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Thanks to the popularity of text messaging, cell phones with QWERTY keyboards aren't confined to just smartphones anymore. Following the footsteps of handsets like the LG Rumor, the Verizon Wireless Blitz (made by UTStarcom) is what the industry is calling a messaging phone--a phone with a full QWERTY keyboard without the typical complexities of a smartphone. In short, a BlackBerry for the rest of us. The Blitz's strength lies in its messaging capabilities, of course, but it also has decent multimedia features, and we definitely like the call quality. Our only complaint is the lack of EV-DO, but for $49.99 after a $50 rebate and a two-year service agreement, it's not a bad deal.
The Blitz may best be described as a fat little cell phone. Measuring 3.5 inches long by 2.6 inches wide by 0.7 inch thick, the Blitz is a square and squat device with rounded edges all around, giving it a comical yet cute appearance. The reason it's so wide is because the phone slides open to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard, which makes this a great messaging phone. The phone sits very well in the hand, and is perfectly designed for thumb-typing. The slider mechanism is solid, and can be opened and closed just by pushing upward/downward on the screen.
Right on the front of the Blitz is a lovely 2.2-inch display, which fits 220x176 pixels and supports up to 262,000 colors, giving images and graphics a nice rich hue. We also like the menu interface, and thankfully the Blitz comes with three different menu style options; grid, list, and the traditional Verizon tabs. You can adjust the backlight time, the dialing fonts, and the clock format, but not the brightness or contrast.
Underneath the display are the navigation keys, which consist of the two soft keys, a four-way square toggle with a middle OK key, a dedicated speakerphone key, a Clear key that also doubles as a voice command key, and the Talk and End/Power keys on either side. The up, left, and down button on the toggle doubles as three user-defined shortcuts, and the right button leads to a My Shortcuts menu, which lists up to four additional user-defined shortcuts. On the right spine are the charger jack, a dedicated music player key, a dedicated camera key, and a microSD card slot, and the headset jack and the volume rocker sit on the left spine. On the back are a camera lens, a self-portrait mirror, and a speaker grille.
Slide the phone open and you'll find a surprisingly roomy QWERTY keyboard. It is well-spaced and well laid out, with special keys like a Caps lock key, a Symbol key, and a dedicated My Messaging key (which leads to the messaging menu). The number keys are specially marked in blue toward the left--you can start dialing just by pressing those keys. Overall, we found the QWERTY keyboard very easy to use. The keys are raised enough above the surface that it was a breeze to dial and to type out text. We can definitely see how the Blitz would be a great phone for messaging fanatics.
The Verizon Wireless Blitz has a generous 1,000-entry address book with room in it for five numbers and two e-mail addresses. Contacts can then be organized into groups, assigned photos for caller ID, and paired with one of 27 ringtones and alert sounds. Other basics include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, a calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, a world clock, a notepad, and a stopwatch. More advanced features include voice command, e-mail support (Yahoo, Windows Live Hotmail, AOL Mail), instant messaging, stereo Bluetooth, and a wireless Web browser. If you want an actual e-mail client (i.e. not having to open up the Web browser to get to your e-mail), you do have to pay $5 a month for the mobile e-mail application, which we think is a little bit much. You also get access to VZ Navigator, Verizon's location-based application for turn-by-turn directions.
The Blitz is compatible with Verizon's V Cast Music with Rhapsody service, but with one important caveat: it doesn't support V Cast Music's over-the-air song downloads. That means that you'll have to download songs to your PC, and then upload them to the phone. This is probably because of the Blitz's lack of EV-DO. Even though we thought this was a bit of a letdown, the Blitz is meant to be an entry-level phone, so we'll let that slide. As for the music player itself, the interface is very similar to that of the V Cast Music store, with songs categorized by genres, artists, and albums. You can also create and edit your own playlists, and play songs on shuffle and repeat. The Blitz has a microSD card slot capable of supporting up to 4GB of additional storage.
The Blitz also comes with a 1.3-megapixel camera, which can take pictures in four resolutions (1,280x960, 640x480, 320x240, and 160x120), six white balance presets, four color effects, and you can capture pictures in either portrait or landscape mode. Other camera settings include a self-timer, shutter sounds (with a silent option), plus brightness. Photo quality was pretty decent, with crisp detail and not much blurriness. We did think the color was a little on the dark side, though.
Thanks to Verizon's Get It Now service, the Blitz has a number of personalization options at your fingertips. You can customize wallpapers, screensavers, and ringtones, simply by downloading graphics and sounds via the Web browser. The Blitz doesn't come with any games, but you can also download them via the Get It Now store.
We tested the Verizon Wireless Blitz (CDMA 800/1900; 1xRTT) in San Francisco using the Verizon Wireless network. Call quality was very good--callers heard us loud and clear and vice versa, with nary a static blip. Calls still sounded like they came from a cell phone (not nearly landline quality), but it was still pretty good. Speakerphone quality wasn't that great as it sounded pretty hollow and tinny on our end, but callers said we sounded almost the same, so we give that a positive score as well.
Music quality wasn't too bad, but as we said, the speakers aren't that great. We definitely recommend using a stereo headset to listen to your tunes.
The Verizon Wireless Blitz has a rated battery life of 4.7 hours of talk time and 11.7 days of standby time. According to our tests, it has a talk time of 4 hours and 36 minutes. According to the FCC radiation tests, the SAR rating is 1.19 watts per kilogram.