Like Derek Zoolander, the Motorola Aura knows there's more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking. But it's not sure exactly what.
The Aura is drop-dead gorgeous, thanks mostly to its stunning 16-million-colour screen, but, like many fashion phones, it falls down on features. With an equally stunning price tag of around £1,200 SIM-free, it's got its work cut out to impress us.
Pretty but dumb
The Aura looks unique and impressive. Every time we whipped it out, we heard a chorus of 'oohs' and 'aahs'. When faced with the Aura's loveliness, even the most curmudgeonly of cynics melted like they were looking at a baby kitten, having previously raised an eyebrow in doubt when they heard about 'the world's first circular screen'.
Part of the Aura's appeal lies in its hefty, 15mm-thick, etched stainless-steel body and rotating cover with exposed geared mechanism. But most of its charm is down to the screen, which is clear and amazingly vibrant, thanks to its 16 million colours, 300dpi resolution and a 62-carat sapphire-crystal lens.
But a round screen has its drawbacks. In fact, it made us realise why every other screen is square. For example, when we were taking photos on the Aura's 2-megapixel camera, the corners of the image weren't visible, which made it difficult for us to frame our snaps. After we took a photo, the Aura showed the whole rectangular image, wasting a great deal of screen real estate.
We had a similar problem when surfing the Web. Web pages are designed for rectangular screens, so the Aura letterboxes the top and bottom of its display and cuts off the corners of the page to show a wide image with rounded sides. It works, but it reminded us that the round screen is a gimmick that's all about looks rather than functionality. The Aura's okay for looking something up on Google in an emergency, for example, but not for any serious surfing.
But maybe we're being shape-ist bigots -- is it the Aura's fault that it's a round peg in a square world? Yes, because, even within its own user interface, which should be round-screen-friendly, there are problems.
The main menu consists of a series of icons arranged in a circle. It would probably be a pleasure to navigate the icons using a round wheel like that of an iPod. But the Aura sports a four-way navigation button, so moving around the circle requires multiple presses of the left or right directional buttons. We were frustrated when we wanted to manoeuvre to options on the opposite side of the circle because they take so long to get to.
In fact, we found the Aura's user interface click-happy throughout. For example, it took 13 steps to change the wallpaper -- something we bet we'd be doing often so we could enjoy that luscious screen. And that's if we wanted to use one of the pre-made round wallpapers -- to browse to our own photos required another four steps.
We also found the interface inconsistent and confusing. For example, when selecting a new wallpaper image, the select option's on the right function key. When choosing an option from the shortcut menu on the home screen, the select option's on the left.