Review of the Motorola V60g


The Motorola V60g is a mall clamshell GSM phone that is similar to the V66, but has a metal skin instead of plastic. The V60g is functionally identical to the V66, so I will use various portions of my V66 review word for word where applicable.

Last Updated: 16-May-2002

Before reading this review, please read Some Thoughts on Phone Reviewing.

Menu System and General

Motorola must have sent their programmers on a crash course, because the menu system in the V60g is light years more advanced than in their earlier phones. Now before we get carried away though, I should note that they still have to improve their design before it can rival the menus of a Nokia phone.

That said however, the V60g (and most of the other new Motorola phones) has one unique feature that makes it almost fun to use. You can assign virtually any menu or sub-menu item in the phone to a 1- or 2-digit numeric shortcut. So while Nokia phones might have fixed numeric shortcuts, they are sometimes 3, 4, or even 5 digits long. In recent Nokia designs such as the 7190, the numeric menus arenít properly implemented, and they only apply to about 50% of the menus in the phone.

Secondary menus are abundant, but they donít contain quite as many options as youíll typically find on a Nokia phone. Itís somewhat better than the Ericsson R520 and T39 in this regard, but not incredibly so. Nokia still wins in this department.

And customization doesnít stop there. You can assign any of the top-level menu items to the two soft keys during idle mode. As for the main menu itself, you can even change the order of the menu items so that the ones you access the most can appear at the top (or the bottom, since thatís easy to get to as well), while the least used ones can be dumped in the middle.

Continuing on the customization front, Motorola has also implemented something very similar to Nokiaís Profiles. There are 5 profiles you can choose from, and each one allows you to set ringer volume and type, as well as keypad volume. One very nice feature is the ability to independently assign the incoming call ringer, the incoming SMS ringer, the Datebook alarm, and the message waiting alarm to any of the ringtones provided by the phone. With Nokia, you can only assign the incoming call ringer to a ring tone, while everything else gets a severely limited selection of beeps.

Unlike the P280 and the V66 however, the V60g does not have the four-way key (or joystick). It has only up and down keys, meaning you forego any of the functionality provided by the left and right keys. This isnít quite as bad as it sounds, since I never felt that Motorola implemented the sideways buttons as well as they might have.

The phone provides a wide array of musical and traditional ring tones, and it provides 32 slots for user-defined ring tones, which are entered from the keypad in a manner very similar to Ericsson. I used the tone editor to create my own high-volume beep alerts for incoming SMS and for my Datebook alarms. With only a small amount of mental conversion, you could easily enter a ringtone designed for an Ericsson phone. There are plenty of them out there. Unfortunately, the ringer isnít anywhere near as loud as it should be, and is noticeably softer than the P280.

Changing from one profile to another does take a few more keystrokes than with a typical Nokia phone, but if you assign an appropriate numeric shortcut, it isnít really that bad. Once you get used to it, itís actually quite easy. If all you need to do is change the ringer volume though, you can easily do that by merely pressing the volume up or down keys while the phone is idling.

The screen is much better than the one on the V66, and unlike either the P280 or the V66, the V60g has an electro-luminescent backlight. Like many of that type of backlight however, it produces a high frequency buzzing sound that interferes slightly with the audio. I personally donít like it, but you might not find it as annoying as I do. The V60's display also has a reflective background, which makes it easier to see in various lighting conditions than either the P280 or the V66.

The phone supports two font sizes, which can be easily changed with only two keystrokes. The small font is rather skinny looking, but fairly easy to read. The larger font is quite easy to read, but you get only 2 lines of text when you select it. Even the small font only gives you 3 lines of text. It looks like Motorola had the space to put a taller screen in there, but for whatever reason, they chose not to.

The keypad is also a great improvement over the V66. Gone are the tiny little buttons at the top, which made the V66 a royal pain to use. Keypad feel is excellent for the most part, and it is a surprisingly easy keypad to manipulate. Some may even find it preferable to the keypad on the P280.

