Motorola's presents The Next Big Thing in Cellphones with its new Krave ZN4 touchscreen phone, available starting today from Verizon for $150 (with a two-year deal plus rebate, of course). Krave's claim to fame: a clear flip front cover that's also touch-sensitive. In other words, touch the protective plastic top, which Motorola calls a "touch cover," and the actual LCD screen beneath reacts as if it's just been touched. It's all quite Criss Angel-y.
On the surface (pun intended) this touch cover seems like a great advancement. But the Krave, which operates on
Motorola's Verizon's EV-DO network, works differently with the touch cover closed than open. Not only do you get different sets of menu options, but you're limited to what you can access with the cover down.
The issues don't stop there. Hit the Continue jump for more hands-on impressions, including which of the Krave's features got me to nearly throw the phone into a brick wall.
More on the plastic cover: It's completely in the way when using the QWERTY keypad. When the cover is open (the only way to use the keypad), there's no way to comfortably hold the phone and tap keys with your left thumb. This physical hindrance completely obliterates the advantage gained by splaying out the roomy haptic-enabled keyboard across the Krave's extra-long 2.8-inch screen.
But Krave has other disappointments.
Instead of fully functional Web browser, for instance, there's a WAP 2.0 browser instead. You can't touch links in the phone's full HTML browser to navigate; you have to use a bizarre ring-like onscreen touch cursor. The damn thing wouldn't stay still on a link and tapping it usually did nothing. I simply couldn't navigate off an opening site page. I almost threw the phone against the wall in frustration.
Finally, the standard Verizon cellphone operating system simply doesn't stretch far enough to encompass the Krave's touch capabilities. In fact, Krave's failure rests solely at the feet of Verizon, not Motorola. With its new technology, Krave should have been a showcase. Instead, Krave exemplifies the unreasonable power carriers have over manufacturers — curtailing their ability to truly innovate and deliver a consumer-friendly cellphone that can compete with iPhone.
CORRECTIONS: We slipped when we identified the phone's EV-DO network as Motorola's; of course, it's Verizon's. And Motorola insists the phone's Web browser is a fully functional HTML browser. We'll take their word for it, since we never want to open the thing again.