Motorola phone talks a tough game

February 4, 2009 By Eric Benderoff, Chicago Tribune

For some people, a phone is just a phone. They don't need e-mail, a Web browser or a camera. They just want to make a call. And the last thing they want to worry about is what will happen to a phone that's dropped or gets splashed with a little coffee.

With the Motorola Tundra, you get a "rugged" phone that not only does a very nice job with the basics, but also absorbs the stresses of everyday living. It comes with the extras (such as a decent 2 megapixel camera), if you want them.

"It isn't a sexy phone, but it's proving to be popular," said Kristie Lundgren, a product manager for Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola Inc. She likes to say it's a phone "as tough as your kids, made to sit on the bottom of backpack or a diaper bag."

The Tundra has one drawback: its steep price. It costs $199 with a two-year contract and is available only at AT&T Wireless.

Price aside, here's why I like this phone:

• The keys are big and firm. "It was designed for people wearing gloves," Lundgren said. They also are slightly raised, making it easier to dial without looking at the keypad.

• The sound quality is excellent, thanks to a noise-suppression technology Motorola calls CrystalTalk Plus. In test calls with friends and family from busy, traffic-filled streets and chatty coffee shops, I was heard clearly. The people I called were impressed.

• The Tundra is comfortable to hold, thanks to its rubberized exterior. That tough hide means you don't need a case, either.

The primary market for the Tundra is businesses that work mainly outdoors, such as construction or landscaping. It has push-to-talk features and it can be programmed to prevent employees from using certain applications (such as the Web browser) or to call only numbers from an approved phone book - no phoning home on company time.

I think consumers, too, will like the benefits of using a rugged phone.

You can make a call in the rain (but don't purposely submerge it underwater) and not worry when a toddler tosses the phone across the kitchen.

It's a tough phone that works well. Sometimes, that's all one needs.


(Eric Benderoff writes about technology for the Chicago Tribune. Contact him at ebenderoff(at) or at the Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago IL 60611.)


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