By Daniel Webster | January 25, 2011 1:49 PM
The Motorola Bravo MB520 is AT&T’s newest Android 2.1 device that was launched alongside another mid-range Android, the Flipside. The ergonomic feel of the Bravo’s design will charm anyone that has ever had a phone slip out of their hand. The included MotoBlur 1.5 will appeal to the social networking addict by simplifying ways to update status and share media. In this review we will cover the hardware, software and overall experience that the Bravo has to offer. Read on to learn more.
The Bravo comes in an eco-friendly package that is small and completely recyclable. The basic items are included like a wall charger, a microUSB sync/charging cable, a 2GB microSD card, and just a quickstart guide for reading material.
Like many other subsidized handsets recently seen, the Bravo does not include a headset or case.
With one of the highest resolution screens supported by Android, the Bravo has become a contender that will appeal to the masses. At FWVGA resolution (480 x 854), the screen displays the entire image as it was meant to be seen. The Bravo has covered that beautiful 3.7 inch LCD with a glass capacitive multi-touch digitizer. The powerhouse at the Bravo’s core is a Texas Instruments OMAP 3610 running at 800MHz, combine that with 512MB of RAM and 2GB of ROM for a truly swift experience. In terms of auxiliary memory the Bravo comes preinstalled with a 2GB microSD card which is expandable up to 32GBs.
The Bravo employs quad-band GSM and dual-band 7.2Mbps UMTS 850/1900. Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR, Wi-Fi b/g/n, aGPS, and an FM radio keep the Bravo connected to what people want most in a smartphone. The integrated sensors included are a proximity sensor, light sensor, accelerometer, and digital compass. The camera is a 3.1 megapixel without a flash or dedicated hardware button. The video quality is only at CIF resolution (352 x 288) and works well for capturing small video to share quickly with family, friends, and associates. For charging and syncing the Bravo utilizes the mobile standard of microUSB. There is a green notification LED that blinks for messages and stays solid while charging. The Bravo has a 3.5mm headphone jack for audio that also doubles as an FM antenna when a headset is plugged in. Fueling all of this great hardware is a 1540mAh lithium ion battery that Motorola states is capable of 480 minutes of talk and 238 hours of standby time.
The software powering the Bravo is a combination of Android 2.1, MotoBlur, and AT&T’s proprietary applications. Any admirer of the Android operating system will be pleased to know that all of the included Android 2.1 features are here like calendar, clock, navigation, live wallpaper, Google sync, browser, calculator, gallery, music, YouTube, and voice search. Motorola has not messed with the operating system too much with their MotoBlur user interface. Bundled with the Bravo is AT&T’s proprietary software which include such titles as:
AT&T Family Map This application shows where each device on the Family Plan is on a map. The service costs $9.99 a month for two devices up to $14.99 for five devices, but comes with a 30 day trial. Only certain devices will work with this service.
AT&T Maps/Navigation This turn-by-turn navigation program uses data to download maps and speaks the street names aloud. The service costs $9.99 a month and comes with a 30 day trial.
AT&T Wi-Fi Hot Spots A free search tool that locates AT&T Wi-Fi hot spots in the area.
AT&T myWireless A free application that displays account information, usage, and bill balance.
AT&T Radio This service is free to use for the FM radio, but does cost $4.99 a month to stream internet radio.
MobiTV Have television practically anywhere AT&T has service. This service costs $9.99 a month and uses cellular data to receive the video stream.
The Bravo also comes with DLNA which allows the playback and sharing of media over a Wi-Fi network. Other software that is included is File Manager, Mobile Banking, news, Quickoffice, Voice Dial, Where, and YPmobile. AT&T had made it nearly impossible to remove their proprietary applications or even side load applications from an APK file.
The Motorola Bravo may not win any awards with photography, but the camera does take candid shots in lighted scenes rather well. The 3.1 megapixel camera takes adequate sized photos that may be used for sharing over social networks or MMS quickly. One of the best features of the camera is the digital zoom. The video quality is very poor: at just CIF resolution (352 x 288) and 30fps, video quality is far below normal expectations, especially when most high-end phones are recording in 720p at 30fps. To view a sample photo click here.
The Bravo is surprisingly quick. At 800MHz it may seem natural to expect this phone to preform slower than a 1GHz device but that is contrary. While performing the Quadrant Standard Benchmark (average of 1050) the speed was consistently just below the Nexus One running Android 2.2.
The Bravo is snappy and does not lag often; video playback is reminiscence of a TI processor providing a clear and fluid experience. The screen rotation from landscape to portrait is fast and at par with other Android smartphones.
CALL QUALITY/NETWORK SPEED
One thing that Motorola has consistently done right from the beginning is provide a clear calling experience. The Bravo’s call quality is phenomenal either by holding the phone to the ear or using the speaker phone. Dual microphones help to eliminate background noise with the assistance of noise-cancelling technology.
The network speed is relatively fast on the Bravo, boasting a HSPA 7.2 chip gives enough power to download files quickly and browse the internet without waiting for long load times. The average download speed in the Seattle metropolitan area was 5.8Mbps down and 1.8 Mbps up.
One habit of most Android smartphones is short battery life. The Motorola Bravo has kicked that habit by combining power saving features in the software and providing a large 1540mAh battery. The call time is moderately unheard of, at about 6.8 hours. The standby time is similar in surprise, at about 10 days. Of course this is all relative to how much the device is used.
PERCHASING AND AVAILABILITY
The Motorola Bravo is available through AT&T at a subsidized price of $129.99 with a qualifying two-year agreement and no rebates are required. The full price to buy the phone out right is $429.99 through AT&T online. The phone should be available at most AT&T corporate stores and online.
+ 800MHz TI processor is snappy and responsive
+ Feels comfortable and slip resistant in hand
+ Screen resolution
+ MotoBlur makes updating social network statuses easy
+ Touch screen is accurate
+ Thin and short
+ Call quality is superb
+ DLNA over Wi-Fi b/g/n
+ Battery life is excellent
- Camera is poor with no flash
- Comprised mostly out of plastic
- Not capable of side loading apps from microSD
- Some users may not like the MotoBlur user interface
With Motorola dominating Verizon with such powerful devices it seems refreshing to see the Bravo emerge on AT&T. Although classified as a mid-range Android device, the Bravo will rival many high-end devices in terms of speed, ergonomics, call quality, and battery life. The MotoBlur user interface is either a hit-or-miss with Android users, people that do a lot of social networking may find MotoBlur useful, where as people that don’t may find it obnoxious. It is a shame that AT&T does not allow the side loading of applications and the removal of their proprietary software.
All-in-all the Bravo is a well-built device that feels comfortable in hand. The call quality is excellent. The large 3.7 inch screen is attractive and goes nearly from corner to corner and edge to edge. There are rumors that Motorola will be updating to Android 2.2 in the near future. This phone is nearly perfect for any avid smartphone enthusiast except for the low quality camera.
Final score: 3.5/5