Unlike Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile has virtually ignored the rugged phone. Yet, with its new Motorola Active W450, the carrier is making a push in that direction. The flip phone sports a thick sturdy shell made for those with (dare we say) active lifestyles. The result is, indeed, durable, but not without some compromises to the phone's controls and displays. Call quality was acceptable and functional. The feature set includes a 1.3-megapixel camera and a music player. The Bluetooth function, however, lacks a stereo profile. The W450 is $159.99 if you pay full price, but you can get it for $29.99 with service.
The Active W450 doesn't have the rubber sidings that you'd find on a Nextel phone, but the textured skin feels remarkably strong and sturdy, even though it is plastic. We enjoyed the solid feel in the hand and the large and well-constructed hinge. On the outside, you'll find a standard white-and-black color scheme, but on the inside, the phone features a rubberized keypad in either yellow or orange. We tried the yellow versions, and the features are the same on both models. The W450 measures 4.18 inches tall by 1.80 inches wide by 0.74 inch deep and weighs 3.5 ounces.
The external display is smaller than we'd prefer, being no bigger than a postage stamp. Resolution is just a four-color grayscale (96x80 pixels), so don't count on any fancy graphics. It shows the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and numeric caller ID, but it won't support photo caller ID or work as a viewfinder for the camera.
Completing the exterior are the camera lens, just above the display (there's no flash), and a loop on the bottom of the phone that holds the antenna. The volume rocker on the left spine is easily accessible when you're on a call and it is colored in the same hue as the keypad (orange or yellow). The sides of the hinges are also clad in the keypad color. Below the rocker is the mini-USB port, which also accommodates the charger. On the right spine, you'll find the microSD-card slot and the 2.mm headset jack. Though we love that the memory-card slot isn't stashed behind the battery, we'd prefer a 3.5mm headset jack.
The internal display measures 1.75 inches and supports 65,000 colors (160x128 pixels). The resolution is average when compared with other phones in the W450's class. Graphics and photos looked rather flat and colors were muted. You can change the backlighting time, but font size isn't adjustable. The menu interface is intuitive in both the grid and list styles and we like how Moto has slimmed down the options somewhat in the Settings menu. What's more, you can activate a new option in standby mode that places four-user-defined feature icons directly on the screen for easy access.
With the W450's keypad and navigation controls we understand what Motorola was going for, but we don't think the company succeeded. Though the rubberized material that covers the keys gives them a nice feel beneath our fingers, the individual buttons are stiff, with little tactile definition to separate them from each other. Indeed, dialing by feel was difficult and the keys didn't have a lot of "give." The dim backlighting won't help in low-light situations either. The four-way toggle is coated in silver, so it's easily discernible to the eye; you can set it as a shortcut to four user-defined functions. Two soft keys, a T-zones shortcut, a Clear/Back key, and the Talk and End/Power buttons complete the navigation array.
The W450's phone book has room in each entry for six phone numbers, three e-mail addresses, a URL, a birthday, a nickname, and notes. You can save callers to groups and pair them with a photo and one of 32 polyphonic ringtones. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a speakerphone, a calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, a world clock, and a stopwatch. You'll also find USB mass storage, instant messaging, a voice recorder, and a generic Moto music player. The W450 also offers Bluetooth, but it lacks a stereo profile.