The Motorola v710: Verizon's New Crippled Phone
Jonathan A. Zdziarski
Manufacture an amazing piece of technology and then cripple all of the good
features so you can profit. This is how many v710 users describe their
new Bluetooth-enabled phone from Verizon. The v710 appeared to be a
truly amazing product from the manufacturer's initial feature list - Bluetooth
support, Megapixel Camera, POP3 email, and Instant Messenger. That is, before
Verizon decided to disable several of its features for what many believe (and
what Verizon doesn't deny) was an effort to drive up revenue. If all you plan
on doing is talking on the phone, you won't have any
problems - the phone functions with all Verizon-approved hands-free devices.
Then again, who would pay the hefty $519 list price for a phone if they just wanted to talk on it?
After buying the new v710, many consumers quickly discovered they were
unable to perform several basic functions which other similarly equipped phones, from other
carriers, were capable of doing. Simple functions, such as sending a
phone book record to another phone or a picture to a laptop computer, exist only in some locked
area of the v710 noone can access. This is because some critical Bluetooth
profiles have been deactivated on the handset; primarily OBEX/OPP/Serial. These
services are responsible for transferring photos and phone numbers or
performing synchronization with a PC wirelessly. Lack of these feature has
also caused many vehicles with
Bluetooth support (such as the Prius, Acura TL, and BMW) to malfunction. The
only sure-fire way to transfer anything to or from the phone, in fact, is to
shell out $60 for a TransFlash memory card.
Looking around for the POP3 email client or instant messenger? It was
advertised as a capability by the manufacturer, but you won't find it
Verizon had those features switched off as well.
I decided to call up Verizon and get to the bottom of the matter, and
engaged in a discussion with Verizon's Corporate Handset,
Product Distribution, and Marketing honcho, Brenda Raney, asking targetted
questions about many of these features and why they were not on the phone
as expected. Apart from the usual "we never advertised these features" spiel,
I was very shocked to see that Verizon was so up-front and open about their
attitude regarding consumers.
Q. Many people feel that Verizon has specifically disabled these features to
force them to use your Get-it-Now and PIX Place service.
A. And your point is?
Q. Well, these features are available in phones from many other carriers, and
people feel cheated.
Verizon does business unlike any other carrier, and we make no apologies for
that. ... [Those features] don't work with our business model. Every
customer is certainly entitled to their own feelings.
Q. Do you foresee that OBEX/OPP will be enabled anytime in the near future?
Q. The average joe can go out and fork over $60 for a TransFlash card, which
will allow them to transfer pictures, MP3s, whatever...and at no profit to
Verizon...so why not just enable these features on the phone and give the
customers a break?
A. That's where the security issue comes in.
What Security Issue? I had heard this story from Verizon, which was that they
were investigating security issues with the phone, but this appeared only to be
an afterthought in comparison with Verizon's profitability needs.
The story didn't appear to hold water, and I got the feeling she understood that.
Bluetooth has some basic front-line security designed to prevent
someone from arbitrarily transferring files to/from
the phone without performing a "bonding" ritual. On top of this, the v710
sports a "stealth mode" where it will remain invisible from discovery unless
the owner specifically makes it visible (at 60-second intervals) so there's
little chance a stranger will even know it's there let alone have the
MAC address. If you're
still concerned about
Bluejacking, the Bluetooth radio can be shut off entirely with a couple of
button presses, which is what most users do anyway to conserve power. If you want Fort Knox, you got it...and even if someone did
Bluejack you, they'd have to be within smacking distance.
Q. So what would you say to the consumer who paid for this phone and expected
to receive [these features]?
A. [When a customer buys a phone] there's a level of risk. ... We never
advertised these features.... We have a fifteen
day satisfaction guarantee.
Q. When this phone is released to other carriers, will you accept their ESNs
if your customers want a fully-functioning phone?
A. We don't [activate] phones unless they're ours. If Motorola sells it to another
carrier, it may be the a710 or the p710. That's not our phone.
Unfortunately this conversation only confirmed my belief that Verizon's
customers were nothing but cattle to be rounded up.
This isn't the first time customers have felt burned from Verizion.
Verizon has developed a quite notorious reputation among mobile users for the
revenue they drive from their DRM (digital rights management)
campaign. While most other carriers allow you to do pretty much whatever you
want with your phone, Verizon prefers to make money every time you transfer a
picture, check your email, or do anything that could constitute a value-add.
Verizon appears to be actively plugging loopholes as recently customers have
found they can no longer email themselves ringtones or backgrounds.
