The Motorola Flipout has us freaking out. It's the first Android smart phone to throw caution to the wind and bust out a crazy, square, swivelling design. We like its playful form and full Qwerty keyboard, but its small, low-resolution screen and some flaky software mean it's not always hip to be square.
The Flipout isn't in many high-street shops yet, but you can buy it online for free on a £25-a-month, 18-month contract. You can also pick it up for around £250 SIM-free.
Small and smart
Inside the Flipout's cube-like case, you get all of the power of Google's Android 2.1 operating system. That means you can install from the Android Market, including everything from games to photo-editing applications.
Unfortunately, in our tests, the shopping experience wasn't the best. For example, the Market crashed the first few times we tried to load it. That may be the app's fault rather than the phone, but we haven't seen this problem on other Android handsets.
Also, when we installed the officialapp, it couldn't handle the Flipout's landscape screen. It displayed the wrong way around compared to the rest of the user interface, and it wouldn't adjust when we rotated the phone. Again, we can blame the app rather than the phone, but bear in mind that you may not get the smoothest app experience out there if you buy the Flipout.
On top of all that, Motorola has included its custom user interface for Android, Web site where you can track down your phone by its GPS signal and wipe its brain if you don't like what you see. But the emphasis is on social networking and messaging, with live widgets for the home screen serving up Facebook and Twitter updates, without you having to open a Web page or separate app., which we first saw on the handset. Motoblur includes a bundle of services, such as a
We like the idea behind the Motoblur widgets, but the system hasn't improved enough since its appearance on the Dext. There have been a few worthwhile tweaks, however, like the inclusion of the ability to set up several versions of the widgets, showing only updates from your favourite contacts or services.
We found the design of the widgets doesn't work well on the Flipout's small screen, though. There's too much space wasted on rounded corners and icons. As a matter of fact, parts of the Android operating system itself, such as the menu, are too spaced-out to suit the small screen.
Another flaw is the fact that the widgets emphasise profile pics, but resizing the photos to fit such a low-resolution screen makes your friends' faces look jaggy and distorted. No-one wants friends who look like that.
But Motoblur does have its strengths. For example, it grabs all your contacts from your Facebook, Twitter, Last.fm, Bebo, Picasa and MySpace accounts, including their profile photos, and merges them with your Google account to fill up the phone's address book. Since all of that information is then stored in the cloud, you'll never lose your phone book if you misplace your handset.