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Motorola Rival review: Motorola Rival

Motorola Rival

Nicole Lee Former Editor
Nicole Lee is a senior associate editor for CNET, covering cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, and all things mobile. She's also a fan of comic books, video games, and of course, shiny gadgets.
Nicole Lee
6 min read


Motorola Rival

The Good

The Motorola Rival offers a slew of multimedia features and good call quality.

The Bad

The Motorola Rival's navigation controls are poorly designed. Also, it has a lackluster display.

The Bottom Line

Though we like the Motorola Rival's features, its poor design keeps us from recommending it.

Motorola has been hard at work lately, introducing new messaging phones. Besides the recent Motorola Clutch and the Motorola Hint, the company also just released the Motorola Rival, available from Verizon Wireless. Offering multimedia features and high-speed EV-DO, the Rival has a similar shape to the LG Neon, with its sideways keyboard and touch-sensitive number keypad, but its design is significantly less refined. The Rival is available for $99.99 after a two-year service agreement and a $50 rebate.

The Motorola Rival has a rather boring, industrial look, with a rectangular shape and slightly curved corners. The outer shell comes in either tin silver or purple, though it's accented with hints of black and red. Measuring 3.8 inches long by 2 inches wide by 0.71 inch deep, the Rival is quite compact, and at 4.4 ounces, it has a nice heft when held in the hand. The sliding mechanism is smooth yet sturdy.

The Rival has a glossy, black finish and a 2.2-inch display. It supports only 65,000 colors and has a 176x220 resolution, which results in a rather lackluster display. You can set up the backlight time, the brightness, the display themes, the menu layout, the dial fonts, the menu font size, the clock format, and whether to show toggle shortcuts on the home screen.

The Motorola Rival has a virtual number keypad.

Like the LG Neon, the Rival's display acts as a touch screen for the phone dialer only. Press the phone dialer key on the navigation array, and a virtual number keypad will show up on the display. You can then dial a number by tapping the digits on the screen--there's even vibrating feedback whenever your touch registers.

Underneath the display is the navigation array, which consists of two touch-sensitive soft keys (they're indicated by two tiny lights on the left and the right), the aforementioned phone dialer key, the back key, a four-way circular toggle, and the Send and End/Power keys. There's an additional touch-sensitive soft key on the top left of the display, also indicated by a tiny light, which is only activated when the display is in landscape mode. The circular toggle can be mapped to three user-defined shortcuts for the up, left, and down directions, and the right direction leads to a My Shortcuts menu that lists up to four additional shortcuts.

We weren't pleased with the navigation array overall. The physical keys are flat, stiff, and hard to press, plus you couldn't adjust the touch sensitivity of the soft keys. What's more, because the soft keys are touch-sensitive, we had to keep disabling the screen lock on the phone in order to use them.

The Motorola Rival has a full QWERTY keyboard.

Slide the phone sideways and you'll reveal a full QWERTY keyboard on the left side. The display will change orientation automatically from portrait to landscape mode. The keyboard is quite spacious and the keys are raised above the surface, but they're a little stiff when pressed. There are dedicated keys for instant messaging, a new text message, and even an emoticon key.

On the left side of the phone are the volume rocker, the speakerphone key, and a charger jack, and the 3.5 millimeter headset jack, a screen lock key, a voice command key, and camera key are on the right. The camera lens and external speaker are on the back of the phone.

The Motorola Rival comes with a generous 1,000-entry phone book, with room in each entry for five phone numbers and two e-mail addresses. You can then organize the contacts into caller groups, pair them with a photo for caller ID, or any of 30 polyphonic ringtones. Other basics include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, voice messaging, a calendar, an alarm clock, a world clock, a stopwatch, a calculator, a notepad, and a tip calculator.

More-advanced users will like the instant messenger support (AIM, Windows Live, and Yahoo), GPS with VZ Navigator support, USB mass storage, the wireless Web browser, and voice command dialing. It also supports a full range of Bluetooth profiles, like hands-free, stereo, dial-up networking, basic printing, file transfer, and more. You also get a variety of e-mail options: mobile e-mail, mobile Web e-mail, and corporate e-mail. Mobile e-mail is a $5 application with which you can get your mail delivered directly to you from a variety of service providers, while mobile Web e-mail is a free service that simply gives you shortcut access to Web e-mail sites like Windows Live and Yahoo Mail. The corporate e-mail option requires a $9.99 monthly subscription to RemoSync, which works with Microsoft ActiveSync to sync your e-mail and your work address book as well.

The Motorola Rival comes with EV-DO, and along with that is Verizon's array of broadband services like V Cast Video, with which you can watch streaming-video content from providers like CBS (Editors' note: CNET Reviews is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS ) and CNN, and V Cast Music with Rhapsody, where you can purchase and download music over the air. Each song costs $1.99, which includes a download to your PC.

The music player itself is housed within the V Cast Music interface, so it feels a little clunky. You can create and edit your own playlists and you can set the songs on repeat or shuffle. You can also sync your songs from your PC with a USB cable using the V Cast Music with Rhapsody software. If you have a Rhapsody subscription, you can load your subscribed tracks to the Rival. The Rival supports up to 8GB of removable memory via a microSD card.

The Motorola Rival has a camera lens on the back, but no flash or self-portrait mirror.

The Rival has a 2.0-megapixel camera, which can take pictures in five resolutions (1,600x1,200, 1,280x960, 640x480, 320x240, and a picture ID mode). Other settings include brightness, white balance, color effects, fun frames, self-timer, three shutter sounds, and a silent option. Photo quality was quite disappointing. Pictures looked very dark and overcast, though they weren't too blurry. There's also a built-in camcorder with settings similar to the still camera's. It can take videos in short, medium, MMS, or maximum storage durations in either 320x240 or 176x144 resolution.

The Motorola Rival takes dark and overcast photos.

You have a few personalization options with the Motorola Rival. You can change the wallpaper, display themes, and alert tones, and you can get more via the wireless Web browser. It also comes with a few games like 5th Grader 2009 and Pac-Man, and you can get more of those via the Verizon store.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) Motorola Rival in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless. We were impressed with the call quality. Callers heard us without any static or interference, and we could hear them loud and clear. They said our voices sounded natural. Even when we activated the speakerphone, they couldn't tell the difference. On our end, the speakerphone had plenty of volume, though it sounded a little muffled and tinny at times.

The audio quality of songs from the Motorola Rival's speakers wasn't so great. It's loud enough, but the overall quality was tinny, lacking in bass, and weak. We would recommend using a wired or stereo Bluetooth headset for better music quality. Since the Rival comes with a 3.5 millimeter headset jack, you can use your regular headphones to listen to tunes.

We were pleased with the EV-DO speeds on the Rival. We downloaded a 1.5MB song in around 50 seconds, and loading simple WAP pages took only a few seconds. V Cast videos had little to no buffering. The quality wasn't that great, though: streaming video had a lot of pixelation, especially in action sequences. The low color resolution on the display didn't help, either.

The Motorola Rival has a rated battery life of 5.3 hours talk time and 21.25 days standby time. The tested talk time wasn't too different at 5 hours and 54 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Rival has a digital SAR rating of 1.59 watts per kilogram.

Motorola Rival

Score Breakdown

Cabin tech 6Performance tech 7Design 7