No matter what any CDMA advocate tells you, the technology has one big disadvantage over GSM: Far fewer countries around the world use it. So no matter how great Verizon Wireless' network is in the United States, that doesn't help you when you travel to the majority of the planet. Yet Verizon is beginning to take notice of this fact and has begun to offer dual-mode cell phones that use the carrier's extensive CDMA coverage in the United States and then switch to GSM networks when abroad. Earlier this year Verizon introduced the Rim BlackBerry 8830 for the globetrotting executive, and now it offers the Motorola Z6c for a more mainstream audience. Styled like a Moto Rizr phone--though not officially part of the Rizr family--the Z6c offers everything you expect from a V Cast handset but with the added bonus of the GSM coverage. That extra functionality will come at a price; the Z6c is $229 with service, but you can get it for $179 if you buy it online. To find accessories for this phone, see our cell phone ringtones and accessories guide.
As previously mentioned, the Z6c has the same slider design you'd find on a Motorola Rizr phone. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to distinguish it from Verizon's Motorola Rizr Z6tv. Both share a black-and-silver color scheme and similar dimensions (4.2 inches by 1.8 inches by 0.68 inch; 3.7 ounces) while the Z6c has the same quality construction. You can open and close the handset with one hand using the convenient thumb grip.
The 2-inch, 65,000-color display is also unchanged from the Z6tv. It shows everything well, from graphics and photos to animations. You can change the backlight time, the dialing font size, and the clock format. Below the display is the easy-to-use navigation array. There's a four-way toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, a camera/camcorder shortcut, a clear control, and the Talk and End/Power keys. Though all the controls are flush, they're tactile and well-spaced. Our only wish is that the OK button were raised above the toggle.
The keypad buttons are straight from the earlier Rizrs as well. Though flat with the surface of the phone, tactile ridges between the individual keys make them easy to use. We didn't have a problem with fast texting or dialing, and the bright backlighting helps in dim situations. On the other hand, users with visual impairment may find that the numbers on the keys are difficult to see in direct light.
The camera lens is located on the Z6c's rear face, but there's no self-portrait mirror or flash. The remaining external controls consist of a volume rocker and the Motorola smart key on the left spine, and a voice-dialing button, a handset lock switch, and the micro-USB port on the right spine. Unfortunately, and unlike the Z6tv, Moto moved the memory-card slot back behind the battery cover. You don't have to remove the battery to access it, but it's still rather inconvenient. You will find the SIM card slot behind the battery. The latter feature, which is necessary for GSM coverage, is a rather unique find for a Verizon Wireless phone.
Conveniently, Verizon and Motorola included several accessories in the Z6c's box. You'll find electrical outlet adaptors for the United Kingdom, Europe, and Australia. Given that the Z6c is designed to be used outside North America, the adapters are an especially nice touch. Also included is an adapter that will let you plug a 2.5mm headset into the phone's mini-USB port. You'll have to use you own headset, however.
The Z6c has a generous 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, and notes. You can save callers to groups, pair them with a photo for caller ID, or assign them one of 11 polyphonic ringtones. Essential features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a speakerphone, a voice recorder, call timers, a calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, a world clock, and a notepad. You'll also find voice commands, stereo Bluetooth, instant messaging, e-mail, and USB mass storage.
Of course, the most notable feature on the Z6c is its dual-mode CDMA/GSM support. As we mentioned earlier, that capability allows you to use the phone both domestically and in a wide variety of nations. When in the United States the Z6c uses Verizon's standard CDMA network, but when you're traveling internationally the phone will use the local transmission standard. Like previous Verizon handsets, the Z6c can roam to 22 other countries where CDMA networks are present (see CNET's quick guide to world phones for a list of CDMA countries), but you'll be able to make calls in Europe and other regions where GSM is the norm.
The broad global coverage is of huge benefit to anyone with a well-stamped passport, but like with everything else from Verizon, there are quite a lot of catches. As it supports only the 900 and 1800 GSM bands, you won't be able to use the Z6c on GSM networks in the United States or Canada (850 and 1900 are the GSM bands used in North America). So don't get any bright ideas about buying the phone and trying to unlock it for use on AT&T or T-Mobile. Also, before you leave the country you must contact Verizon to add an international calling plan to your Z6c service. International calls range from $1.29 to $2.99 per minute in more than 180 countries and international text messages range from 25 cents to 50 cents per sent message (received messages are 5 cents to 15 cents each). Verizon's text-messaging charges are mostly on par with T-Mobile's and AT&T's rates, but its roaming rates are more expensive. For example, T-Mobile only charges 49 cents per minute for some European countries.
Lastly, you must also obtain a SIM card before you travel, as the Z6c does not come with one in the box. The SIM card is available from the carrier and comes free of charge. But on the downside, it will be locked to Verizon's GSM roaming partners. So from the outset you can forget about ditching the SIM card and using a prepaid card for use in a specific country. However, Verizon promises that if your account is in good standing for 60 days, then it will unlock the phone for you. That's a nice touch.
With the Z6c's camera you can take pictures in five resolutions (from 1,600x1,200 down to a special Picture ID size), and choose from three quality settings. Other features include a self timer, three color effects, brightness and white balance settings, a digital zoom, nine fun frames, and three shutter sounds (plus a silent option).The camcorder shoots clips in two resolutions (176x144 pixels and 128x96 pixels) with sound; editing options are similar to the still camera. Videos meant for multimedia messages are capped at about 30 seconds; otherwise, you can shoot for as long as the available memory permits. The Z6c offers a solid 40M of integrated memory, but we suggest you purchase a memory card just the same. The handset can handle cards up to 4GB. Photo quality was quite good with sharp details and vivid colors.
As an EV-DO phone, the Z6c supports the full range of Verizon's 3G services, including the "="">V Cast music store. The music player interface is the same on most other Verizon handsets, which is to say it is pretty minimalist. You can set your own playlists, but the player's options are limited to a shuffle mode. The Z6c also supports Verizon's VZ Navigator GPS service.
You can personalize the Z6c with a variety of wallpapers, display themes, and alert sounds. You can also type a personalized banner. For more customization options,and additional ringtones, you can download them from Verizon using the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. Unfortunately, the Z6c doesn't come with any integrated games, so you'll have to buy titles if you want to play.
We tested the dual-band, dual-mode (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO; GSM 900/1800) phone in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless service. Call quality was respectable on the whole. We enjoyed good clarity that was free of static. Voices sounded natural as well, and we didn't notice any interference from other electronic devices. Our only complaint was that the phone seemed to pick up some background and wind noise. Also, the volume could be a bit louder. We did not have the opportunity to test the international GSM service.
On their end, callers said we sounded fine. They could hear and understand us without any effort. We didn't have issues with automated calling systems, either. Some of our friends reported the same background noise issue, but it wasn't enough to be bothersome. Speakerphone calls were decent, but quality was best when we were in a quiet room. As with regular calls, the volume was a bit low.
V Cast videos were mediocre. The display is too small to view comfortably for extended periods, and the overall quality isn't the best we've seen on a Verizon phone. Movements weren't very fluid, and we noticed a lot of pixelation. Also, colors were rather blocky; you see a distinct outline between different shades. On the upside, the sound quality was fine. The volume was loud enough and the audio was in sync with the video. Similarly, the sound quality from the music player was satisfactory. The EV-DO connection was relatively strong, too; we downloaded a 1.58MB music track in 35 seconds.