Tuesday, February 07, 2006

SLVR - Same Poor UI in a Cool Package

I had a chance to play with a Motorola SLVR today. If you haven't heard of or seen this phone yet it's the new iTunes phone offered by Cingular. It's a candybar style phone that incorporates the RAZR keypad. Unfortunately it also incorporates the RAZR UI. But I'll get to that in a minute.

The form factor is great. Slim, lightweight, fits nicely in a pocket. Screen is nice and big, and resolution is good enough. Sound quality is nice - I played a couple tunes and streamed a Mobilcast or two through it and with the ear buds it was about as good as my iPod. I made a phone call and it was just fine as well on both ends.

The iTunes interface is identical to the ROKR. Not nearly as good as an iPod, but clean enough to be useful.

The rest of the UI, however, is close to unusable. When on the main screen of a RAZR, when you hit the toggle you get the 4 most recently used folders. The stay on the screen for a couple seconds and you select the one you want. With the SLVR you hit the toggle and are taken immediately to a folder. It felt like dealer's choice. I wanted to get to games and apps, but kept ending up in settings. It was frustrating.

My pet peeve on a Motorola phone is the contact list, which doesn't function like any reasonable user would expect. Most of my contacts have 2-3 numbers associated with them. I can put all those numbers into a single contact and select the one I want to dial. With a SLVR I have to have a separate instance of the contact for each number. Which means I can have fewer contacts than in any of my other phones.

I also had a hard time finding the games and apps folder from the main menu. It was buried two levels down, maybe because they want iTunes to be the only app at the top level. Because Mobilcast installs to games and apps, though, I have a selfish interest in having that folder at the top level.

Oh, and in case it wasn't clear enough Mobilcast seems to run OK on the SLVR. I caveat that by saying that I did not run it through the full test matrix. But I was able to download the app and stream a couple podcasts. We will run a full text matrix soon.

The bottom line - if you want a sexy phone that plays music this would be a good tool. If you're looking for a more useful device that you can use as a business phone, you'd be better off with other options.

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