finally.  :)

The Motorola TX500 Bluetooth In-Car Speakerphone is extremely easy to pair with a smart phone and has excellent sound. For anyone looking to add basic hands free capability to their vehicle the TX500 is a great value.

Motorola has updated its line of Bluetooth 3.0 speakerphones with nicer lines and has made them even easier to use. When you turn on the TX500 a friendly voice walks you through the steps of pairing it to your phone. It really could not be easier. It literally takes seconds.

The sound quality is very good in both directions with the TX500. The 2 watt speaker has an EQ setting that sounds great right out of the box. The unit has a standby time of about 6 months and a talk time of 45 hours. We like that it gives us a battery status whenever it’s turned on so we can charge it if the battery is getting low. This was never an issue as we simply charged it on the weekend.

For under $50 it’s hard to go wrong with the Motorola TX500 and we recommend it to anyone looking for basic hands free capability with excellent sound.

Visit Motorola for more information about the TX500 and other speakerphones


If you want a really cool custom case for your iPhone, iPad or just some bamboo art to throw on the wall check out what the hipsters at Grove are doing in Portland OR.

One of our sound engineers showed up with this new design based on an image his brother created for him. He sent it to the folks at Grove and $130 and a couple of months later his case showed up. It’s a tight fitting custom bamboo work of art.

Yes, that’s a bit of change to pay for a case when you can pick up a basic Speck unit that will do the job for $20. However, it you plan on keeping your gadget for a while or want to surprise someone with a personalized case it’s pretty nice.

Grove has been around a while but we had never taken the time to actually check out a case. We were impressed at how tight fitting and solid it felt. Nice work out of Portland and worth considering if you want to splurge.

Visit Grove for more information.

The iPhone gets even more personality with the addition of Siri in the iPhone 4S. This new feature provides voice recognition with a bit of artificial intelligence and pre-programmed humor provided by Apple.

We recently read that someone was able to get Siri to answer ‘42’ to the question, “What is The Meaning of Life?” Of course the answer 42 is from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, one of our favorites and we were please with the shout out from Apple to the famed Douglas Adam book series. So to have some fun we started asking Siri all kinds of questions in sort of a Magic Eight Ball kind of way. Above is her answer to "What is the secret of life?" Interestingly, ask the same question multiple times and you'll get very different answers.

After the novelty of the quirky answers wore off we found Siri very helpful for basic tasks on the iPhone 4S and found the voice recognition very accurate. We've read reports of people having problems with Siri but have found it pretty seamless with no setup or training required in our use.

The other new thing we like about the 4S is the camera. It’s faster and the pictures are crisp and clean. Mind you it’s still a small lens and pictures require adequate light. So outside pics look the best. However, we’ve heard quite a few comments from casual picture takers that they no longer intend to carry a point and shoot camera with them now that they have this improved capability built into the phone. The Flip is dead maybe the sub $300 point and shoot is next.

iCloud is intriguing but we really tend to send photos and data around to other devices as needed to the automatic sync just isn’t that important. Also, iTunes is such a bloated app that it pains us to install it on any system. We get the whole integrated approach but just don’t like being forced to access and update the phone is such a controlled way. Good for the less technical? Sure.

Overall, hey, pretty simple. It’s an iPhone. It’s got the apps, beautiful design,integration…what else do you need to know? You either prefer iOS or Android.

Verizon is the only network we’ve experience good results with the iPhone. It doesn’t mean that will be the case where you live. So our recommendation is to get some empirical evidence from friends and family where you do most of your calling that confirms the provider in your area is rock solid with the iPhone.

Visit Apple for more information.
The Galaxy S2 is possibly the best smart phone on the market today. Performance is snappy and predictable and the display is unmatched in depth and color. It also has some clever UI features that make navigation easy and simple.

With Apple announcing the iPhone 4s instead of the iPhone 5 we think Samsung has an opportunity to dominate Q4 and with good reason. This phone rocks. The only downside to this phone in the US is it’s not available on the Verizon network. If it was, Motorola would have a big problem on its hands.

