Despite its rather ugly-duckling appearance, the Type-V is a welcome change after the seemingly endless parade of thin, pretty phones we've endured over the last year. With a common silver color scheme, an external antenna, and a bulbous exterior display, it makes zero effort to be trendy, which is a good thing. It's also one of the biggest (4.1x2.0x1.1 inches) and heaviest (5.3 ounces) phones we've seen in a long time. It's better worn on a belt clip than in a pocket, but its bulk is hardly a negative; in fact, it contributes to the phone's exceptional durability. The Type-V feels quite solid in the hand and is comfortable to hold while talking.
Though the Type-V doesn't have any superpowers, it's built to take a beating. Also, like most Nextel phones, it meets military equipment specifications for exposure to harsh conditions. Verizon says it subjected the phone to a battery of tests, including water immersion, dropping, vibration, and resistance to various elements. The former is probably the most impressive as water and cell phones are natural foes. The Type-V is designed to survive a dunking in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. We're not sure how you'd use a cell phone underwater, but if the occasion arises, the Type-V will do the trick. We submerged the phone and took it in the shower and had no problems. We didn't replicate all of the tests, but it's worth noting Verizon's promises: The carrier says the Type-V will withstand rainfall of 2 inches per hour with a 40mph wind; a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit with 95 percent humidity; and extended exposure to salt, fog, dust, and solar radiation.
We also dropped the Type-V to the floor a fair number of times, from heights of a few inches or feet. Instead of rubber sidings, the phone has a plastic bumper on the bottom end that's designed to handle impact shocks. Though the bumper certainly is odd-looking, it seems to do the trick, and it even made the phone bounce on a carpeted floor. On harder surfaces there was no bouncing, but the Type-V emerged unscathed except for one instance where the battery cover popped off. Since there's no guarantee the Type-V will always land bottom-end first, we also tried dropping it from other angles. Overall, we didn't have any problems.
It's not often we see a round external display on a cell phone. The Type-V's measures an inch in diameter and is surrounded by a silver frame. Sometimes we gripe about monochrome displays on expensive phones, but in the Type-V's case, the lack of color is a good thing. For the most part the display is visible in almost any environment, even when the backlighting is dim. The display shows the date, time, and caller ID (but not photo caller ID). Battery live and signal strength are displayed as well, but they are more difficult to decipher when the backlighting is off. The backlight time and brightness are not customizable.
The camera lens and flash sit just above the display. Both are unique among camera phones: the lens is quite large and the flash is exceptionally bright. Yet there's no mirror, so self-portraits are awkward. For taking photos, a dedicated shutter button sits on the right spine just below the volume rocker. The headset jack sits on the left spine, while the charger port rests on the bottom of the rear flap. Both have secure covers that must be fitted securely before you take the Type-V in the water. Interestingly, the battery cover has a locking mechanism, which also must be secured tightly. The Type-V comes with a small tool for doing so, or you can just use your fingernail.
The Type-V's internal display measures an expansive 2.2 inches (204x320 pixels) and supports 65,536 colors. Though we're becoming attached to 262,000-color displays on multimedia phones, the Type-V's screen was perfectly serviceable for viewing photos and applications and even for navigating through the much-maligned Verizon menu interface. You can change the backlight's time, font size, and contrast.
Below the gargantuan hinge are the navigation controls. A five-way toggle doubles as a shortcut to the Web browser, Verizon's Get it Now service, the camera and pictures menu, and one user-defined shortcut. In standby mode, the OK button in the center of the toggle opens the main menu, while the two soft keys open the phone book and the messaging menu. Below the toggle are two additional shortcut buttons. A quick press to the left control opens the still camera, while holding the same button down opens the video camera. Meanwhile, the right button activates the speakerphone when pressed once and turns the camera flash into a steady light when held down. While we appreciate the large number of feature shortcuts, the navigation controls aren't the most tactile. They're somewhat slippery and flat with the surface of the phone. And though the toggle is large, the other keys are a bit small.