Meet the Motorola Rival. The Rival looks cute and cuddly – and my psychedelic purple demo model (also comes in a “Tin Silver” that isn’t so loud) is the epitome of what you would imagine a 14 year old “Texting Tammy” clutching 24/7. Looks can be deceiving, however. And this maxim certainly rings true with the Rival. This QWERTY slider packs a surprising amount of power, and would not only thrill your teenage daughter, but would please anyone looking for a phone with a long list Smartphone-esque features that also comes at a smart price.
The Rival is short and stocky. Weighing in at 4.4oz, its heft is pleasing and alludes to the possibility that the Rival may be much more than meets the eye. The phone is about three fourths of an inch thick, and about 2 inches wide and only 3.8 inches tall. It’s sure to fit comfortably in a pocket, and can even slip into a small purse, or even a wristlet (yeah, I’m up the lingo).
The phone either has a black body with purple lining, or a silver body with red lining. The front is home to a nice and bright 2.2 inch, 65k color screen that also boasts some touch functionality reminiscent of higher-priced Smartphones (more on that later). There’s also a send key that brings up a recent calls menu, an end key that returns you to the home screen, a back key, a key that brings up an on-screen dial pad, and a four-way navigation key.
On the left of the phone is a volume up and down rocker that, when not in-call, is used to set the phone’s profile (silent, vibrate, loud, etc.). A button below the volume rocker activates the speakerphone. A miniUSB port for syncing and charging can also be found on the left, along with a fastening slot that allows the Rival to be hung around your neck or fastened to a wrist band. On the right is a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, a key lock button, voice command key, and dedicated camera key. A 2.0 megapixel camera/camcorder can be found on the back.
Sliding the Rival open reveals a nicely laid out full QWERTY keyboard with plenty of shortcut keys. There’s a dedicated key for text messaging, another for mobile instant messaging (the Rival supports AIM, Yahoo!, and Windows Live Messenger), and even a key that brings up a menu of emoticons (OMG!).
When open or closed, the Rival is navigated with the same four-way directional key and a centered select button. Some menus and features are also navigated by tapping either the right or left of the screen. In both portrait mode or with the keyboard open, a pair of bright white dots illuminate to indicate where on the screen to press to select a given menu item. At the home screen, for example, tapping the left dot opens a messaging menu, while the right dot opens the contact list. The main menu and sub-menus are intuitive lists that allow for quick navigation and access to settings and applications. The four-way directional key can be customized to provide shortcuts to frequently used applications and features. Pushing left, for example, launches the browser by default.
The dial pad button on the front of the Rival opens a touchable, on-screen dial pad that worked flawlessly. The phone even vibrates slightly as you enter each digit. The Rival’s phone book has room for up to 1000 contacts, with spots for five phone numbers, and two email addresses. Of course you can also associate a picture and ringtone with each contact. The Rival also supports Verizon Visual Voicemail ($2.99/month).
The Rival is also equipped with full-fledged voice command functionality. You can speak the name of a contact or a phone number to call, say the name of a menu or feature to open it, or even speak the name of a playlist to begin playing it. Unfortunately, however, the Rival does not allow you to speak the name of a song or artist and jump to it.
Although it no doubt holds its own when it comes to many other more advanced features, the Rival is still a messaging device at heart. With dedicated messaging keys, a messaging interface built for speed with multiple recipients in mind, and the ability to sort and navigate text messages by conversation or time received/sent , the Rival is an easy-to-use messaging machine. The phone also supports Mobile Email ($5/month) for convenient on-the-go access to email from most major online providers as well as IMAP and POP accounts – without the hassle of having to use a web-based interface. I gave Mobile Email a try with my Gmail account, and was pleasantly surprised. I was even able to be alerted when new messages arrived (albeit not immediately as would be expected from a BlackBerry, for example).
For a phone of its ilk, I was happy with the mobile browser. It was great for browsing mobile pages (such as CNN’s mobile edition), and page loads were speedy over Verizon’s EVDO network. The Rival will do a great job with basic mobile browsing needs such as reading news or checking the weather, but with a small screen and limited mobile browser capabilities, don’t expect an experience comparable to that of a true Smartphone.
A microSD card slot can be found under the back cover, and supports up to an 8GB card for plenty of space for most music lovers. The media interface was a little cumbersome to navigate, and took a couple seconds to load, but no major qualms. Expect the usual feature set – the ability to create custom playlists, enter shuffle mode, or repeat a song over and over. With a standard 3.55mm headset jack, there’s no need to purchase an expensive set of special headphones. The Rival supports VCAST Music with Rhapsody for downloading music on-the-go (songs are $2 a pop) as well as VCAST Video (streaming access to full length popular TV shows, music videos, and other entertainment).
The Rival has an onboard 2 megapixel camera and camcorder. It’s without a flash or self portrait mirror. Photo and video quality was mediocre to be sure. Images in bright sunlight were sometimes washed out, and indoor images were often dark and blurred — even if the phone was kept absolutely still while the photo was being taken. The Rival is fine for the occasional memory, but don’t expect digital camera quality.
The Rival has full Bluetooth functionality, supporting Headset, Handsfree, Dial Up Networking, Stereo, Phonebook Access, Basic Printing, Basic Imaging, Object Push for VCard & VCalendar and File Transfer profiles. The Rival also supports VZ Navigator ($2.99/day if you find yourself lost with nowhere else to turn, or $9.99/month).
With its functionality and advanced feature set, the Rival well…rivals many other more expensive devices on the market in everything but price. It’s a strong messaging phone that incorporates more advanced features such as a full-featured media experience, voice command, Mobile Email support, and a camera with some extra goodies – all in a small and attractive package. Whether you’re fifteen or fifty, the Rival is a great buy for the wireless shopper that wants it all but doesn’t want to shell out the big bucks.