The external monochrome display shows the time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (where available). Although its rectangular shape makes it a bit small, it's still relatively easy to see in low light. Unfortunately, the internal display isn't much better. It supports 65,000 colors, but the 1.5-inch-diagonal screen is neither bright nor vivid; plus, it is tiny, so don't expect to enjoy too much multimedia with it. It is, nonetheless, sufficient for navigating the phone's user-friendly menu systems, but it should be noted that you can't change the font size.
The navigation controls are well organized, with a circular five-way navigation key at the center. The menu key is immediately above it, with two soft keys alongside. The keys themselves could be larger, but they have little recessed portions that make them easy to locate with your fingertips. The numerical keypad is similarly cramped, though the buttons are raised above the surface of the phone. The volume controls are on the side of the phone, and a short stub antenna extends from the top. There is a standard headset jack and a USB-capable data port, which is a nice bonus for a bargain-priced device.The Motorola V188 packs an awful lot of features into this entry-level phone. The phone book stores up to 500 entries, including phone numbers, as well as e-mail and AOL Instant Messenger addresses. The phone also comes with a speakerphone, call waiting, conference calling, a calculator, a currency converter, an alarm clock, a voice recorder, automatic redial, and a vibrating alert. The handset has more than 40 polyphonic ring tones, and it supports MP3 ring tones. By using the included MotoMixer application, you can even mix your own ring tones from portions of songs and other audio clips.
We were pleased with the breadth of the multimedia offerings. The mobile comes with a built-in AOL Instant Messenger client, which is fast becoming the standard item on wireless phones. The small screen makes text messaging a little tiresome, but it's nice to have nonetheless. You also get text and multimedia messaging, as well as enhanced messaging.
The Motorola V188 is Java (JM2E) compliant for compatible games and applications. It ships with a pool game called Billiards, as well as demo versions of Bejeweled and Blackjack; additional games, ring tones, and applications can be purchased from T-Mobile online. Just keep in mind that the phone has a meager 1.5MB of memory, so you will run out of space for games quickly.We tested the Motorola V188 in New York City. Reception, as you would expect in New York, was constant and reliable, and the audio quality was pretty good. Voices sounded a little flat, but we were able to understand callers easily when outside. When we made calls indoors, we noticed more dropouts than with other phones we have tested. The speakerphone was also handy, although it would be more useful in an enclosed space such as a car than on the street, where there is a lot of background noise. It was great to see that the phone works on all four major GSM frequencies (850, 900, 1800, and 1900), so it is compatible with GSM systems all over the world.
The handset is rated for 3.75 hours of talk time and 14.5 days of standby. In CNET Labs' tests, the phone delivered nearly 4 hours of talk time on a single charge. While that is more than sufficient, it's well below the impressive 9 hours of talk time we got on the Motorola V180. For standby time, we came away with 10 days. According to the FCC radiation tests, the Motorola V188 has a digital SAR rating of 1.39 watts per kilogram.