I didnít try running the battery down to see how long it would last, but my overall impression of battery life was reasonably positive. However, keep in mind that the battery on the V60g is smaller than the one in the P280, and so you will probably get only 50 to 60 percent of the battery life you get from the P280.

Speaking of battery life, you can choose to turn the backlight off all the time, or you can choose to turn it on all the time. There is also a selection of on times that you can pick from. It is a common complaint that Nokia phones donít allow their backlight to be turned off to save battery power. Turning off the backlight also does away with the potentially annoying buzz it causes.

In terms of size, the V60g is among the smallest phones you can get right now. However, it weighs 3.8 ounces, and that make it heavier than the P280 (which weighs 3.5 ounces). The extra weight is probably the result of using a metal skin on the phone.

The earpiece is quite comfortable, and it avoids the problem that bugged me about the V66. The V60g opens up to a greater angle than the V66, and so it does not press against my cheek, even when I push the earpiece against my ear. In that respect, it is a much more comfortable phone than the V66.

Sound Quality and RF Performance

When it comes to sound quality, the V60g is a match to the P280. That is to say, perhaps the best out there. Its tonal balance is near perfect, and it reproduces every nuance of your callerís voice with astonishing clarity. It also has virtually no background noise, and the usual background rustle you get from the network is also tamed extremely well.

Earpiece volume is not bad, but it isnít as loud as the P280. At full volume, the V60g is approximately as loud at the P280 with the level set to 5 or 6 (out of 7). I didnít find this objectionable for the most part, but in a very noisy environment, this would certainly be a drawback.

Unlike earlier StarTac models, the V60g does not include any tabs on the side to aid in flipping it open. Subsequently, it was a horrendously difficult phone to open using just one hand. The phone could be dialed with one hand, and it didnít feel as top-heavy as the V66.

We next get to the RF performance of the V60g, and youíve no doubt heard some people telling you that it is as good as the P280. I could not back up that claim, but the performance of the V60g is not bad.

I was fortunately enough to have a chance to test two V60g and two P280 models simultaneously, thus eliminating any concern that the models I was using were exceptional (or poor) examples of their kind. Both P280 models performed identically, and both V60g models were also identical in performance.

The V60g gave up some RF sensitivity to its sister phone the P280, but by and large, the performance of the V60g is quite good. Those of you who read the original incarnation of this review will note that I wasn't very pleased with the RF performance of the V60g, but at that time I'd been unable to test one directly against the P280.

Handoffs are handled very graciously by blanking the audio, just as you get with the P280. But what makes the Motorola approach better than the Siemens S40 (which I griped about in my review)? Unlike the S40, the V60g blanks for very short periods of time, and quite often those blanks are hardly detected by your brain. The blanks on the S40 are excruciatingly long, and as such they are annoying.

Network recovery has always been a strong point of all Motorola GSM phones. Like its predecessors, the V60g has a menu option for selecting the way the phone scans for the network once it looses the signal. You can choose, slow, medium, fast, or continuous. In continuous mode, you can regain the network within SECONDS of coming out of a no-signal area. This even applies if the phone has locked onto the competing network in the meantime. It beats the pants off of any other make of GSM phone Iíve tested under those circumstances.

Features

The phone supports voice dialing, and voice commands. The voice-dialing feature is pretty much what youíd expect, and so I canít really say much about that. However, the voice-commands feature was of dubious value, especially in light of the user-define numeric shortcuts. To use the voice-command feature you have to first press the menu button on the front of the phone, and then the voice dial button on the side of the phone. Since you can assign two-keystroke numeric shortcuts, whatís the point of pressing two keys just to say the name of the command you want? I guess they werenít thinking when they designed that one.

They were thinking when they designed the voice recorder though. It can be used to record your own dictations outside of a phone call, or it can be used to record a phone conversation. Unlike other phones Iíve tried with voice recorders, it actually records both sides of the conversation. You can also erase voice recordings independently of one another.

Like the V2282, the V60g supports an FM radio, but unlike the V2282, the radio itself it not built into the phone. All that the phone actually supports is a user interface to an external FM radio headset that you can purchase separately. The V2282 had the radio itself built into the phone, so all you needed was a standard stereo headset.