Samsung’s expertise stretches way beyond mobile devices. Most consumers know Samsung for its big screen TVs. This is the company that put DLP on the map. Samsung has particular expertise in making glass. From TVs, to flat panel PC screens, Samsung knows how to make glass.

You'll appreciate this incredible display and wonder at how Samsung did it with a device that doesn't feel like a tank in your hands.

Buying a smart phone this month? You owe it to yourself to check out the Samsung Galaxy S2. Dare we say, it might be worth even switching carriers to get it.

Visit Samsung for more information.
If you have an Android phone this is a handy FREE app. Essentially, you can browse, manage, delete, backup and move files to and from the internal phone memory, memory card and various cloud services.

Find out more and grab it here.

The Motorola Droid Bionic has a very compelling feature set and the battery life to let you enjoy it all. We fired up the Bionic at 7am and used it as our primary phone for calls, texting, internet, media capture and playback throughout the day until about 5pm with Bluetooth, WiFi and auto screen brightness enabled. We did this for a week and found a full charge could usually get us through the day with no special battery optimization settings. Of course, all batteries in all phones degrade over time but initially it’s a welcome and noticeable improvement over previous Motorola Droids with stock batteries.

The Droid Bionic feels solid in the hand and the glass is tough. We like the size and weight better than previous Motorola Droids. We can easily say this is our favorite Moto Droid yet.

The video is improved with full 1080p HD but keep in mind the lens is still tiny and the video still has a toy quality to it. However, it’s better than previous Droids and will suffice when your “real” video camera is not handy. The camera still lags quite a bit and we miss the shutter button from the original Droid X which seems to be gone for good. The free “Retro Camera” app is better for taking pics than the bundled camera app.

We’d like to see Motorola improve the accelerometer in the Droid series. These phones seem to get confused to easily and display horizontal when vertical and vice versa. We’d also like to see a bit more volume from the speakers so we can crank up the ring tones when we need to. The phone seems to have a little more volume but our old LG Chocolate Flip has a much louder ringer. Again, not that big a deal but sometimes in louder environments or crowds it’s handy to be able to crank it up.

Overall, we really like the Motorola Droid. Feels good, looks good, great call quality, easy to use, 1080p video, tough glass, solid OS, the Droid Marketplace and most importantly good battery life to actually let you enjoy all the features of the phone. This phone should do well for Moto and Verizon.

This is a brief clip we shot with the Droid Bionic when we stumbled on the Tesla interactive showroom at Santana Row in Silicon Valley.

Visit Motorola for more information.

The Droid 3 is a full featured Android phone that includes a full QWERTY keyboard. It’s built like a tank with quality glass, a metal bezel and good buttons. But you’ll notice the heft as it’s the heaviest phone in the Droid series. This is a phone that would be a good step up from a feature phone such as the LG EnV3 which was so popular a couple of years ago.

When we first started testing the Droid 3 we were annoyed by the density of the phone. However, having the full QWERTY keyboard along with a row of numbers at the top is ultra convenient and makes for a lot less typos, faster response times and overall more complete business communications on the go. The keyboard has a good feel to it and we found ourselves sliding it open more often than not. It’s interesting to note that even with the full keyboard the Droid 3 is just barely thicker than an iPhone.

The Droid 3 exhibited a little better performance compared to the Droid X and we were able to get a signal in some spots that the other Droids struggled with. It also seemed a bit more responsive and stable. Setting up corporate email and various accounts was improved and overall it’s a fairly consistent experience. The Gingerbread OS is more refined and user friendly.

When you don’t have your “real” camera with you the smartphone is the next best thing. For some people it’s the only thing. That’s why we’re so disappointed and surprised frankly that Motorola would neglect the user experience here. The specs are okay but it’s too slow. Startup time and snapping pics is so poky that it’s almost unusable. You’ll miss every Kodak moment. The camera experience is actually better on old feature phones like the aforementioned LG EnV3. When using the camera the Droid 3 doesn’t feel very smart at all.

