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Review: Casio G'zOne Ravine

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The Casio G'zOne Ravine has plenty of messaging options for a feature phone, though most of these options haven't changed much in the four years I've been looking at G'zOne phones. Basic text messaging has gotten better looking, and messages are now presented in a threaded, conversational format. But the phone does a poor job indicating from which side of the conversation the message is coming, and it only shows the first dozen or so characters of a 160-character SMS message. My picture messages came through, but I had to click through two screens to see the picture, and it was not obvious when a picture was attached.

The Ravine uses the same instant messaging app Verizon Wireless has been using since the telegraph was invented. It's stodgy and dated looking, but if you want to connect to AIM, Windows Live or Yahoo, it gets the job done. There are a trio of email options available, but none of them are very good. There is a mobile email client that connects through the phone's horrible Web browser. This will, of course, require the addition of a data plan. There is a standalone client to which you can subscribe for $5, though this option is also free if you have a data plan that includes email. Finally, there is a basic Exchange client for corporate users, but this option costs another $10 on top of a data plan. None of these options are very good. The phone did a poor job notifying me of incoming emails promptly, and the interface on the two standalone products was sluggish and feature-poor.

The phone comes with the new iSkoot Social Beat app that is showing up on more and more feature phones these days. Social Beat lets you check status updates on Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook. It also lets you check your Gmail, and offers another IM client for Google Talk. If you're a social networking fan, Social Beat is definitely the best all around messaging option on the Ravine. But there are so few good Internet and data-intensive apps on the phone that it's hardly worth paying for the extra data plan that Social Beat requires. If you don't subscribe to a data plan, Verizon Wireless charges a near-criminal $1.99 per megabyte.

When a new message arrives, the phone will notify you on the external screen. Though that screen is incapable of showing fancy images and menus, it should be good enough to display a few lines of a text message, so I was disappointed to find that you don't even get a preview of a new message without opening the clamshell.


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