Motorola SLVR L7 Review

Motorola SLVR L7

“The SLVR's iTunes interface pretty much parallels the iPod's; but the SLVR is certainly no iPod.”
  • iTunes-compatible cell phone that's even better looking than the RAZR
  • Low iPod Shuffle-like capacity; poor earbuds; exposed and vulnerable surface and screen
MSRP $0.01

Summary

There’s been a lot of hub-bub about Apple creating an Apple branded iTunes phone. But Jobs and company have held off, probably because Motorola is swimming at that cell phone end of the iPod pool, first with the poorly received ROKR E1 and now with the higher-profile SLVR L7, which is available through Cingular for $199.99 with a two-year contract. On its glitzy surface, SLVR is a vast improvement over the ROKR. But despite its impressive Nano-meets-RAZR looks, the SLVR suffers from many of the same music-centric limitations as the ROKR — a 100-song capacity, slow song transfer, mono Bluetooth and ill-fitting headphones using an unusual mini-USB jack. Motorola is admittedly hampered somewhat by Apple-imposed capacity constraints, but Motorola has only itself to blame for some of SLVR’s other missed opportunities, which include the lack of a megapixel digital camera. But just how handicapping are these limitations? For most users, probably not very. With few other iTunes/cell phone options, the SLVR’s mere existence diminishes its many drawbacks. In other words, it’s the only game in town.

Features and Design

Its metallic Nano-like looks are what will attract buyers to the SLVR. Pitch black with the now-familiar RAZR etched keypad glowing with a bright ice blue backlight and a vivid 2-inch screen (a half inch larger than the Nano’s), the SLVR (4.5 x 1.9 x 0.45 inches, 3.5 ounces) is about half the size of the Nano (3.5 x 1.6 x 0.27, 1.5 ounces), which makes it seem a bit more substantial than Apple’s music-only player. Of course for $199 you get 500-song capacity with a Nano, vs. only 100 songs on the SLVR.

But just how “limiting” are the SLVR’s features? Its 100-song capacity, when compared with even the $69 Shuffle’s 120 song space, seems miserly bad. But at an average of three minutes per song, 100 songs equals around five hours of music, which ought to be plenty for daily commutes, exercise sessions and local trips to the market.

The SLVR includes a pre-installed 512 MB Micro SD card that will store your iTunes songs, Bluetooth capabilities, Cingular EDGE compatibility, a VGA digital camera, AOL, Yahoo! and ICQ instant messaging and built-in stereo speakers. However, the SLVR’s Bluetooth does not include A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile), necessary to stream stereo music to the growing number of stereo Bluetooth headphones. Included with the SLVR are standard wired stereo earbuds with an in-line microphone. A USB cable for PC connectivity also is supplied.

As an EDGE phone, the SLVR connects to the Web and to the Cingular MEdiaNet store for ringtones, games, wallpapers and application downloads; there’s a soft MEdiaNet link on the splash screen, along with a direct iTunes access soft key. However, even though the SLVR is an iTunes phone, there is no connectivity to the iTunes site to download tracks. That feature may have to wait until Apple produces its own iTunes phone.

Oddly, the SLVR lacks the usual spate of helper apps such as a calendar, calculator and alarm clock. But there is an Airplane mode that turns off the wireless so you can use the SLVR just as a music player.

The SLVR’s candybar orientation and good looks create their own problems. You don’t want to clothe a phone this pretty in a protective case, but it definitely needs one. Both the metallic keypad and especially the LCD screen exhibit every fingerprint and cheek smudge and require constant buffing to maintain their glamour. Some users may be reluctant to place it in a pants pocket for fear of scratching the surface. And with no hold button or key lock that we could locate, accidental song skipping or last number dialing could result when stored in a pocket or purse. A Shuffle-like lanyard solution would have solved most of these shortcomings.

Motorola SLVR L7
Image Courtesy of Motorola

Performance

The SLVR’s iTunes interface pretty much parallels the iPod’s; but the SLVR is certainly no iPod. Filling the Micro SD card with 100 tracks takes about a half hour, twice as long as it takes to pour 120 tracks onto a Shuffle. Playback is periodically marred by crackle from either the wireless receiver or static electricity. And without a click wheel, using the navigation array to scroll through tracks or artists to find one track is tedious.

Discerning listeners will want to use their own headphones, which makes the inclusion of the mini USB-to-3.5mm adapter welcome. The included hammer-shaped earbuds hang loosely from the ears and easily dislodge with any vigorous movement. Even when the buds do fit snugly, music sounds muddy and is often overcome by ambient noise. But the buds are handy for dual music listening/conversation usage. Hearing your conversation through twin earphones vastly increases comprehension, and center placement of the cord clip on a lapel eliminates the need for idiotically holding the mic up to your mouth. Callers reported relatively clear sound at their end using the earbud/mic, even while walking down a noisy street.

Motorola SLVR L7The SLVR automatically mutes the music when a call comes in, which it did, and is supposed to automatically resume when a call is ended, which it didn’t during our tests. More dexterous manipulation of the multi-use button on the in-line mic may result in the result we couldn’t get.

Quad band (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) reception was consistent throughout our usage. Voice volume was plenty high and voice quality was crisp and clean, even from another cell phone. Ringtone volume, however, was low, necessitating a reliance on the vibrate mode if you do decide to keep the phone in a pants pocket.

EDGE Web performance is adequate, with pages filling in eight to 15 seconds. As you’d expect, the VGA camera is useless in anything but bright sunlight, especially since there is no flash — but we doubt anyone would buy the SLVR for its picture taking capability. The SLVR’s 12-hour music playback battery life (6 hours/17 day talk/standby), is only two hours shorter than the Nano.

Conclusion

Since you can count the number of iTunes-compatible cell phones on two fingers — this one and the soon-to-be discontinued ROKR E1 — and since it’s doubtful that the choices will expand until Apple decides if-and-when to enter the cell phone business, iPod users who want to carry only one device are stuck with the SLVR. (Motorola’s upcoming ROKR E2 and RAZR V3x music phones will both be music platform agnostic.) But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The SLVR may be an excellent weekend phone for when music listening trumps staying in touch, and there’s room in your sweat suit for only one portable gadget.

Pros


  • iTunes compatible

  • Stylish

  • Thin and light

  • Micro SD memory card included

  • EDGE compatible

Cons


  • Limited song capacity

  • Easily smudged and scratched

  • Poor-fitting, poor-sounding earbuds

Editors' Recommendations