So, it really boils down to the keyboard and how important that is. We know lots of consumers are using their phones exclusively for text and social media . Text a friend, snap a pic, post to Facebook…repeat. The Droid 3 may be very appealing to this group in spite of the poor camera performance.

Visit Motorola for more information and all the specs.

The Droid X2 is very similar to the original Droid X. It has an improved higher resolution display and dual-core processor but now lacks the dedicated camera button. Motorola ships the Droid X2 with version 2.2.2 of the Android OS. The default GUI has some subtle updates that make it a little cleaner and richer looking but it performs similar to the previous of the Droid X. Battery life is about the same but was never great to begin with. It’s requires a daily charge at least.

Aesthetically Motorola darkened the color of the soft touch paint on the back panel and the Droid X2 has an improved unified look. Mechanically, the battery cover seems to fit better and the micro USB port is more snug. We miss the dedicated camera button of the original Droid X.

In everyday use the Droid X2 feels a lot like the original Droid X. Yes, it's dual core but unless you're running multiple apps, games or jumping back and forth you won't notice much of a difference. The most noticeable change is the screen. It's qHD with 960x540 resolution. Colors are brighter and cleaner. Pictures look more vibrant. Gaming is more fun with the richer display combined with the Haptic feedback. Need For Speed Shift, bundled with the phone, looks and performs great as well as obligatory favorites such as Angry Birds. We like to see improvements in the speed to launch apps using optimized flash memory for games and for the camera and video apps so you don’t miss the action. Response time overall can be improved on a number of fronts.

Using the Droid X2 to browse the web is acceptable at 3G speeds. 4G would be nice but until battery technology and OS optimization can keep pace the hit on battery life is hard to live with. Just ask anybody with an HTC Thunderbolt.

We probably should mention it works just fine as a speaking device. Yes that’s what cell phones were originally designed to do. It’s funny how it’s become all about the apps but we probably communicate more with pics and text than anything else these days. So yes, call quality is good, Bluetooth synch is easy and the Droid X is a excellent quality phone.

We really enjoyed using Google Music on the Droid X. We also used apps to access our own media server. However, setting up Google’s offering was much simpler. It’s just one example of what’s happening in the cloud. Apple’s recent iCloud announcement is going to put even more focus on cloud based services and we expect Android developers to work toward a similar offering for Droid owners. Currently it’s still a bit cumbersome to use Verizon’s media software to synch pics and videos taken on the Droid to the PC.

If you’re in the market for a phone this summer the Droid X2 is a quality 3G choice and we’re eager to see how the Gingerbread OS will better utilize dual core technology and improve the overall experience. If you can wait until the fall, even better, as we’ve got big expectations for the Droid Bionic scheduled to be released before the holidays.

Visit Motorola for more information.
It’s big, it’s heavy and it’s fast. It’s really fast. The HTC Thunderbolt is a beast of a phone. Like an oversized beach cruiser it comes with its own kickstand. It has a huge screen, front and back cameras, and is one of the first smartphones that’s able to take full advantage of Verizon’s 4GLTE network.

But before we go any further let's get the bad news out of the way. The battery life, well, it sucks. With average use we can't even make it through an average work day. Now we know where the name comes form.  The thunderbolt requries serious power to keep it going.

Yes you can throttle back the features, use 3G...etc., but what's the point? If you buy the Cadillac of smart phones you want to enjoy all the bells and whistles. The Thunderbolt reminds us of our test drive with the first electric car, the EV1, we were constantly paranoid of running out of juice.

Now the good part. We fired it up side by side with the ATRIX on the AT&T network and consistently got 4X plus speed. Kind of felt like the jump from dial-up to high speed access on the home network. It’s the kind of speed difference you instantly notice. Pop open a browser and bam, there’s your content. Fire up the hotspot and you don’t feel like you’re on a cellular network. It’s very impressive. Over 3 days of testing in Orlando, Florida we averaged speeds of 7.4Mbps for downloads and 25.79 Mbps for uploads. Yes, uploads are much faster. It's curious to note we've had Verizon salespeople point out the outstanding upload speeds even though most users care more about the download speeds. Although with the obsession of sharing experiences in real time and uploading photos this is becoming more important.

