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Motorola R880 or a new thoughts about fashion phones

Originally Motorola produced very conservative, classically styled phones aimed at business users. Later on, they switched to the new clamshell phone casing in an attempt to gain new users and increase their market share. Since then, the company has never failed to find some new design touch in an attempt to capture more of the fashion phone market, coming up with ever more original designs as well as changing the form factor often. The Motorola v70 was one of the next ideas; with its unusual rotating fascia it gained functionality and certainly had the “wow” factor. But those who were attracted by the looks didn’t stay for the features, since the handset was severely limited by modern standards, and the antiquated menu from earlier models was passed directly on to this unit. The handset was bought by the fashion conscious initially, but even this angle was rocked by the unbalanced pricing policy introduced by Motorola. When the phone was launched, it cost around $600, but 4-5 months down the line we saw that price slashed in half. If we compare this to the Nokia 8850, we see that the initial high price point was maintained over two years, ensuring prolonged popularity and stable sales.

Following the v70, Motorola’s next foray into the fashion phone market was Motorola v600. Bizarrely enough however, Motorola decided to market this phone to the business sector exclusively. The handset had some very advanced functionality (on a par with the Sony Ericsson Z600) and showed the clear intentions of Motorola in the fashion phone sector.

Whilst everyone remembers the v70’s stunning looks and “wow” factor, phones with a similar rotating mechanism have failed to hit the market (ignoring the asian clone of the v70 which was almost completely unavailable to end users). Following postponed launches of the Siemens SX1 and SX2, Motorola were been able to jump ahead of the pack and produce a new handset using the swivel form factor – the v80 was born. The most striking design feature of this phone was the screen which was placed on the rotating part of the phone, rather than being crammed into the static part like the v70. It was presumed that the phone was going to have a 4096 colour screen, and some clever screen inverting technology to ensure that the image always faced the right way, despite the screen’s rotation. But this model was cancelled at the beginning of 2003, due to a supposed lack of interest from consumers.

Almost half a year went by with no information from Motorola about any phone with a rotating mechanism. Then came rumours of the R880, a new phone based around a rotating fascia, which has now been confirmed for April 2004, and we’ve got our hands on one early to give you the first in depth review.

The r880 uses the Motorola v600 as it’s staring point, with the major difference being the rotating fascia. In closed mode, the phone’s size is 99x45x19.2 mm, and is comparable with classic candybar phones. In open mode, the phone initially looks massive and unwieldy, but thanks to the low weight (90 grams) this is soon forgotten. The unit is very comfortable to use, it reaches the mouth whilst talking and provides excellent quality of speech transmission. Judging by the styling, the target market for this model will be the archetypal yuppie trying to show his status.

An aggressive pricing policy is not planned by Motorola for this model, who is hoping for the unit to become an aspirational model. The dimensions for the model are conforming to the new tendency for fashion phones – bigger is better. With smartphones becoming more popular, consumers are turning to the bigger, more ergonomic handsets, worrying less about the premium of space.

The phone is produced in one colour only, a dark lacquered plastic which resists marking pretty well. The sides and back cover are made of anodized aluminium, and are their natural silver colour. Whilst the metal casing gives the phone a good robust feel, it doesn’t add noticeably to the weight.

The screen is built into the upper part of the case, along with the joystick and soft keys enabling users to operate the phone in closed mode. The phone is opened from left to right, using an assisted rotating mechanism. In this respect it is similar to the Samsung D410, but with a better implementation – you can quite easily close the phone with one hand (unlike the Samsung).

The phone also has an intermediate screen position, when the upper section is rotated at 90 degrees to the body. The picture on the screen is rotated, and the handset enters shooting mode, automatically activating the camera..

Simply opening the phone is enough to accept a call. This is guaranteed to impress many people in the vicinity at the same time, a key feature of any fashion phone.

The phone is equipped with a 5-directional joystick (responding to movement and pressure). It is quite large in comparison to other phone (for example the T610) which adds to user comfort when operating the handset.

The keypad is of average size and all of the keys are well spaced and comfortable to use. The keys themselves have a white backlight, with two luminodiodes placed in each row. In complete darkness, the keys are fine, but in semi-darkness, this leads to the characters in the two outermost rows being invisible.

