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Review Motorola A920
The A920 has a special design. That’s for sure the least you can say. A920 isn’t exactly a little phone that you don’t notice. To be honest, it is huge. And it has an external antenna. Still it feels nice to hold in your hand perhaps due to the fact that it is very solid and heavy, and it is very well built. No squeaking or loose pieces.
On the front you notice the big screen (same size as P800) and the fact that it doesn’t have any keypad. Instead you use a stylus to insert text and numbers, more about that later on. You also have a navigation key and 6 other buttons at the front side, two of them are dedicated for games only and are situated above the screen.
At the top of the phone you find a rotating camera allowing taking pictures as usual or switching into a videoconference mode and self-portrait mode. The lens is well protected since, since it’s lowered into the housing.
On the back side there is a connection for GPS and a speaker (used for ring tones, hands free and audio playback). You also find the slot for the stylus here, like in the upcoming SE P900.
On the right side the A920 has an IrDa window, unfortunately the phone itself isn’t equipped with IrDa, but it has the IrDa window. Somehow Moto changed their minds and decided not to put it in.
On the left side A920 has a hands free button, which activates the loudspeaker at the back of the phone. It works fairly well with acceptable volume if placed on a table up to 1,5 meters away. You also find the traditional volume up/down buttons here. And a button for activating voice command. A HF jack is located at the bottom of the left side.
The A920’s screen is touch sensitive and features 65k TFT colour. Resolution is 320 x 208 pixels. It is bright, and performs well even in bright sunlight in my opinion. Despite the fact that it is 65k, colours seem a little faded. It is capable of showing more than 20 lines of text. One of the best screens I’ve seen so far.
The A920’s UI is based upon Symbian OS7, just like the P800. The screen is divided into three areas; a "desktop" and two control panels located in the upper and lower parts of the screen. The upper panel is called "quick launch" and contains icons for accessing most usable menu sections. Specific menu for each section is located a little bit lower, almost like common menus in Windows. A taskbar is located in the lower side of the display and displays icons for: time, accessing the virtual keyboard, volume (on/off/vibra), GPS on/off, network indicator (3G/GPRS/GSM) and a batterycapacity indicator. Each indicator is active (if you press an icon additional info or submenus will be displayed). To navigate through menu you simply tap at the menu item on the display with the stylus, but you can also use the navigation key but that is not as easy as using the stylus. A920 also has a “Home screen” mode, like in pocket PC’s where you can see stats for messages, emails, upcoming events and tasks and some links to different “3” services.
A920 has a VGA camera (640 x 480), pictures are saved as JPEGs and the compression can be changed to low, medium or high. You can assign a shortcut button to activate the camera, although it is not recommended (every time you are activating the key lock you will also activate the camera), so you have to activate it from the menu (found under the little box icon at the top of the screen). After a photo is taken it can be stored either in the internal 8MB memory or directly to the external SD/MMC card, and can then be viewed with n inbuilt picture viewer / editor. This viewer is easy to use, it displays pictures as thumbnails (or a list) which can be maximized by clicking them. Pictures can be viewed in two modes – display size and full size. In display size mode pictures are displayed minimized to display size. In full mode they are displayed exactly as they are (then you use the stylus to move around the screen). You can also edit the pictures by adding photo frames, and other effects to them. The only downside is that the viewer refreshes very slow. If you have many pics stored it will take a little while for it to generate thumbnails, and this also occurs when scrolling in the viewer.
Pictures taken with the A920 are very good, even better than the Nokia 3650! They are clear and sharp with a nice colourdepth. This is actually the best mobile camera I’ve tested so far. Pics seem to be best in mid-resolution though. Sample pictures can be found here at P:C.
A920 also supports taking videoclips up to 60 seconds of length, these aren’t that good as I first expected, but still in the same class as the Nokia 3650’s capabilities. It records both video and audio. Videoclips can be stored either at the internal memory or straight onto your SD/MMC card as Mp4 movies.
The A920 is more of a PDA than a mobile, and that can explain a little of why it is so huge and heavy. A920 supports every way of messaging and communication there is. SMS, EMS, full MMS with videoclips (MoVi MMS in “3” language) and of course e-mail, POP3 and IMAP. The main difference when messaging with the A920 is the textinput. Text can be typed in two modes – by using the virtual keyboard or by using a handwriting recognition system.
Using the email client is almost like using your ordinary PC-email client. Works great and isn’t difficult to set up at all. You can even assign a different notification tone to every account and also set times /or time cycles for when the A920 should check your account/s for email.
