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Motorola ZN5 hands-on

CNET editors get to poke and prod the Motorola ZN5 at CTIA Fall 2008.

Moto's handset division has a tiny presence at CTIA Fall 2008 but that didn't stop the Motorola ZN5 from lurking at the company's table at a press event. Ever since the ZN5 was announced in June and then cleared the FCC the next month, we've been waiting with bated breath to get our hands on the fancy camera phone. We still don't have a review model, so we relished our opportunity Wednesday night to give it a short shakedown.

Check out our Motorola ZN5 slide show.

On the outside it's a beautiful device with a sleek profile and an understated style. I liked the dark gray color scheme that's nicely offset with a couple touches of purple. The handset feels great in the hand--both sturdy and comfortable without being exclusively hefty (5.65 inches by 1.98 inches by 0.47 inch; 4.02 ounces). The gorgeous display takes up almost half of the phone's front face. Graphics and colors were sharp and it has the same simple but easy-to-use interface that we saw on the Motorola Rokr E8.

I particularly liked the circular toggle on the navigation array, which has a nice tactile feel that compensates for its relatively small size. I had no issues navigating through menus or controlling different functions. The remaining controls are flush but their spacious arrangement makes them user-friendly.

The keypad buttons are also flush but they feature the same tiny silver bumps that we saw on the Rokr E8. That gives them a bit of a tactile feel for dialing and texting quickly. Also, the bright backlighting should help in dim situations.

The Motorola ZN5 is a conversation piece. Nicole Lee/CNET Networks

On the side of the ZN5 are a volume rocker, a 3.5mm headset jack, a micro USB port, and a camera shutter key. Turn it over and you'll find the bright flash and the sliding camera lens cover. Opening the cover starts the camera automatically.

Remember that the ZN5 is all about photography. Moto got help from Kodak to produce the 5-megapixel shooter, from the design of the camera itself to a seamless integration with Kodak's EasyShare Software and the online Kodak Gallery. You can find details on the camera here, but it's worth noting that it offers many of the same features you'd find on a standalone shooter.

We gave the camera a quick spin and were especially impressed with the panorama mode. After you take the first shot for your panorama, the phone will vibrate until you move it to the correct position for the next shot. Once you're there, the camera will snap the next image automatically. There's no reason for you to try to struggle with lining up a tree in the backgrounds. It's a nifty feature that bodes well for the camera as a whole.

Moto is promising that we'll get a review unit in the next few weeks and we're counting the days until then. North American availability is still under wraps but we couldn't help but notice that the ZN5 that we played with was running on a T-Mobile SIM card? Coincidence? We think not.