Okay, maybe we’re getting a little too excited because as more 4GLTE phones get activated this will surely impact the experience. But if you’re an early adopter and speed is your number one priority you’re going to love the HTC Thunderbolt

We’ll hit you with an update in a month or so to let you know if this experience holds up over time and around the nation. But if you're in the market and portability is not an issue check one out to see if the ergonomics agree with you. The specs are a no brainer.

Visit Verizon for more information on the HTC Thunderbolt.
Bottom line: Conflicted.  I want to return the phone. In fact, I may do so this weekend. But in the end I may stay with it because of 4G and hotspot.

Why I switched from the iPhone
My old iPhone 3GS was old, cracked, and the radios where failing. I have owned an iPhone 3GS since its release in June of 2009 (and the iPhone 3 for 12 months before that). Setting aside the fact that a 20-month-old smartphone seems as ancient and outmoded as 1967 SS Chevelle, my old dear friend, the iPhone, just wasn’t cutting it.

I started to have feature envy. But my biggest gripe? I just wanted to reliably hold an old school hour-long phone conversation without dropping the call.
Why I chose the Motorola ATRIX

First it was the network.
I am a long-time customer of AT&T. I have read the engineering reports about AT&T’s superior network quality, and I believe droves of iPhone users sick of their iPhones performance will switch to Verizon. Ultimately, I just think a shift in market-share from AT&T to Verizon will enable AT&T customers to see better performance. After deciding what network I would use, I took a look at the smartphone offering.

Second, it was about 4G and hotspot
I needed a hotspot capability. See I have an iPad but it doesn’t have the 3G cellular data feature. I noticed my iPad changed the way I used my smartphone. I found myself using my iPad around the house, A-LOT! I was checking my calendar, my email, and updating my facebook on the iPad instead of on the phone. I was reading the news, and checking the weather on my iPad. I was using my iPad when I went out to eat (solo). I was watching movies and reading books. All things I used to do regularly on the smartphone. But I was limited, in that my iPhone didn’t have its own data capability. I had to find a WiFi hotspot, or I wasn’t connected. I needed to have a hotspot capability and I wanted to be surging at decent speeds. Oh, did I mention the ATRIX is 4G?

Third, it was about features
Like people used to look at my smartphone with envy, I noticed that I was looking at my friends and colleagues android phones with envy. I saw the high quality cameras. I saw how responsive the user interface was. I heard how configurable the android’s audible notifications where. I saw how large the screens where. I read the statistics and trends about how many people where moving to android. I was feeling that the iPhone was a little stale. How little they have evolved in my 3 years with them.

ATRIX Phone quality

Fit and finish
The phone itself isn’t ugly. It’s ok. The device feels a little sloppy. It’s like the difference between a child’s fake plastic bowling ball and a real bowling ball. You know the ole density thing. It’s not that things rattle around, it just feels a little, ah, “plastic” a little less “solid” than my old iPhone. Where I loathed covering my old iPhone up because I enjoyed its “industrial art” factor. I actually think the ATRIX’s look and feel improves with the “body glove” cover I have been using.

Battery life
Battery life with the ATRIX is horrible. Our funkyFresh editor and I have been at odds about the merits of a dual-core processor in a handheld smartphone for a few months. However, having lived with the dual core ATRIX for a while now and testing other modern Android devices, I just don’t feel or see the improved performance. However, I do see that my battery life sucks just as bad on the ATRIX as it did on my iPhone.

I like that I can swap the battery out without a visit to the surgical ward (as is required with an iPhone). But I don’t like that I can barely make to evening off an overnight charge. In my humble opinion, dual core in a phone is feature bloat. While on the subject of battery don’t get me started about the few times I have woken to an inexplicably un-charged phone that has been plugged in all night, is still plugged in, yet the phone indicates very little charge and that its not currently charging. WTF?


