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Motorola SLVR

Motorola SLVR Phone and Samsung SPH-a900

By Jim Bray

How do you follow up a resounding success? Well, hopefully with another one, of course, and that’s undoubtedly Motorola’s hope with its SLVR cell phone, kind of a “non-flip-flip-phone” cellular telephone that follows on the heels of the company’s hugely successful little V3 RAZR.

On the other hand, with the success of the RAZR, can other companies be far behind in competing with it? Of course not!

I reviewed the RAZR when it first came out about a year ago and, though I’m a tough sell for fully-featured cell phones (I just want a phone, dammit, not a personal entertainment center!), I fell under the slim little critter’s spell.

Didn't buy one, though…

Why? Well besides being cheap, and not wanting a movie and music player, camera, Internet Browser and yadda yadda yadda, I prefer a phone that doesn’t have to be flipped open. This is because I'm basically a klutz and a flip phone requires using both hands lest I bounce it off the asphalt while trying to get it open.

So you’d think Moto’s new SLVR would be right up my alley.

That's what I thought, too.

Samsung SPH-a900On the other hand, Samsung's SPH-a900 shows clearly that the market isn't going to stand still and let one company rule. The SPH-a9000 is a slender little flip phone in the tradition and size of the RAZR, offering about all the features you could want short of instant teleportation, and all in a handsome case small enough to get lost in your pocket or purse. Just like the RAZR.

I got to try the Samsung and the Motorola back to back and, while I expect both phones to sell truckloads' worth, I was surprised to find that they both left me cold. This is probably due to my ingrained curmudgeon tendencies more than any particular major oversight in either phone, though I did manage to have issues with both that go beyond superfluous (to me) features.

Mr. Moto vs. Sam….

Besides its wonderfully slim case, the thing I loved the most about the "old" RAZR was its keypad. As I said in my review back then, the keypad reminded me of the remote control for an old Mitsubishi television I had about 20 years ago – which was to this day my favorite remote for its simple, flat, styling and finish. "It was not only classy looking," I said, "It worked very well – though the flat metal keys were difficult to use strictly by feel." The SLVR and the SPH-a900 both share that wonderfully smooth metallic keypad, so we got off on the right foot at least.

But while the Samsung SPH-a900 has a straightforward keypad layout, the SLVR's key locations (possibly because designers just can’t leave things alone – job justification, I suppose) have been spread in an arc below the cursor control section. This was the deal breaker for me: since I require glasses for close up work or reading, it was very difficult for me to use easily without fiddling around looking for the correct buttons.

Score one for the more straightforward Samsung.

On the other hand, score one for the Motorola in that, unlike the Samsung, the SLVR doesn't need to flip open, a personal preference many people may not share. But I'm the reviewer (So there!).

Score another for the Motorola by the fact that its battery life is far better than the Samsung's, which needed to be recharged every couple of days despite the fact that I was by no means a heavy user.

The Samsung's battery life would have been a deal breaker for me, but on the other hand, I preferred its display to the Motorola's, because it offered text large enough for me to read without my glasses.

Moto SLVRObviously, there's just no pleasing some people.

So let's just outline some of the features offered by the phones:

Motorola SLVR:

  • iTunes/MP3 playback (and the sound quality is quite good)
  • integrated VGA digital camera and digital video with 4 x Digital Zoom
  • Bluetooth-enabled (interacts with other Bluetooth-equipped devices, for example cars, for hands free operation, or can sync apps from your laptop PC)
  • 176x220 TFT display with 262K colors
  • wired stereo headset
  • Airplane mode: lets you access your address book, games and music during flights, without freaking out the airline
  • Photo caller ID
  • Speakerphone
  • Messaging services
  • Calculator, Alarm clock, etc.
  • Talk Time (manufacturers's claim): up to 400 minutes/ Standby Time: up to 350 hours
  • Quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900)  iTunes® Transfer Time² : approximately 30 seconds for 4MB music file
  • Mini USB connector (for connecting to a PC)

And here's some of what the Samsung offers:

  • Built in MP3 (with good sound quality as well)
  • 1.3 Megapixel camera with digital zoom (and the camera can be swiveled around front to back), video recorder
  • Bluetooth
  • 320x240 TFT Internal display (External Display is 96x96 TFT)
  • Talk time: 2.75 hours/standby time: up to 6 days  (Not even close, from my experience!)
  • Internal phonebook: 500 numbers/Call logs: 20 incoming, 20 outgoing, 20 missed, 20 most recent/Speed Dial Numbers: 98
  • Messaging Capabilities 10 voice memos with up to 1 minute each

Samsung SPH-a900Both phones' menu systems of are pretty straightforward, and it isn't difficult to program either unit.

I took advantage of that ease of use right off the bat, downloading a new ring tone for each phone, since most of the built in ones sucked. Here, I also preferred the Samsung because its service provider had a neat "Looney Tunes" tone whereas the best I could find with the other provider was the Indiana Jones theme, the latter of which may have suited my ego better but the former of which undoubtedly suits others' opinions of me better.

Hmmm. Maybe that should be "advantage Motorola…."

I also found it easier to place the Motorola's speaker on my ear, though I had to move both around before my ears would pick up the sound properly. On the other hand, as much as I hate flip phones, it's easier to keep the Samsung's screen clean because it folds up out of the way when you aren't using it.

If you've been keeping score you probably think I preferred the Samsung, and I suppose I did (even though it flips), though that battery "life" really rubbed me the wrong way. But as with most phones at this level of the market whichever is better is probably best decided by the consumer, according to his needs and wants – and the wireless plan available – not the reviewer. Both phones have their ups and downs and, since I freely admit I wouldn't buy either one because I prefer a simpler cell phone, the choice will have to remain yours.

How's that for weaseling?

The Samsung SPH-a900 is available from Sprint in the U.S. and Bell Mobility in Canada. You can get the Motorola SLVR from Cingular Wireless in the United States and Rogers in Canada.


Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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