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Motorola Citrus (Verizon Wireless) review: Motorola Citrus (Verizon Wireless)

Motorola Citrus (Verizon Wireless)

Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German
7 min read


Motorola Citrus (Verizon Wireless)

The Good

The Motorola Citrus has a simple design and a functional feature set that includes a file manager. Call quality is quite good.

The Bad

The Motorola Citrus forces you to use Bing for search and maps. The Web browser experience isn't great, and typing can be tedious on the small display.

The Bottom Line

The Motorola Citrus is small and devoid of high-end features, but it works as a beginner Android phone.

The Motorola Citrus for Verizon Wireless is part of a quintet of U.S. Android smartphones that Motorola released at CTIA Fall 2010. Positioned as an entry-level device with an eco-friendly bent, the Citrus lacks the physical keyboards of the Flipout and Flipside, the enterprise security features of the Droid Pro, and the higher-end offerings of the Bravo. It comes together well, however, especially with a price tag of $49.99 price tag if you buy it online and sign a new two-year service contract. True, we didn't love everything, but the practical feature set and satisfying call quality (data performance was another story) balance out any deficiencies.

The Citrus' minimalist candy bar design won't stand out from the smartphone crowd. Honestly, that's fine in our book; not every phone needs to be a looker. Plus, when you consider the recent avalanche of Android phones, it's getting more difficult to offer unique styling. With a name like "Citrus," we'd expect a more colorful skin beyond the standard smartphone gray, but that's not the case here.

The Citrus has a standard candy bar design.

At 4.09 inches long by 2.32 inches wide by 0.59 inch deep, the Citrus is small as smartphones go. Indeed, portability isn't a concern; the handset fits easily into a pocket or bag. Weighing just 3.88 ounces, it has a slightly wispy feel in the hand, a fact that isn't helped by the plastic shell. It doesn't feel too fragile, but we'd exercise care when handling the device.

On the right spine you'll find a volume rocker and a camera shutter. The former is flatter than we'd like, but you can find it when you're on a call. The Micro-USB charger port sits on the left spine and a dedicated power control and 3.5-millimeter headset jack are up on top. Unfortunately, the microSD card slot rests inconveniently behind the battery cover, but at least it's not behind the battery as well.

On the Citrus' rear side you'll find the camera lens and Moto's Backtrack navigation pad. The latter works just as it did on the Motorola Backflip. By sliding your finger across it, you can swipe through home screens and move around the main menu. Also, when you're ready to select items, you can do so with a double tap. Though its placement is better than on the oddly designed Backflip, we usually opted for the touch screen. By all means, it's a nice option to have--and it works as advertised--but we find it a bit redundant. Use it if you like or turn it off in the Settings menu.

As mentioned, the Citrus' display isn't the shiniest around. That's understandable considering the phone's wallet-friendly price, but discriminating smartphone users likely will be disappointed. It measures just 3 inches diagonally, which is about half an inch smaller than we prefer for an Android device. The menus and virtual dialpad were fine, but the standard Android virtual keyboard was pretty cramped, even when using Swype. We suggest giving it a try before buying. On the upside, the Citrus has seven home screens that you can customize with widgets, shortcuts, and app folders.

The Citrus' virtual keyboard was too small for our tastes.

Below the display are four navigation touch controls: Menu, Home, Back, and Search. Like the display, the controls are responsive and need only a light touch. Below them are two physical controls: a Talk button and an End/power key. They have a comfortable rubbery feel.

The Citrus is Moto's first Android phone to go for the green market. It's made out of 25 percent post-consumer plastic, it's free of harmful materials, it's certified carbon-free, and its box is made with recycled material. Sure, Samsung's Evergreen surpasses the Citrus with 70 percent recycled plastic, but something is better than nothing.

The Citrus' phone book is typical for an Android device. It's limited only by the available memory and each contact can be associated with multiple phone numbers and e-mail addresses, a photo, a street address, an instant-message handle, a company name, a birthday and anniversary, a nickname, a URL, and notes. You can choose to send specific calls directly to voice mail and you can back up all contacts with the integrated Backup Assistant.

The Citrus offers caller groups, a contacts search feature, and 56 polyphonic ringtones for caller ID. That's quite a healthy assortment for a midrange phone, even if Moto's dreadfully named "Romancing the Tone" does make an appearance. If the provided assortment isn't enough, you can access Verizon's V Cast Tones and purchase clips of your favorite songs.

