Motorola Charm Review
Review: Motorola Charm
Motorola’s little Charm is one odd duck of a smartphone. First of all it’s an odd shape (almost square), it has a really small screen (2.8 inch, 320 by 240 – wider than it is long) and it has no on-screen keyboard whatsoever (there is a real QWERTY keyboard just south of the screen).
On the other hand, Charm is compact enough to easily fit in your pocket (it measures 3.9 by 2.7 by 0.5 inches and weighs a scant 3.9 ounces), is a T-Mobile world phone (which means you can use it overseas), it runs version 2.1 of the Android operating system and comes with two battery packs (one is a larger, 1420mAh extended capacity model that comes with it’s own, larger, plastic back case). According to the specifications, the Charm is said to get as much as 9 hours of talk and/or up to 15 days of standby per charge.
Here is what else you need to know: there is Wi-fi (802.11b/g/n), Bluetooth, GPS, a 3 megapixel Kodak branded camera (without a flash), a slew of voice activated functions, a 2GB microSD memory card and Motorola’s MOTOBLUR social networking application/Internet back-up system.
The Charm also has a souse-pad type pointer on the back of the phone – called BACKTRACK – directly behind the screen and slightly below and to the right of the camera lens. I’m not sure why Motorola thinks you need a mouse pad when their touchscreen works so well. Luckily, I found a switch in one of the menus under “Settings” that allows you to keep it turned off.
The first thing you notice when you open the box are the two batteries. My test unit came with the smaller capacity battery (1170 mAh and matching back cover) already installed on the device. Remembering how other Android phones do on a single battery charge I decided to change to the larger battery pack and see how well it does. In my tests I was able to get a full day’s worth of work out of the large battery. The only caveat being that I made sure nearly every radio, aside from the GSM/GPRS/3G needed to make and receive voice calls was turned off.
The next thing you notice, when you begin setting-up the Charm for its first use, is that the three on-screen navigation buttons (Home, Back and Menu) are on the right-hand edge of the right-hand side of that little screen. Aside from being an unusual placement, it also makes all 7 available home screens seems super crowded. You do get used to it in very short order.
What you don’t get used to is the fact that nearly all Android apps are written for phones that have long, narrow screens. That means when you begin looking in the Android Market for your favorite apps you might not find them. Titles like AP News, TheStreet.com, my favorite brand of Solitaire and lots more just don’t show-up as download-able choices on the Charm.
I asked a Motorola representative about that and was told: “Android applications are built to run on a specific versions of Android and if that version does not coincide with the version on the device you are using, it will not be available on the Android Market.” Of the many applets that I was able to download, some of them would only run properly in the “long” mode which means they are presented sideways on the Charm. It’s not a fatal error, but it is different from any other Android smartphone to date.
In my tests, I found the real-life QWERTY keyboard is terrific. Great key feel which makes it easy to pick-up speed and assure the user of a high degree of accuracy. Charm was also a good voice call performer – locking into a signal and sounding good on both ends of a conversation. Overall, it has proven itself to be a good performer.
As for price, it’s one of the cheapest new Androids around. T-Mobile is selling the Charm for $74.99 on the Web after discounts but with a 2-year service contract – or $269.99 for what they call their Even More Plus plan with lower monthly rates and no contract.
I’m guessing that T-Mobile is hoping the Charm might be a worthy successor to the classic Sidekick line of message phones so popular with youngsters over the last decade. Unfortunately, because of the glut of Androids – the iPhone – and even cheaper Palm Pres and Pixis – eighty bucks may be too expensive for this phone to make a big splash. That’s too bad, because the Charm is a good Android smartphone and could be a great, affordable, starter smartphone for many users.
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