Review: Motorola Charm
The screen is the biggest disappointment I found with the Motorola Charm. It's a bummer in every way. First, it only packs in 320 by 240 pixels (QVGA resolution) for the 2.8-inch display. I wouldn't mind the size of the display if it used more pixels for a higher pixel density. Everything looks lousy. Pictures look chunky and pixelated. Text looks jagged. The menu interface is blocky. If Motorola had doubled the pixel count to HVGA (320 by 480 pixels), I imagine it would have looked much better.
Even discounting the screen door effect of the pixels, the display's color and brightness were equally unimpressive. Even at full brightness, whites looked a bit grey, and the display had a shimmering quality that was not pleasant. Outside, the display washed out terribly under bright light. It was still visible, but very dim and hard to read.
Motorola has cultivated a well-deserved reputation for solid sound quality on its smartphones, and the Motorola Charm continues that heritage. Calls on the Motorola Charm's earpiece sounded crisp and clear. Callers could distort at the upper limits of the phone's volume, but at least they were plenty loud. You can actually adjust the tonal quality of callers in the Charm's earpiece. During a call, the menu key will offer an Audio Quality option, and you can choose a standard, balanced, bright or extra bright quality for your conversation, like an equalizer for phone calls. I didn't mess with this much, since the sound was already solid in balanced mode, but the bright options might be nice if you're having trouble hearing voices against deeper background noises. On their end, my callers said I sounded very good, and they could not guess if I was talking on a cell phone or land line.
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I wish I could say the same for the speakerphone. It still sounds good, but it was not loud enough for my needs. I could barely hear the rings from across my house, and speakerphone conversations in a noisy environment, like a fast moving car, could be difficult. Sound quality was good, I just need more volume. Part of the problem is that the speaker is on the bottom of the phone, and when the Charm is flat on a desk, the speaker is muffled. When you need to keep quiet, the phone has a strong vibrate that is easy to feel in a stuffed pocket.
Reception on the Motorola Charm was spotty, and I had trouble with calls and data during my test run. Sometimes, the phone would completely drop off the network for no apparent reason. When the phone showed no service in the notification bar, I was unable to place calls or use the data network. When I did have a signal, all of my calls went through, but a few times the phone did not receive incoming calls. They were sent straight to voicemail, even though the phone was reporting a few bars of 3G service. I also had trouble with Wi-Fi, as well. The phone was never able to connect to my home network. I was able to use a portable Wi-Fi hotspot with an open connection, but with WPA2 security enabled on my Airport router, the Charm was unable to obtain an IP address and connect to my home network.
Battery life was not a problem on the Motorola Charm. I was surprised to open the box and find two batteries inside, one regular size and a larger, extended-life battery. For my testing, I focused on the standard battery since the extended-life uses a bulging back cover, and part of the thrust of this phone is its compact size. With the smaller battery, the phone easily lasted through a full day of testing, including plenty of GPS navigation and camera work. I started to get battery warnings in the evening after starting the day with a full charge. I imagine casual users will get a couple days out of the battery, and if you use more power hungry features, like Bluetooth or the GPS, you'll have to charge the phone nightly, or carry the extended-life cell with the spare back cover as a back-up.