Voice calling and dropped calls
During phone conversations, people generally have noticed an improvement in sound quality over what they had been used to off my iPhone, reporting fairly frequently that my voice sounds “clear” and “close”. Background and wind noise have generally not been an issue. Echo’s and matrix style digital distortion have diminished some. But calls go silent for periods of time and drop too much. When the calls drop, they do so abruptly, and do so without any audible alert. So its tough to know when the silence you hear is because the connection has dropped (a hard failure) or when the connection exists but is temporarily unusable (a soft failure).

I do seem to get about 1 more “bar” of signal strength on average than what I used to get on my iPhone. However, this hasn’t translated into more reliable phone calls. In fact, I think I have had more frequent call drops (both hard and soft)on the ATRIX than I had on the iPhone. Note: my major gripe with the iPhone was dropped calls. Maybe those engineering studies just miss the mark. Are we simply asking too much to have wireless service that at least approaches POTS quality given that many of us don’t even have land lines any more? How about by 2015? 2020? What’s reasonable?

4g VS. 3g EDGE
WOW. 4G data is awesome. I regularly experience real world 2.5Mbps down. It does feel like there is some lag between when I click and when I begin to receive my data. But once the stream starts coming in, it comes fast. My downstream data speeds tend to be better with my 4G phone than my WIFI hotspot in the garage. (Note: this is because my WAP is in my garage on the far side of my house from family room and bedroom where I usually use the WIFI connection. This is NOT the case when I am near the WAP in my office or my garage)

Although 4G generally feels like a low quality WIFI experience it far exceeded my expectations. The old “EDGE” was pretty much worthless and I can’t got back. 4G is now a requirement for me.

Bluetooth sound quality is better on my ATRIX than it was on my iPhone. The Bluetooth data connection (my car has a feature that syncs with my smartphone when I start it) is about 20% faster. However the Bluetooth feature set on the ATRIX connection itself is buggy. I have lost pairings, and sometimes changing pairings caused the phone to crash. Sometimes I have missed calls I have tried to control off the attached Bluetooth device (my car and my headset).

Android OS

User experience is scattered
For me, behind the radios and the network, the next important thing on a smartphone is the user interface. It’s partially aesthetic and driven by art, colors, themes and wallpapers. But the most important thing is fast and intuitive access to everything.

I want what I want with as little work as possible. I don’t want to go through 3-4-5 levels of menus to get an answer. I don’t want to have to go to a hard key, to bring up a menu, to press a soft menu button to bring up some other menu, to choose another menu item, and then find a page that lets me do something.

Android has to be configured, a lot, to work
On the iPhone my calendar icon showed the date. I pressed the calendar icon to manage my calendar. On the Android, I have a calendar icon, but the date is static, it’s always set to “31”. If I want the date at a glance, I can run a widget that has the date in it, I can run live wallpaper that displays the date, I can open the calendar to see the date. But the iPhone solution was elegant, simple, effective, and best of all, I didn’t have to solve the problem. The UI gurus at Apple solved it for me. With Apple it just works. Now you might think that this is a very nitpicky thing to write about, and you would be correct. But multiply this gripe by 50 and the sum of those gripes leads me to conclude, that Android will continue to lag far behind Apple when it comes to user interface design.

Open OS
On the other hand, there is a lot to like about the openness of the Android OS. If you want that level of openness with an iPhone, you have to jailbreak and that’s just a plain old hack. With Android, you get built in freedom and openness. Plug your Android into your computer with a USB cord and your computer mounts the file system and gives you freedom tweak. I like this. I like the openness. I think it’s good. But I can’t stop eeling that this openness is the root cause of the sloppy and haphazard UI.

So Verizon how’s that 4G iPhone coming along?

-- Jeff Brock 
Jeff is an enterprise architect for  jetBLue and funkyfresh contributor.

Visit Motorola for more information.

Finally, we’ve got a level playing field for the iPhone and Droid to do battle. Verizon is set to unleash the iPhone 4 in early February and it couldn’t be better timing for Apple. The Droid platform is only getting hotter and how long are consumers going to put off that upgrade while those old flip phones and sliders feel even more out of date?

