Sun, Dec 05, 2010 - Page 14 News List

TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

By David Chen  /  Staff reporter

The Motorola Flipout MB511 conserves pocket space.

Photos courtesy of Motorola/Pilot PR

In a land of Android-powered smartphones that all look alike, Motorola has plunked down a new model with a twist.

The Flipout MB511 stands out first and foremost for its unusual shape and it’s cute. Square with rounded corners, the Flipout looks and feels like a travel alarm clock that fits snugly in your palm and transforms into a phone: the screen swivels from a corner to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard underneath. Or as Motorola probably envisions us saying, it just “flips out.”

I was skeptical of the form-factor at first. The swiveling screen looks like a gimmick, and the display is tiny — only 2.8 inches (7.1cm). The design seemed to be all about looks, with its array of changeable back covers in seven bold colors including bright green and magenta. (All are included with the model sold in Taiwan.)

But after a week of using a sample model on loan from Motorola, it became clear that the Flipout was more than a fashion accessory. As a smartphone, this slightly chubby little thing does the job pretty well.

The Flipout handles most tasks with ease. I noticed very few lags when browsing the Web, searching through hundreds of contacts or using Google Maps around Taipei.

The phone uses Android 2.1 as its operating system and comes with a reliable set of customized “gadgets” for the home screen. There’s a music player, several gadgets for live weather updates, MySpace and Facebook feeds, an alarm clock and toggle switches to turn WiFi and Bluetooth on and off instantly. None of these apps were particularly flashy, but they were all straightforward and easy to use.

The arrangement of the home screen makes it easy to access most functions, whether you want to search the Web or turn on the camera.

Motorola designed a set of home pages that are similar to the “Sense” interface found on HTC phones: Just place gadgets and app shortcuts anywhere on one of seven pages, which can be switched with the slide of a finger. With dedicated buttons on each page, you always have access to your contacts, apps or phone calls.

If you use SMS messaging or type on the phone a lot, you’ll appreciate the keyboard. Because of its wider shape, the Flipout is easy to hold with two hands, and in fact this is the most comfortable way to type. It’s not as buttery smooth as a BlackBerry, but it’s still much faster than using the touchscreen. (The standard Android touch keyboard appears when the Flipout is closed.) Each key is slightly rounded and gives a nice, solid click when pressed. The full row of dedicated number keys allows you to punch in numbers quickly.

If you write in Chinese, the keys are marked with BoPoMoFo (ㄅㄆㄇㄈ), and there are other input methods, including Cangjie (倉頡) and Hanyu Pinyin, which unfortunately only works with simplified characters.

The Flipout has a few glaring drawbacks. The most disappointing is the low resolution screen (320 x 240 pixels), which makes the phone look it came from the year 2005. (It’s certainly a far cry from the doctored photos of the Flipout on Motorola’s Web site and advertising.) The 3.1 megapixel camera is also outdated — it’s a little slow to load and doesn’t have a flash.

That said, the camera will do in a pinch for both stills and video as long as there’s ample light. As for the mediocre screen, it didn’t diminish my enjoyment when playing the game Angry Birds. The touchscreen functions, such as scrolling up and down and zooming in and out, work very smoothly.

This story has been viewed 7151 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top