For data access, the phone supports GPRS. You can use GPRS for connecting your laptop or palm device to the Internet, or you can use the micro browser on the phone in GPRS mode. The V60g supports serial and USB connections to your computer, but it does not support IR or Bluetooth, so youíll have to use a cable.

Like the P280, the V60g shares a host of weaknesses and software bugs. Weíll begin with the Phonebook, which isnít really all that great compared to other phones coming on the market now. Although the phone will store up 500 names and numbers, the utility of this Phonebook is rather limited.

It is not a hierarchical structure as we find on the 7190 or even the CDMA Timeport. It looks as though it supports multiple numbers per name, but all it really does is create a duplicate entry with a different icon. Given that, Iíd rather uniquely name those entries, such as ďSteve (Fido)Ē, ďSteve (Home)Ē, ďSteve (Work)Ē, etc. You can still apply an icon, even to independent entries.

You canít tell the phone to hide the entries in the SIM, so if you copy a SIM entry into the phone to take advantage of the slightly longer name field, the type icon, or voice dialing, then you end up with two entries in your Phonebook. There also appears to be a bug concerning SIM entries with phone numbers longer than 20 digits. Even though the SIM has stored those longer numbers, they donít ďloadĒ into the V60g correctly.

The phone book does not support any text data other than the name. That means no street addresses, and no e-mail addresses. I didnít find this a great hardship myself, but others might rely on such information in their Phonebooks. As for sending e-mail, I prefer to do so through a good quality gateway such as eXcell or Me43, where I can create shortcuts for my most commonly used e-mail addresses anyway.

The phone supports Predictive Text Input, but not T9. It instead supports Motorolaís own iTAP technology. This wouldnít be so bad if the V60g also supported a user dictionary, but it doesnít. If the word you want isnít in the dictionary, you have to enter it manually (each and every time). Having said that though, iTAP is certainly better than no predictive text input at all, and itís available at virtually all the text input prompts on the phone (unlike the T9 implementations in Nokia phones for example).

SMS handling was so-so, and coupled with the tiny little screen, and a general lack of features, it receives my usual ďprimitiveĒ rating. Message entry is handled through a two-field ďNew MessageĒ screen. While this seems odd at first, it really does seem to make a lot of sense once you use it a bit.

The inbox shows the first 10 or 12 characters of each message, rather than a pointless list of dates and times, or recipient phone numbers. The 7190 does this so long as the person sending the message isnít in your phone book. Once you start reading messages, you can use the cursor keys to jump through each message without returning to the inbox menu first.

It doesnít support user-defined mailboxes like the 7190 and 8390, but no other phones do that anyway. However, unfinished messages can be stored in a ďDraftsĒ folder, where they can be edited and/or sent at a later date. The folder even remembers the phone number you were going to send it to. Messages that are sent are automatically copied into the Outbox, where they can be re-sent with just a couple of keystrokes. However, you canít edit the text of a message once it's in the Outbox, which was a huge disappointment.

Finally, the V60g includes three relatively lackluster games. One of them is nothing more than a poor excuse for Pong, though the Blackjack and a Mastermind variant (called MindBlaster) are okay. The tiny screen makes them a pain to play compared to the P280 (which wasnít much of a game machine either).

Recommendations

In summary then, the V60g is a good phone, but since it doesn't offer anything over its less expensive sister phone the P280 (other than size), I can't really recommend to anyone other than those who just have to own a small clamshell unit. The rest of us are going to find it wanting in some key areas. At such a high price, what are you getting for your money?

On the positive side:

- A small clamshell design
- A good keypad design
- Decent sound quality

On the negative side, you get:

- Slightly poorer RF performance compared to the P280
- No IR Port
- Tiny screen
- Less earpiece volume

So, unless you count yourself among those who would give their right arm to own a small clamshell design, then you should look at something else. However, the V60g does come through with a good keypad, good visibility on the screen, and better ergonomics than the V66, and it's a reasonably good phone.

Other Reviews of the Motorola v60g

Howard Chui

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