Help us break out of our RAZR jail!
October 15, 2007 9:45 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I both loathe our Motorola RAZRs, and fortunately, we're able to replace them at subsidized, new-customer pricing at the end of this month (October 28th, to be specific). We're Verizon Wireless customers for a slew of reasons, and are going to stick with VZW; does anyone have recommendations for phones we should consider?

Just to flesh out what we're looking for, we both would like the phones to have decent cameras (for the odd on-the-street picture and whatnot), a memory card slot (so that when the camera takes a picture that's larger than VZW's 300Kb limit on SMS attachments, it's not locked on the phone forevermore), decent battery life (four or five hours of talk time, and no requirement that we recharge them every single night or find ourselves without a phone), and a usable interface. (You'll note that these are precisely the four places that the RAZR falls flat on its inadequate face.) I'd personally also love the phone to be capable of using VZW's Mobile Email, since I run an IMAP server, and being able to check/send email on my personal account wouldn't be such a bad function to have. I've played with the LG enV and the Samsung SCH-u740 in the store, and both seem nice... but I only mention that as a marker of the two phones that caught my eye in the store, and I'm sure that there are others that I should be considering (and probably reasons why I should notconsider either or both of those!).

And just to reiterate: for a bunch of reasons, we're going to stick with Verizon Wireless -- it's the only carrier that works on the Metro here in DC, it's the only carrier that has reliable service at both our workplaces, etc. -- so while I'd personally love an iPhone to be the answer, it isn't. Alas.
posted by delfuego to Technology (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have the u740, and I like it pretty well. I do believe, though, that all Verizon phones have the same interface (and I dislike it too), so you may be out of luck there - although with the u740 you can customize it a bit (I use text, I hate picture menus, and you can change colors).

If you're hard on your phone, or tend to throw it in a pocket/bag and forget it for a while, you may not like the 740 - it's dual-hinged, so the screen part is only joined to the keyboard part at one point (top left as you look at the front of the phone). I haven't had any problems with it, as such, but I do notice myself being afraid of breaking the phone.

The smallish keys on the 740 are really only a problem if you're used to dialing a phone number by touch - in rotated mode, they're great for texting/emailing, and really easy to use. Battery life's pretty good - I've left it uncharged for about 4 days and only gone down to two bars (I don't do a ton of web stuff with it, though, YMMV).

Overall, I like the 740, definitely, although I liked my Moto E815 better.
posted by pdb at 9:59 AM on October 15, 2007

I've had the SCH-u740 for a couple of months now and like it a lot. Being able to use it like a "normal" phone or open it in keyboard mode is a definite plus - lets me enjoy the best of both worlds, so to speak. I know mobile e-mail is a possibility, but I haven't personally taken advantage of it. The camera is decent for the kind of random "ooh!" snapshot you're talking about, but don't expect much more, even though it can take hi-res photos. I have a 2GB micro-SD card in mine right now loaded up with music. The music-player interface blows, but once you're used to it it's at least workable. I can very easily make it 4-5 days of minimal calling on a charge, or 2-3 days with more active use, so battery life is definitely not a problem. All in all, it's a solid little phone and by far the best choice among the Verizon freebie/cheapies, in my opinion. Let me know if you have any more questions.
posted by Rallon at 10:02 AM on October 15, 2007

IMHO The thing that makes my RAZR (actually a KRAZR) suck is the crappy software and restrictions that Verizon put onto it. If you can't dump Verizon I would suggest at least going for one of the phones they haven't nerfed - that'll be any of the smart phones which run a 3rd party operating system though, and those tend to be more expensive.
posted by Artw at 10:04 AM on October 15, 2007

I got each of my older kids an EnV and they both absolutely love it. Long battery life, light, great interface, intuitive menus, qwerty keyboard/texting, nice camera/vidcam, external memory port, good speakers.
posted by iconomy at 10:11 AM on October 15, 2007

I have the Chocolate (bought for looks, don't use the mp3 parts) and I am pretty happy with it, especially since I don't like flip phones.
It took a little while to figure out how to adjust the sensitivity of the touchwheel so that my face wouldn't mute people mid-conversation, but once that was solved, no complaints.
It's more durable than I thought it would be- I keep it in my purse with keys and drop it on a weekly basis and it hardly has scratches after over a year of non-careful use.

If you have big fingers and like texting, you might not like the little keypad, but I (small fingers) have no problem with it.
posted by rmless at 10:19 AM on October 15, 2007

I've used and loved Samsung models for years, so check out their selection of Samsungs. Last time I got a phone though, I ended up going with an LG because it was closer to my price range than the Samsung of comparable features. The LG ain't too shabby.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:23 AM on October 15, 2007

I love the enV for all the reasons iconomy stated. I especially love the camera and the Micro SD memory storage.
posted by jerseygirl at 10:23 AM on October 15, 2007

I have the enV too. The one thing I don't like about it is that it's hard to hold hands-free between your ear and your shoulder. The RAZR was easier.
posted by clh at 10:29 AM on October 15, 2007

The enV is great but a new version is coming out in November, if you can wait.
posted by infinityjinx at 10:35 AM on October 15, 2007

You should be aware that Verizon is going to start sharing your call records unless you explicitly opt out; the number to call is in the linked article.

