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First look at Motorola MOTOAURA

Motorola has been through a lot of hardships and its current condition, while still critical, isn't the worst they've been in. At any rate, it hasn't affected their ability to create out-of-this-world phones. And the reason why we've brought this up, is that the focus of this write-up, the MOTOAURA, set to land on most markets later in 2008 is another off-the-wall offering in Motorola's portfolio. As for the "AURA" prefix - in essense, the word "aura" stands for an invisible emanation produced by and surrounding a person or object and is very rarely used in a negative sense these days, so normally it's used to distinguish something special from the rest of the pack.

Essentially, they are going back to the origins - Motorola pioneered the "rotate" form-factor, but we haven't seen any in this design from them over the last couple of years. I'm positive many still have warm memories of the Motorola v70 and them Motorola v80 (originally codenamed R880). Back in the day when they rolled out the first rotate-styled handset, it seemed pretty quaint and was positioned primarily as a top-notch fashion-savvy solution, but at that moment they didn't garner any significant following, as clamshells were all the rage. In 2004 they launched the Motorola v80 in Cracow, but we managed to give our readers a lowdown on it almost two months prior to that day. Nevertheless, very few actually noticed it, the reason being that there weren't all that many pieces of information about this phone out there, so it never generated much hype. That's why we are releasing our first and very exclusive look at the Motorola MOTOAURA on the day it goes live worldwide

As far as consumer electronics go, over all these years we've seen some of the most incredible crossbreeds, like Samsung's digital camera that packs in a GSM radio module on top of all other things that allowed its users to make and recieve calls. I believe it'd be hard to shock someone with a cross between a mobile phone and TV or wristwatch. However, as far as I remember nobody has ever attempted to put the best of these two worlds (watches and mobile phones) together in one device. If you're thinking about Tag Heuer's MERIDIST, it had no bells and whistles on offer, other than several metallic accents in its casing. It didn't even have any moving parts, so it was a pretty ordinary phone, all things considered:

Luckily, Motorola have taken a completely different approach to their top-of-the-line solution - if it's an off-the-wall design, why not put a fair bit of insanity into it? What is the most characteristic feature of any watch? Apparently, it's the dial, and what is its most common shape? That's right, a circle. This means, the MOTOAURA's main display should be circular as well, and not just some piece of hardware mounted into a rounded frame, but a full-featured screen that uses every bit of its real estate and unconventional design. So far, the only company to have mastered this technology is Sharp, although while its solutions are unique, very few manufacturers actually need them for their offerings.

Frankly, I have a hard time listing this display's specs. At 1.58 inches diagonally, its active area reaches only 1.55 inches, it has a resolution of 480 pixels at 0.082 mm dot size. We could count how many pixels it's got, but it would take way too much time and apparently we don't have it here. We'd really appreciate if someone could do the math and then post the answer in our forums

Motorola's engineers wanted to tailor all menu items to the display's shape, however as it turns out, they have succeeded in tweaking only the main menu and a handful of sub-menus where all extra keys are rendered along the edge of the circle. All other menus and applications are down to a more conventional 240x320-pixel zone that resembles a more conventional QVGA-display, which is quite a useful feat, given that the MOTOAURA runs on LJ platform. By the way, as far as its software is concerned, this phone takes a lot of cues from the Motorola Z6, but we'll get back to this later, and now - more on its screen.

Here is another question - what material is frequently used in premium watches for the dial glass? It's saphire, so Motorola went ahead and employed this A-grade 62-carat lens that can endure all sorts of physical abuse. Check out our video tour of the MOTOAURA, where I try to scratch it with keys (apparently, without any success). So unless you carry a bunch of diamonds in your pocket, the MOTOAURA's screen will be just fine.

Video, MOTOAURA's looks, menu and user interface (wmv, 128 mb) >>>

The sapphire glass adds a whole new dimension to the MOTOAURA's display, making it look a bit convex. And the image quality is supreme; in fact it's probably this phone's key feature with its amazingly sharp and vibrant colors. Plus the MOTOAURA comes preinstalled with decently sized and definitely readable fonts.

Putting the icing on the cake are screensavers designed exclusively for this display, and I can't just keep mum about them - I really dig them. Motorola has always been serious about bundled content and the MOTOAURA is no exception on this front, as I can hardly imagine what chunck of its charm the phone would've lost if it didn't have some of these sumptuous wallpapers or themes onboard.

But that's not the best thing about its themes - no words or images can describe the excellence oozed by the MOTOAURA's clock-styled screensavers that really look the part and leave no room for doubt that it's a really haute couture phone.

As it's usually the case with fashion-conscious phones, the MOTOAURA sports a hefty metallic casing with the only plastic accent found along the bottom of the phone, where the radio antenna is perched. At 96.8x47.6x15.9 and 145g, the MOTOAURA is fairly palm-friendly. All our images of the MOTOAURA feature an engineering sample of this phone, so don't mind that "Your Name / S/N" plate - it'll be removed in all commercial units.

Around back there are (surprise!) three gears of the opening mechanism underneath a thick layer of glass. You can flick the MOTOAURA open in any direction, although you'll have to close it in the same way, which isn't all that intuitive, as we tried to show in our video. On the other hand, it will take very little practice to get used to this design.

These gears are all another way of showing the MOTOAURA's origins, but what's more, it houses a 130-ball bearing, that guarantees you'll be able to kick the phone open and shut at least a hundred thousand times. What's more, there is only one Swiss manufacturer on the entire globe that crafts this kind of bearings.

On balance, going for the MOTOAURA are a sapphire glass, metallic casing (with very little plasticin it) and a very unique screen. Will that be enough for a fashion-centric rotate-phone? Make no mistake about that, with all these features and a price tag of 2000 USD it certainly will turn a lot of eyes your way. Nevertheless, while it will enjoy some sales, it won't be a wild success by any means.

In the past I fell for Motorola's bait on numerous occasions (in fact they pulled the same trick with every fashion phone in their portfolio): they would claim they intended to keep prices at their original level, but all of a sudden they would send prices crashing down. This time around, our only hope is that the MOTOAURA packs in a wealth of premium materials that aren't aimed at the mass-market, so there is a good chance its price tag won't change any time soon and I don't believe they are going to slash its price in half either.

As far as other specs go, the MOTOAURA will come included with a bog-standard 2 MP camera, radio application, dazzling E8-grade audio quality, 2 GB of bundled storage (although it'll lack a slot for memory cards) and a 810 mAh Li-Ion battery (BC-50, 245 minutes/225 hours).

It goes without saying that the MOTOAURA is one unique phone - you can either love it or hate it, there is no room for some third option. It's a fashion-conscious phone that, I believe, will appeal to its target audience. It is way slicker than the Samsung S9500 Eccelso that feels somewhat edgy and cumbersome, plus packs in two SIM card slots, which isn't a major selling point by any stretch of imagination. Furthermore, the MOTOAURA's fashion cred is higher than that of all current iterations of the Nokia Arte. And even though the next 8000-branded handset will sport a revamped design, it's still quite far-off. All in all, the MOTOAURA is a pretty decent phone that will be accompanied by another premium offering from Motorola, set to launch early in 2009. Again, as far as its price point is concerned, the MOTOAURA is quite an adequate solution, and very quaint at that.

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
Translated by Oleg Kononosov (oleg.kononosov@mobile-review.com)

Published — 21 October 2008

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com



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