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printed April 24, 2014
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Review: Motorola Citrus

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From the front, the Motorola Citrus looks like an ultra-compact, nicely rounded touchscreen phone. You have a 3-inch touchscreen that dominates the face, with the four standard Android buttons below: Menu, Home, Back and Search. I was pleasantly surprised to find Send and End keys below the Android buttons, too, since those are a rarity on touchscreen smartphones these days.

The Citrus’ key selling point may be its green stance, but the phone uses only 25% post-consumer recycled plastics. Compare that to a phone like the Samsung Reclaim, which uses 80% recycled material, or the Motorola Renew, which is made of recycled plastic from water bottles, and I wonder if Motorola couldn’t have gone farther in its green push.

To help balance some of the rest of the environmental toll, Motorola has paired with CarbonFund.org. CarbonFund calculates the carbon footprint of a product and tries to offset this environmental toll with projects that are environmentally beneficial, like reforestation projects or renewable energy projects. CarbonFund then declares the product “Carbon Neutral.” The packaging is mostly recycled paper and the user manual is entirely recycled and printed with soy-based ink.

Motorola made some poor design choices that make the Citrus at times unpleasant to use. There is a sort of crevice that runs the entire circumference of the phone, between the top and bottom halves. At first I thought I had mistakenly replaced the battery cover wrong. But the phone’s side buttons are all nestled in that crevice, so it definitely was not my mistake. The plastic ridges from the top and bottom make the plastic valley somewhat sharp, and uncomfortable to hold. The phone otherwise has a very smooth and sculpted design, but the break for the crevice ruins both the aesthetic look and the ergonomic feel of the device.

Those Send and End keys might be a welcome addition, but the buttons are placed on a long strip of rubber, which sticks up from the face of the phone. The phone feels like a Palm Pre that somebody cut up and stuck back together, poorly. It’s like a Frankenstein phone.

Around back you’ll find the camera lens and the small Backtrack trackpad. I don’t usually complain about shipping materials, but the camera lens was covered by a tiny protective piece of clear plastic. Because of the dip in the plastic near the lens, it was impossible to remove this plastic even with sharp fingernails. I had to grab a tool and pry it away. I was careful with my pocket knife, but I could easily imagine a buyer scratching the lens while trying to scrape this off. Very bad idea.

On the right side of the phone, in the crevice, you’ll find volume buttons up top, and a single-stage camera button near the bottom. The recessed gap does make them easier to find without searching. The same is true for the power button / screen lock up top, next to the 3.5mm headphone port. On the left side, there is a microUSB port. When the phone is charging, the port glows with a red light. When it’s done, the light turns off. It’s a cool effect, and useful for saving some energy.

The battery cover was a bit stiff to peel off, but it wasn’t a big problem. The phone’s microSD card slot is hidden under the cover, but not under the battery, so you can swap cards without turning off the phone.

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