Motorola Aura hands-on

The Motorola Aura is a glitzy and expensive design-centric phone. We give it a once-over and snap a few shots.

When Motorola announced the Aura last October, we were intrigued from the start, even though it was clear that the Aura was all about its design.

Luckily, CES provided the first chance to get up close and personal with the Aura. Normally, manufactures keep cell phones that cost $1,999 safely behind glass at trade shows. But to our surprise, Moto was eager to let us get our grubby hands on the Aura. And from what we can tell, the device is just as attractive in the flesh. Its overall shape may not be for everyone, but it will stand apart from any other phone on the street. Be sure to check a gallery of shots in our Aura slide show .

The etched pattern on the shiny, stainless-steel exterior is eye-catching, even if Moto hadn't told us that it takes two weeks to etch and polish the design. As we said in October, the Aura reminds us of the much more mundane Moto V70. But that's not where Moto found its inspiration. Apparently, the company said it was inspired by Swiss design for luxury watches. If that's the case, we have to say that we get it.

The Motorola Aura is a looker. Kent German/CBS Interactive

The circular display is something we haven't seen before on a cell phone. We like the clock design and the icon-based menu design that's similar to the interface on the Motorola Rokr E8. The 16 million colors and 300dpi resolution is gorgeous even if attracts more than its share of fingerprints.

We were apprehensive about the swivel mechanism, given our past experience with that design. We've found over time that swivel phones like the Sony Ericsson W600i tended to wear out faster than their flip or slider counterparts. Yet, the Aura's sturdy mechanism felt quite promising. Perhaps it's due to the 130 ball bearings on which the swivel turns. You can even see the turning mechanism through a small window on the phone's exterior just below the camera lens.

Other exterior features include a camera shutter, a volume rocker, and the standard Moto smart key. The Aura also has a memory card slot, but it's stashed behind the battery cover. The keypad is flush and relatively spacious, but it too attracts smudges and fingerprints.

All of that glitz and high-end styling does come at a price, and we don't just mean the wallet-crunching $1,999 price tag. The Aura weighs almost 5 ounces, so it will add some mass to a pocket or bag. And it doesn't come with a huge feature set either. Goodies are limited to a 2-megapixel camera, a music player, stereo Bluetooth, Moto's CrystalTalk, messaging, a speakerphone, and an open-source browser. But if its looks are what you care about, there are few better phones.

 

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