In the past Motorola have released some let’s say ‘interesting’ devices that haven’t necessarily done that well in general. However they have recently announced and released a new smartphone with a whole new look, the product in question is named the Motoluxe, which admittedly isn’t the most attractive name but the question is:
Is the phone more attractive than its name? And is it any good for today’s market?
To find out the answers to those questions and any of your own you will have to read on, and just to note if you haven’t done so already I would take a look at James’s unboxing video for a rundown of specifications and a quick look around the device before you read this review.
The 10 Second Review
- Product: Motorola Motoluxe
- Price: £189.99 +£10 top up, free from £21 on 24 month contract and from £215.99 SIM Free
- Summary: A really lovely phone that has all of the features that you could want from a smartphone but is let down by the internal hardware which is a real shame.
- Best of: Build Quality, Design, Size, UI Overlay
- Worst of: 800Mhz processor, unsure whether it will receive android 4.0, at the moment exclusive to t-mobile, camera, lack of HD recording.
- Buy from: T-Mobile
- Also consider: Orange San Francisco 2, Orange Monte Carlo, Samsung Galaxy range.
What’s in the box?
- Motorola Motoluxe smartphone
- Sync cable
- 2GB memory card
- User guide
- Get started guide
Motorola MOTOLUXE Specification:
- Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread
- Motorola MotoSwitch UI
- 4″ Touch screen display
- 800 MHz processor, 512MB RAM
- Lanyard groove/notification light
- 8MP rear camera, 0.3MP front facing camera
- Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, HSDPA & 3G
- MicroSD slot (expandable up to 32GB)
- 3.5mm headphone connection
- Great build quality
- Gorgeous design
- Feels great in the hand
- Surprisingly nice Motorola overlay (MotoSwitch)
- 800Mhz really shows at times
- The display is shocking in direct sunlight
- For the moment at least it only has Gingerbread installed
- The 8 Megapixel camera isn’t great
In recent years Motorola haven’t really been all that successful in the smartphone market although they have released some nice hardware their downfall has always been their software overlay that they add over the top of the android interface. Many people saw this overlay as ‘Marmite’ due to it being so fiddly and I think that Motorola realised this fact so they have finally done something about it!
They have released a new iteration of their infamous overlay called MotoSwitch and hopefully I can do it justice in the review as I really quite like it! I know I was shocked too!
Anyway I will begin as I usually do by talking about build quality and design of the device and then I shall move onto software etc.
Build Quality and Design
As you can imagine I was understandably sceptical of what this phone would be like at first, but then I held the phone for the first time and I remember thinking ‘WOW!’ The simple reason for this wow was that the device feels just awesome in the hand as it is made from such fantastic non-slip materials that feel as though it should be held. It’s slightly difficult to explain but imagine an iPhone 4/4S that isn’t slippery and makes you worry less about smashing it and you’ve got what the Motoluxe feels like to hold.
What was also a surprise to me was the fact that the removable battery door is metal! So this means that the phone is mostly metal too which is just great as it makes it feel really solid and robust which certainly puts your mind to rest.
So yes overall the build quality is simply fantastic!
Design wise the phone has done well for itself too as it does look really cool, as well as it looking cool it’s also very practical. What I mean is that all of the physical buttons are logically placed within easy reach of each other, there is the added bonus of having a dedicated camera button on the device too which makes taking photos more enjoyable anyway.
I would like to mention that as this phone is NOT made from shiny plastic, so it does not attract fingerprints! How good is that? Finally a great looking device that isn’t a fingerprint magnet, the only part of the phone that is a fingerprint magnet is the screen but you’ve got to expect that (at least until they invent something that cleans itself!).
I’d like to mention 1 more thing about the design of the device that isn’t great I’m afraid to say, the display is nothing short of woeful in direct sunlight. Due to the incredible weather we’ve been having in the UK I was out of the house quite often but found myself nipping back in the house just to use the phone! This isn’t really something that we should have to do nowadays as companies surely have the technology to avoid such issues? I was deeply disappointed with the performance of the screen outside but inside in lower lighting conditions the screen works really well with no problems whatsoever! Annoying!
