At first glance, the small size of the Motorola V66 phone is appealing, as are many of its features, such as a voice recorder and high-speed wireless data-access capabilities. But after spending a few days with it, anyone with even moderately sized fingers will quickly tire of having to stop everything they're doing in order to dial a number. Measuring 3.3 by 1.7 by 0.8 inches and weighing just 2.8 ounces, the V66 is smaller than the company's popular V60 series. In fact, the phone is almost compact enough to be hidden in a fist, and it fits comfortably in the pocket of your pants or suit. The five-line LCD is crisp and clear, especially when backlit. If you prefer bigger lettering, you can enlarge the text through the phone's zoom-in feature, which limits the display to two easy-to-read lines.
The V66's minimal size, however, forced Motorola to sacrifice a large measure of usability. For instance, it takes a second to find the earpiece's sweet spot, though the sound is clear once you're in position. And because the keys are recessed and flush with the casing, it's also difficult--if not impossible--to dial a number quickly. The menu and function keys, located above the numeric keypad, also suffer from this design flaw; their usefulness is further hindered by their smaller size.
Unlike some phones that bury the SIM card behind the battery, the V66 hides it conveniently behind the bezel, where it can be quickly accessed. The benefit of this is dubious, however; if you drop the phone, you could lose the card.
Despite its size, the V66 isn't short on features. All the expected bells and whistles are here, as well as some surprises. Along with a 500-entry phone book, a calculator, a date book, e911 compatibility, and wireless Web access via T-Mobile's GPRS network, the V66 integrates a voice recorder capable of taking one minute of notes. Here again, however, its size comes into play. It's a painfully arduous process to even write a rudimentary note, and in order to record your voice, you must speak directly into the microphone.
The intuitive menu system can be customized using the shortcuts feature. You can also create up to 32 alert tones with the My Tones feature, but the 32 tunes already on the phone will probably satisfy most people. Optional accessories include an FM radio module. We tested the world phone (GSM 900/1800/1900) in New York City using T-Mobile service and found call quality to be quite good once we found the phone's sweet spot. In our battery-life tests, the V66 gave us 60 hours of standby time, which is in the middle of the 50 to 120 hours that Motorola touts. But we squeaked by with only 90 minutes of talk time from the slim 3.6V lithium-ion battery--well short of the 180-minute rating. We should note that we tested it with the backlight set to a 20-second interval (the longest period possible) and the phone's power-draining animation feature turned off.
At $279, the V66 is costly, but if you can get it for half that price with new service, it's worth consideration. That said, before you buy, see if you can live with the small keypad and the inability to walk and dial a number simultaneously.