Motorola Gleam+ review

When the Motorola Gleam+ arrived for review, I really thought I'd gone back in time; back to the days before smartphones when flip phones were all the rage. Back to a time when, like lots of other people, I thought flip phones were great because they were small and light.

In those long gone days, Motorola was a flip phone king. The original Razr line, before it was resurrected for a new series of smartphones, had some great handsets and Motorola rode high as a top tier phone manufacturer.

The Gleam+ is classic flip phone in design. It is small in the pocket when closed and it opens to reveal a large old-fashioned numberpad and a small screen - just 2.8in with a 400 x 240 pixels display. It is light at 105g, and the build feels a little on the flimsy side.

There is a flash of excitement in the phone's design - a small lip, which makes the bottom of the phone slightly longer than the top, pulses white as an alert, for example, when a new message arrives. It's a fairly subtle pulsing, which is more than can be said for another of the Gleam+'s party pieces. The front fascia has a panel of white lights on it, in a grid that's nine lights wide and 16 lights tall. When a message arrives, arrows animate across this together with an envelope-like graphic and a number telling you how many unread messages you have.

This fascia doubles up as a clock. Press the volume rocker on the right edge of the chassis and you get a report of the number of unread messages. A second press reveals the time. The lights don't show up very well outdoors but inside in darker lighting conditions, they are quite vibrant. It is all quite blingy.

On the specifications front, this is a very basic handset. Bluetooth is here but there's no Wi-Fi, GPS or 3G, and connectivity is limited to just GSM and GPRS, so all connected activities take a long time. I did manage to use the pre-installed Opera Mobile for some web browsing, but it was painfully slow and impossible to read most pages without zooming in. I really wouldn't want to rely on this handset for anything web-based at all.

There's also a major problem with any kind of text entry from Google searches to SMS. You are reliant on the physical keyboard as the screen isn't touch-sensitive - even if it were, it couldn't offer a big enough keyboard to use comfortably. The keys are large and responsive, but having to go back to using a real keyboard after a touchscreen felt very awkward indeed, and slow beyond belief even with predictive text activated.

Motorola has added a little social media awareness in the shape of Java apps for Facebook and mTweet, a Java version of SoundHound, and a couple of games including Tetris. It's all pretty bland stuff and without access to a vast range of third-party add-on games, the Motorola Gleam+ feels very outmoded.

There's a 2-megapixel camera on the flip lid - it becomes the back of the phone when the handset is opened. There's no flash, and camera shooting options are very limited. There are two- and five-shot continuous modes, a night scene mode, along with auto, five, 10 and 15 second timers. There are also a few white balance settings including fluorescent, cloudy and incandescent, and some effects: grey, sepia, sepia green, sepia blue and colour invert (Spelled 'color' - Motorola hasn't bothered to Anglicise the user interface).

There is an FM radio on board, and a music player. But the headset connector is on the left edge of the phone which is not the best location for pocketing the handset while listening to music, and there's a mere 50MB of built-in storage for tunes. This can be augmented with microSD cards. There is a slot under the backplate and you have to remove the battery to get to it.

You can program the D-Pad so that up, down, left and right perform specific tasks - such as launching an app or taking you right into writing an SMS or using the voice recorder. It's a feature I used to say was a plus point in the days before user-configurable, widget-laden, touch-sensitive home screens.

One of the great plus points of the Gleam+ is its battery life. Without a big processor or massive screen to drive, we are in the realms of multi-day battery life here. It might only be a 750mAh battery providing the power, but I managed a good two days between charges without any trouble.

If you really aren't into smartphones, need to make calls and send a few texts, and want a small format handset with good battery life, the Motorola Gleam+ might suit. I see it as a replacement for anyone whose old flip has died and who doesn't want anything modern or different. For such people, the clock on the front of the phone and its pulsing alert light might be appealing, and the FM radio is likely to be a plus.

Verdict

The Motorola Gleam+ is an old-fashioned flip phone with a solid keyboard, a small screen and some blingy alert lighting on the front. Its general specifications aren't great, though battery life is good. I can't see it having wide appeal, but people who want a basic phone for calls and texts might find it alluring. It's a little overpriced, too, and would have more appeal at a sub-£50 price.

Pros: Small for the pocket; long battery life

Cons: Screen too small for web viewing; no Wi-Fi; no 3G; no app expandability

Score: 5/10

Manufacturer: Motorola

Supplier: Clove Technology

Price: £74.40

Specifications:

Manufacturer and Model

Motorola Gleam+

Network

GSM 900/1800

Processor

n/a

Memory

50MB

Memory expansion

microSD (up to 16GB)

Display

2.8in, 400 x 240 pixels

Main camera

2-megapixel

Front camera

No

Wi-Fi

No

Bluetooth

Yes (2.1 +EDR)

GPS

No

FM radio

Yes

Headset jack

3.5mm

Connector

micro-USB 2.0 (charging and data)

Battery

750mAh

Size (W x H x D)

52.5 x 107 x 13.5mm

Weight

105g

OS

Proprietary

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