The Motoluxe runs Android Gingerbread 2.3.7 which is a version of the OS that I’ve not seen before, to be honest I see no difference between this version and previous gingerbread versions but anyway.As well as Android the device has a Motorola inspired UI overlay called MotoSwitch. Honestly I didn’t expect to like a lot about this phone but the Overlay is certainly something that has grown on me somewhat during my time testing it out, it is sort of a cross between HTC Sense and Samsung’s TouchWiz interfaces, now I know that a lot of people may agree and disagree with that comment but that is my own opinion. I like aspects of both HTC Sense and TouchWiz but both have their annoying quirks that really frustrate me so to have sort of the best of both worlds was really nice.
Below are some Images of the interface to show you what I’m talking about.
As you can see above there are 7 customisable home screens, and at the bottom of each screen are 4 shortcuts: Phone Dialler/call log, Messaging, Browser and app tray. Now one good thing about these shortcuts is the fact that you can customise what you would like them to be, apart from the app tray shortcut which has to stay there but all you have to do is hold 1 of the other 3 and a little menu called ‘Add to dock’ will pop up, this then allows you to choose which app shortcut you would like to put there, pretty cool really. The original set up has the camera where I’ve placed the messages shortcut; I changed it as I preferred it like you see above.
If you have used android before then you will know that customising an android device is very simple and this one is no different, but for those of you who have never used an android device before the process is as follows: Press and hold anywhere on any of the 7 home screens (if empty spaces are available), the next step is choosing either Motorola Widgets or Android Widgets, then choose one and if there’s enough space on screen it will add itself once pressed. Simples.
Below are screenshots of the one thing that really reminds me of HTC Sense. the lock screen.
Above are 3 different shots of the home screen to show you what’s possible with it, it’s the middle and right ones that I want you to concentrate on though because it is almost exactly the same unlock process as the one that HTC implemented with their latest version of the overlay where there is an unlock ring with 4 app shortcuts to ensure rapid unlock straight into the app of choice. With the Motorola version there is basically a ring of app shortcuts and an unlock key in the middle, the process of unlocking the device is the same as you will see in the middle screenshot, and also you are able to unlock the phone into an app! Do you think that Motorola have simply taken HTC’s idea or do you think they thought of it first but had to change it?
Anyway on to usability, the lock screen is one process that really shows the lack of processing power that the phone possesses as when you unlock into an app it really lags quite badly and takes twice as long as it should to open the app. A shame really as I do like what Motorola have done with it, I will probably say this more than once in the review but with a much faster processor this phone could be absolutely awesome!
I won’t bore you anymore with the software side of things but I will show you the settings menu and app trays so you know what to expect.
The app tray is no different to any other android device if I’m honest, the only difference I could notice is the app pictures which is really only a visual difference.
Next for the settings.
Internet and E-mail
The internet browser on the Motoluxe was really good actually, I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed using it, I was seriously doubting how it would perform due to the lack of power under the hood but if I’m honest it wasn’t evident all of the time which was a major plus point really. Pinch to zoom and the double tap to zoom worked seamlessly and the text reflow was really brilliant, I would say possibly the best I’ve seen on an android phone so a big thumbs up to Motorola here. Pages load quite quickly as well which surprised me somewhat so browsing for something in a hurry on 3G or Wi-Fi is definitely possible on this phone.
The Motoluxe supports multi-tabbed browsing which makes switching between websites so much easier! I found myself having 4 or 5 windows open quite often, which if I’m being totally honest I very rarely do even on my iPhone, I guess I just like the browsing experience on android more.
E-mail is such a huge part of so many people’s lives now that a smartphone is probably used more than a home PC or laptop for such things, I know that I use my phone for e-mail instead of my computer and I’m sure it’s the same for many others too.
