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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 the Motorola V710 both 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 other V Cast phones. 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 V Cast 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 Performance).
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 Audiovox CDM-8940. 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.
The Motorola E815's media player does a decent, if not exceptional job of cranking out your tunes. Once you've transferred some MP3s to the phone's TransFlash card, you can set up playlists and listen through the phone's stereo headset. Repeat and shuffle modes are available, and you can scan forward or reverse within a song, although you can't hear the music while you're scanning. You can keep listening to your music after you've flipped the phone shut, but there isn't a play/pause button on the front cover, as on the CDM-8940.
As expected, customization options on the Motorola E815 are good. You can change the wallpaper and screensaver using either a preexisting image or one of your snapshots; switch the menu's color schemes to Scarlet, Techno, or Moto; and choose from the 10 polyphonic ring tones and two MP3 tones that you can assign to your contacts. Our phone had "Eye of the Tiger" and "Get it Poppin"; you can download more from Verizon's Get It Now service. The handset also comes with a pair of games--S.W.A.T. and Swerve Basketball--although gaming junkies will probably want to try one of the 3D V Cast games (the first-person Need for Speed Underground 3D was our favorite).We tested the dual-band (CDMA 900/1900; 1xEV-DO) Motorola E815 in New York City, and our voice calls sounded crystal clear. Our data connectivity was another matter, however. In the signal-rich environment of Manhattan, we got a steady EV-DO connection, but in nearby Brooklyn--a borough in which we had steady service with Verizon's other V Cast phones--our test phone kept flipping between EV-DO and the slower 1xRTT. If you live on the outskirts of an EV-DO-served city and you're considering the E815, consider a test-drive before snapping it up.
The Motorola E815's photos looked excellent for a camera phone's; images were reasonably sharp and detailed with rich colors. Those looking for images worthy of a standalone camera are bound for disappointment, but barring Sprint's new 2-megapixel camera phone, the Samsung MM-A800, these are some of the best handset snapshots we've seen.
Motorola promises more than 4.5 hours of talk time and 11 days of standby time from the E815. In CNET Labs' tests, we got 4 hours of talk time and just a litte more than a week of standby time. According to the FCC, the E815 has a digital SAR rating of 1.24 watts per kilogram.