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Motorola Rapture review

January 1, 2009

in All Articles,Cellphone reviews

The Motorola Rapture from Verizon Wireless is a slick-looking basic cellphone with one very handy (and not so basic) feature. When the clamshell phone is in closed position, the front display of the phone is touch sensitive! This allows you access to certain features that don’t need an open phone for operation. It gives the user an easier and more convenient interface. While this change to the basic user experience works well and is easy to use, I hope that this is only the start of such improvements.

First, the phone itself:

As I say, the phone isn’t a knockout in appearance, but that’s not its goal. It does have stylish buttons when open – the keypad buttons are very slightly raised, and those buttons and the menu wheel have a brushed aluminum appearance and feel. It requires a slightly different operating touch, but I got used to it quickly.

Yes, the phone has all the cool features available to Verizon subscribers like V CAST Music and Videos, VZ Navigator, Mobile Email, and Chaperone Parent/Child location services. The 2.0 megapixel camera takes photos up to 1200×1600 resolution, and video at 320×240. It has Bluetooth and a speakerphone, and store up to 8GB of media on a separately-purchased microSD card.

So the Motorola Rapture already gives you a nice cellphone. But the impressive part happens, ironically, when the phone is closed.

In the two photos above, look at the right photo. Hitting a side button will activate the front display on the phone. This display is touch sensitive. From here, you can touch one of the two buttons available on the lower part of the display – these are graphics for music and the camera.

To prevent accidental activation, just brushing your finger against the icons will give you a message: “Press and hold to activate”. Holding the icon for a second will start the interface for your requested function. Here’s what the music playback tool looks like:

The music tool is simple, and that’s fine. You’ve got the Rapture’s external buttons for volume control, and playback is easy and responsive. A neat part of the interface is that when you use any of the Rapture’s touch-sensitive features, the phone quickly vibrates each time you touch a valid on-screen button. It makes usage more confident and easier.

Using the menu on the left will allow you to start playing music. When playing, you can pause, play, move to other songs (next / previous track) and fast-forward and rewind.

The Rapture does have a 2.5mm headphone jack, but the built-in speakerphone is pretty loud for music playback. Unless you’re in a noisy environment, it does a fine job.

When the display is deactivated, the front of the phone is completely black – you can barely tell there’s a display there at all. There is a slider switch for button locking – enabling this switch disables the Rapture’s external buttons.

The digital camera operates with the Rapture in closed position, and the front display acts as both the camera viewfinder and gives access to camera modes for digital zoom, and selection of portrait or landscape modes. The closed-phone camera is meant for picture-taking only: if you want to do any photo editing or reviewing, you’ll have to open the phone.

The camera does a decent job, but at 2MP isn’t a standout. The phone design itself, however, makes it simple and fast to actually take photos. I’d like to see the Motorola Rapture with a higher-quality camera so it can really shine.

The music player is great. As I was testing out my demo Rapture, I looked at it, then looked over at my iPod. I realized that there’s very little physically separating the two. Here’s the Motorola Rapture side-by-side with an iPod Nano:

The Rapture is certainly thicker than the iPod, but length and width is just slightly larger. In doing this comparison, I’m not knocking one device or the other, I’m just demonstrating an unintended but inevitable design convergence between two unrelated devices. What does this mean? It means that as more and more people own cellphones, and more and more cellphones are cheaper to own, their built-in features will overcome the need for devices like the iPod. The iPod and iTunes are a brilliant business model that got into the market first – they’ll be around a long while – but I don’t think that single-function consumer devices like the iPod have any long-term future. They’ll either fade away, replaced by multi-function devices like the Motorola Rapture, or will evolve into units like the iPhone. (Before any of this can happen, the industry needs to solve the issue of DRM and copyright, but we’ll save that for another article.)

A note on the touch screen: the interface works well, but in my opinion can be taken to higher levels. The Rapture gives you closed-phone access to the camera and music player, yes, but why not implement the following:

Access to messaging: Allow sending and receiving of instant messages. If you’ve got a display on the front of the unit, then allow the user to read messages with it. You could also have a list of custom “frequently used responses” so that a user could send a simple response to a message without opening the phone.

Access to contact list: You can lookup and dial contacts, converse on speakerphone and hang up. No need to even open the phone.

If you really want to get fancy, redesign the speaker grille: Move the speakerphone to the opposite end of the phone (away from the microphone), modify the volume, and hold the entire closed phone up to your ear for a non-speakerphone, private call.

This is just a quick list of possible improvements that came to mind while using the Rapture. I do like the touch screen – it brings improved usability to the phone. But I think the designers should take this concept and run with it some more.

I expect that such things are on the designers’ minds, but perhaps they don’t want to commit to that level of effort without first seeing how the phone does in the market. The Motorola Rapture does have an over-the-air software update feature, so perhaps in the future improvements like these could be installed automatically.


The Motorola Rapture is a cellphone supporting all the Verizon services, and the front panel’s touch-screen interface is a bonus feature making for faster, more convenient and fun use. For those users who take a lot of photos or listen to a lot of music, the Rapture is designed for you!

The Motorola Rapture is available from Verizon Wireless for $150 with a two-year contract.

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