You can tell instantly that the Renew's brown packaging is made from recycled materials. It's smaller than your average cell phone box (22 percent smaller, according to Moto) and it is devoid of any fancy graphics. It's nothing more than a "feel-good" measure, but it's a nice touch just the same. Just remember to go full circle and recycle your box.
The Renew has a 500-contact phone book with room in each entry for six phone numbers and an e-mail address (the SIM card holds an additional 250 names). You can save callers to groups and pair them with one of 35 polyphonic ringtones. The Renew doesn't offer photo caller ID, but we're not going to raise a stink since the handset doesn't have a camera. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a speakerphone, a calculator, an alarm clock, USB syncing, a stopwatch, and support for T-Mobile's My Faves service.
The Renew also offers a basic music player, which is a curious addition on a phone that doesn't even have Bluetooth (indeed, we'd prefer the latter). The player's staunchly minimalist interface, mediocre performance, and zero features make it not really worth the effort, but it's there if you want it. Your best bet to transfer music is via the memory card slot, which supports cards up to 2GB.
You can personalize the Renew with a variety of screensavers, wallpaper, colors, and a greeting. You can download more options from T-Mobile's t-zones service using the WAP 2.0 Web browser. The handset comes with two games: Tetris and Sudoku. You can buy more titles if you wish. Just be aware that gameplay is a bit tedious thanks to the phone's slow processor.
We tested the dual-band (GSM 850/1900) Motorola W233 Renew in San Francisco using T-Mobile service. Since it lacks support for European GSM bands, the W233 will not work outside of North America. Also, data support is limited to GPRS.
Thanks to Moto's CrystalTalk feature, which blocks out surrounding noise, the Renew offers better call quality than you might expect. We enjoyed a strong signal with clear audio and loud volume. Callers sounded natural, and we could hear them in noisy environments. Our only complaint was that we detected a slight hiss during some conversations, but it was a rare occurrence.
On their end, callers said we sounded fine. They also could hear and understand us in a variety of environments and they didn't report any problems with static or interference. Automated calling systems could understand us most of the time, but it was best if we were in a quiet room. The speakerphone is good, but not great. It was loud enough, but voices had an echo on our side.
The Renew has a rated talk battery life of nine hours, which is quite high. Indeed, our tests showed a talk time of 9 hours and 54 minutes. The promised standby battery life is 18 days. According to FCC radiation tests, the Renew has a digital SARof 1.26 watts per kilogram.