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for six phone numbers, three e-mail addresses, a URL, two street addresses, a birthday, and a nickname (the SIM card holds an additional 250 names). You can save callers to groups or pair them with a photo and one of 42 polyphonic ringtones and alert sounds. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a speakerphone, a calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, and a world clock. Bluetooth, USB mass storage, e-mail, instant messaging, and voice commands are present, as well.