The virtual Keyboard is easy to use – you click on the keyboard icon on the bottom of the screen and can then start to type text by using the stylus. The virtual buttons are rather small, but it works fairly well. The other way of entering text is by handwriting recognition. This is the preferred way. When this mode is chosen a little box appears (like the writing area at Palms). Here you write in two small fields next to each other. Since you can set the speed of your writing in settings and you have two fields you actually can write amazingly fast. The downside is that it takes a few seconds from that you’ve pressed the icon for the virtual keyboard to when it appears at the screen. I have to say that I do prefer the way of handwriting in the P800 when you can write anywhere at the screen.
Each phonebook entry can store name, surname, office, home address, work address, numbers of home, work and mobile phones, fax, email, and website. Each entry can also have its own ring tone, CID-photo (caller ID which also is displayed during the call). The A920 also have caller groups. The phonebook has small icons near phone numbers and email addresses. By clicking the icon you can quickly send SMS, MMS or Email.
Games, Applications Fun
A920 has an inbuilt MP3 player, music is played either in the loudspeaker on the back of the phone or in the stereo headphones that are included with the phone. The loudspeaker is better than the one at P800 and has a loud and nice sound, although stereo headphones are recommended – when using them the sound quality is very high and can be compared with one of the better class of ordinary MP3 players. It is easy to create playlists and A920 has all the basic functions you could expect. So far I’ve found that it supports *.wav and *.mp3 files, haven’t tried *.mid yet.
The A920 also have a video player for playing MPEG-4 videos, it works well and supports full screen viewing in a tilted mode (almost like wide screen). Quality is fairly good, speed fps could be a little higher though.
A920 supports JAVA, but “3” has locked it for downloading new games. Only signed (by “3”) games and applications can be installed. Java seems to work fast and good, a lot better than on my T610. Haven’t tried any games where I could use the gaming buttons above the screen yet, so I don’t know the true gaming abilities of this phone.
This phone has no Bluetooth or IrDa. But it does have GPRS (supported by “3” when outside 3G covered areas) and supports synchronization OTA . It is easy to synchronize with your PC as it also comes with a very nice sync cradle – communication is made via a USB-cable. Works well but a little slow. The sync station is very nice. When the phone is connected to USB the sync stations is light up underneath by a smooth blue light, and while charging a soft green light is flashing at the side of the station. It also has a slot for an extra battery that can be charged. And that extra battery is needed – the A920 has lousy batterycapacity. You’ll have to charge it every night. It is said to have approximately 70 hours of standby – but if you’ll play a lot with it (and yes you will do that ;) ) it drops to less than 20 hours.
As I said before the P800 is more of a PDA than a mobile, and of course it has a very good Organizer with an extensive calendar with task lists and several different alarms.
You can use the touch screen as a notepad – known to PDA users as a ”Jotter” – exactly as in the P800. Each jotting consists of two parts – text and graphical information. This works well and is easy to use. Just paint a pic and add some text and save, ideal for making maps or other notes.
This is a 3G phone. It supports Video calls. Unfortunately I haven’t made any video call yet (simply because none of my colleagues/friends has a video call mobile yet), but from what I’ve heard it works very smooth and nice, although there is still a small lagging effect.
“3” has many different services to offer, and they do work really great with this phone. It has an amazing screen, and it’s easy to use the GPS services that “3” offers – you’ll see a big map at your screen with your location or the place you’ve asked for. You can also see small video news, and see music videos. Downloading and data transfer is extremely fast in the 3G network, and I haven’t experienced any problems with dropped calls or refused connections. The “3” main portal works fast and is very often updated. I’d say that this beats Vodafone Live over and over and over again. Then again I live in the very centre of Stockholm and always have a full 3G indicator at my screen.
A920 has a full Opera web-browser inbuilt, so you can browse any internet page you want, it also have support for flash.
The A920 is very impressive. It’s huge and clumsy, but also the greatest phone I’ve ever seen feature wise. There are almost no limits to what you can do with. This is the future. This IS the matrix.
It’s powered by Symbian OS7 and I can say that I was very satisfied with the UI. Downside is that the menus sometimes are a little slow, like on early T68’s. The screen is outstanding, and it has a really good mobile camera. The hand recognition system for text input works good, but you’ll need some practise to get it work fast. You can use MP3 and wav files as ring tones, as well as notification for new SMS/MMS/e-mail. Every single contact in the phonebook can have its own ring tone if you want to. Since the A920 uses both MMC and SD cards it’s fairly cheap to buy a lot of memory – which you’ll need since the A920 is a really good MP3player and also can play MP4 movies. “3” services work extremely well at this phone. The major downside besides the size is the battery. It is very bad. 70 hours of standby. If you play a lot with it you’ll have to charge it at the evening after one days use. That’s why you’ll get two batteries and two chargers when you buy it.
Overall this is a good phone, although it’s more of a PDA than a mobile phone. A little big at the beginning, but then it grows even more to your heart.
I’d give it 9 out of 10 as a rating. If it was smaller and had better batterycapacity I’d give it 10 straight away. No doubts.
Published 10 October 2003
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