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MotoSummer 2004

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Jul 30, 2004, 6:00 PM   by Rich Brome

Info and photos covering Motorola's new phones announced in late July 2004. Hot info direct from Motorola, and exclusive live photos and hands-on reports.

Intro 

Earlier this week, Motorola breathed new life into its portfolio with the announcement of several major new phones. The announcements were made at Motorola's annual analyst meeting in Chicago. On Thursday, the company held another event in New York City to show off the new models, and Phone Scoop was there.

There are several phones featured in-depth on the following pages - ones that caught my eye and I felt deserved extra attention. But there are also some less dramatic phones announced this week that are worth covering.

First, the V551 (V555 in Europe and Asia) is a new model in the popular "triplets" series. The big new feature is EDGE high-speed data. Motorola had one previous EDGE model - the T725 - but it was mostly just a test platform for carriers, making the V551 Motorola's first EDGE phone that will see serious mass production. Video capture, in the form of 15-second clips, is another new feature compared to previous "triplets".

Yet another upgraded triplet is the V620, which also adds video capture. The casing has also been updated to a sleek black color:

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The V620 doesn't have EDGE, but at the analyst meeting on Wednesday, Tom Lynch, the head of Motorola's phone division, let slip that a V635 model is in the works, which will include EDGE. Not much else is known about the V635, except that the styling will again be updated compared to the V600 and V620.

Also announced were the C975 and V975, two similar 3G phones for Europe and Asia. The only major difference between the two is that the V975 is a clamshell model with a color external display, while the C975 is a bar-style model. No American version has yet been announced, but it the possibility was not ruled out, either.

Both models include a long list of features, including dual cameras, live 2-way video calling, TransFlash memory card slots, MP3 player, and more. Yet both models are designed to be the low end of Motorola's 3G lineup, implying that forthcoming high-end models, such as the long-rumored V1000, could truly raise the bar for 3G handset technology.

RAZR V3

Page 1 

The "RAZR" V3 is certainly the star of Motorola's new announcements. Like the V600 last year, the V3 is the new signature model in Motorola's lineup, designed to emphasize style and showcase the company's engineering talent.

The main selling point of this model is the "razor" thin profile. Using exotic materials and clever engineering, Motorola has managed to pack a complete, feature-rich phone into a package just 13.9 millimeters thick - half the thickness of most other clamshell models. And amazingly, they didn't skimp on features, adding a second color display and a camera. There is no thinner clamshell phone in world with these features.

The unique materials are much of what makes this design possible. Motorola seems to have taken a cue from Apple and its titanium laptops. In the V3, anodized aircraft-grade aluminum clads the exterior. Aluminum was chosen because it is much lighter than titanium, (the same reason Apple eventually switched to aluminum.) Plus it's easier to work with, and also recyclable (important in parts of Europe).

Magnesium is the material you'll see when you open the V3. It was chosen over aluminum for being moldable (for tricky hinge parts, etc.). Since magnesium is a full 18 times stronger than plastic, the inner casing could be made paper-thin without sacrificing durability.

And finally, a nickel-plated copper-alloy is used for the unique keypad. This unusal metal was chosen for being flexible, and also because it allows the eye-catching "spun" finish that radiates from the direction pad.

But wait - that's not all! You have to wonder if one of the engineers had some kind of bad childhood experience with plastic, because they even managed to avoid it with the outer display and camera lens. Instead, a special hardened glass is used, that is thinner, more resistant to scratching, and allowed them to place the LCD closer to the surface, further reducing the overall thickness.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Page 2 

When I first saw the V3, I was very skeptical about the keypad. It did not look very ergonomic. However, I'm delighted to report that my fears were unfounded and it is, in fact, a truly excellent keypad in every way. The keys are easy to feel thanks to slightly raised rubber ridges in the spaces between the keys, and tactile feedback is perfect. And the cool-blue EL backlight provides perfectly even light in the dark.

Working our way around the rest of the phone, one seemingly odd design choice is the location of the side keys on the top half of the phone, next to the display. The reason is that there simply isn't room for them in the usual locations on the bottom half. The battery takes up absolutely every last millimeter of that part of the phone. It runs right to the very edges.

And a bit of trivia: when you press on the top part of the keypad, you're actually pressing directly on the battery - there's literally nothing between the keypad and the battery except a thin white film.

One nice little touch is that the up/down action of the side keys is automatically reversed when you close the phone, so up is always up. This is similar to Motorola's Bluetooth headsets, which automatically reverse volume keys when you switch ears, so that the top key always raises the volume.

Oh, and Motorola fanatics might notice that the "talk" and "end" keys are in the normal, industry-standard locations, instead of flipped like Motorola phones of the past. This is not a fluke or an exception. Motorola has finally, officially abandoned its flipped talk/end keys. All Motorola phones from this point forward will have this "normal" talk/end key arrangement.

So what features did they omit to make the V3 so thin? What's the trade-off? Well... nothing, really.

You do need a small adapter to connect a wired headset, (it only has a mini-USB connector,) but since it has Bluetooth, it's hard to get too upset about that.

Really, they compromised nothing. But that does mean one compromise for the customer: price. All that Motorola will say about the price at this point is that the V3 will definitely be more expensive than the V600. This is by no means a phone for those on a budget.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

MPx Series 

First, a quick note about what was not at the event - the MPx100. Unfortunately, Motorola officials confirmed that this device has officially been cancelled. It seems that market demand is simply much higher for clamshell-style models, especially among the professional users that are the target market for the MPx series.

