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Motorola V180 (Unlocked) review: Motorola V180 (Unlocked)

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The Good Compact form factor; good call quality; speakerphone; USB capability; instant messaging; world phone; long battery life.

The Bad Flimsy plastic construction; slippery keypad and cramped controls; small internal display.

The Bottom Line Though we weren't impressed by its design, the Motorola V180 is a quality, basic cell phone.

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6.0 Overall
  • Design 5
  • Features 6
  • Performance 7


Too often in the world of cell phones, the need for a quality, basic handset gets lost in the shuffle of integrated cameras and other high-end features. The primary purpose of a phone is above all to make calls. If a mobile can't do that well, it's not worth much. Fortunately, there are devices like the Motorola V180. Wrapped in a compact package, this T-Mobile and AT&T Wireless handset offers solid call quality and basic yet functional features. While its design felt flimsy, its inclusion of a speakerphone and instant messaging was a welcome surprise. At $119, the V180's price is right, but you can find the phone for even less with a service agreement. With silver cell phones dominating the market, we always enjoy a handset that offers alternative styling. Colored in black with a silver trim, the Motorola V180 is a good-looking phone. Compact measurements (3.5 by 1.7 by 0.9 inches and 2.8 ounces) make for true portability, and the mobile feels comfortable while you're talking. A rectangular external screen shows the time, the battery life, and the caller ID (where available). Though the screen is monochrome, it's easy to see in all kinds of light. The only control on the exterior of the phone is a volume rocker on the left spine. The speakerphone is located on the rear face.

Basic black: the V180 is small and simply designed.

We were disappointed when we first opened the V180. While the front face of the handset is well constructed, a flimsy plastic material covers its inside and back face. The result was unimpressive; the V180 felt quite fragile. Like the display on the Motorola V220, the one on the V180 is rather small (1.5 inches diagonal) and is hard to see in direct sunlight. Also, while it supports 65,000 colors, it was far from vibrant and had an overall washed-out effect (you can adjust only the contrast). The mirrored frame is vulnerable to smudges as well. Users with visual impairments should be advised that the phone's small text size cannot be changed.

Though the menus are easy to use, the cramped navigation controls seemed to be made of cheap plastic. A five-way toggle gives one-touch access to the phone book, the call log, the message center, and the ring styles. Two soft keys open the T-zones application and the instant messenger and activate the speakerphone during a call. But it should be noted that Motorola pulled a switcheroo with this model. While most Motorolas position the Talk key on the right side and the End key on the left side (the opposite of most cell phones), the V180 has the buttons in their traditional places. Consistency, it seems, is not a theme here. The keypad buttons aren't the best either. Set flush with the surface of the phone, they aren't terribly tactile, making it difficult to dial by feel.

The Motorola V180 comes with an average but useful set of features. The phone book holds as many as 500 contacts, with room in each entry for as many as six phone numbers and an e-mail address (you can store an additional 250 names on the SIM card). Contacts can be assigned to caller groups or paired with any of 28 monophonic or 20 polyphonic ring tones. Contacts can also be paired with a picture, but pictures do not show up on the external display. And since there's no camera, you must provide the images or have others send them to you.

Other features were similar to those on the Motorola V220. You get a vibrate mode, voice dialing, text and multimedia messaging, a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser, a calculator, a calendar, and an alarm clock. Unforeseen but useful additions include AOL Instant Messenger, USB capability, and a speakerphone, which can be activated only after a call is made.

You can personalize the V180 with a variety of wallpaper, color styles, screensavers, menu styles, and sounds. You can get more options from T-Mobile's T-zones service. For playtime, the handset comes with one Java (J2ME)-enabled game (Billiards), a demo version of Bejeweled, and FotoFunPack2 for editing images and pictures. While the latter is a nice addition, it would be more useful on a camera phone. Additional gaming titles are available for download, and you can get more ring tones as well. To channel your inner musician, you even can use the integrated MotoMixer application to compose your own ring tones.

We tested the triband (GSM 900/1800/1900) Motorola V180 world phone in San Francisco using T-Mobile's service. We encountered exceptional call quality with good volume and clarity. Callers could not tell we were using a cell phone, and we had no problem getting a signal. Calls with the speakerphone were clear, provided we faced the speaker toward ourselves. Quality did diminish slightly with the included earbud headset, but that's to be expected.

Battery life on the V180 was very impressive. We met the promised time of 9 hours with no problem. Standby time was also very good. We matched the rated time of 10 days. Unfortunately, though, the handset uses a different charger than those used on most Motorola phones. According to the FCC, the V180 has a digital SAR rating of 1.39 watts per kilogram.

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