So how does the Motoluxe perform when it comes to e-mail I hear you say, not as well as I had hoped actually which made me quite sad as I like a good e-mail client in my pocket. As far as looks go the e-mail client installed on this device is the stock gingerbread one which in the past has worked really well, but for some reason on this phone it was really slow to send and receive mail, which I thought was a little odd considering I only gave the device 2 e-mail addresses to control.
The biggest problem I had when using the app was the fact that e-mails were arriving 10 minutes after they arrived on my iPhone! This was not acceptable to me so I desynchronised both e-mail addresses and resynchronised them both but the problem persisted, annoying! The problem was the same with the stock e-mail app and the Gmail app too (sad face)
The screenshots above are of the stock android gingerbread e-mail application in action and the following shots are of the Gmail application.
If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times social networking is now most likely the most used thing in the world ever! And it continues to grow at an alarming rate so you would imagine that the applications for those social sites would have evolved over time? Well they have to a certain degree the same as anything does after a long time of being in use.
Motorola with this particular handset have been very clever by not adding their own social app into their overlay, now I know lots of you will now be saying hallelujah and for flipping good reason too as I am getting increasingly annoyed with companies adding their own unified inbox apps to their phones as they really aren’t required, as this phone shows brilliantly.
The official Facebook and Twitter applications come pre-installed which is a real bonus as you can get started with them straight away, since my last phone review (the HTC Explorer) these applications have not been updated so I will just at this point show you the apps working and move onto the next section afterwards.
As this is an android device it comes with the android market which has been newly named Google Play (not the best name right?!) the market itself hasn’t changed at all which is definitely a good thing as you will probably agree after seeing the pictures.
The one slightly amusing thing about the new name for the market is the fact that the actual application shortcut is named ‘Play Shop’ it’s like Google executives were sat in their board room one day and thought ‘ooh let’s give everyone a little chuckle’
Google Maps and Navigation
As time goes on more and more people (myself included) are choosing their smartphone to navigate rather than a dedicated Satnav, Why? Simply because it is so much easier! I personally use Google maps often if I go to a place I’m not too familiar with to basically show me where things are that I may need such as in Birmingham I used Google maps to find a McDonalds. So you see that having these navigation based tools in the palm of your hand can be super useful and at times could easily get you out of a sticky situation too.
As for the applications themselves, Google Maps and Google Navigation are essentially one of the same with the difference being that Google navigation gives you turn by turn instructions exactly like a satnav would do, and Google maps simply displays those directions in text format which is great when walking or on a train etc but not so great in a car when it’s not the best idea to watch a screen the whole time. Both sections of the application work seamlessly on the Motoluxe and I did really enjoy using them on this device because everything went so smoothly with no lag issues or failed turns so overall this was a very good experience.
I thought that I would add this section to this review due to the phone having 2 keyboard options to choose from, the first of which Is part of Motorola’s user interface and the other is the Swype keyboard that we first saw on the Samsung galaxy S and has become quite a popular choice for many users.
Below is a couple of screenshots of both of the available keyboards, I personally preferred to use the Motorola one though as it’s again something that’s very similar to HTC’s.
I thought that I would now touch on the calendar application for a moment because unlike in previous reviews where I haven’t used the app much, well lately I have had a slightly more hectic schedule so have had to start logging events and appointments etc so I’ve used the Motoluxe calendar quite a lot in just a week.
The application itself isn’t any different to the vanilla android application which is a good thing as I quite like how basic and simple it is to be honest, so I’m really glad that Motorola haven’t added their own as it would just spoil it. The application is as always so simple to use and to navigate around so I don’t imagine anyone taking long to get used to its mechanisms.
As we always do during testing we check to see if the mobile devices can actually make a phone call, but also whether they are good as it’s seen as though they are at least partially created for communication.
