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Motorola released two new phones for Verizon Wireless earlier this month when it introduced the Rapture VU30 and the VU204. Both phones offers similar designs, but take different approaches to functionality. While the Rapture VU30 offers a high-resolution camera and 3G multimedia, the VU204 takes a more low-key angle. Though you'll find Bluetooth and support for the VZ Navigator GPS service on the VU204, the camera is just VGA and basic communication remains a central theme. The candy bar design has a minimalist appeal, with a solid construction and well-designed controls. You can get the VU204 for just $29.99 with service, but it's even a bargain at the full price of $79.99.
The Motorola VU204 offers a basic flip-phone design, but it goes a long way toward achieving both appeal and ease of use. We like the clean lines and rounded edges, and the soft-touch material on the rear face gives the phone a nice feeling in the hand. The battery cover is a bit cumbersome to pry off, but, overall, the VU204 has a sturdy construction. And at 3.54 inches tall by 2.09 inches wide by 0.76 inch thick and weighing 3.4 ounces, the VU204 won't bog you down.
The external display is a bit too small for our tastes (1.05 inches, 96x80 pixels), but it is full color, so it shows the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and photo caller ID. It also works as a viewfinder for the camera lens, which sits just above.
On the left spine, you'll find the volume rocker, a speakerphone control, and a mini USB slot, which accommodates the charger and a USB cable. The choice of mini USB is interesting, considering Motorola has begun to move to a standard micro-USB connection. On the left spine, you'll fund a voice-dialing button and a 2.5mm headset jack. Normally, we'd prefer a 3.5mm jack. The VU204's single speaker sits on the rear face of the handset.
The VU204's internal display only supports 65,000 colors and has a 220x176-pixel resolution, but it's bright and vibrant, with sharp colors and graphics. The menus (available in three styles) are easy to use--particularly now that Verizon has refined its menu structure. Our only complaint is that 1.88 inches is a little small for the overall size of the phone. You can change the dialing font size, the brightness, and the backlighting time.
The navigation controls, which sit below the VU204's oversized hinge, couldn't have a better design. The arrangement is spacious and the keys have a pleasant tactile feel--even if they are relatively flush. Besides the silver toggle and central OK button, you'll find two soft keys, a camera shutter, a clear key, and the Talk and End/power buttons. The circular toggle also acts as a shortcut to user-defined functions. The numeric keypad is equally well designed, with large tactile buttons conducive for dialing and texting. We could dial by feel and the bright backlighting helped in dim situations.
The VU204's phone book holds 1,000 contacts, with room in each entry for five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, and notes. You can organize contacts into caller groups and pair them with a photo and one of 21 polyphonic ringtones or alert tones. There's a separate phone book in which you can designate three "in case of emergency" numbers. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a calculator, call recording, a calendar, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, a world lock, a notepad, and a speakerphone.
Added features are more abundant than you'd think. There's voice dialing, instant messaging, Web-based POP3 e-mail, a voice recorder, an airplane mode, Verizon's VZ Navigator GPS service, support for the Verizon's Chaperone child-locator service, a voice-readout feature for keypad digits, contact list entries, recent calls, and caller ID. Bluetooth is also on board--there's no stereo profile, but you can use Bluetooth for object transfer.
The VGA camera takes pictures in three resolutions, from 640x480 down to a special size for photo caller ID. Camera features include a self-timer, brightness and white balance controls, three color effects, a multishot mode, nine fun frames, and four shutter sounds (there's no silent option). The VU204 neither records video nor does it have a flash. Photos quality was good for a VGA camera; there was some image noise, but colors looked natural. The handset offers a respectable 26MB of shared internal memory.
You can personalize the VU204 with a variety of clock formats, wallpapers, alert tones, and display themes. You can also type a personalized banner. You can download additional choices and more ringtones from Verizon using the wireless Web browser. The VU204 doesn't come with any games, but a selection of titles is available for purchase.
We tested the VU204 in San Francisco with Verizon Wireless service. Call quality was quite good, with a strong signal, clear audio, and loud volume. Voices sounded natural and we didn't encounter any static or interference from other electronic devices. Speakerphone calls were loud and relatively clear, even though the speaker faces the rear of the phone. Bluetooth headset calls were satisfactory, as well.
On their end, callers said we sounded great, with some not even noticing that we were using a cell phone. A couple of callers said the phone picked up a fair amount of background noise, but they were in the minority. Automated-calling systems could hear us most of the time. The VU204 is compatible with M3/T4 hearing aids.
The VU204 has a rated battery life of 3.96 hours and 18.63 days standby time. It has a tested talk time of 5 hours and 23 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the VU204 has a digital SAR rating of 1.55 watts per kilogram.