If you were able to send files to the person next to you using Bluetooth,
you'd miss the privilege of using Verizon's PIX service (which costs $0.25 a
picture). If you were able to use a true IM client for chatting, you'd only
use up airtime (with free nights and weekends), and then how would you end up
having to pay for Verizon's $4.95/mo TXT messaging subscription? The
IM client makes the unnecessary use of TXT messaging to send and receive
messages, just as sending a picture through the network uses Verizon's
unnecessary PIX service. If you want to do anything
fun with that phone you just shelled out for, Verizon has made sure you are going to
pay for it...that's the real security they seem to be concerned
And what about applications on the v710? Very little software is available for the
new phone primarily because Verizon has continued in a long tradition of
what many see as customer extortion by locking the phone's software capabilities.
Verizon has joined some 35 smaller carriers to profit off of the
consumer by pushing Brew on all of their phones. Brew is, to many consumers, a
mediocre application platform designed to take their money. To many developers,
it's a platform designed to crush free software and independent developers. It's written by Qualcomm and designed specifically to
enforce the consumer's dependence on the carrier, forcing them to purchase
applications only through Verizon. Qualcomm's
propaganda to the carrier makes its nature obvious: Brew Equals Revenue.
The version of Brew running on the v710 is locked to require every Brew
application to be digitally signed (by Verizon) in order to run, and this
signature is based on the handset's ESN (electronic serial number). What's the
point of doing all this you ask? Qualcomm and Verizon stand behind their anti-piracy propaganda.
It must be a mere coincidence that it also locks the consumer into purchasing
any games or applications only from Verizon. This effectively locks out third
party software manufacturers, allows Verizon to price fix, and snuffs out
entirely the independent developer who would like to develop applications for
the phone. There will never be such a thing as free software for Brew because
it costs developers $4 per phone to digitally sign an application (with a
minimum of 100 signatures). But this is all coincidence.
v710's Redeeming Value
Fortunately, if you can live with crippled Bluetooth and lack of POP3 email or a good
IM client (or if you happen to be stuck in a Verizon contract),
the v710 does sport some great improvements over other Verizon
phones. The remaining features of the v710 include:
- Excellent Reception: It's got a great radio. Most report they're able to pick up calls better
than any other phone. If you are having reception
problems at home or work, the v710 will most likely solve them.
- Functional Bluetooth Dialup Networking Gateway: Fortunately, Verizon
didn't disable the dialup network gateway, which allows you to make 14.4k
data calls from your laptop or PDA via Bluetooth. This service can also be used to connect
to Verizon's ExpressNetwork, providing subscribers with speeds up to
144k. Apparently Verizon doesn't seem as concerned about a stranger using up
your minutes as they do downloading your pictures.
- Enhanced Voice Dial: At first, I spent a good bit of time fumbling through
the manual to find the training mode for voice dial, come to find
that it didn't need it. The voice recognition chip used in the v710 doesn't
require any vocal training, and will accurately recognize your phone book
- Functional TransFlash Card Slot: TransFlash is the new portable memory
standard for mobile phones. The v710 has a TransFlash card slot, allowing you
to transfer MP3s or Photos to/from the v710. The optional TransFlash card
includes an SD-Card adapter making it relatively simple to connect it up to
a PC or PDA.
- MP3 Player: The v710 doubles as an MP3 player. A set of stereo ear buds is
available that play in true stereo (not mixed mono), and the quality is
good. If you can handle the extra battery load and the cost of a TransFlash
card, the v710 can replace the player on the other side of your belt.
- Highly Programmable - As with most Motorola phones, there is a lot of
room to hack settings. The v710 has a secret programming menu (accessible
via Menu + 0 + 73887 + *) allowing you to tweak many settings and even enter
test mode, which provides - among other things - some GPS diagnostics. If you
happen to have a copy of the
you can do a lot of serious programming on the phone.
- External LCD - If you thought the mirror on the v600 was tacky, you'll
appreciate the external LCD display which allows you to snap pictures of
yourself. Since most nerds who would do this will find themselves alone, I find
it a very useful feature.
Aside from disabled features, most of the remaining issues with the v710 are unfortunately pretty severe, and quite depressing. With a list price of $519, you'd think that Motorola would have considered some of these issues prior to release. Demand drove the phone out a few months early, but in reality I'd rather have a somewhat working phone than no phone at all - so Kudos to Motorola for at least releasing the phone, but you scored no points on QA whatsoever.
- No Syncing: It is impossible to sync this phone over Bluetooth, and you
can only sync the phonebook and related data via USB cable (no pictures or
music). You cannot upload files to the phone at all (even with Bitpim)
except by use of the TransFlash card. Motorola is reportedly working on a
fix to allow phonebook syncing over Bluetooth, scheduled for November 2004.
Motorola confirmed that this was only an issue because of Verizon's specific
requirements (which obviously include no syncing of pictures or music).
