Reviewed January 14, 2009 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
US admirers of the Motorola Ming device never got their chance to get up close and personal with the phone due to lack of interest from US carriers and only a few importers offered it in the US. The Motorola Krave ZN4 is as close as we can get to the Ming in terms of design, though the ZN4 isn’t a smartphone. The good news is that it does have the US phone bands including 3G (EVDO) support. Not only that, the Krave has mobile digital TV and works with most of Verizon’s services including V CAST video, V CAST music with Rhapsody, VZ Navigation and Verizon’s newly released visual voice mail. For touch screen fans, the Motorola Krave ZN4 offers something different: touch screen control through the clear plastic flip cover. The phone has a 2 megapixel camera, a microSD card slot with SDHC support and integrated Bluetooth that supports A2DP stereo Bluetooth.
The Motorola Krave ZN4 is a digital dual band phone that’s exclusive to Verizon Wireless. The phone has EVDO for fast data and it supports mobile email, IM and web browsing.
Touch Screen Goodness
With all the touch screen phones crowding the phone market this past year, the Motorola Krave ZN4 manages to be different, and the difference is in the flip. The Krave ZN4’s flip cover isn’t just a protective accessory for the phone’s large screen; rather it’s an extension. You can use the phone through the flip (tap the flip cover to launch and control) with several applications including the picture viewer, VZ Navigator, music and mobile TV. The 2.8” display has haptic feedback when you touch it and accelerometer support in some applications such as the web browser, music playback and picture viewer apps out of the box (the accelerometer isn’t supported in all applications). The touch screen controls are responsive both on the actual screen and through the flip, and there is a keylock on the right side of the phone to turn off the touch control through the flip.
The phone has a dedicated camera button on the side as well as a Voice command launch button. For music lovers, the Krave ZN4 comes with a 3.5mm stereo audio jack. The microSD card slot is easy to access on the right side of the phone, and we tested some SDHC cards with the Krave; all worked well.
Phone and Web
Motorola phones often have RF-oozing strong reception but the Krave ZN4 gets good though not exceptional reception. The phone gets full signal strength in well-covered areas and at least half of full signal strength in spotty coverage areas. It hasn’t dropped a call for us and the voice quality is decent on both incoming and outgoing ends. The Motorola Krave comes with most common call management features and a phone book that can store 1000 entries. The phone also comes with VoiceSignal’s excellent voice command software VSuite 3.1 which allows you to voice dial and check phone status. The Krave also supports Verizon’s new visual voice mail and has integrated Bluetooth that works with both mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets.
The Motorola Krave ZN4 has support for most messaging services including EMS, MMS, SMS, email (Brew app) and web-based IM. It also comes with an Openwave mobile web browser that can display both WAP sites and full HTML sites. The browser renders full HTML pages decently with all images intact and the EV-DO speed is good for page downloads. The accelerometer offers reasonably good response speed in the web browser, but one awkward browser feature is the virtual cursor. The cursor has a large circle in the middle and a pointy tip on top and is designed to help you pinpoint a link when text is too small for your fingers, but the cursor moves slowly and it doesn’t feel intuitive to browse web pages that way.
The Krave's web browser.
The Motorola Krave ZN4 is indeed a multimedia powerhouse by feature phone standards and benefits from Verizon’s wide range of multimedia services. The Krave comes with a very good music player that has all the usual music playback options such as shuffle, repeat and playlists. It also supports album art with iPod-like album cover flip action, and accelerometer support in the album list view. The built-in music player plays music in AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR NB, MIDI, MP3, WMA v10 and WMA v9 formats. This means if you have ripped music CDs in either iTunes or Windows Media Player, your music will play fine on the Krave. If you subscribe to Verizon’s V CAST Music with Rhapsody store, the Krave allows you to buy music over the air. Music download is fast over EV-DO. The Motorola has an awesome speakerphone that’s clear, full and unusually loud for a mobile phone. Music playback through the speaker was great in our tests, and even better through the built-in 3.5mm audio jack. A good wired headset yields strong bass and clear audio. Yet the best music audio came from Bluetooth stereo headsets thanks to the Bluetooth A2DP support. We tested the phone with the Samsung SBH-500 and Motorola’s own S9-HD Bluetooth headsets, both produced excellent audio with very strong bass.
Video playback performance is also very good on the Krave. V CAST on-demand streaming videos play smoothly most of the time. Videos look reasonably sharp compared to other Verizon feature phones. Audio was slightly out of sync with video at times with EVDO strength at half bars. The Motorola Krave ZN4 goes beyond on-demand streaming video. It offers the V CAST Mobile TV service powered by MediaFLO. V CAST Mobile TV has approximately 13 basic channels including Fox, CBS, NBC and MTV, and has shows currently running on these TV networks on the big screen. Even without the “rabbit ear” TV antenna found on the LG Voyager, mobile TV shows look sharper on the Motorola Krave. In fact, if you’re in a good MobileTV coverage area, it looks sharper than V Cast video (MobileTV coverage is different from Verizon’s phone coverage, so check their online maps). Verizon offers V CAST Mobile TV services in several packages and prices range from $13/month to $25/month.
