Last year when we reviewed the Motorola V195 for T-Mobile, we were excited to see a cell phone that offered Bluetooth connectivity without having a camera as well. Though Bluetooth connectivity is a popular feature, it's typically found on higher-end phones with multimedia offerings that many users don't need or want. That fact alone raised the V195 to our editors' top basic phones list, despite some shaky call quality. So we were excited to see Motorola and T-Mobile try again with the V195s. Almost identical to the V195 in form and function, the V195s adds support for T-Mobile's My Faves service and thankfully, it offers improved audio quality as well. You can get it for $19.99 with service.
The V195s looks no different than the V195. It has the same minimalist shape with rounded edges and an internal antenna, and it has an equally simple two-tone silver color scheme. At 3.6 inches by 1.8 inches by 0.9 inch, it remains one of the larger flip phones on the market today, but it weighs less than you might think, at 3.6 ounces. Though the back cover is plastic, the handset has a comfortable feel in the hand, and the hinge has a sturdy construction.
Like many basic Motorola phones, the V195s uses a rectangular external display with a monochrome resolution. It shows the time, the battery life, the signal strength, and caller ID. Photo caller ID isn't available, but that's hardly an issue since the phone doesn't have a camera. The only controls on the outside of the handset are a volume rocker and the Motorola Smart key on the left spine. The rear-facing speaker isn't in the most ideal location, but we like that the V195s uses separate ports for a wired headset and the charger. Both sit on the phone's bottom end, under a protective rubber cover.
The 1.75-inch, 65,000-color display is unchanged as well. It's not terribly bright or vibrant, but it's fine for most uses. We're really hoping Motorola implements a new menu interface soon, as the current design is getting old.
Below the display are the navigation controls which also are carried over from the V195. That's a good thing, as we enjoyed their spacious layout and tactile feel as well as the generous number of shortcut options. Besides dedicated keys for the Web browser, the main menu, and the messaging folder, you can designate one-touch controls for the four-way toggle, the two soft keys, and the smart key on the left spine. Other controls include an OK button in the toggle's center and the talk and end/power buttons. The backlit keypad buttons seem a bit changed, however. They're big with large numbers, and they seem more flush with the surface of the phone. They're also a tad slick, but that's not a big deal.
The V195s' 1,000-contact phone book has room in each entry for six phone numbers, a street address, an e-mail address, a birth date, and a nickname (a SIM card adds 250 more names). You can organize callers into groups, pair them with one of 45 polyphonic ringtones or alert sounds, and assign them a photo for caller ID. Just keep in mind that the images won't show up on the external display.
Basic features on the V195s include a vibrate mode; text and multimedia messaging; AOL, Yahoo, and ICQ instant messaging; a calculator; a datebook; an alarm clock; a wireless backup service for your contacts; and a voice memo recorder. On the higher end, the V195s offers a speakerphone, Bluetooth, and voice dialing though the last one is usable only with a headset. Voice dialing is an especially nice addition to a phone without a camera, particularly as more businesses are restricting camera phones in the workplace.
You can personalize the V195s with a variety of wallpaper, color styles, screensavers, greetings, and alert sounds. If you'd like more options, you can download them via the WAP 2 wireless Web browser. You can also buy more ringtones from T-Mobile, use your personal MP3 files, or create your own tones on the phone. The V195s comes with demo versions of three Java (J2ME) games (Bejeweled, Midnight Pool, and Pinball). Total memory on the phone is 10MB of shared space.
We tested the quadband (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) V195s world phone in San Francisco using T-Mobile service. Fortunately, call quality was improved in comparison with the V195. We noticed none of the static that we encountered on the previous model, and there was plenty of volume. Outside of some wind noise, callers reported no significant problems on their end, but we did have some trouble being understood by an automated calling system.
Speakerphone calls had a decent amount of volume, but we don't like that the speaker on the rear face directs sound away from you. Also, we had to be quite close to the speaker in order to be heard properly. Bluetooth calls were fine, as was the voice dialing. It's disappointing, though, that you can't use the voice dialing without a headset or a car kit.
The Motorola V195s has a rated battery life of 8 hours talk time and 17.5 days standby time. Our tests revealed an impressive talk time of 8 hours and 20 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the V195s has a digital SAR rating of 1.6 watts per kilogram (the highest amount allowed).