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Review of GSM handset Motorola C168
Motorola believes that the key of success at everchanging market is in broad portfolio of budget products, part of them is created by third-party manufacturers. One of these products is Motorola C168, which is ought to become the cheapest phone by Motorola that has FM radio and pretty compact case. At some aspect, unlike C113 and others, this model is one of the first “slim” phones for this segment, the phone looks small, it’s size is appeal (104.4x46x14 mm). The weight is 78 grams, which is a good result as well.
The phone’s design is extremely strict, there is no freestyle in colors, or design of keypad, or any other navigation elements. The side-keys are not present at all, only charger connector is located on the right side. On the left you can see mini-jack for headset, and hole for the strap. Front panel has edging made of silver plastic, which adds some lightness to the phone. The panel around the screen is made of varnished plastic, it’s a good match for chromed navigation key. The remaining part of the case is black, sides have relief surfaces, as if it’s metal.
Presence of holes made for speakers not only on the front side, but also at the top on the corners looks unusual. Considering the fact that polyphonic ring tone’s speaker is located on the back side, such big amount of openings looks rather strange. However while you are speaking to somebody on the phone, no matter how hard you press it to your cheek, or rotate it, you will hear the sound anyways.
This handset has TFT display installed, this is not typical for budget class products. On the other hand, its resolution is only 128x128 pixels (29x29 mm), which prevents user from seeing true color saturation and brightness. The display looks more like a good STN one, it turns pale a little when encounters direct sunlight, but the information remains readable. Up to four text lines and three lines for service needs (one line for icons, and two for text). Considering the fact that most manufacturers use same resolution for their displays in this segment, but with poorer color rendering, this model looks rather interesting. In my opinion, such display is the minimum acceptable for today’s market, meanwhile other competitors have outdated matrixes.
The keypad is presented as monolith, the buttons border with each other. Eventually, the convenience of operating it is average, there are nor problems neither advantages. Key depression is average, they are pretty tight. The navigation key has Menu button implemented, however while operating the phone, you have to move your finger to the left soft-key all the time, since it is used for confirmation. Keyboard backlight color is blue, it is clearly visible in all conditions. You can select automatic key block, or perform this manually.
Back cover has only one fixation, it covers battery section, there’s almost no backlash and the chances are low that it might appear afterwards. The battery is Li-Ion, BT60, its capacity is 1000 mAh. Interesting to find out that from now on the marking on the battery stands only for form-factor, the capacity of two batteries with same name on them can differ. Manufacturer states that this handset can work up to 380 hours in stand by mode, and up to 8 hours when you’re having phone calls. We were testing this cellular in Moscow, and it worked for about 4-5 days with 45 minutes spent for phone calls, and minimal use of other functions. While listening to radio daily for about an hour, the phone worked one day less. It takes slightly more than 2 hours for the battery to charge up completely.
Menu is presented similarly to previous generation models, and partly of current one. Icons and their location are identical. Fast number navigation is missing in the menu. Considering small amount of functions, and ability to assign some of them to navigation key, we can’t really say that this is a disadvantage, at the same time this handset has shortcuts for quick assess in separate menu, you are free to define how it will look like. You can assign quick dialing to keypad, but it’s impossible to bind any functions there, everything is very traditional.
Phone book. The capacity of phone book is 600 phone numbers and up to 100 fields with additional information (notes, e-mail address, mail address, web-page). Each of the mentioned fields will be used separately out of 100 available. Each entry can have up to 5 phone numbers, you are free to define the type for them. The first entered number will become the default one, it will be displayed in the list. There are 15 groups for contacts, for of them you can select custom ring tone, meanwhile you cannot do that for the entries themselves. Phone book entries can be sent to other cellular via SMS, there is no any other way to do that. SIM-card data can be copied to the phone and vice versa. Entries for both SIM-card and phone memory will be shown in the list. You can use search function with first 6 letters.
Messages. You can store up to 250 SMS, as well as available SIM-card memory. This is unusual for this kind of products, or this manufacturer. In the Message Settings you can setup the way memory will get filled, will it be SIM-card first and phone memory afterwards or vice versa? Predictive text input iTAP is supported, there are emoticons, simple pictures for messages (EMS standard). One of the unusual things – you can insert text templates as well as entries from phone book. Automatic placement of all delivery reports into separate folder is a good thing, they also get divided by type (SMS/MMS).
The phone supports MMS standard, there are templates, in total you can use up to 634kb of memory, which does not look that modern at all. On the other hand, I doubt that owners of this handset will use this function a lot, it’s more of a faculty type.
One of the five available alarms for messages can be selected, you cannot add your own.
Call lists are organized traditionally, there are three lists, you can see the phone number, date and time for each. The numbers you had dialed are highlighted with special icons. You can also see information about call times, their cost (in case this feature was enabled) and info about GPRS sessions in the very same menu.
WAP-browser version is 2.0, which is unlikely for this segment, it also supports internet APN. This peculiarity would have turned into great advantage in case the phone had at least any way of connecting with PC. Since it doesn’t, this feature only allows ability to use cheaper access to internet, and that’s it. In all other situations the browser is pretty much okay. You can either enable or disable images, enable cookies, save web-page history. There can be up to 10 profiles for internet settings.