The Citrus runs Android 2.1 Eclair and the revamped Motoblur interface. We'd prefer Froyo, to be sure, but we'll take Eclair as a fallback. Moto promises that the Citrus will upgrade to Froyo at some point, but we don't know when. Motoblur has all the elements of the interface that first appeared on the Cliq, but Moto made some welcome refinements like resizable widgets, more access to your corporate directory, the ability to retweet Twitter updates with one touch, and enabling you to better filter the Happenings widget.

For written communication the Citrus offers everything you'd expect including text and multimedia messaging, instant messaging, and e-mail from not only Gmail, but also most POP3 services (such as Hotmail and Yahoo) and some corporate e-mail.

You'll find the usual assortment of organizer features, including an alarm clock, a countdown timer, a calculator, and a calendar that you can sync with Google Calendar. More advanced options also are standard with a speakerphone, speaker-independent voice dialing, Microsoft Quickoffice, Wi-Fi, stereo Bluetooth, a file manager, and access to Verizon's visual voice mail. Unfortunately, that last item requires a $2.99-per-month subscription.

Though it's an Android phone, the Citrus doesn't support the usual Google apps. For starters, the search module is powered by Microsoft Bing just as we saw on Verizon's Samsung Fascinate. Of course, you can access Google Search through the Web browser, but that's not nearly as easy as using the search bar on the home screen. The same goes for the voice search feature and the Maps feature; they are powered by Bing as well. As we said in the Fascinate review, using Bing rather than Google is annoying, and we hate that you can't change the setting. It's not that Bing is inferior; rather, we just don't appreciate Verizon making this decision for us.

The Web browser is fine, but we'd limit browsing time due to the display's small size. Luckily, the touch interface is responsive, but you'll need to scroll around a lot to take it all in. Graphics don't look especially sharp, either, but you do get pinch-and-zoom multitouch, bookmarks, and multiple windows.

The Citrus' camera lens sits on its rear side next to the Backtrack pad.

For media the Citrus has a 3.0-megapixel camera. That's a low resolution compared with most smartphone shooters these days, but it gets the job done. You can take still photos in four resolutions and videos in three resolutions (video capture is 24fps). Regrettably, additional options are limited to a panorama mode, a digital zoom, and geotagging. Needless to say we don't like this growing trend of stripping smartphone cameras of editing options. Photo quality was adequate, and getting images off the phone is easy. The media player is pretty standard for an Android phone; it supports album art and a shuffle mode, and you can organize tracks by playlist.

The Citrus has average photo quality. Colors were faded, and there was some image noise.

For a midrange handset the Citrus comes with quite a few applications. From Verizon there's access to the carrier's V Cast service for streaming video and VZ Navigator for getting directions. You'll also find AccuWeather, Skype, CityID, Facebook, MySpace, WeeWorld, and YouTube. And as a nod to the Citrus' eco-friendly theme, there's a Tree Hugger app that shows the latest environmental news. For more apps, there's the Android Market. The Citrus has 100MB of internal memory and its memory card slot accommodates cards of up to 32GB (a 2GB card comes in the box).

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) Citrus in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless service. Call quality was quite satisfying on most fronts. The signal was strong with no static or interference, and voices sounded natural. The volume could be louder--we had a bit of trouble hearing in very noisy places like street corners--but we were pleased with the experience.

Callers also reported good conditions. A few mentioned a background hiss, but they were in the minority. Most could tell that we were using a cell phone, which isn't unusual, but a couple of friends didn't know. We didn't have trouble with automated voice-response systems, though it was best if we were calling from a quiet place. The speakerphone performed reasonably well, too. The Citrus is compatible with M3 and T3 hearing aids.

Motorola Citrus call quality sample Listen now:

Verizon's 3G connection was about average. CNET's Mobile site took about 30 seconds to open, and the full site took almost a minute. Naturally, busier sites will take longer--and simpler sites will open more quickly--so adjust your browsing accordingly. In any case, we wouldn't say this is a phone built for Web browsing.

The Citrus has a rated battery life of 6.3 hours' talk time and 12.5 days' standby time. Our tests reveal a talk time of 6 hours and 27 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Citrus has a digital SAR of 1.39 watts per kilogram.


Motorola Citrus (Verizon Wireless)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7