By Daniel Webster | January 25, 2011 1:50 PM
The Motorola Flipout (MB511) is one of AT&T’s newest Android 2.1 devices. This phone sports an innovative spring assisted hinge that allows the screen to pivot 90 degrees. The included MotoBlur software makes this an ideal choice for any social networking fan by combining ways to update status and share pictures on the fly through many social sites at once. In this review we will cover the hardware, software and overall experience that the Flipout has to offer. Read on to learn more.
The Flipout comes with the essential items to get started like a standard wall charger with USB charging port, a microUSB sync/charging cable, two battery covers (orange and black), a 2GB microSD card, and a minimal amount of reading material. Unfortunately there are no headphones included even though the Flipout has a built-in FM tuner which utilizes the headphone wire as an antenna.
Although this phone is quite small (67 x 67 x 16.8mm, 120 grams) it does pack the punch in terms of integrated hardware. The Flipout is running a 720MHz Texas Instruments OMAP 3410 processor with 512MB of both RAM and ROM. The screen is a 2.8 inch QVGA (320 x 240) glass capacitive multi-touch TFT LCD, but for some reason Motorola decided to use older screen technology and the image gets distorted while changing viewing angles. This may be a positive feature for users that want their screen private from someone standing next to them. In terms of auxiliary memory the Flipout comes preinstalled with a 2GB microSD card which is expandable up to 32GBs. The keyboard is a full 5 row QWERTY and typing is accurate with average sized fingers (size 7 or medium gloves).
In terms of connectivity the Flipout broadcasts in quadband GSM and dual band 7.2Mbps UMTS 850/1900. Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR, Wi-Fi b/g, aGPS, and an FM radio keep the Flipout connected to what people want most in a smartphone. Sensors that make the Flipout more usable include a proximity sensor, light sensor, accelerometer, and digital compass. The camera is a 3.1 megapixel without a flash, but does come with a convex mirror to take self-portraits. The video camera quality is CIF (352 x 288) so no home movies with this device. For syncing and charging the Flipout uses a microUSB slot with a green LED notification light that turns on when charging. For audio play back there is a rather loud speaker and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Fueling everything is an 1130mAh battery that is said to deliver an average of 3 hours and 45 minutes of talk time.
The software powering the Flipout 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. The only difference is the home screen’s widgets and the Happenings application. The MotoBlur Happenings allows many social networking updates to be done with one message. Bundled with the Flipout is AT&T’s software which many might consider bloatware. Included is:
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.
Other software that is included is File Manager, Mobile Banking, news, Quickoffice, voice dial, Where, and YPmobile. AT&T has locked down the Flipout quite a bit and does not allow the side loading of apps or removal of the proprietary apps.
There isn’t too much to brag about with the Motorola Flipout in terms of photography. The 3.1 megapixel camera takes adequate photos in well lighted scenes. One of the best features of the camera on this device is the digital zoom. The photos themselves are bland and washed out, check out a sample photo here. The video quality is even worse: at just CIF resolution (352 x 288) and 12fps, video quality is rather poor in this day and age where mobile phones are able to capture 720p video at 30fps. For a candid shot to post to Facebook or Twitter though this camera gets the job done.
For being the size of a 67mm square the Flipout has relatively good performance. While performing the Quadrant Standard Benchmark (average of 542) the speed was consistently just below the Samsung Galaxy S running Android 2.1.
The Flipout 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 smart phones.
CALL QUALITY/NETWORK SPEED
The best feature of this phone is the call quality. Staying true to the Motorola reputation, calls are clear from both sides of the conversation. The speakerphone is superb and provides enough audio even while in a vehicles without becoming distorted or scratchy.
The network speed is very fast on the Flipout, 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 5.5Mbps down and 1.6 Mbps up.
The battery life of the Motorola Flipout is fair. Like most Androids the batteries don’t seem to last long and this phone is not an exception. With average use the battery seems to last around 8-10 hours. Motorola states that the battery should last around 3 hours and 45 minutes for talk time and 15 days on standby. The battery is a 3.7 volt 1130mAh lithium ion.
PERCHASING AND AVAILABILITY
The Motorola Flipout is available through AT&T at a subsidized price of $79.99 with a qualifying two-year agreement and no rebates. The full price to buy the phone out right is $379.99 through AT&T online. The phone should be available at most AT&T corporate stores and online.
+ 720MHz TI processor is snappy and responsive
+ Feels sturdy in hand
+ Five row QWERTY keyboard is easy to type on
+ MotoBlur makes updating social network statuses easy
+ Touch screen is accurate
+ Small and compact
+ Call quality is superb
+ Battery covers are swappable
- Camera is poor with no flash
- Screen is low resolution and using old TFT LCD technology
- Not capable of side loading apps from microSD
- Some users may not like the MotoBlur user interface
- Battery life isn’t great
With many months of debate whether or not the Motorola Flipout was coming to AT&T it was a nice surprise to see that the processor was upgraded from the 600Mhz variant that went out to Europe. The form factor may either appeal to consumers or not. At this moment it is innovative but at the same point could be construed as annoying. Power users may not find this device to be up to caliber with their needs. The MotoBlur user interface is either a hit-or-miss with Android users, people that do a lot of social networking may find the 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 Flipout is a well built device that feels sturdy in hand. The call quality is excellent. Having the power of an Android 2.1 device in such a small form factor is appealing. There are rumors that Motorola will be updating to Android 2.2 in the near future. This phone has great internal hardware but the screen and camera are lacking.
Final score: 3/5