So how does the Motoluxe perform during a call? Very admirably actually, having never used a Motorola for calling previously I had nothing to compare it to other than other phones that I have used. I think that it stacked up quite well against even the more expensive smartphones because although it doesn’t possess noise cancellation I did feel that during a call I only heard the person I was talking to and very little background noise at all.
So overall I was very impressed indeed with the Motorola for voice calls as I have been impressed with many other aspects of the device also.
Below is just a screenshot of the dialler.
Camera & Video Camera
As with many of the smartphones in the market at the moment this phone has a camera that when seen on a specification sheet does look impressive as it has an 8 Megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash. Now it’s all well and good it sounding impressive but if it doesn’t perform well enough then it’s slightly false.
I’m afraid to say that this camera does not live up to the billing whatsoever, it takes a considerable amount of time for the camera to focus and even when it apparently does focus it kind of does a last minute blur! This became an annoying quirk that really ruined the image quite frequently, one other thing that was disappointing was the quality of the images, as you will hopefully be able to see below there is no depth to them and the colours aren’t very vibrant.
The 2 images on the left were taken on an amazingly sunny day with every setting on automatic and the 2 images to the right were taken using macro focus mode.
The camera application was very simple to use and the dedicated camera button on the outer edge of the hardware really does help to take more of a stable image, although the app could definitely do with image stabilisation as well but never mind. There is a nice array of settings to manipulate to try and change the image quality and change for example the white balance and focus mode for different circumstances, I however tended to use automatic more often because I noticed that changing the settings didn’t really impact on the quality of the photos much at all.
Moving onto the video recorder feature and I’m sad to say that Motorola have decided not to add any HD capabilities to the camera, now this is a real shame because we are seeing even the lower end of the smartphone market entering into the HD recording world so for this not to have it I think is a bit of a missed opportunity to gain a foothold. For this reason though I decided that I wouldn’t record a sample video for you guys to see as the highest resolution available is 640 x 480 which was really bad and I’m sure you would rather me tell you the truth rather than watch an awful quality video.
As you may know by now I absolutely love music so for a phone to really grow on me it would need to have amazing sound quality for my tunes which is mainly old school rock and roll with some new stuff thrown in there. I regularly listen to music on my iPhone 4S through a set of iBeats headphones and the sound quality is tremendous so the Motoluxe had a lot to live up to!
I now have a surprise for you.It did live up to the quality of my iPhone and more! The sound quality absolutely blew me away, I was so shocked I remember saying it out loud and my girlfriend wondering what the heck was going on lol. The only downside to this awesomeness is the fact that the bundled headphones are really bad, but I don’t suppose many of you would be worried about that seen as though the majority of people these days use their own much better headphones for comfort etc.
Not only is the sound quality amazing but the application is lovely too and Motorola have thrown in an interesting application to the mix aptly named Music+. Basically this is a place where you can listen to your music but with a pretty damn cool twist to it, if the sound hound database can instantly find the track information the application will display the tracks lyrics as well as the album artwork! How cool is that?! I don’t think I have ever seen anything like that before and I really liked it a lot.
The app consists of the following sections- My Music, Radio (internet), Music Videos (YouTube link), Community and Song Identification (Sound Hound).
The my music section is self-explanatory, the radio is the SHOUT cast internet radio application, it had some of the mainstream stations on there but it’s mostly ones that I’ve never even heard of but it worked well when I tried it. The music video section allows you to either play videos from your own library or simply search through YouTube, quite a cool little addition really, the community section allows the user to search through the TuneWiki database to find songs, playlists, charts and whether anyone nearby has music you could share but this is a feature that I personally didn’t wish to use at all as I have no use for such a thing but I am sure that someone somewhere would get something out of it. The final section of the application is called song identification which uses the popular app called Sound Hound to identify tracks that you are listening to-to find information that you might not have at that point; this is a nice feature to have built in for sure.
