Motorola SLVR L7 iTunes Phone

The Short Form
$200 with 2-year service agreement / 2 x 4.5 x 0.5 IN / 3.5 oz / hellomoto.com / 800-331-6456
Plus
•Great style and operation •Painless iPod sync •Fast music transfer
Minus
•Cannot play AAC files with data rates higher than 128 kbps •Must unplug headphone adapter to answer a call.
Key Features
•Slim, "candy bar" form factor •176 x 220 display with 262k colors •Access to Cingular "MEdiaNet" content •Web and e-mail access •VGA video and still camera •Plays MP3, WAV, AAC, and protected AAC files •Removable 512-MB MicroSD memory card •Bluetooth compatible •Built-in speaker
The future has arrived and two things are clear. First, fashion sense is now critically important. Second, everyone is so busy that they don't have time for vowels. Case in point: the Motorola SLVR L7 iTunes phone. This is Cingular's second iTunes-compatible phone (the vowel-challenged ROKR was the first), but the SLVR has an even sleeker "candy bar" form factor. Instead of ROKR's clamshell design, the SLVR is just a ... sliver.

PHONE PERFORMANCE The SLVR's black metal case is both stylish and all-business. The color display is quite good - it's a large, 176 x 220-pixel LCD screen with 262,000 colors - allowing very small and highly legible fonts. I found the keys a bit tiny, though, and didn't like the way they're laid out in offset rows to make room for the nav rocker above. Also, the microphone is on the side of the case and could conceivably be covered by your hand if you're not careful. Still, there were no major ergonomic problems.

The SLVR L7 abounds with perks. Hit "MEdiaNet" and this Cingular feature comes up with local weather, news, entertainment, sports, financial quotes, ringtones, games, and other categories with surprisingly deep content. As a bona fide jet setter, I appreciated the airplane mode that lets you listen to tunes with the phone disabled. I also thought the phrase book with 15 common text-message entries was cute. Instead of laboriously typing in all-too-predictable messages, I could simply select, for example, "Can this wait?" or "On my way."

A VGA-quality digital camera takes stills, and the SLVR L7 also shoots MPEG-4 video clips. Picture quality is okay but won't threaten Nikon. Bluetooth capability lets you sync to your laptop or use an optional headset. Finally, you can get on the Internet and send and read e-mail (with seven lines of text).

MULTIMEDIA PERFORMANCE Style aside, the Motorola SLVR L7's coolest feature is its iTunes compatibility. When you connect it to your computer with a USB cable, the iTunes app on your computer automatically opens up. You can view the SLVR L7's iTunes content and transfer files to the phone; a 4-MB file takes about 30 seconds to move over. The SLVR L7 plays MP3, WAV, AAC, and protected AAC files, and it stores them on a removable MicroSD memory card; the supplied 512-MB card holds roughly 100 songs. Unfortunately, AAC files must be 128 kbps (the iTunes native rate) or lower, so if you have a library of files you've coded at a higher bit rate, you're out of luck. On the bright side, the SLVR will accept MP3 files up to 192 kbps, though MP3s usually don't sound as good as AAC files at high bit rates.

All that being said, the sound quality is only so-so via the supplied earbuds. I auditioned the rock anthem "Are We the Waiting" from Green Day's American Idiot album. The opening drum barrage lacked low-end impact - a common problem in earbud-land. On the high end of the sound spectrum, the cymbals were a bit muted and lacked natural crispness. In between, the vocals were thin, lacking depth and breadth. Fortunately, a supplied adapter cable let me plug in my own, better-quality earbuds (though this defeated the auto-mute function, forcing me to unplug when calls came in). The internal amplifier is on par with those in other cellphones, but perhaps a notch below those in good dedicated media players. The maximum listening level is a good deal lower than on an iPod (which can play very loud), but it should be high enough for your commute. The sound from the built-in speaker isn't exactly hi-fi, but it was surprisingly listenable. The clever audio engineers at Motorola equalized the amplifier/speaker for playback with the phone held in your hand. It's too bright when flipped over on its face and too muted when laid face-up on a table, but it sounds just right cupped in your palm. Of course, the phone displays album art, and the central click wheel operates similarly to the scroll wheel on an iPod.

BOTTOM LINE Sure, other phones have MP3 players, but if you're tuned into iTunes, the ultrathin, high-style Motorola SLVR L7 iTunes phone makes a seamless connection to your favorite music service and all your previously purchased songs. And despite its bit-rate limitations, it's a great music player. Overall, I'd have to rate the SLVR ... xcllnt.

Watch the Motorola SLVR in action!

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