- Ear Piece Volume: Many complain it's too difficult to hear. I've provided
a small hack for this at the end of this article that might help. Motorola
has informed me that a firmware and hardware fix will be made to the phone.
This should be available to Verizon customers.
- Front LCD: No custom graphics are permitted on the front LCD panel,
only a few patterns embedded in the device. Normally this wouldn't be
too much of an issue, except that: 1. All of the other manufacturers let you do this with their phone, and 2. The patterns Motorola provides make the display very difficult to read, change only with the color scheme, and are unprofessional.
In an interview with Motorola, I was informed that the user would not be able
to set a custom background in the future. This will be a feature specific only
to a newer model of the 710 to be released at a later date.
- Poor Quality Camera Photos: You don't need to be worried too much about
Verizon's crippled file transfer, because the camera quality is too terrible to
want to take pictures with. The 1280x960 resolution delivers indoor qualities
poorer than most other 640x480 handsets. Many users complain of extreme
camera flicker. Outdoor, the photos are somewhat acceptable but still lacking.
To add insult to injury, the external light requires traversing three menus
to activate, and must be re-activated for each picture.
- TransFlash and Ringtones: In order to use any files on your TransFlash card as a ringtone, you have to copy them to the phone. You can play MP3s from the flashcard and use pictures, but the music must be copied into the phone's tiny 10MB memory in order to use any music as a ringtone.
- Voice Dial: No Shortcuts. The Voice dial is great, but I for one hate having to say the full name of the person in my phone book (and yes, I want their full name in my phone book). Motorola needs to add a 'nickname' field so that I can just call out 'Dave' instead of 'David Smith'. I used to be able to do this by training "Dave" on other phones, but since you don't train this phone, I'm stuck using the full name.
- Voice Commands: Too Much Talking. In order to voice dial, you have to say
three things: "Name Dial", then the person's name, then the entry (Mobile,
Home, etc). At the very least, there needs to be a setting to make Name Dial
the default voice command.
- Speakerphone: Doesn't operate with the flip closed.
- Scratches: Opening the cover appears to cause small vertical scratches
near the joint; you must be very careful when opening it, or use a case
that restricts it from fully opening.
- Battery Life: Mixed results; many claim they experience great
battery life (3-4 days on standby), while others experience a mere 6 hours.
Part of this depends on your signal strength, but it appears there may be
some lemons out there. If you experience poor battery life, take your phone
to Verizon and ask for another battery. If that doesn't fix it, get a new
Miscellaneous Problems With the v710
- When the phone is booting, pressing "end" bypasses the PIN security
- The screen saver doesn't appear to function at all
- Scrolling through photos too quickly will cause the phone to reboot
- After adding "Sound Settings" as a shortcut and using it, the "Back"
menu option fails to work, reuqiring use of the red "End" button to exit.
- When the brightness setting is set to zero, the phone freezes and the
outside LCD turns off, requiring restart of the phone.
- When paired with the Acura TL, an incoming text message appears as a phone
call, but cannot be answered.
- When paired with the Acura TL, attempting to dial a number using any
pauses stored in the TL's phone directory will cause the call to fail and
the v710 to reset.
- When in "Vibe&Ring" mode, and paired with an Acura TL, the phone does not
pass the call through to the vehicle until it starts to ring.
- When paired with a bluetooth headset, the phone does not ring (this may
be desired functionality, but should have an option to disable)
- When the flip is closed, the screen remains on until it times out
- There is no option to leave the backlight on indefinitely (as long as
the phone is open). This may be related to the previous problem.
- The voice dial feature does not work well with non-English names, and
should have a train option, or a Nickname option in the phonebook.
- Photo ID pictures are too small, rendering the feature useless.
- There is no way to send a call directly to voicemail using the external
buttons. You can only silence the incoming call, which will allow it to ring
silently until the user eventually gets voicemail.
- There is no simultaneous Vibe&Ring function, only Vibe-then-Ring.
- The low battery beep plays even when the phone is in silent mode
Naturally, many customers have taken their grievances to the Motorola Support department to try and show them the err of their ways. I contacted Motorola myself
only to find their support quite bizarre. The first thing I noticed is that no matter who you speak with, everyone speaks in the same broken, foreign accent - but they all have American names like "Amy" and "Dave". The whole experience screams "witness protection" or perhaps Motorola has moved their support overseas, but assigned each employee an American name to make their customers feel more comfortable (OK Habib, you're Jake today). I guess that's the best you can do if you're too cheap to hire American workers. Anyhow, their front-line support is pretty much clueless. I recommend requesting the technical support department immediately when you call. They will at least step up and tell you that
they have no idea what's going to be in the first firmware update. If you ask
about any of the features Verizon has disabled, they'll tell you there is
no way to activate them, or that they'll risk losing their job if they
tell you. You're SOL.
