By GeoffreyFarinha | January 25, 2011 1:47 PM
Motorola is no stranger to the world of Android. Their offerings range from low-end to high-end devices each with various different version of UI tweaks and skins. Motorola has added another mid-range device their lineup with the Flipside; a touchscreen phone offering both an optical trackpad and slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Is there room for the Flipside as part of AT&T’s Android offering, and is it worth considering? Read on below to get the scoop!
Hit play below to see us unbox the Flipside. Inside the box you will find the device itself with a pre-installed 2GB microSD card, a microUSB sync cable, and USB wall adapter. All of which are fairly normal and what to expect from a mid-range offering.
Queue the spec analysis! As we’ve stated, the Flipside is a mid-range Android device. Thus, you’re going to see mid-range specs here. Equipped with a 720mHz OMAP processor, the Flipside surely isn’t a speed demon. However, it’s certainly not a slouch either. It’s 512MB of RAM help to alleviate the load, especially when it comes to multitasking with various applications. In terms of installing applications the device has 512MB of onboard ROM to fill these shoes nicely. For media and other storage the Flipside comes with a pre-installed 2GB microSD card, but is capable of reading up to 32GB.
On the front of the device you’re immediately greeted with a Motorola logo. One aspect that will catch your attention quickly is the addition of an optical trackpad, which is used for navigating through the interface. In our tests we found that the trackpad worked quite well and was very accurate. With that being said, navigating directly through the touchscreen is much faster and an easier overall experience. To the left and right flanks of the trackpad are the typical Android buttons (menu, home, search, and back), in that order. As usual, we wish manufacturers would collaborate to keep the same orientation with these four buttons as it is yet another learning curve and can be a cause of frustration when hitting the wrong button.
Motorola describes the 320×480 resolution-sporting screen as “high-res”. It certainly doesn’t match the vibrancy and saturation that we see on today’s AMOLED and sAMOLED screens, but it doesn’t fully disappoint either. The screen as a whole looks better than your everyday run-of-the-mill LCD.
Moving to the right of the device we find a dedicated camera button and the up/down volume rocker. It’s a good sign that many Android manufacturers are beginning to include the dedicated camera button on their devices. It is always a welcome addition. Next, at the top of the device there is a 3.5mm headphone jack matched with a power and lock/unlock button. Finally, the microUSB charging port is located on the left of the Flipside.
Removing the battery cover will reveal a microSD card slot, which as mentioned, is capable of reading up to a 32GB card. Users don’t have to remove the battery just to take the card out. This little detail goes a long way in our minds. Removing the 1120mAh battery will allow access to the SIM card slot. This means if you want to swap your SIM card into another phone, you’ll have to pull the battery out. The device as a whole is coated in a black, soft touch paint with a plastic chrome-colored bezel.
Phone manufacturers have fully embraced the ability to embed their own skin on top of the Android operating system, and Motorola is no exception. The Flipside features MotoBlur on top of Android 2.1 Éclair. MotoBlur puts social networking at the forefront of its design, while also incorporating what users have come to love about Android. Motorola has brought their own list of widgets including toggle switches, news/rss feeds, social status updates, weather, and more. The greatest part about these widgets is that you can resize them to fit as you please. The widgets themselves also adapt to take on a different appearance depending on the size you have set, which is a nice touch. In our software overview video below, we run through a tour of MotoBlur and check out what the Flipside has to offer.
Our second overview video compares the software performance of the Motorola Flipside to another mid-range Android device, the Samsung Transform. We conducted a gameplay test, a browser speed test, and a video load/process test. From a gameplay standpoint the Flipside far exceeded the Transform. Motorola’s device kept a smooth frame rate while the Samsung phone suffered largely. This is likely due to the Flipside possessing 512MB of RAM, which is twice the amount that the 256MB Transform offers.
Unfortunately for the Flipside, it fell behind in both the browser and video speed tests. As mentioned in our above hardware section, at the heart of the Flipside beats a 720mHz processor, whereas the Transform has a 800mHz processor. The difference was especially apparent in the browser test. With that being said, the Flipside is still perfectly usable for these tasks.
The Flipside makes use of a 3.1 Megapixel camera, but no flash can be found here. This makes taking pictures in some dark environments impossible.
Below are some pictures taken with the Flipside. They appear very soft which greatly minimizes the amount of detail that can be captured. The camera’s sensor needed up to ten seconds in some cases to adjust to abrupt changes in lighting before snapping a picture. The dedicated camera button makes taking that quick picture before your window of opportunity closes a breeze. In reality, that’s all you should consider this camera as: something to use if in a bind if convenient.
General navigation through the MotoBlur user interface is quite snappy with little to no hiccup. Once we began installing our normal list of applications and started multi-tasking there was a decrease in overall responsiveness. With all of that being said, MotoBlur seems to get in its own way at times. While the various embedded social networking accounts are pulling down data and trying to update, it can become almost impossible to swipe from homescreen to homescreen; never mind navigating through menus.
CALL QUALITY/NETWORK SPEED
Signal status on our Flipside appeared to be weaker when comparing to other AT&T equipped devices. When one device had full signal and was able to make calls without degradation, the Flipside showed weaker signal strength and call quality was clearly impacted with apparent static and dropped words. Overall, the voice quality was mediocre and acceptable.
Motorola claims the battery life to be just over seven hours. In our testing we found this to be a long shot. Power users will not make it through a day. The constant social network and other feeds updating as part of MotoBlur is likely a large cause of this. Battery life as a whole was a mixed bag so it’s hard to say just how long you should expect to achieve here. Our best advice, keep a car charger, USB cable, or extra AC adapter handy. You’ll likely need it more times than not.
PURCHASING AND AVAILABILITY
The Motorola Flipside is currently available from AT&T at $99.99 with a two-year contract.
+ High screen resolution (for hvga)
+ Full QWERTY keyboard
+ Solid 512MB of RAM
+ Social networking integration
+ Android 2.1 pre-installed (better than 1.6)
- Trackpad seems forced
- Below average battery life
- Inconsistent speeds
Mid-range devices help expand any operating systems user base. The Flipside is no exception and will surely bring more people into the world of Android. Unfortunately it seems that AT&T has more mid-range Android phones than solutions for the power users. A segment is clearly missing here.
The social networking integration of MotoBlur will prove very useful to teenagers or anyone else who is very active with Facebook and/or Twitter. Pair that with a sliding QWERTY keyboard and a relatively decent display and the Flipside looks pretty good on paper.
As with many other mid-level devices, if you’re new to Android and don’t consider yourself a power user you may not notice any shortcomings. Unfortunately, in reality the unpredictable and generally below-average battery life leaves a very visible mark on the Flipside’s reputation. Combine this with a slow processor; common hiccups and other slowdowns, you will likely find yourself unnecessarily frustrated. While the Flipside does have somewhat of an advantage with Android 2.1 being pre-installed, we doubt Android 2.2 (Froyo) will ever make an appearance simply because of the processor speed. Thankfully, the Flipside’s price tag does help its cause. Text messagers and social network addicts: this is a device for you. However it’s not for everyone. We give the Motorola Flipside a 3/5.