On the whole, the backlighting is impressive, and complements the elegant and classy design perfectly. One other unusual feature is the LED around the edge of the phone (where the plastic changes to metal), which shimmers pink when there is an incoming call (reminiscent of the Panasonic GD87).

Looking round the handset, I tried to work out where the light was coming from, but it is perfectly hidden underneath the plastic, and is unnoticeable in everyday use.

The screen on the phone is similar to those used in the v-series of handsets. The TFT screen is capable of displaying up to 65,000 colours, at a resolution of 176x220 pixels. Up to 8 lines of text and 2 services lines can be displayed. The screen performs not well under very strong lighting conditions however, and given that this phone will be competing with Korean models equipped with 262k screens, the Motorola is destined to be second best. Unfortunately, we doubt that there will be any changes to the screen before production.

In the upper part of the phone is the hole for the loudspeaker. When the phone is in closed mode, this is situated at the bottom of the handset, and therefore you cannot accept or make calls if the phone is closed. The phone supports 24-tone polyphonic ringtones (22 KHz), and these are loud enough to be heard without difficulty. (at the end of this preview we have some samples of the ringtones)

On the left side of the phone are two volume keys whilst the dedicated camera key and handsfree socket are on the right side of the handset. The usual system / power connector is on the bottom of the unit.

The digital VGA camera (640x480 pixels) resides on the back cover of the phone. Motorola are waiting until 3Q 2004 before introducing the higher resolution 1 Megapixel cameras into their phone line-up.

The R880 has a lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 750 mAh. Motorola claims that this can provide the phone with 78-145 hours of standby time and between 150-240 minutes of talk time. A full recharge of the battery takes around 2 hours.

During our field testing (Vodafone network), the phone worked for around 2 days (with 35 minutes of talk time and up to 1 hour of other functions per day), but this is just an early prototype.


The phone has exactly the same functionality as the Motorola v600. In contrast to the v600 however, a new GUI has been developed, as you can see in the photo below. There are also user-configurable menu options available in just a few joystick clicks.

The handset has 6Mb of memory in total, which is dynamically shared between all applications and user files.

Phonebook. One can add different phone number types, e-mail address, a photo or a graphical picture to any entry in the phonebook. One name and several numbers can be displayed, but by default the handset displays one name and one phone number. In the main list, default numbers are displayed next to the names, with SIM card numbers indicated by an icon. From this list you can also search the phonebook.

Any assigned pictures are displayed next to the name in the main list. There are also groups available, but these are rendered less useful as you can assign a specific ringtone to a name. The phone also features voice dialling for any number in the phonebook.

Messages. EMS is supported by the handset, as is Nokia Smart Messaging, but the user may only store 20 messages, which are held on the SIM. The company have switched the emphasis to MMS messages, which can be saved in the dynamic phone memory. You can create several pages and add pictures and sounds to your MMS messages with little fuss.

Instant Messaging (similar to ICQ) is supported in the phone.

One of the other features of this phone is its theme implementation. These allow users to change wallpapers, sounds, icons and colour schemes, giving the phone a great sense of personality.

The Motorola r880 is a tri-band phone (GSM 900/1800/1900), which has GPRS (class 10 4+2), bluetooth, USB-connection with PC, wap 2.0, and SyncML. There is also a basic organizer in the handset, and Java MIDP 2.0. is supported. Built-in games are linked with the exterior lighting, in a system known as Haptics. Below you can see a few photos of the menu.


Of course, we had no time to extensively test the phone as we had it less than for one week. It is, however, a great attention stealer – you only have to place it on a table and people will start to flock around it. After it is officially launched it will lose an amount of that individuality, but it will always be an interesting phone to have. It does everything you could want it to, has a stylish, bright design and fantastic LED display. Its expected price is around 600-650 Euros.

The reception on the phone is excellent, with no noticeable problems. The rotating mechanism is well manufactured, and the construction of the phone feels solid and reliable. The ringtones are nice and loud, but the vibrating alert is perhaps a little weak.

In the end it is apparent that the company has as accurate knowledge of the market for this model. It will hit consumers with the “I want on – No, I NEED one” mentality which is exactly what Motorola want.

In the near future we’ll publish some other exclusive previews devoted to phones from other manufacturers. Stay with us!

Sample rintones, mp3


Eldar Murtazin ([email protected])
Translated by Maria Sennikova ([email protected]);
Text editor: Terry Pettitt ([email protected])

Published — 15 December 2003


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