The long-lived relationship between the carrier and the manufacturer is one of co-monopoly. The manufacturer (Motorola) depends on the carrier to become
a sales distribution channel, and allow their phones' ESNs on their network. The
carrier, in order to do this, requires that the manufacturer allow them to
lock the phone up and disable whatever features they request, only instead of
the carrier doing the advertising for the phone, the manufacturer assists in
a bait-and-switch routine - advertising the full features of the phone, leaving
Verizon with plausible deniability when you find out your phone is crippled.
Agreements like these allow the carrier and the manufacturer to both share
power over the consumer and lock out competition, but
neither corporation has, to date, been accused of any criminal wrongdoing.
This same loving carrier is also our only advocate to Motorola - Motorola's
one customer. The v710 is a Verizon-owned phone, which means it is
Brew-enabled, DRM-retrofitted, and functionally geared to meet Verizon's
specific requirements for profitability. The fact that the phone has a few
features consumers like is merely a coincidence, and sadly the phone itself
lacks many other features that will most likely never be fixed.
"So What?" you may ask. The average unsuspecting consumer doesn't seem to have
much of a problem being rounded up in the cattle pen. Verizon sells the phone,
so they have the right to control it, right? When was the last time you
purchased a laptop computer or a PDA and had IBM or HP tell you what you could
or could not do with it on the Internet? The phones of today
are computers, and people expect a level of functionality and privacy from them
(such as Verizon's network never seeing you on the toilet after your spouse
gets a hold of your phone).
likes paying hundreds of dollars for something only to have someone disable
features, forcing them to use a public network to transfer personal data. The sad state of the industry
is that Verizon has become both service provider and hardware manufacturer,
a very dangerous combination for those who expect their carrier to
earn an honest living.
Isn't everyone doing this? No. There are plenty of other carriers that don't seem
to have the same control issues. Most GSM carriers provide a full set of
features in the phones they sell. The Bluetooth-enabled phones offered by
Cingular Wireless include a full set of services, run whatever games you like,
and even include an email client. Other major carriers including Sprint,
T-Mobile, and AT&T provide similar quality phones lacking any significant
No, the tactics Verizon has shown to use in driving up revenue is only
the carriers in many third-world or communist countries such as China
(China Unicom), Taiwan (Vibo), Argentina (Movicom), and Nicaragua (BellSouth
where the Orwellian philosophy has been nurtured and propagated. And if these
carriers get their way, America will become just like them.
These customer strong-arming tactics are what originally got Microsoft in
trouble, and seems to be the signature of some now-dying carriers such as
Cellular One. In America, Verizon's profitability appears to have a short
So is there any way to fix it? This has happened before in our
country. A long time ago, the
only thing people were legally allowed to plug into their phone jacks were AT&T
telephones. The excuses were similar - the safety of the network, to ensure
compatibility, etc. It was only
after AT&T started charging consumers rental fees for telephone equipment
that this ban was struck down by the courts. In today's industry, the carrier
doesn't need a law preventing us from using foreign hardware. They're able to
block it themselves through technology. Other countries have laws that prevent
carriers from locking their phones to any specific network, so you can buy a
phone and use it on any compatible network you like. This opens up the market
for feature-rich third-party phones and prevents the manufacturers from
getting too close to the carrier. This is probably one reason
why other countries always have better mobile phone technology than us.
The Motorola v710 is like a night at the Ramada Inn. You'll find it has
many of the necessities you need, but is a very average experience in the end
leaving you only with a sigh of mediocrity whenever you look at your phone.
In spite of its shortcomings, the Motorola v710 is a good phone if you're
stuck with Verizon for one reason or another. Unfortunately, most of the v710's
users won't have the pleasure of being able to enjoy many of its features,
thanks to Verizon. Moo!
v710 Hacker Reward Program
I have put together a v710 Hacker's pot. To win the pot, you have to provide
us with a way to enable working OBEX and OPP Bluetooth profiles on the Verizon
v710 (this includes providing any software that may be necessary). I'm
kicking in $100 of my own cash to start this pot off. See
official site for more information.
v710 Volume Hack
This reportedly works on most v710 handsets, but some are already at max. It worked greaet on my personal handset:
- Enter the "Opcode Menu" by pressing: MENU 048263 * (you'll have to enter
it rather quickly).
- Enter 54* and press OK. This will suspend the phone and dim the backlight.
- Press the external camera button to turn the backlight back on. You will
see "SUCCESS". Press BACK.
- Enter 5*0*15 and press OK. This will max out the system volume of the
handset. You can use any number from 0-15 as the third digit, but even at
level 15, the phone could be louder.
- You should see SUCCESS. Press BACK.
- Press CANCEL to exit the Opcode Menu