We’re firmly in budget land with the Motorola Motosmart a handset that you can buy online for a shade more than £100. Clove, for example, is selling it for £118.80 inc VAT as I write.
Motorola makes no bones about the fact that the Motosmart is designed for Android newbies. On its website, the company says the handset is easy to set up straight out of the box and that it is ideal for first-time smartphone users.
The thing is, Motorola, when I ran through the setup it was the same as with other Android handsets. Sign in to Google or set up an account, make decisions about location services, restoring and backing up. Then I got the chance to set time and date. It’s not exactly novel, and there’s nothing in the setup procedure that’s designed to look different to usual or be easier to get through.
On the plus side, nothing in the standard setup procedure is complicated, and you're not sent through a load of extra screens offering you the chance to sign in to Facebook, Twitter or whatever else. You can do all that later if you want to, of course. A plus for Android newbies is the small printed manual that comes with the phone. They’re a bit of a rarity these days, and this one walks you through the key features fairly nicely.
Motorola also says on its website that the Motosmart has modern lines and a stylish, elegant look. Well, there is a little sculpting to the front of the chassis beneath the Android shortcut buttons, and an inward curvature towards the back of the handset all round. On the back, there’s a neat silver grille for the speaker, which is recessed to allow the backplate to slide down when removing it. I like the soft touch backplate, too, and the fact that it is made from metal rather than plastic. It’s not exactly novel though. In fact, it is very similar to the design of the Motoluxe from earlier this year.
The ultra-narrow silver frame around the screen is quite nice and that wasn’t on the Motoluxe. But none of this is 'hold the front page' stuff and at 11.2mm the handset is a little on the chunky side.
Looking at the general specifications, you see immediately how Motorola has met its budget brief. While others seem able to offer budget prices and yet give you some good specifications, Motorola doesn’t. I’m thinking specifically of the excellent Huawei Ascend G300, a benchmark budget handset which, for a very similar price to the Motosmart, gives you a 4in 800 x 480-pixel screen and 1GHz processor. Motorola, on the other hand, throws an 800MHz processor into the mix and the screen is a dowdy 3.5in and 480 x 320 pixels. Other points of comparison hold too. A 3-megapixel camera here; 5-megapixels from Huawei. A shocking 165MB of available memory here on the spec sheet, which showed up as 128MB on my review sample, compared with 2.5GB on the Ascend G300.
Even the battery lets the side down. The Motosmart sports a 1,400mAh battery and that really doesn’t provide enough oomph for most users. I found that I was lucky to get through a day without needing to resort to mains power. Even with the phone on standby for most of a day, a mid-afternoon charge was required. Anyone who wants regular email, Twitter or Facebook data to stream into their mobile might do very well to look elsewhere.
And I found more disappointments. The screen was a little unresponsive to taps and sweeps and its smallish size meant that working with the keyboard could be a challenge too. I experienced many key miss-hits, with the key to the right of the one I wanted often registering. I’m not sure if that was a software fault or the result of sausage fingers, but it was annoying.
The screen’s low resolution also meant reading text, such as on web pages, was a bit of a challenge. I had to do a fair bit of zooming and scrolling to read what I wanted. And the LCD has pretty poor viewing angles. Auto rotation could be slow to kick in and in general, there was a bit of hanging around while apps loaded and things happened.
Motorola has skinned Android and added in a few elements that have been seen before. Notable among these are Social Graph and Activity Graph. These each require over half of one of the seven available home screens. Social Graph shows your most frequently contacted people in a graphic rich array. These are culled from your use of the phone, or you can configure them manually so that Social Graph acts as a visually rich shortcuts app.
Activity Graph does something similar for apps, either populating itself with those you use most frequently or showing a set of apps that you've chosen and so doubling as a personalised shortcuts area. If you don’t like these features they are just widgets and can be easily removed.
The lock screen lets you unlock to one of three apps. That’s neat, though I couldn’t find a way to change the defaults of dialler, camera and messaging. The lock screen also lets you quickly nip in and out of silent mode. Now that’s a great feature and I’d like to see it on more handsets.
Another feature I really like that Motorola uses on several of its handsets is the ability to set up profiles. You can set up three of these and they are pre-designated as Home, Work and Weekend, but you can rename them. Each profile comprises a complete look and feel for the seven home screens, so you can set up widgets, wallpaper and ringtones for each scenario.
Arguably, I’ve saved the best till last here, and in general I think the Motosmart will struggle to get traction in a competitive budget sector that’s populated with better phones.
Every Android handset manufacturer has its budget phone, and some are a lot better than others. Sadly for Motorola, the Motosmart is one of the less attractive offerings that hover around the £100 mark.
Manufacturer and model
GSM 850/900/1800/1900 HSDPA 900/2100
3.5in, 320 x 480 pixels
116 x 63.5 x 11.2 mm
Android 2.3.6 (Gingerbread)