Whatever you do, don't buy your phone from Verizon. Get a fully unlocked from someone else that's compatible with their network, and transfer your plans to it. Verizon brain-damages all phones they sell to try to extract extra money from you.

It seems like the Nokia N95 is pretty well thought-of in geek circles. It has three of your four requirements... apparently battery life isn't too great on that unit, though probably better than what you have now.
posted by Malor at 10:41 AM on October 15, 2007 [6 favorites]

I have a RAZR through Verizon. You can hack it based on info on Howardforums and get rid of most of the issues you have with it (though not battery life, obviously). You can put the Alltell OS on it to replace the crappy Verizon OS. Transfer music and pictures all you want through a $2 USB cable (and you can charge your phone on said cable as well; there is no need for the Motorola-branded charger) instead of Verizon's service. And you can un-cripple the Bluetooth.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 10:41 AM on October 15, 2007 [2 favorites]

NYT tech columnist David Pogue recently bought himself an LG 8700 to use with his personal Verizon account. This phone, "unlike almost all other Verizon phones, had NOT had its Bluetooth crippled."
posted by andrewraff at 10:51 AM on October 15, 2007

My girlfriend has the VZ Chocolate and absolutely hates it, fwiw. She had the flex cable of death issue, but the UI is pretty horrid as well.
posted by SirStan at 11:03 AM on October 15, 2007

The new enV looks great, but I wouldn't hold my breath on that release date. There were pictures and rumored release dates on last year's enV for months before Verizon finally had it in early December.
posted by jerseygirl at 11:10 AM on October 15, 2007

Malor, the n95 is in the GSM family. It's not going to work on Verizon (or sprint). My understanding is that the options for unlocked phones for CDMA carriers like Verizon & Sprint are pretty limited. Also, unlocked phones are cool and all, but ~$10/month from the typical contract is going to pay for subsidized equipment. If you are off-contract and using an unlocked phone, you are paying ~$10/month for the privilege of being able to walk at any time.
posted by Good Brain at 11:39 AM on October 15, 2007

I like my enV. Good battery life, the internal screen is as good as any non-smartphone and the keyboard is great, especially if you text or use email a lot. I haven't tried the Verizon email software, but it is available. The camera takes reasonable pictures, although they can't be emailed at the highest resolution and there is no way to reduce a picture you have already taken. Also, the Bluetooth doesn't seem to be crippled -- I use a Bluetooth headset, and my computer can use it as a modem and can transfer files to/from it, albeit at only about 50 Kbps.

The downsides: The external screen is tiny (although plenty big for reading caller id); the 4-way selector on the outside is lame, and Verizon forces their stupid user interface on you. The web browser, like on all non-smartphones, is pretty lame, but the big screen makes it tolerable.
posted by indyz at 11:54 AM on October 15, 2007

I loved my Razr but it sadly committed suicide by jumping into my bathtub as I poured a bath. Dang shirt-pocket button.
Everyone I know complained about it's battery life, but I could talk for hours and not recharge for days. Mine was the black sheep, apparently.
The camera did suck indeed, so my new phone which only had to fulfill the "close when not in use" thing (so no buttons get pushed) the sony ericsson s500i keeps blowing me away with the great photos and video it takes even though it's only 2 megapixels, and I love being able to hang up by simply slapping the top part down in a neat sounding 'ka-chick' move. It's got bluetooth, and a memory card if you want so if that's available try it out.
posted by dabitch at 12:40 PM on October 15, 2007

I have the Chocolate (the older version, not the new one) and I like it just fine - am not having the problems SirStan describes. The new Chocolate, FWIW, feels flimsier to me.

I have friends w/ both the N95 and the eNV and they are both happy with those phones; with the N95, especially so, b/c his is an unlocked phone.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:58 PM on October 15, 2007

Oh, crap, I'd checked over on Ars Technica to see what they were suggesting. They mentioned the n95 repeatedly, including in two Verizon-specific threads, so I figured it had a CDMA version. Oops. Sorry about that.

From other comments I saw over there, CDMA is pretty power-intensive, so you may have trouble finding a long battery life on any Verizon phone.
posted by Malor at 1:49 PM on October 15, 2007

Razors, Chocolates meh, the batter is too wimpy. I have the VX 8300 and its battery lasts seemingly forever. It's not as cool looking though.
posted by caddis at 3:17 PM on October 15, 2007

Just so you know, Verizon is introducing at least 4 brand new phones very soon. I'm in the market for a new VZ phone myself so I'm eagerly waiting the reviews. The Juke is already available for pre-order.
posted by pinksoftsoap at 5:20 PM on October 15, 2007

vx8300, and with the right selection of software, you can download your pictures to your pc (at least, on a mac you can), upload custom made ring tones, upload your calendar.....

and, it's a tough little phone....
posted by HuronBob at 5:59 PM on October 15, 2007

I really like the vx8300. Not so cool, but it takes pretty good still pictures, ok videos and has a uSD memory card slot.

Get bitpim and a $5 USB cable. I don't think you can get
your calendar or contacts through the uSD card, but you can through bitpim.
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA at 1:19 PM on October 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

bitpim looks interesting, even if all you do is back up your phone book with it.
posted by caddis at 1:41 PM on October 16, 2007

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