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Not everyone needs the whizzbang flashiness of a high-end feature phone, and this is the crowd that Motorola is catering to with its VE440 candy bar phone. Sure, it has almost everything most callers need to do the all-important tasks of placing and receiving calls and text messages. In addition, the phone's body design has some easy-access music playback controls and a dedicated camera button that, along with a roomy keypad, make it fairly easy to handle. As with many other mobile handsets of its ilk (and even higher-end models besides), the VE440 comes without games.
The Limited Edition model certainly reaches for an edgy audience with its two graffiti-style back covers and branding for the designer, Mister Cartoon, and his studio, Sanctioned.
Although many of the features performed well enough in our tests for a phone of this caliber, call quality suffered, which puts a damper on its core function: making and receiving calls. Still, the phone will appeal to those who prefer tunes over games, and MetroPCS' all-in-one pricing packages will surely also attract its share of users. The VE440 costs $89 for black or cherry colors, and $129 for the Limited Edition variety, which comes with specialized back covers and matching street art wallpaper.
Motorola's VE440 has molded some interesting design elements into its musical phone. Where most phone spines present vertical planes that house things like volume control and memory slots, Motorola has set the VE440's right spine at a jaunty 45-degree angle, sloping it upward toward the display. The result is easy access to the phone's three music player controls.
As we mentioned, the back cover is the Limited Edition of the VE440's other area of interest. A Los Angeles graffiti artist-turned-graphic designer known as Mister Cartoon turned out one of two street-smart covers of the Moto VE440 Limited Edition. One features a montage with a skull, rose, and cash; the other, two representations of a blond woman's face. The solid back cover of the regular style is punctuated by vertical ridges.
Measuring 4.4 inches high by 1.9 inches wide by 0.6 inch deep, the VE440 is a pocket-, purse-, and satchel-friendly choice. At 2.64 ounces, it won't weigh you down, but it isn't so light that you'll forget it's there.
As for the phone's controls, the volume rocker and a convenience key perch on the left spine. A Micro-USB slot blends into the back cover. Small buttons controlling keypad lockdown and voice commands sit at the top, along with a standard-size 3.5mm headset jack. Set deeply into the EV440's back is the basic 1.3-megapixel camera. Remove the back cover and battery to find the expandable memory slot.
The 1.9-inch display is nothing to boast about, though the size is adequate for this type of phone. The same goes for the 176x220-pixel 65,000-color resolution, which is adequate and appropriate for a phone of this caliber. There are free and premium wallpaper options, but you can't adjust the display font.
A standard-issue four-directional navigation pad with central "select" button makes navigating the VE440 a breeze, but the two soft keys are barely there points of light you depress, along with some of the surrounding plastic. Along with the stylized soft keys are a back button and dedicated camera button. The oblong green and red "on" and "off" buttons are also small enough to require precision pressing, and may frustrate those with cropped nails and wider fingers. Luckily, the large, slightly domed keypad buttons are significantly more finger-friendly. Their plasticky, almost bubbly nature works in your favor, making these separated, backlit keys easy to locate and press. Our composed text messages prove it.
You can fit 500 contacts in the VE440's phone book, with five phone numbers and two e-mail addresses for each. Customization options include adding a caller to a group, and selecting a picture, ringtone, and message ringtone for each buddy. While all are common cell phone features, it's nice seeing them present. The souped-up VE440 Limited Edition arrives with 24 polyphonic ringtones preloaded on the phone. In addition to staid tunes of computerized clangs and doorbell chimes is a handful of thematic ringtones that clearly stretch for street cred with names like Going to the Carshow, Snoop Pick Up Your Phone, and Tattoo Gun--which really does portray the buzzing hum of the inker's tool. Speakerphone is also onboard.
The tool pack contains voice commands, a calendar, alarm clock, world clock, calculator, notepad, and stopwatch. A WAP browser, stereo Bluetooth, text, and MMS are also present, along with GPS and MetroPCS's ChatLINK instant messaging service.
The Motorola VE440 isn't packing much of a shooter, but in a pinch, the onboard 1.3-megapixel camera can get the job done. Digital zoom, a self timer, and a multishot mode provide more photo-taking options; a picture frame, white balance, and color effects provide rudimentary editing. You can even personalize the shutter's sound. After capturing the photo, you can save a finished shot or send it along to a friend as a multimedia message or via Bluetooth connection. You can also turn photos into wallpaper or a contact's mug shot, or print the shot. Though 1,280x1,024 pixels is the standard photo resolution, you can also drop it by a half or quarter, or set the camera to Picture ID quality and choose one of three levels of photo quality. Don't expect to win any contests even at the highest setting--this is a basic camera phone, after all. (You can compare photo quality across cell phones here.)
The VE440's built-in music player only works with the microSD card in place. There's room for up to 8GB removable memory, and our Limited Edition evaluation device came with 1GB to start with. You can play tunes in MP3, AAC, and AAC+ formats. Though you can set up a playlist, you can't save songs as ringtones. You can purchase ringtones and wallpaper if you'd like to further customize your display. You can also set home screen shortcuts for most-used features.
We tested the Motorola VE440 in San Francisco on the MetroPCS service. For both the caller and recipient, call quality on the CDMA (1700/2100/800/1900) phone was inconsistent at best and highly degraded in its worst moments. On our end, call quality would oscillate between strong volume and clear voices that sounded true-to-life, to quality so disruptive in one outdoor test call, we couldn't tell if the recipient was talking to us, to someone else, or listening to the radio.
Callers on the other end could tell we were on a cell phone and described the call quality as "clear" during good stretches and "distorted" or "like riding next to a car with its bass turned up too high for its speakers" when the quality dipped, often in the same phone call.
The VE440 has a rated battery life of 4.5 hours of talk time, and promises 16.5 days of standby time. It has a tested talk time of 5 hours and 58 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Motorola VE440's digital SAR comes to 1.49 watts per kilogram.