There is also a regular stock android music player which I’m sure a lot of people are familiar with so I will keep this short and sweet. Overall the app is very simple to use and works very well, its basic-ness is one of its strong points as it doesn’t take away from the fact that you just want to listen to music which is at the end of the day all a lot of people want to do. Built into the app is the ‘use as ringtone’ option which is quite useful and also is a timesaver as you don’t have to faff about going through lots of settings to do it.
Here are a couple of screenshots of this app so you can see what I mean.
Video playback and media stream
As the Motoluxe possesses a lovely 4 inch display you would expect watching videos to be brilliant yes? Well you are in luck then because whether you watch a quick snippet on YouTube or a full feature film you won’t be disappointed with both the quality and battery life. The only thing that lets the phone down in this respect is the external loudspeaker as its flipping rubbish! I did mean to mention this in the music section but felt that it was more appropriate in this section due to people not always wanting to wear headphones when they watch a short video. For me I watch a lot of YouTube content (cos I’m sad!) on my iPhone and the iPad 2 so I’m used to pretty good external speakers but this phone doesn’t have one at all, it’s so bad!
The shining light is of course the fact that the actual video quality is really good in low light conditions though as in any kind of sun light the screen is almost unusable, which again is quite a shame.
Above are just a couple of screenshots of the best YouTube application on any operating system, I just thought I would show you the interface although it hasn’t changed for quite a while.
The Motoluxe has a nice little trick up its sleeve that is quite different to other phones that I personally have seen before; it’s a couple of apps called, MediaServer and MediaSee.
These are 2 applications that allow you to share files such as music, photos and videos between your home PC or even a PS3 if you wanted to, there was quite a huge problem when I went to use the apps though, and they simply would not find my home PC at all! I had set up sharing on my PC to share with everything that was connected to the home network but the app just kept searching and searching to no avail. Now for me this was 1-a massive fail! And 2-a huge disappointment as it was the first time I had tried such a process with a smartphone and was intrigued to see it working but this time I couldn’t.
Although the apps didn’t work properly I will show you their interfaces as they come pre-installed on the device and I am sure that if they did work that they would be great.
Battery and performance
As we all know by now smartphones of today don’t have the best battery life ever and can barely get through 1 whole day before having to be recharged again, some would say they don’t mind about this but others would get rid of a phone just because of this so how does the Motoluxe do in this area?
It does surprisingly well actually, during my week with the device I only had to charge it 3 times! And I personally think that’s pretty good what do you think? I am a medium to heavy user of my own smartphone and I was the same when testing this device so to only have to charge it 3 times is really quite good. The phone has a 1400mh battery and it performs brilliantly. A* for battery life now onto performance.
This phone possesses an 800 MHz Qualcomm processor with an Adreno 200 GPU, 1GB ROM and 512Mb RAM so you wouldn’t expect it to benchmark very well right?
Well I think that it benchmarked quite well considering the specs I’ve mentioned above, here’s the Quadrant benchmark score it got.
For a phone at this price point with those specifications to benchmark that closely to the Google Nexus S is pretty impressive if you ask me. As for the everyday performance of the device I didn’t notice any kind of lag in the UI apart from the already mentioned Lock screen issue, it played games such as Angry Birds Space and Fruit Ninja with no problems or glitches of any kind, so this coupled with decent battery life makes for a really good little phone that could with upgraded hardware be absolutely awesome!
Here we are again at the end of another review, this one I have really enjoyed doing more than most because the phone has really grown on me! I really didn’t expect it to as well so for that reason I think I like it even more.
As for its target market its difficult to say because it has features that would be good for the heavy smartphone user but also for the beginner smartphone user so I think if you put it somewhere in the middle of the 2 you will have your answer.
As for whether I would recommend the phone to anyone I think I would recommend it to literally anyone who is looking for an android device that’s a little different than any other but it will make you smile every time you use it.
Review by: Chris