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Motorola FlipOut. First Look at Toy Smartphone
Apparently, flirting with unusual smartphones is gaining momentum; right after Sony Ericsson's announcement of the miniature variations of the X10 – i.e. the compact X10 mini and keyboard-enabled X10 mini pro – at MWC 2010, Motorola presents its own vision of such devices – the Motorola FlipOut.
Design, Case Materials
What does a miniature smartphone look like? It can appear strange or funny; arouse the whole spectrum of emotions. All these feelings are indeed caused by the FlipOut in one or another way. And that is probably right. Anyhow, the main kick of the miniature device is its ability to astonish, and it's bad if it can't do that.
The smartphone has a square shape, it feels plump in one's hand, albeit the case is not that thick if one takes into account the presence of a QWERTY keypad and the rotator form factor.
The case material is matte plastic, the very casual one, nothing to add here. The device looks neither expensive nor cheap, to some extent it appears as a toy. The smartphone will ship with six interchangeable color panels; I got my hands on the device with a light green panel.
As far as the dimensions are concerned, the smartphone is compact, not as much as the SE X10 mini and mini pro, but very close to them.
Maybe it would be politically correct not to mention the built quality provided I got my hands on an engineering sample… Nevertheless, my particular device had a problem with unfolding the flip; one half of the device would appear not the way it was supposed to relative to the second one when unfolded, to be more precise. You can see it with your own eyes in the above pictures of the device unfolded. However, it is an engineering sample problem and the final versions won't have it.
Controls, QWERTY Keypad
There are three sensor keys below the screen; as usually, they are not very comfortable but one can get used to them. There is a volume rocker on one edge of the device and a button that turns off the screen or the smartphone completely on the other.
The keypad can be accessed by rotating the upper half of the body. It rotates clockwise in the 90-degree range. There is an automatic mechanism that assists both folding and unfolding the device there; it works fine.
As for the keypad, it's not large, which comes obvious based on the smartphone size. For convenience, the keys can be divided into two blocks, left and right, separated with a plastic edging. The keypad has five rows, but the upper one consists of a limited number of keys, which makes me say that it rather has four actual rows. There are numbers and special characters on the upper row and letters on the rest of them. The layout is quite good.
In the lower left-hand side of the keypad, there is a small action key, which is an interesting solution; however the actual location of the key could have been better despite the fact it is quite comfy per se.
A capacitative TFT screen with the resolution of 240x320 pixels (QVGA) is used in the Motorola FlipOut. Anticipating another round of forum debate as regards the "nonstandard" resolution, I have to say the following. It is true indeed that there exist some applications, which don't work very well (or rather work bad) on QVGA screens, but those are just a handful and off the top of my head I can't think of any both usable by many people (e.g. an ICQ client, alternative browser, etc.) and not working on QVGA "robots."
The screen supports multi-touch; the picture is certainly "grainy," but on the whole the display is not hard on the eyes. It's not a bad screen, one that renders colors and picture the way they should be; it's true that it's not the newest but it suffices for this particular device.
The FlipOut is equipped with a basic 3-megapixel camera with fixed focus, so I'll skip the details.
The device runs on the Android 2.1 OS. I could see just the minimum of extra software and applications in the engineering sample: a slightly revamped menu, several desktops, button that reveals the list of programs, and a few extra utilities among the applications.
Side note: all screen snapshots are taken with a camera, those who know they way software snapshots are made on Android should understand why I hurriedly had to use the camera.
There will be the latest version of MOTOBLUR, Motorola's proprietary interface, installed on the device.
The smartphone is based on the TI OMAP 3410 platform, the processor clock frequency being equal to 600 MHz. The device has 512 MB of RAM. Personally I don't have any complaints regarding the smartphone work speed, all menus react quickly, switching between applications is almost instantaneous, there's nothing to nag about.
The device has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS with support for Assisted GPS (aGPS) – i.e. the standard contemporary Android smartphone suite.
To tell the truth, I don't know who this device is aimed at and don't understand what it can attract with other than its toy appeal. Nor do I know who can be attracted to the SE X10 mini and mini pro or the Nokia X5 announced yesterday. Those are all toys, impulse buy models. As a phone, the Moto FlipOut is moderately convenient; due to its square shape, its plumpness and small size, the device is not that suitable to hold against one's ear, which makes talking for a long time not comfortable. In contrast to that, typing messages turns out to be quite neat.
Overall, the FlipOut makes a toy phone for those who need exactly that; as a present to one's girlfriend or kids it is an interesting model, but as a man's tool – I don't think so.
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Published 15 June 2010
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