Tools. In this menu you will see all typical functions, like: calculator, shortcut setup, SIM-menu, Chat and flashlight function. It’s not a wise decision to start looking for flash LED on the phone’s case, instead you should take a look at the display in case you activate this function – it will turn white. That’s it, that’s your flashlight. This feature is rather strange, and illogical. I mean it’s rather hard to access, and will be useless to assign it to navigation key. In fact, the result of flashlight function will be approximately the same, as in case if you have your own wallpaper and this function is not enabled.
Calendar or organizer – another item of this menu. You can see calendar by month, quickly move to desired date and see if there are any entries on the whole. Everything is pretty ascetic, there are no peculiarities
Games. This handset has three preinstalled games – Five Ball (one of Lines clones), Flying (arcade), Popo Car (circuit racing). The games are not for everyone, but most of users will get fond of them. In case you have incoming phone call, the application will be minimized, and you will be able to continue from the place you were interrupted afterwards. You cannot upload new games.
Alarm Clock. You can create several alarm clocks, for each a custom ring tone can be selected, you can also setup reoccurrences (one time, daily, only workdays); vibrating alert can be disabled. Each alarm clock can have its name, they will also be active in case the phone is switched off.
Multimedia. This section contains all images, ring tones and radio. First two menu items are standard, we shall not discuss them separately. I’d just like to point out that they are both using dynamic memory (634kb of it).
The radio is presented in a very interesting way: for example, you can enter the desired frequency with keypad, or scroll until you reach it with navigation key. The sensitivity of receiver is good. Up to 9 stations can be stored in the memory, which does not look as advantage when compared to competitors. But a great advantage is the fact that radio can work when minimized, you just have to press End Call button in order to do that. You will see a text line on the main screen with station’s title or its frequency afterwards. And that’s not all, left soft key will automatically switch to Radio menu, this was done so that you could easily launch the application and change the frequency if needed. You can easily press one of 9 keypad buttons in order to access one of 9 stored stations (this is where the limit originates from). The volume can be adjusted by 7 positions, at maximal volume sound is similar to same level in Sony Ericsson K750i, which is very nice indeed. The headset that is shipped with the phone does not look expensive, neither it actually is. The sound is played back on a pretty good level, but depth is missing at some times. In case you connect headset from Motorola ROKR E1 or E398 you will hear the difference in sound. This specification is very nice, despite the fact that this is a budget type of phone. You can mute the sound with one key-press, and later on enable it with same level of convenience. Once you plug out the headphones, radio will be automatically disabled.
Settings. This headset cannot brag with great amount of settings to tune up, but several things are still worth being mentioned. A typical ability of selecting wallpaper, menu color and screen saver is present. Instead of profiles you will have to use Ring Styles which are typical for Motorola phones. There’s automatic scheduled shut down function, which is pretty interesting.
This handset does not have any network reception problems, speaker’s volume is loud enough for conversation outdoors. C168 has polyphonic ring tone which is 32-tone, it is loud enough for most situations, but mp3 support is missing. You will have to use midi ring tones, which are easy to find on the web. Vibrating alert strength is average.
One of disadvantages is reset of time and date once you change SIM-card, the phone does not have reserved battery. The keyboard is not very comfortable to use, which will arise some problems for those who love to type SMS, on the other hand, you can get used to it.
Motorola became the last company that presented budget phone with built-in FM radio. The push for moving farward was Nokia’s phone 2300 targeted for youth. This model had monochromic display and pretty good design for its segment. But high price at the moment when this handset was released has scared away the targeted audience, and only after great amount of time and price cuts, the model became popular. Samsung’s products were designed as “the answer” to Nokia, since they were released afterwards, this allowed manufacturer to provide them with color displays (at the moment there are several phones, but the flagship was X140). It’s not a secret that other Korean manufacturers are trying to keep up with the fashion and use Samsung’s products are orienteer. For example LG managed to release B2000 before Samsung and had pretty good sales in that segment. The time gap was approximately 2 months, but this was enough. Both manufacturers are players in this segment, and have some authority as well. The sacramental question is how much of potential is already acquired? Will there be place for Motorola C168 in this niche? Considering the functionality of this device, we can say that it definitely has potential. Ability to listen to radio while its minimized, big phone book and a lot of space for storing SMS, slim design and maximal working time in this class. Model’s price will be around 90-100 USD, which is one of the lowest price among competitive solutions. We cannot say that this model will become bestseller, it does not have such potential, and there is big competition around. Another stumbling block is some sort of “sixth sense” that consumers have, they somehow feel that this is ODM-model after 3-4 months after sales had kicked-off, and the numbers are suddenly falling down. This means that we will see a classic sales curve for C168: high demand during first 4 months, and later on smooth decrease of interest. But this does not mean that this phone is not worth paying your attention to, it’s a pretty good thing for the money requested, and those who are looking for radio – wow, this is a great deal for you. Just don’t forget to replace the standard headphones, and start enjoying the music.
The successor will be produced by same ODM manufacturer, but this time it will have mp3 player and microSD memory card slot. But it will be released only in 4th quarter of 2006, the price will remain the same. It’s interesting that at the moment “fight between music solutions” is at peak which is: who will be the first to introduce budget solution with maximal functionality.
Published 27 April 2006
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