Ballroom Blitz

January 13, 2009

blitz1I much prefer when phone manufacturers and carriers assign a name to a phone, rather than just a boring alphanumeric nomenclature. Who wouldn’t rather have a Sway than a U650, or a Chocolate instead of a VX8500? How many Storms would Verizon have moved if the first touchscreen Blackberry was called the 9530? And if the iPhone were called the iM2GA4U…well, it wouldn’t have mattered, because all of the trend-hopping, numbnutted doucheknobs would have gobbled them up anyway.

Just kidding, iPhoners. I love every one of you. Seriously. Have fun with those MMS.

So when a phone called the Blitz bursts – or rather sashays – onto the market with a saucy wink and a come-hither waggle of the eyebrows, sometimes an avowed hetero like myself can’t help succumbing to curiosity. What’s the big deal, anyway? Penis shmenis, we’re all people, right?

The TXT8010 Blitz is built by Pantech for UTStarcom (now PCD, formerly Audiovox), and is sold by Verizon. It’s another upright qwerty slider, like the Motorola Hint and the Samsung Propel, with a full qwerty keyboard nestled beneath a large, landscape-oriented screen. The Blitz is thicker than most phones (or phone books, these days), but it takes up relatively little area thanks to its slider form factor. It weighs about as much as teacup chihuahua, but it won’t crap on the floor or hump your Barbie Dream House furniture, and I’ve yet to see it shake itself into a semi-coma.

The Blitz comes in two colors, depending on where you get it; Verizon stores carry only the Fisher-Price Blue version, which I used for a few days before returning it in tactile disgust. Thanks to its high-gloss paint job, the blue Blitz holds on to every microgram of finger oil and random environmental detritus like dust and hair, covering it in a layer of slimy belligerence that would make Willy Cicci beam with fraternal pride. The silver version – exclusive to Best Buy – is virtually spooge-proof, sporting an entirely different surface feel with a semi-gloss finish that not only hides fingerprints, but grants them safe conduct back to their homeland. The silver Blitz also has better earpiece quality than the blue one that I used for three days; callers sound more natural, and less like they’re stuck in a deep, deep hole.

Professor Xavier’s most bitter failure went on to hit number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975

Professor Xavier’s most bitter failure went on to hit number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975

Where the Blitz absolutely Baby-Jane-bitch-slaps the Motorola Hint isn’t with its mediocre screen or unwieldy heft, but in its button design and placement. The Hint’s keys are a collection of unforgiving slashes and minuscule squares, but the Blitz doesn’t mess around; it thrusts its large, thumb-friendly top-slider buttons in your face and dares you to press one – go ahead, just one – while its keyboard is well-shaped and amenable to even the thickest digits diddling its Ps and Qs. The result is a phone that might not turn any heads with its design, but which is a pure joy to navigate; it never sacrifices function to form, a rare attribute in anything these days.

Unlike the Samsung Sway, which requires a convoluted system of pulleys, hydraulics, and group prayer to slide the damn thing open without flipping it across the room, the Blitz’s slide mechanism is smoother than butta and easier to manipulate than the presidential election in a banana republic. The phone’s overall thickness seems to help here, as the rear (or lower) half provides ample purchase to grasp while sliding the front upwards.

Standard reception is top-shelf, but the Blitz lacks high-speed data access for those of you who routinely groove in the EVDO lane. The camera is average; pictures show severe compression artifacts on the phone’s small screen, but that problem disappears once they’re moved to a better display venue, where they’re clear and colorful enough for day-to-day snapshots. The phone also supports microSD cards up to 4GB, and will automatically collate any music already on the card into Verizon’s My Music folder. As usual, imported sounds cannot be used as ringtones or alerts, though any picture may be set as the Blitz’s wallpaper.

For anyone looking at a qwerty slider for heavy-duty messaging, the Blitz is a tough customer; it won’t blow you away with its multimedia capabilities, but it provides excellent call quality, seamless UI navigation, quick and accurate text messaging, and it won’t set you back two hundred clams, pre-rebate, like the Motorola Krave or the Samsung Glyde. The Blitz is not nearly as feature-rich as either the Krave or the Glyde, but in the arena of closed-loop, technological oneupmanship, sometimes that’s okay.

Sometimes a phone is, after all, just a phone.