Motorola’s new Droid Bionic unleashed at CES has emerged as one of the front runners to take on the new iPhone 4 and both will be competing for customers on the Verizon network. This is going to be fun. Both offer a similar feature set and any kind of app you can imagine. So it’s going to boil down to ergonomics, call quality, corporate support and overall aspirations of the consumer. Are there still furry creatures set on getting “the iPhone 4 the 4geebees”, or are people starting to realize it’s become way bigger than just Apple’s offering. We think the latter mainly because of the hyper networked social network and the cloud. It’s more and more about speed and connectivity and less about touchy feely.

For the last several months we’ve been using both a Droid X and iPhone 3G all over the Bay Area. There are lots of dead spots with the iPhone on the AT&T network as everyone knows but it’s not just AT&T. We tested a hacked iPhone and still encountered some connectivity issues. The Droid X has yet to drop a call outside and only a couple of times in the bowels of some companies in Silicon Valley.

The iPhone generally “feels” better and provides a better overall experience from an app perspective even if it’s a little slower. The Droid X is flat out fast, does everything and just needs to be refined. One example is the accelerometer. The Droid X never seems to get this right and is a source of constant frustration. The iPhone usually gets the orientation correct even if it’s slower to make the correction.

Anyway, we’ll be using both the Droid Bionic and iPhone 4 and test all our known dead spots to see how both phones perform. The iPhone will be 3G initially but who cares. If it does all the great stuff the iPhone does and makes calls that actuall stay connected that won't matter. Verizon is rolling out 4G LTE with several phones but consumers just want to know it makes good calls, takes good pics, and plays nice with social networks. At a recent focus group we couldn't find one person that cared about calling and texting or video conferencing at the same time.

This looks to be an extraordinary year for the evolution of smart phone technology and Verizon, provided its network is up to the task, is likely to get a spike in new customers that have been sitting on the fence waiting for the iPhone 4. Stay tuned.

Visit Motorola for more information about the Droid Bionic.
Visit Apple for more information about the iPhone4.

The Motorola DROID 2 is smaller and denser than the Droid X so it’s a little easier to slide into your pocket. Having the slide out keyboard is great. It’s still a little small for our liking but so much easier to use than a touch screen for banging out quick texts.

The Android OS really started to explode this past summer. There isn’t a single app we love on the iPhone that we can’t find on the Android OS. Angry Birds was pretty much the tipping point for the Android OS. Don’t laugh. We’re half serious. From music services to retro camera effects and everything else that enamored us with the iPhone so early on, DROID does and does it very well.

Call clarity is good. No dropped calls during our testing. Thank you Verizon. How’s that iPhone deal coming along? Certainly you can negotiate better terms and smaller subsidies because you really don’t need the iPhone or do you?

The DROID 2 has room for improvement. It’s too heavy. It’s not a deal breaker but it’s a little too heavy. The camera needs to be better and faster. People really are using these things as their “camera”. Make it boot and shut down faster. Nobody likes to wait.

With the Android OS hitting its stride we can’t wait to see how this market evolves in the next few months.

Visit Motorola for more information.

Pick it up for your iPhone free this weekend only.  Here is the link to the promotion on iTunes.

The DROID X from Motorola could not have launched at a better time. With Apple in turmoil over its flawed antenna design in the new iPhone4, the market is ripe for competing smart phones that may not have the elegance of an iPhone but still pack a punch, and guess what,  work really great as an actual phone.

I run into people in Silicon Valley that carry an iPhone and a second phone for voice calls. Often the iPhone is issued through work and the second phone is on the Verizon network. We all know the reason why. The iPhone is an incredible little portable computer but tends to drop calls.  If your cell phone is your lifeline you just can’t tolerate dropped calls.   Whether AT&T or the iPhone is to blame is moot. 

Like other Android phones before it the DROID X from Motorola on the Verizon network makes a pretty compelling case to handle all the necessary mobile tasks for consumers in North America.