The Krave ZN4 is also a good gaming phone. You can download games and other applications to the Media Center on the phone and the download speed is good. We tested several games and the Krave played all games smoothly. The large screen and good audio make for an enjoyable gaming experience. Game controls however are another matter. Games we’ve tested had modified the controls to use the touch screen. Some control schemes worked well like Bejeweled (select a gem and tap on the location you wish to swap to), but others didn’t work as well. Like in EA’s Spore game, you need to use your finger to guide your creature on the screen and the touch screen provided less precise control than a hardware d-pad or even an on-screen one which the Krave lacked. Audio was good for in-game music and sound effects.
GPS and VZ Navigator
The Motorola Krave ZN4 has built-in aGPS that works with Verizon’s VZ Navigator (our phone came with version 4.1.4). GPS performance was very good in our tests; it got fast position fixes that were mostly very accurate. The phone crashed a couple of times in VZ Navigator though, but other than that it ran well. VZ Navigator runs in both portrait and landscape mode with accelerometer support, and the phone offers a large on-screen keyboard for entering addresses. The on-screen keyboard is easy to use and has haptic feedback, and you can control VZ Navigator through the flip (you don’t need to open the flip to use this application).
Navigation was reasonably accurate and voice guidance was right on target. The real time traffic actually did a very good job of reporting highway backups. The maps have a large number of POIs for local searches, but they won’t show anything newer than 6 months including highway construction and ramp modifications. VZ Navigator isn’t free: you can get it for a day ($2.99) or pay a monthly fee ($9.99/month).
The Krave ZN4 has a 2 megapixel fixed-focus camera that takes very good photos by camera phone standards. The still pictures have correct exposure and color balance with saturated colors. Although some outdoor photos have noticeable white-out, the Krave deals with with high contrast better than many phones with higher-end cameras. The Krave can also take video with audio. What the camera phone doesn’t have are the usual settings you might find in most other camera phones. So if you want to adjust white balance, use color effects or fun frames, you can’t do that with the Krave.
The Krave impressed us in many ways, but battery life wasn’t one of them. The Motorola comes with a Lithium Ion rechargeable battery that’s 950 mAh in capacity and it’s user replaceable. The claimed talk time is 4.3 hours and the claimed standby time is 20 days. Our tests showed that talk time is just a little under 4 hours and the standby is much shorter than 20 days. The biggest battery killer is accessing content via EVDO, such as watching V CAST Video and downloading music and games from V CAST. Digital broadcast mobile TV also uses up fair amount of battery power, but not as much as content streaming via EVDO.
The Motorola Krave ZN4 came out of left field and managed to impress us with its strong multimedia features and good GPS performance. The phone has excellent audio, a nice music player with album art support and great mobile TV performance. It doesn’t have the large touch screen on the LG Dare, but the Krave feels more solidly built and more pocketable thanks to its small size and protective cover. If you want a touch screen phone that has mobile TV built in, the Krave is a good choice. This is especially true if you’re used to the Verizon standard user interface, which the Krave replicates faithfully in touch screen version. We only wish that more games were customized better for the Krave’s touch screen and lack of hardware controls.
Pro: The phone has good RF and great audio for music playback. The screen is protected and the phone feels more rugged compared to other large screen touch screen phones. Great video playback quality and GPS has good performance.
Con: Battery life could be better. Some application control schemes and user interface could use some improvement, like the built-in browser.
Price: $179.99 with 2-year contract after discount.
Display: 2.8” 65K color TFT display. Resolution: 240 x 400 pixels with flip open.
Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable battery, 950 mAh, user replaceable. Claimed talk time: up to 4.3 hours. Claimed standby time: up to 20 days.
Performance: 130MB internal memory. Phone book can store 1000 entries.
Size: 4.13 x 2.0 x 0.75 inches. Weight: 4.59 oz.
Phone: Dual band digital CDMA phone, 800/1900 MHz. 1x and EV-DO for data.
Camera: 2 megapixel camera with digital zoom. Can take video with audio.
Audio: Supports polyphonic Ringtones, MIDI and MP3 music tones. MP3 player onboard to play music in MIDI, MP3, AAC, AAC+, Enhanced AAC+ and WMA formats. 3.5 mm stereo audio jack. Can record voice memo. Supports vibration alert.
Networking: Bluetooth v2.0. Bluetooth Profiles Supported: Headset, Hands–free, Dial–Up Networking, Stereo, Phonebook Access, Basic Printing, Basic Imaging, Object Push for vCard, and File Transfer. USB 2.0.
Software: Verizon icon-based UI. HTML browser and Web-based IM on board. PIM tools include Contacts, Calendar, Calculator, Alarm Clock, Tip Calculator, Notepad and World Clock.