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The Motorola Rapture VU30 for Verizon Wireless is the shinier sibling to the Motorola VU204 that we reviewed a week ago. Not only is it shinier on the outside, but it also offers more on the inside, including 3G and a 2-megapixel camera. As for performance, call quality was satisfying, but multimedia performance was somewhat unreliable. We're not sure where Motorola came up with the name Rapture; to us it sounds rather ominous and so we're hoping they're referring to the single "Rapture" by Blondie. You can get the Rapture VU30 for $99.99 with service or for $149.99 if you pay full price.
The Rapture VU30 has the same curvaceous, appealing shape as the VU204. We like the rounded edges and the smooth lines. It replaces the VU204's soft-touch skin with a glossy plastic surface, but the handset has a solid ,comfortable feel in the hand. The hinge has a sturdy construction as well--it opens and closes with a solid click. In many ways the VU30 also resembles the Motorola Pebl U6. The Rapture is of average size (3.9 inches tall by 1.9 inches wide by 0.67 inch deep) and it's relatively lightweight (3.4 ounces).
The VU30 has a rather large 1.6-inch external display. It supports full color (160x120 pixels), so it will show photo caller ID in addition to the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and numeric caller ID. You can't change any of the options, however, which is too bad given the short backlighting. The front face is a bit reflective, which means it shows smudges and fingerprints easily.
The Rapture's display also has two touch controls for activating the camera and the music player with the phone closed. The controls have vibrating feedback and they're well-placed at the bottom corners of the display. With the music control you can play songs, choose a playlist, and activate the shuffle mode. Since the camera lens faces the rear of the phone, self-portraits are impossible.
On the left spine of the VU30 there are a volume rocker, a speakerphone button, and a micro-USB slot, which accommodates both USB cables and the charger. On the right spine you'll find a camera shutter, a voice dialing button, and a handset-locking switch. Unfortunately, the 2.5mm headset jack is at the phone's bottom end, which is a rather inconvenient location when carrying the phone in a pocket while using the headset. Besides the camera lens, the back of the phone holds the single speaker. You must remove the Rapture's battery cover to access the memory card slot, but you don't need to remove the actual battery.
The Rapture's 2.2-inch internal display shows 656,000 colors (320x240 pixels). It's bright and colorful, with sharp graphics. The menu interface is available in three styles, but each is relatively intuitive thanks to Verizon's refined menu design. You can change the dialing font size, the brightness, and the backlighting time.
The VU30's navigation array is spacious and easy to understand and use. There's a large circular toggle that has a comfortable, tactile feel, even though it is almost flat. It is a different color than the surrounding surface to give it better visibility. You can set it as a shortcut to four user-defined functions. Surrounding it are two soft keys, a dedicated music control, a clear control, and the Talk and End/power buttons. These controls are just about flush, as well, but small silver bumps make them tactile. The Rapture's keypad buttons have a similar design. They're spacious and clearly defined, so we could dial and text comfortably without making mistakes. The keys have a bright backlighting for dialing in dim situations.
The Rapture VU30 has a 1,000-contact phone book, 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 26 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, a calendar, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, a world clock, a notepad, and a speakerphone. And on the higher end, you get speaker-independent voice dialing, instant messaging, Web-based POP3 e-mail, a voice recorder, stereo Bluetooth, and USB mass storage.
The Rapture's 2-megapixel camera takes pictures in five resolutions, from 1,600x1,200 down to a special size for photo caller ID. You also can use a self-timer, brightness and white balance settings, three color effects, a digital zoom, nine fun frames, and three shutter sounds (there's no silent option). The camcorder shoots clips with sound in two resolutions (320x240 and 176x144). Editing features are about the same as on the still camera. Videos meant for multimedia messages are capped at 45 seconds; otherwise, you can shoot for as long as the available memory permits. There VU30 doesn't have a flash or camcorder light, which is disappointing on a 2-megapixel shooter.
The Rapture VU30's photo quality is decent. There is little image noise, but colors were faded and images were slightly washed out. Videos were about what you'd expect from a camera phone; which is to say, not great. The Rapture has 67MB of internal shared memory, but you can use a micro-SD card for more space.
As an EV-DO phone, the VU30 supports the full range of Verizon's 3G services, including the V Cast video service and the V Cast Music Store with Rhapsody. The music player's interface is identical to those on other Verizon phones. The handset also supports Verizon's VZ Navigator GPS service.
You can personalize the Rapture with a variety of wallpapers, clock formats, and alert tones, and you can type a personalized banner. You can download more options and additional ringtones using the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. The Rapture doesn't come with any games, but you can buy a range of titles from Verizon.
We tested the dual-band, dual-mode (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) Motorola Rapture VU30 in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless service. Call quality was satisfying on most fronts. On the upside, the signal was clear and strong and we suffered from no static or interference from other electronic devices. Also, voices sounded natural. On the downside, while the volume level was loud enough for most environments, we did have some trouble hearing in noisy places. In those cases we were able to hold conversations, but we had to ask our friends to repeat themselves.
On their end, callers were mostly pleased. They could tell we were using a cell phone, but on the whole they mentioned the clarity of the signal and the voice quality. A few also mentioned a rather soft volume level, but it was fine for most occasions. Automated-calling systems could understand us most of the time.
The Rapture's speakerphone quality is decent, though not spectacular. You have to turn up the volume pretty high if you want to hear, and at those loud levels the voice quality is somewhat distorted. Callers could hear us as long as we were speaking close to the phone. Bluetooth headset calls, however, were somewhat improved.
Streaming-video quality on the VU30 was just average. Though videos loaded quickly and played without interruption, the player-frame size is quite small and the video quality is pixelated. Sound quality wasn't bad, however, and the audio was in sync with the video. Music quality was pretty good. The single speaker has a respectable output, but headphones will provide the best experience. Songs downloaded in about 30 seconds, thanks to a strong EV-DO connection.
The Rapture has a rated battery life of 4.5 hours talk time and 19.6 days standby time. It has a tested talk time of 2 hours and 40 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the VU30 has a digital SAR rating of 0.88 watt per kilogram.