But Motorola is now officially (finally) showing off its highly-anticipated MPx220 smartphone. This Windows Mobile device is by far the most advanced Microsoft Smartphone announced to date, with quad-band GSM, Bluetooth, megapixel camera, and dual color displays.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The phone seems solid and well-designed, with good ergonomics. The outer display is decent quality - not as bad as some photos floating around the 'net had previously led me to believe.

The phone is a bit large, but not excessively so. Still, reducing the size is one of Motorola's key goals for future models.

The MPx220 is currently slated to be available from both AT&T Wireless and Cingular in October.

The revolutionary dual-flip MPx was also on display. Motorola continues to tweak the keyboard for maximum readability and ergonomics. The photos below show the newest revision, which was manufactured just a couple of weeks ago.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The MPx release date has slipped a bit since it was first announced. It's now unlikely (although not impossible) that we'll see it released anytime before the end of the year. The first quarter of 2005 is now the most likely timeframe. Carriers have not yet been finalized, although reportedly interest is high.

A780 

While the V3 is undoubtedly the flashiest new Moto, I would say the A780 is actually the most important. This feature-packed model is the company's first EDGE smartphone. And while its predecessor - the A760 - was released only in Asia, this model will be released worldwide, including with multiple carriers in the U.S.

The feature list is extensive, but the highlights are: Linux + Java OS, large QVGA touchscreen, megapixel camera, Bluetooth, quad-band GSM with EDGE, and a TransFlash memory card slot.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The design is somewhat unique. Essentially, the A780 has dual personalities. When it's open, it's a full-fledged smartphone. But when you close the flip, it transforms into a simple but capable bar-style phone, with its own keypad and special phone-oriented user interface. The A630 also has this feature, as does the Sony Ericsson P900. The advantage of the A780's "window" approach is that a second display (which would add weight) is not necessary, yet the display is fully protected.

Other tidbits about the A780: It has a "jog dial" on the left side, for navigation both open and closed. It's actually more of an up/down toggle switch than a "dial", but no one seems to have come up with a good name to describe that kind of thing yet.

Also, it has mini-USB and stereo headset jacks on the bottom. The TransFlash card slot is located on the top.

There are two exciting things about this phone. First, it's a smartphone with EDGE, something that is unfortunately still rare. A powerful device like this is twice as powerful when you pair it with a high-speed wireless data technology like EDGE.

The second exciting thing about the A780 is that it will be the first serious Linux-based phone for the U.S. Having spent time with the similar A760 about a year ago, and briefly seeing some of the improvements in the newer OS on the A780, I can tell you that I'm pretty impressed. I'm anxious to see how the U.S. market reacts to this device.

A630 

The A630 was announced a few weeks ago, and this was my first chance to see it in person. It's a neat little device. It's not much larger than a V600, yet adds a complete second keyboard for text. It's great for text messaging, instant messaging, and email.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The main competition for the A630 is a phone like the Nokia 6820. What sets the A630 apart is the large display - the Nokia design just doesn't allow for a good-size display. The A630 has the same large display as the V600. And when you're doing serious email, the extra screen space is a real plus.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The A630 was initially revealed to the public with a dark black-and-grey design. That is the version that Cingular will carry. But T-Mobile will also carry the A630, and a special light-grey version will be made just for them:

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

One thing I found mildly disappointing about the A630 is that, despite having a landscape display, the camera is designed to be used primarily with the phone held vertically, with the display in portrait orientation.

Not only is this a strange way to hold the phone, but it also fails to use the full display area as a viewfinder. A full third of the display is wasted on icons and controls, increasing the "squint factor" considerably.

So the way it's designed to be held in camera mode is "camcorder style", with the display tilted out at 90 degrees, kind of like the Panasonic X300 and Nokia 6260. "Camcorder style" seems to be some kind of new fad these days, but in this case it just makes it all the more frustrating that the A630 can't actually record video.

The first photo below illustrates how the A630 is meant to be held in camera mode. The camera button lies under your index finger when held this way. As you can see, it's also awkward to access the camera options, since it requires the use of the 4-way direction pad.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

...the second photo illustrates one semi-cool feature of the A630. Since the top half "clicks" at 90 degrees like in the photo, you can set it down on a flat surface after activating self-timer mode, and easily capture a well-framed photo of yourself (and your friends, etc.) Many camera phones have a self-timer mode, but not many can easily be set on a flat surface and aimed forward.

Speaking of self-portraits, the Motorola "M" logo next to the camera lens is also a miniature mirror, perfect for framing a self-portrait. I tried it and it works pretty well.

Like the A780, the A630 has "dual personalities", with a dedicated keypad and user interface for using basic functions when the phone is closed. To accommodate this, the A630 has a larger external display than the V600 and similar models. It can show basic menus, graphics, and even incoming text messages.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

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Comments

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Subject Author Date
Wha' happened to the V600? NewFloridaMark Aug 15, 2004, 6:01 PM
More tidbits - A630 and V3 Rich Brome Jul 31, 2004, 5:04 PM
A780 Huge Upgrade tara Aug 1, 2004, 12:16 AM
New Phones in the market! panamaboy Aug 4, 2004, 4:57 AM
RAZR looks great BUT...... casualsuede Aug 4, 2004, 7:25 AM
hey Rich rice-a-rolla Aug 3, 2004, 2:03 PM
question for Rich disturbed1 Aug 3, 2004, 2:24 PM
A780? EDGE/GPRS question? bones boy Jul 31, 2004, 1:22 PM
a630 for TMo--surprised tara Aug 1, 2004, 12:20 AM
signal meters wombox Jul 31, 2004, 4:56 PM
great job disturbed1 Jul 30, 2004, 11:02 PM
Thanks! MegaBit Jul 31, 2004, 12:44 AM
 
 
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