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Just when you think that you know what to expect from a cell phone, a handset like the Motorola Crush comes along. It may look like an ordinary touch-screen phone, albeit on the low-end side, but it has a few design quirks that surprised us. They don't affect usability, but you'll need to know about them just the same. On the whole, the Crush is a decent phone and it reminds us that you can get a touch-screen phone for less. Sure, the display is small and its resolution won't knock your socks off, but it offers satisfying call quality and a functional array of features. You can get it with U.S. Cellular for $69.95 with a two-year service contract and a $50 mail-in rebate. If you'd rather pay full price and not sign a contract, it's $249.95.
The Motorola Crush has a standard candy bar design; it's 4.17 inches long by 2 inches wide by 0.57 inch deep. The touch screen might surprise you, but it is there with support for 262,000 colors and 400x240 pixels. As mentioned, the display's resolution isn't spectacular--colors and graphics don't exactly pop off the screen--but it's adequate for a handset in this price range. Though normally we'd gripe that a 2.8-inch display is way too small for a touch screen, we'll let it slide here because we get what Moto is trying to do. As touch screens grow in popularity, it's only natural that they will migrate down the food chain into mid-tier and more-affordable models. And if a manufacturer can make it work, as Moto did here, we're not going to stop progress.
At 3.6 ounces, the Crush won't weigh you down, but it offers a solid and comfortable feel in the hand. Plus, we like the soft touch material on the back cover. The camera lens sits on the back cover; there's no flash or self-portrait mirror. On the left spine you'll find the volume rocker, a 3.5mm headset jack, and a Micro-USB port that accommodates both the charger and a USB cable. We commend Moto for adding standard ports on both counts. On the right spine are a voice dialing control, a camera shutter, and the microSD card slot. The only thing missing is a dedicated Back button.
Here's where the Crush gets a little kooky. When you first see it you might think that the Crush is upside down. Indeed, the call and end/power buttons are on top of the display, rather than on the bottom where they normally rest. You'll also find the external speaker on the phone's top end, which is a bit unusual. But the changes don't stop there. Most touch-screen phones put shortcuts at the bottom of the display, but the Crush mixes it up by putting them at the top. As mentioned, the position of the shortcuts--they'll take you to the texting menu, the dial pad, the recent calls list, and the phonebook--don't affect usability, but you may want to give the phone a spin first.
Tapping the display will open the main menu, which is in a traditional grid format. It's accessible and user-friendly, though the text may be too small for some users. The display can be a little jerky, but it was mostly accurate and responsive and it offers haptic feedback. We'd prefer, however, to be able to change the display's calibration and sensitivity. Unfortunately, you also can't change the text size, but you can alter the brightness and the backlighting time.
The virtual dial pad is easy to use, with large buttons and a shortcut for the recent calls log, your favorites list, and the phonebook. Understandably, the virtual keyboard is rather small, but you should get the hang of it after some practice. When you're in the messaging application, tilting the phone to the left will take you from the dial pad to the keyboard automatically. In face, that's one of the few applications where the accelerometer works.
The address book holds up to 1,000 contacts with room in each entry for four phone numbers, two e-mails addresses, and notes. You can organize contacts into groups and pair them with a photo and one of 18 alerts and ringtones. Other essentials include text and multimedia messaging, a vibrate mode, a datebook, and alarm clock, a calculator, a notepad, a world clock, and a speakerphone. Beyond the basics you'll find a stereo Bluetooth, a pedometer, speaker-independent voice commands, PC syncing, a voice recorder, and USB mass storage.
The Crush has a 2-megapixel camera, but we couldn't find any camera options beyond a digital zoom. You don't even get a choice of resolutions, which is the least we'd expect. We're not happy with the growing trend of cell phones that lack camera-editing features. The camcorder is similarly devoid of features. Clips attached to multimedia messages are capped at 15 seconds. Photo quality is pretty good. Colors looked natural and there was just a minimal amount of image noise.
The media player is pretty bare-bones, but it's appropriate for a phone like this. It supports multiple formats (MP3, WAV, WMA, eAAC+, AAC, AAC+, MIDI), but it can play music only from a memory card. You don't get one in the box, but the slot will accommodate microSD cards up to 16GB. Internal memory on the Crush is 150MB. The Crush also offers GPS with Your Navigator from Networks in Motion. You get turn-by-turn navigation, local search, and traffic updates and movies and events.
You can personalize the Crush with a choice of clock formats, wallpaper, and banners. You also get one game, Pac-Man, with the opportunity to download more through U.S. Cellular's EasyEdge service. The full HTML browser is the only feature really affected by the small display size. It's not very useful and the features are limited.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) in San Francisco. Since we aren't in U.S. Cellular's home area, we used the carrier's roaming network. Call quality was generally good with clear audio and little interference. The volume could be a bit louder--we had some trouble hearing in noisy place--but that was our only real complaint.
Callers on the other end didn't have many complaints. They could tell that we were using a cell phone, but that's a typical experience. We tried calling in a variety of locations and got similar results every time. A few said the Crush picked up background noise, but other friends didn't notice it. Speakerphone calls were surprisingly clear, though they could be louder. Bluetooth headset calls were satisfactory.
The Crush has a rated battery life of 4.3 hours talk time and 20.8 days standby time. Our tests revealed a longer talk time of 6 hours and 11 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Crush has an SAR of 1.53 watts per kilogram.