Verizon has pulled out all the stops with its latest handset. The handsome, clamshell-style Motorola E815 not only supports Verizon's high-speed EV-DO network but also packs in a 1.3-megapixel camera, Bluetooth connectivity, a TransFlash card for extra memory, an MP3 player, and even a speakerphone. Like other Verizon 3G phones we've tested, the E815 is a bit on the bulky side, and we're peeved that Verizon continues to disable Bluetooth file transfers. That said, this probably is Verizon's best V Cast phone yet. If you want to jump on the 3G bandwagon and you live in Verizon's EV-DO coverage area, the E815 is a tempting choice. At $200 (or $99 with a two-year contract and an online discount), the E815 is more affordable than most multimedia handsets. With its smooth lines and tapered curves, the clamshell-style, silver and gray Motorola E815 looks small and slender compared with the other 3G phones we've seen. But looks can be deceiving: When we broke out our tape measure, we discovered that the phone is just as big at 3.7 by 1.9 by 1 inches and slightly heavier at 4.6 ounces. The handset's overall size and stubby, retractable antenna make for a tight fit in a jeans pocket, but it has a solid feel overall.
The front of the handset boasts a 1.5-inch-diagonal, 4,000-color external display, which gives you the time, the date, signal strength, network connectivity, battery life, and photo caller ID info for incoming calls. The phone's camera lens sits just above the screen, with the LED flash below and to the left, between the Verizon and Motorola logos. Overall, it closely resembles theboth inside and out.
Flip open the phone, and you'll find the vivid, razor-sharp 2-inch-plus-diagonal internal display, which supports 262,000 colors and is definitely easy on the eyes. Images are saturated in rich colors with plenty of details, although we were disappointed by the E815's staid menu, a relative letdown compared with the snappy animated menus on Verizon's otherphones. We also had a hard time seeing the display in direct sunlight. You can control the contrast, brightness, and backlight time on the screen, but you can't change the font size.
The Motorola E815's silver, beveled keypad looks great and comes with a five-way navigational control, a menu button, a Clear key, a separate camera button, and the Talk and End keys. Additionally, the toggle acts as a shortcut to four user-defined features. The keys were a little slippery for our thumbs, and we had some trouble with the 0 key, which doesn't give you a satisfying click when pressed. On the other hand, we love the dedicated speakerphone button, which you can activate before a call, located on the left edge of the handset just below the volume rocker. You also get dedicated camera and voice command buttons, which sit on the right edge of the phone. The headset and TransFlash ports, which are both protected by rubber flaps, lie on the top edge next to the antenna.The Motorola E815 arrives on the scene with a truckload of features. Besides its 3G capabilities, the handset has a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, and a 1,000-entry contact book, although in default mode, your contacts' various phone numbers and e-mail addresses appear as separate entries. This is an annoying quirk, but it can be altered. There is also text and multimedia messaging; a calculator; an alarm clock; a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser; voice memos and commands; a calendar with month and week views; and a slot for a TransFlash card up to 256MB. The E815 also comes with Bluetooth, but Verizon has once again decided to block any and all Bluetooth file transfers, allowing you to use only a Bluetooth headset and sync your PC's contacts and events.
Naturally, the first thing we did with the Motorola E815 is pounce on its V Cast player, which lets you tap into hundreds of streaming video clips, ranging from CNN news updates to episodes of made-for-mobile TV shows, such as 24: Conspiracy and Love & Hate (Verizon charges $15 a month for V Cast access). You can also download 3D games--including the impressive Need for Speed Underground 3D, Evel Knievel 3, and 3D Swerve Basketball--and indulge in some fast Web browsing, thanks to the broadband rates delivered by Verizon's high-velocity network. Keep in mind, however, that only about 40 cities get EV-DO coverage and that the phone's reception is a little touch-and-go in marginal EV-DO coverage areas (see).
We were also impressed by the Motorola E815's 1.3-megapixel camera, which boasts a 4X zoom, a flash, a 5- to 10-second self-timer, three color modes (Black and White, Antique, and Negative), and the ability to tweak the brightness modes. You can choose from resolutions ranging from 1,280x1,024 pixels down to 160x120, and you can assign your images to a specific contact or use them as your wallpaper or screensaver. You can also share your snapshots through e-mail or a multimedia message, or you can even transfer them to your PC via the TransFlash card, which is a feature Verizon disabled on an earlier V Cast phone, called the. We also wish there were a rapid-fire mode, which would have been a handy feature, given the memory that's available. Meanwhile, the E815's video camera takes typically rough-and-ready, barely watchable clips of up to 15 seconds in length with sound.