Motorola, after years in the wilderness has jumped back on the world stage with the launch of the well-received CLIQ/DEXT and subsequently the Motorola Droid and its UK equivalent, the Motorola Milestone. But can the Motorola Backflip carry on the success? We got our hands on the new model at CES in Las Vegas and here share our first impressions.
While the Milestone is the flagship, the backflip actually sits next to the DEXT in terms of performance and options. It's considerably more consumer, more rounded and more friendly.
The new handset features a 3.1-inch, 320 x 480 (HVGA) resolution touchscreen display, reverse flip-out QWERTY keyboard and a back touchpad that works in a similar way to a trackpad on a laptop when the keyboard is open.
The idea, according to Motorola, is that users will be able to navigate and scroll around the screen without actually touching it or getting their fingers in the way of what they are looking at.
In practice and its fairly easily to use and master with your two index fingers doing the work out of sight, while the cursor moves around on the screen. The only problems we had were lazy fingers touching the front of the screen resulting in the interface having a fit over where the input was coming from. It can be resolved by making sure you keep your thumbs off the screen when you use it in this mode.
Of course you can just forget the back trackpad element altogether and just use the touchscreen display. There is no additional cursor on the QWERTY keyboard like the Milestone or DEXT, but then you don't really need it.
As for that keyboard, it's large and well spaced, with a more tactile feel to it than the rather flat Milestone offering. The crux of the keys are spaced over three rows with the rest of the space used up by shortcuts to the homepage, web browser and the like.
Motorola has even managed to find space to tuck the camera into the keyboard and thanks to the rotating properties of the keyboard, you can use the camera as a forward facing one for video conferencing or a rear facing one for taking pictures. It's a nice touch and one that saves you having to mess around with two cameras on the device. It also means that unlike most phones that have two cameras on them, this is 5 megapixels with LED flash regardless.
Tech specs include a 528 MHz Qualcomm MSM7201A processor, 512MB ROM, 256MB RAM, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.0, and GPS.
Inside and you get the Android operating system, version 1.5, running Motorola's own Android skin MotoBlur, which you can find much more detail on in our Motorola DEXT review. If you've seen the operating system from Motorola on the DEXT you'll know what to expect with the same iteration of the software found here. For those not entirely sure what that means, it means you get an Android skin that mashes together your social networks, rather than one that is just plain like the Milestone.
Android 1.5 and a standard Qualcomm 528 processor means it's not going to be the quickest or the most feature-rich handset on the block, but the features will appeal to those looking for something a bit different from the standard slide out keyboard design of the Milestone.
Motorola has attempted to do something clever here and it kinda works - it's certainly not a dog when it comes to handling or performance.
Is it the best Android handset out there? Of course not, but the rotating keyboard, and fairly nice Android skin (it's no Sense UI from HTC) make this a phone that potentially performs better than the DEXT even though it sits in a very similar space.
It will be interesting to see how it performs in the real world and whether the benefits of that keyboard and the touchpad on the back are really worth all the excitement.
We will find out in our full review of the handset when it becomes available in the UK later this year.