The DROID X is big and at first glance simply looks cumbersome. But we’re happy to say it’s actually very comfortable to hold and doesn't feel to heavy for its footprint.  The soft touch paint makes it easy to hold and it’s not slippery like the iPhone. We rarely used protective cases for our phones because they usually become antiquated about the same time we tend to break them.  The DROID X feels solid and should make it through Verizon's "New Every Two" plan no sweat.

Our initial impression of the DROID X is a good one. It’s fast, sounds good, makes a great media player with the large screen and is easy to carry and handle despite its large size. Navigating the menus and fiddling with apps or grabbing pictures and video is nowhere near as elegant as using the iPhone. Of course, if the DROID X came before the iPhone we'd be saying how slow and quirky the iPhone feels by comparision. However, once you get used to the flow on the DROID X the quickness and multitasking mask some of the ergonomic challenges.  Plus it doesn't hurt that it's on the Veizon network.  We'll add more to this review after we've lived with the DROID X for a while.  It's certainly a device that makes you want to dive in deeper and that's a really good sign for both Motorola and Verizon.

Okay, after using the DROID X for a while we've discovered a major flaw in the design, the battery cover. It pops off way too easily.  Be careful because this is easy to lose. 

Visit Motorola for more information.

Visit Motorola for more information.

The LG enV3 is a 3G multimedia phone that’s a nice step up from a basic flip phone, especially for anyone interested in primarily talk and text.

The LG enV3 has a nice set of features that includes a full compact QWERTY keyboard that makes it perfect for texting. It’s not too big and can easily be slid into a front pocket. The buttons, hinge and overall feel of the phone is very solid. Call quality is very good and Bluetooth synching was a breeze.

The LG enV3 is a Verizon BREW based phone. BREW is the operating system you find on many of the mid-range Verizon phones. It offers most of the functionality you’ll find in a smart phone but isn’t nearly as elegant or intuitive. But if talking and texting is your thing, who cares?

Audio quality is very good on the enV3. Simply open the phone and use it like a little portable clock radio for background music. It’s surprisingly clear albeit with no low end of course. Nonetheless it’s a good little music player and supports a wide range of formats.

Where the LG enV3 needs serious improvement is with the camera. It’s just not very good. No matter the setting, indoors or out, still pics or video we just weren’t happy with the results. Content just always looked murky. We’re not asking for much, just a clean clip we can send to friends and family.

So if talk and text is your thing and you’re tired of pecking through letters on your flip phone you’ll be very happy with the LG enV3. However, if you’ve got iPhone on the brain and envy, pun intended, the owners of this battery sucking wonder you may want to consider some other smart phone options.

Visit Verizon for more information.
This T215 Speakerphone from Motorola is a great Bluetooth accessory for anyone looking for the fastest and easiest way to be up and running with a hands free setup that doesn’t require sticking anything in your ears.

We love the T215. It’s easy to setup, sounds great and the price is right. We’ve seen it under $50 at a variety of online merchants.

We tested the T215 during rush hour on Interstate 280 here in Silicon Valley. Our team was very impressed with the call quality on both ends of the call. The speaker is plenty loud and both ends of the conversation could be heard loud and clear. A bit of wind and road noise can be heard but overall very good sound.The controls are simple and easy to figure out without the manual and the built in visor clip holds the unit nice and tight. 

The T215 is slated for 36 hours of talk time. The battery indicator goes from green to red when it’s time for a recharge. The T215 includes a car charger and can charged indoors as well using a standard micro USB charge that ships with many popular phones including our test unit the LG Env3.

For the technically challenged or not this is a really great offering from Motorola at a very reasonable price. If you’re looking for a painless Bluetooth setup and just can’t stand those obnoxious headsets that always seem to fall out at the wrong time or irritate your ears check out the T215.

Visit Motorola for more information.
We have waited a long time for a quality camera phone above 5 megapixels, and that time has finally come. The Samsung Memoir from T-Mobile packs a World Class 8 Megapixel Camera. A clever design gives this device a split personality depending on which face you have forward. It's not a softkey function but a conscious design choice to call out very clearly the Memoir's capabilities. So much so that you may be wondering, "Is this a slick little camera with a whole lot of smart phone technology or a full blown smart phone with a really good camera?" Samsung has managed to do a little bit of both.

