Verizon Wireless made a number of smartphone announcements at CTIA 2008, and we're slowly seeing the roll out of the new devices, the first being the Verizon Wireless XV6900. Available now for $249.99 (with a two-year contract and after rebates), the XV6900 is basically the HTC Touch with Verizon's branding. It does get a fresh coat of paint and the overall look is quite pleasing to the eye. However, beauty can only get you so far. While the core functions and features--Windows Mobile 6, Bluetooth, EV-DO--remain intact and general performance was good, the Sprint HTC Touch is a better value as it offers preloaded instant-messaging clients and support for the carrier's multimedia services, whereas the XV6900 does not. Therefore, if you're not locked into a contract, we'd recommend going with Sprint's version.
The Verizon Wireless XV6900 will certainly wow your friends and onlookers. Forgoing the usual black, the XV6900 comes in a striking white color, which, when combined with the handset's sleek, smooth pebble-like look, makes it a real stunner. The Verizon red that accents some of the icons on the user interface is quite eye-catching, as well. However, one thing that you lose is the soft-touch finish, so the handset is a bit slick. Otherwise, it's like the Sprint Touch, carrying a footprint of 3.9 inches high by 2.3 inches wide by 0.5 inch deep and 3.9 ounces.
The XV6900's touch screen measures 2.8 inches diagonally with a 64,000 color output and 320x240 pixel resolution. Of course, like the other Touches, the XV6900 features HTC's TouchFLO interface, which lets you rotate through the various menus with the swipe of your finger. For example, dragging your finger from the bottom of the screen to the top edge brings up a menu of popular apps and utilities, such as e-mail, Internet Explorer, and the Communication Manager. You can then swipe right to left (or vice versa) to get to your Contacts list and multimedia files.
The TouchFlo functionality works well, but what about the issue of text entry? Well, like the Sprint version, there's an option of a 20-button QWERTY keyboard that mimics the SureType keyboards found on some BlackBerry devices. The virtual keys are large enough that most people should be able to use a thumb to tap the buttons. If you still have problems, there's also a 12-button alphanumeric dial pad, much like the one you'd find a regular cell phone. We tried both and dialing numbers was easy, and the touch screen was quite responsive, but typing text messages and e-mails took a bit more time with all the multitapping. Other input methods include Block Recognizer, Letter Recognizer, Transcriber, or a miniscule full QWERTY keyboard.
Since you'll be performing most of the phone's functions via the touch screen, the XV6900 has minimal external controls. Below the display, you'll find two simple Talk and End keys and a navigation toggle with center select button. There's a volume rocker on the left side, while the stylus, microSD expansion slot, and camera activation/capture key are on the right side. Like the other models, however, accessing the expansion slot requires that you remove the battery cover and then flipping open the protective flap. On the back, you'll find the camera lens, self-portrait mirror, and speaker. Finally, a lone power button sits on top and a mini USB port and reset button are on the bottom of the unit.
The Verizon Wireless XV6900 comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a USB splitter, an extra stylus, a soft protective pouch, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
Fancy packaging aside, the Verizon Wireless XV6900 is your standard Windows Mobile 6 smartphone. It runs the Professional Edition of the mobile operating system with the full Office Mobile Suite so you can create, view, and edit Word and Excel documents and read PDFs and PowerPoint presentations. You also get the enhanced Calendar functions and new task shortcuts. However, as Verizon has done with its other Windows smartphones, the carrier stripped out the Windows Live integration, which is unfortunate. Other PIM tools and utilities include Adobe Reader, a task manager, a voice recorder, a calculator, and a notepad.
The XV6900 ships with Microsoft's Direct Push Technology out of the box for real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts via Exchange Server. You can also sign up for Verizon Wireless Sync e-mail solution. For personal e-mail, the smartphone also supports POP3 and IMAP accounts, but now you can also view e-mails in their original HTML format, regardless of account type. There's a wizard to help you configure your device to retrieve messages. We used it to access our Gmail account and had no problems. Sadly, the Verizon Wireless XV6900 doesn't come preloaded with any instant-messaging clients, unlike Sprint's Touch, which comes with AIM, Yahoo, and Windows Live Messenger.
As a phone, the XV6900 offers a speakerphone, smart dialing, voice commands, three-way calling, call forwarding, and text and multimedia messaging. The address book is only limited by the available memory, and each entry can store multiple numbers, home and work addresses, e-mail, IM screen name, birthday, spouse's name, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can pair a contact with a photo, a caller group, or one of 18 polyphonic ringtones.
The smartphone has integrated Bluetooth 2.0 with support for mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets, hands-free kits, serial port, and dial-up networking. It does not, however, support object transfer. Also, the DUN capabilities will require a subscription to one of Verizon's BroadbandAccess plans, which start at $15 per month. The XV6900 is also EV-DO capable to bring you data speeds of around 300Kbps to 600Kbps with the potential to hit 2.4Mbps for faster Web browsing, downloads, and smooth media streams. As Verizon has done with its other business-centric smartphones, the carrier chose not to include support for its V Cast music and video services. Meanwhile, the Sprint HTC Touch is compatible with the carrier's various entertainment services--just saying.
Fortunately, there are other modes of entertainment on the XV6900. As with other Windows Mobile devices, you get Windows Media Player 10 Mobile so that you can listen to and view AAC, MP3, WAV, WMA, MPEG-4, WMV, and other music and video files. If you have TV shows recorded on your Windows Media Center PC, you can transfer them to your device for on-the-go viewing. We should note that the XV6900 has 128MB RAM and 256MB ROM with about 140MB user available storage and 70MB for programs. The microSD slot can accept up to 8GB cards.
The XV6900 also has a 2-megapixel camera with 8x zoom and autofocus. There are five resolution options and four quality settings for still images. For getting the best shot, you have several tools available to you: flicker adjustment, white-balance settings, and brightness controls. You can also add various effects to your shot. In video mode, you only get two resolutions but have similar editing controls.
Picture quality was pretty awful. Objects looked a bit fuzzy, but we had more issue with the color. Even after fiddling with the white-balance settings, colors had an orange tone, and there's a bit of shutter delay so don't move too quickly after snapping your shot. Videos were worse as they looked grainy and barely watchable. Needless to say, the XV6900 isn't the best camera phone.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 850/1900; EV-DO) Verizon Wireless XV6900 in San Francisco and call quality was good. On a couple of occasions, there was a slight background hiss on our end, but for the most part, we enjoyed clear audio and plenty of volume. Our friends didn't have too many complaints, though they said we sounded somewhat tinny. The speakerphone was decent, but there was some voice distortion. Finally, we were able to pair the XV6900 with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones without any problems.
General performance was typical of a Windows Mobile device. Overall, the XV6900 was responsive but could get bogged down when we had numerous applications open. Web browsing, however, was swift, thanks to the EV-DO speeds. Music playback through the phone's speakers sounded a bit tinny and lacked bass. Video playback wasn't bad; as expected, there was some slight pixilation, but audio and images were always synchronized.
The Verizon Wireless XV6900's 1,880 mAh lithium ion battery has a rated talk time of 5.6 hours and up to 17 days of standby time. The XV6900 failed to meet the rated talk time in our battery drain tests with just 4 hours on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the XV6900 has a digital SAR rating of 1.25 watts per kilogram.