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Motorola MOTO W233 Renew Review

Motorola MOTO W233 Renew
“People looking to strip down their phones and live a more green life will be happy with the Renew.”
  • Excellent price; recycled and recyclable; simple to use; decent talk time
  • Basic functions; bad music player; unattractive looking


Going green, or making ecologically conscious purchases, is the newest trend. The MOTO Renew is one of the first, if not the first, major mobile phone to be made with recycled material – in this case, water bottles. It even comes with a pre-paid recycle pack to mail your previous phone in. Greenness aside though, the MOTO Renew is your basic, albeit highly affordable phone.

MOTO W233 RenewFeatures & Design

The MOTO W233 Renew looks like a green and black candy bar. The phone is four and a half inches by two inches, just over a half inch thick, and is pea green with black and silver portions. (It only comes in this ugly green color, and Motorola could definitely be accused of taking its eco message too literally.) The handset weighs a light three ounces though, which makes it feel like it can be recycled easily.

The screen is small, measuring just one and a half inches square – a definite throwback to the era when displays didn’t take up the whole phone face. That said, it is colorful, though, again, handset owners used to crisp smartphone screens will notice a drop in brightness and clarity. Then again, the isn’t meant to compete with higher-end models.

Below the screen are four buttons, an iPod-style wheel and the number pad. The Renew has the traditional green go and red stop/power buttons, as well as the old-school “options” and “back” buttons. The options button doubles as a quick key to go to the music menu. The music wheel doesn’t turn, but it does have play/pause, next track, previous track and menu up and down buttons. All buttons were simple and responsive.

There are only two slots on the MOTO Renew: On the left side is a headphone jack and on the right is the USB port for the charger. Unlike most phones, the microSD card slot is actually tucked behind the battery – the phone must be opened to change or remove it. The rest of the phone is smooth and button-less.

The MOTO W233 Renew is a dual-band GSM phone, 850 and 1900 MHz, so globe-trotters will have limited international capabilities compared to more sophisticated tri-band or quad-band phones. It is available through T-Mobile. There are also limited Internet browsing capabilities. Picture no solid graphics, a la the mobile HTML available on most phones today, but rather mostly text-only information and data. The speed is what you would expect from an early generation phone as well. Features like T-Mobile myFaves and text messaging are also onboard, as well as T-Zones, T-Mobile’s proprietary web information browser.

MOTO Renew W233

MOTO Renew W233

Setup & Use

In keeping with its purpose, the MOTO Renew comes bare bones – something that, considering the phone’s simplicity, is totally acceptable. Inside the box, expect to find the handset, a set of mic headphones and a charger. (Our review copy did not have an instruction booklet, but it was unclear if this was in error.) As mentioned earlier, there is also a small, postage paid package to mail another phone in for recycling.

The Renew works literally the same as popular Motorola phones circa 2005, down to the 3 x 3 icons on the menu page and the bleeps it makes when a cord is plugged in. In other words, the arrangement is simple and intuitive, if not antiquated. The two differences are the T-Mobile myFaves, the relatively new phone plan that appears on the front page, and the screen resolution, which is much higher than anything you’d find four years ago.

The biggest disappointment with the MOTO Renew is the music player. The setup itself is fine – again, it is as intuitive as the standard Motorola music player from a few years back, and the mock “touch wheel” makes navigation a breeze. Sound quality, however, is more in keeping with what you’d find from a phone in 2005. People used to having the latest music ringtone will scowl at the homemade synthesizer tracks blasting from the Renew. Furthermore, the phone doesn’t come with a USB cord, which means music lovers will have to shell out more dough (and further wreck the environment) to get their favorite tunes to play through the Renew’s poor speakers. Motorola would have been better off not mentioning the music player feature altogether.

As a plus, one quick charge gives up to nine hours of talk time – a positive side-effect of the device lacking fancier multimedia capabilities.

And, of course, the biggest benefit of buying the Renew is the positive environmental impact. According to T-Mobile, the phone is a carbon neutral product – meaning that it will be less of a pollutant when it is disposed. The MOTO Renew was crated using plastic from recycled water bottles. The phone casing is also 100 percent recyclable. As mentioned earlier, the packed-in prepaid envelope can be used to ship in your previous mobile phone.

MOTO W233 Renew

MOTO W233 Renew


The MOTO w233 Renew is $59.99 MSRP, an affordable price for an eco-hip phone. At launch T-Mobile offered a $50 instant discount, making the Renew a $9.99, virtually free phone. A microSD card and USB cord do cost extra, but are definitely not necessary purchases considering the Renew’s weak multimedia functionality. More information is available at

Future Prognosis

In concept, the MOTO W233 Renew will definitely be the future of phones – and, in that sense, it is a noble step towards more eco-friendly electronics. For most consumers, however, it will be difficult to embrace the circa-2005 aesthetics and features, particularly the less than stellar music system. People looking to strip down their phones and live a more green life will be happy with the super affordable Renew. Others should wait until Motorola learns to put more functionality into its green machines.


  • Great price
  • Recycled material
  • Simple to use
  • Good talk time


  • Ugly design
  • Very basic functionality
  • Bad music player

Editors' Recommendations

Damon Brown
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Damon Brown gets pop culture. The Northwestern grad covers music, sex and technology for Playboy, XXL, New York Post and Inc…
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