When you first pick up the Memoir it feels solid and comfortable in the hand. Overall the Samsung Memoir is a nice combination of form and function. It really feels like a luxury device with the metal side caps and leather like finish at the bottom. It has all the important hard buttons you would need for a touch screen phone. We like buttons. It has keys for Talk, End, Back, Volume, Camera, and Lock.

Samsung did a great job with the user interface on this device. It has a side bar that the user can use to send widgets to the home screen. Samsung refers to this as their TouchWiz interface. They even integrate T-Mobile MyFaves into the widget bar, making it less intrusive on the home screen. With everything on the home screen there almost isn’t a need to go into the Main Menu. The accelerometer transitions with a snap as well when rotating the phone to type messages. The on screen Qwerty touch key board was very easy to use and relatively error-free. The camera and video player are very easy to use. For a phone and high end camera combined it does a great job. The pictures are amazing with very sharp and accurate images. It even supports geo-tagging your pics if you want to know the location where you shot them. The xenon flash and automatic camera lens cover definitely helps when you are using it as a phone. Samsung did a great job of integrating Flickr, Kodak, Photobucket, and Snapfish into the camera and gallery for easy uploading of pictures to your favorite site.

On the phone side, call quality seemed to perform very well in the San Francisco area. Calls sounded good on both ends. It's funny but we know lots of our friends in Silicon Valley that have smart phones but constantly complain about the voice quality. Kind of important to get this right. After all, it is a phone first. Yes we dig all the smart phone stuff but if the voice quality's not there, game over. So good sounding phone calls and the Memoir also supports T-Mobile’s 3G network. We didn't do extended tests here but it seemed plenty fast when browsing with the full HTML web browser.

So, who really needs an 8 megapixel camera phone? Well, as far as we can tell just about anyone that can get their hands on one. I've got countless examples of friends and family with digital SLRs and pocket cameras that still rely on their cell phones more than anything else for taking candid shots. Why? Because it's always with them. When your kid is doing something for the first time at the neighborhood park it's nice to be able to take a quality shot. With the Memoir, you always have a formidable image grabber with you.

Which brings us to storage. The microSD slot makes it easy to pop in a memory card for extra storage for music, video, pics and anything else you might want to store on your Memoir and it's compatible with the 16GB microSD cards. To put that in perspective that's nearly 4 DVDs worth of data, on something the size of your pinky fingernail. With an 8 megapixel camera you'll appreciate this feature real quick.

Overall, the Samsung Memoir is not only one of the best camera phones on the market, but a very capable Smartphone as well. We're looking forward to the evolution of this line.

Visit Samsung for more information.
The MOTOROKR S9-HD Wireless Stereo headphones sound pretty darn good and plenty loud. We tested them with several Bluetooth handsets and were impressed with the range as well as the quality. The headphones are the in-ear type and are fairly comfortable for short periods of use.

These would not be our preferred headphones when it comes to comfort. We don’t care for in-ear headphones unless their custom made. However, if you’re the type that finds in-ear phones comfortable you may find yourself quite impressed with the S9s.

Cords are no fun, especially when working out. Of course, a decent set of corded phones is less than $20. The MOTOROKR S9-HD headphones are about 5x the price and that’s a pretty steep premium to pay, not to mention you now have to worry about charging your MP3 player or cell phone and your headphones. The first time you’re at the gym and your headphone battery conks out you’ll be reaching for the corded phones sans battery.

That being said, we still love the design of the S9s. It’s an impressive amount of technology packed into a sturdy and well designed accessory. This is one of the first times we’ve really taken Bluetooth seriously when it comes to high fidelity audio.

We can’t wait to see how this lineup evolves and how long it will be before we can get this kind of performance in a $29.99 SKU. Until then, if you got the cash check out the MOTOROKR S9-HD headphones and see if you find them comfortable. It’s the next step in a truly cordless world.

Visit Motorola for more information about wireless accessories.