Consumer Cellular, an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) based out of Portland, Ore., has made it its mission to provide relatively basic phones, particularly for senior citizens. These phones include the Doro handsets like the Doro PhoneEasy 345 and the Doro PhoneEasy 410. One of the latest handsets to join its lineup is the Motorola WX345, which is certainly easy to use, but has a few more advanced features than the typical basic phone. Features include a 2-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, a music player, and even an FM radio. We especially like its bargain-basement price: it's free without a contract, but you do have to pony up a $35 activation fee.
This is the simplest Motorola flip phone we've seen in a long time. Measuring 3.74 inches long by 1.85 inches wide by 0.66 inch deep, the WX345 has a straightforward rectangular silhouette. It does have curved corners and a textured border along the sides, but it has no frills or design quirks otherwise. At 3.32 ounces, it's incredibly lightweight, which has the unfortunate side effect of giving it a rather cheap feel in the hand. The surface of the phone is plastic and glossy, and it comes in either silver or red.
On the front of the phone is a simple monochromatic external LCD display. It shows the date and the time, plus the symbols for signal strength and battery life. It also displays caller ID information. Above the display is the camera lens. The volume rocker and Micro-USB charging jack are on the left spine while a 3.5-millimeter headset jack sits on the right. We're a little disappointed that there's no external camera button.
The phone flips open easily, courtesy of the smooth yet sturdy hinge. When it's opened, you'll see a bright 1.8-inch display. It only has 65,000 colors, however, and the 128x160-pixel resolution results in blocky images and text. However, that's acceptable for a basic phone like this. As for the font, we're glad to see that it's large and legible, but we're disappointed that you can't adjust the font size. You can adjust the main menu style and the wallpaper, and toggle the date and time display on or off. You can also set the brightness and backlight timer. There's also an option to change the language to Spanish.
The navigation array is as simple as the rest of the phone. It consists of two soft keys, a square toggle with a middle confirmation key, a dedicated camera key, a Back key, and the Send and End/Power keys. The toggle doubles as shortcuts to the music player, user profiles, contacts list, and message inbox respectively. Beneath that is the roomy number keypad. The keys are quite big and have a nice rubbery feel to them. Each key is slightly raised so you can press them by feel.
The microSD card slot is located behind the battery cover. You have to remove the battery to gain access to it, which is a little inconvenient.
The Motorola WX345 has a 500-entry phone book, which has room for four numbers, a company name, and an e-mail address. You can group the entries into different categories like Friends, Family, VIP, Business, and Others, and you can customize each entry with one of 15 polyphonic ringtones. There's also vibrate mode, a speakerphone, and text and multimedia messaging. It has basic PIM tools like a calendar, tasks list, alarm clock, and calculator.
The WX345 does have a few advanced features, which include stereo Bluetooth, a wireless WAP browser, a sound recorder, and even a music player. It's not the fanciest music player we've seen--it's very generic--but you can perform the usual tasks like play, pause, track forward and back, and create and edit playlists. You can also toggle repeat and shuffle modes. If you turn Background play on, you'll be able to push the music player to the background while you browse around other parts of the phone. If you're in an airplane, you can opt for Airplane mode, which will let you continue playing tunes while the cellular signal is shut down. You can transfer music to the phone via a microSD card of up to 32GB.
Aside from the music player, the WX345 has an FM radio. You do need to attach a pair of wired headphones to the phone in order for it to work, as the wire acts as the radio antenna. You can store up to nine radio channels or you can just enter the channel frequency manually. Other features include auto search, activating background play, and activating the speaker. One feature that we particularly like is the ability to record radio programs. You're obviously limited to available storage space, but we think it's cool that the phone allows you to do it at all. You can pause and stop recordings and manage the recorded files from within the radio app.
The WX345 has a 2-megapixel camera with five different resolutions, six white-balance presets including an auto mode, six color effects that include a normal option, and three image quality settings. Other options include antiflicker adjustments, exposure settings, up to 4x digital zoom, three shutter sounds plus a silent mode, brightness, and a self-timer. There's also an option for a video camera, for which you can toggle the sound on or off. The WX345 has decent photo quality when photos are taken at high resolution. Images were just a little fuzzy. Colors did look muddy and overcast, however.
The WX345 comes with two games: Copter and Chicken. You can adjust vibration and sound settings for either game.
We tested the Motorola WX345 in San Francisco using the Consumer Cellular network, which piggybacks on the AT&T network. We saw full four-bar signal strength most of the time, especially in downtown San Francisco. Call quality was quite good on the whole. On our end, we heard our callers clearly with good volume and clean voice quality. There was a tiny bit of static but it was not distracting.
Callers too heard us quite well, though they did say volume seem to suffer a little. There were the occasional background noise and hiss getting in the way. It wasn't a huge nuisance, but it was noticeable. Speakerphone calls fared well: callers said we sounded more echo-heavy, but that's to be expected.
The sound quality of music on the phone is average at best. You won't get the full effect of bass-heavy songs, for example, and there is a slight tinny effect too. It's OK for listening to the occasional radio show or song, but we wouldn't replace our MP3 player with this.
The Motorola WX345 has a rated battery life of 9 hours of talk time and 31 days of standby time. Our tests revealed a talk time of 9 hours and 12 minutes. According to the FCC, the Motorola WX345 has a digital SAR of 1.40 watts per kilogram.