Review of the Motorola C333

The Motorola C333 has been around for quite some time, and Iíd not really intended to test it. However, Treatz asked me to have a look at it to see if the newest firmware helped matters at all.

Last Updated: 21-Oct-2003

Before reading this review, please read Some Thoughts on Phone Reviewing.

I would like to thank Treatz for lending me a C333.


On the surface the C333 is a nice little phone with the promise of having the same level of performance as Motorolaís vaunted P280. Certainly the phone offers a similar, if not identical, feature set. The menus and functions are very similar to the P280, though the C333 offers a multiple gray scale screen. This means that each pixel can be one of a number of different shades of gray, rather than just on or off.

It also offers is GSM850, whereas the P280 was a world phone with 900, 1800, and 1900 MHz. For North American use (especially on Rogers) having GSM850 is a very important aspect. Not only will 850 MHz give you markedly better rural performance, but some areas of the United States offer AT&T GSM service only on that frequency. If you donít roam in the US, this is obviously a moot point.

Battery life is okay, as it took 3 days to run down the battery even with a fair bit of testing. However, the battery meter drops to 2-out-of-3 bars very quickly, which gives you the distinct impression that it has exceptionally poor battery life.

An odd thing about this phone is that the battery is not removable. It is embedded inside the phone, and cannot be easily accessed. This means that it will likely be an expensive proposition to replace the battery in the future.

The keypad is tiny, due to the small size of the phone, and I found it difficult to use accurately. If youíre like most people youíll want to press the keys using your thumb, but if you have anything but petit fingers, youíll find it difficult to accurately press only the keys you want. It would have helped if it had a high-quality keypad, but it does not. Many of the keys felt they were pressing, when in fact they were not.

Like the P280 the phone offers a selection of two font sizes. The larger font is big and bold, and easy to read, but the screen is so small that you only get two lines of text in this mode. If you opt for the smaller font you get three lines, but the characters are hard to read, and not particularly handsome.

The phonebook is a slight improvement over the P280, in that it allows you to store a userís e-mail address as well as his or her phone number. It also allows you to assign a small graphic image and a unique ringtone to each entry. Unfortunately the C333 does not improve on the old Motorola system of storing each piece of information as a separate entry in the phone book list, making it difficult to scroll through it all. Surely Motorola could have implemented a hieratical system like the one in their iDEN models.

Text entry is provided via Motorolaís iTap technology, which is a poor excuse for T9. Like the P280 the C333 doesnít allow new words to be added to the dictionary, and as such it is of dubious value. I didnít like it on the P280, and I donít like it on the C333.

RF Performance and Audio Quality

Although the sound quality is actually very good, the earpiece volume is unacceptably low. Even in a quiet environment I found it too soft for my tastes, and in noisy environments it was difficult to hear in many instances. To its credit however, the C333 has reasonably good volume to a headset, and sound quality is excellent. Outgoing sound quality was okay, but it was a bit muddy, and not particularly loud.

RF sensitivity was pretty good, and the phone seemed to hang on to signals almost as well as my Nokia 6310i. That initially boded well for the phone, but when I tried it in a moving environment I found that the RF performance of the phone was horrible. It constantly handed off, and quite often it would find itself on the wrong channel. Running back-to-back tests with my 6310i on Rogers made it seem as though I was using a completely different network.

There have been many discussions over the last year about how poor the C333 is, and based purely upon its abysmal on-road behavior I can clearly see why itís garnered this reputation. The newest firmware does nothing to make this phone worth your consideration. The tiny screen, lackluster menu system, and horrible keypad only make matters worse. Treatz tells me that many Rogers dealers have stopped advertising the C333 simply because of the bad taste it has left in the mouths of customers who have purchased it.