Motorola SLVR L7

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This week marks the U.S. launch of the SLVR, Motorola's attempt to revolutionize the candy bar-style phone in the way that the RAZR forever changed clamshells. There is certainly no candy-bar style phone sold in this country that's as slim, and packed with as many features, as the SLVR. Still, I'm still on the fence about it.

Don't get me wrong: the SLVR (pronounced sliver) is a sexy phone, designed for people who aren't into flip phones but are jealous of RAZR owners. It has RAZR-style anodized aluminum sides, a thickness (thinness?) of 11.5mm, and gently raised number keys, set in plastic that has been through a process called "vacuum metallization."

It has Bluetooth for wireless headsets and, unlike many Bluetooth phones in the U.S., direct communication with PC desktops. The tiny lithium ion battery can be charged from a computer's USB port, and can pull off up to 400 minutes of talk time. The integrated iTunes music player lasts up to 11 hours when you're wearing headphones and when you've got the phone in Airplane Mode — that is, with the phone connectivity turned off.

Yes, the SLVR L7 has iTunes. Many people have criticized Motorola's forays into Mr. Jobs' neighborhood, and the pattern may well continue: Like the ROKR before it, the SLVR has a low-speed USB connection, meaning it could only load a little over two songs per minute. It also has the famous 100-song limit, though that's part of the deal with Apple. A couple of hobbles still in place, yes, but for the time being, these Motos are the only phones that will play your iTunes purchases directly.

Complaints about iTunes I can deal with. I just think the SLVR is lacking a few things that would benefit customers. For instance, although "speaker independent" voice recognition software — an excellent safety feature if you're using a phone while driving, because it dramatically reduces the need to look at or touch the phone — can be found in many Motorola handsets, the SLVR isn't one of them

Also absent is a news ticker feature that Motorola and Cingular introduced in the V557. Right there on the phone's home screen is a little ticker of weather and news headlines, pulled down at regular intervals. If a feature like that is ever going to gain popularity, it's going to have to grace a sexier phone.

Finally, I'm worried that it will soon be overshadowed by phones from Samsung and LG, built to run on Cingular's new high-speed network. Verizon and Sprint have radically expanded their entertainment offerings over the past few months and Cingular is apt to try and keep up. The SLVR is sexy and slim, but broadband it ain't. That might not matter to the target customer whose main concern is to talk — and look good doing it.