CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Motorola Gleam review: Motorola Gleam

Motorola is bringing back the flip phone with the Gleam. It does what it sets out to do at a reasonably cheap price.

Buzz Moody
3 min read


In the past two or three years, the "flip phone" has died out, making room for the new-generation candy bar-style form factors. With the Gleam, Motorola is looking to grab the hearts and minds of everyone wishing they could have their flip phones back. Then again, in this day and age, there's only so much functionality a flip phone can deliver.


Motorola Gleam

The Good

Simplistic design. Cool LED lights. Large, well-lit buttons.

The Bad

Lousy camera. Proprietary closed operating system. Terrible web browser.

The Bottom Line

Motorola are bringing back the flip phone with the Gleam. It does what it sets out to do at a reasonably cheap price.

The phone is made from a dark, matte plastic, with an "LED Matrix" display on the front of the device (when closed) that displays the time, as well as giving you a kind "Hello" when turned on. When you receive a message or phone call, it will also display an icon to let you know. We actually find it to be quite cool to look at. The bottom lip of the phone also has multiple LEDs in it, and it flashes when you open and close the phone, as well as when receiving a call or text.

The LED screen on the front of this flip phone looks cool, and shows a range of handy info.
(Credit: Buzz Moody/CBSi)

We found it really easy to flip the phone open and navigate through the menus using the soft-touch hardware buttons. They light up brightly at night for easy viewing, so you'll never accidentally hit the wrong button because you couldn't see it — and the keys are also quite large. The screen is 2.4 inches diagonally, which gives you enough room to send full-length texts and perhaps even view the poorly rendered websites in the browser.

The 2MP camera is on the front of the Gleam, above the LED Matrix display. There's a volume rocker and micro-USB port on the right-hand side, and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the left-hand side. The inclusion of the headphone jack makes this a pretty appealing, cheap portable music device that can also text, make calls and not do much else.

User experience and performance

After using the Motorola Gleam for a while, it was clear to us that this phone is no good if you're going to buy it for apps, emailing, browsing and all that high-tech tomfoolery. Instead, it's a very basic flip phone that can make calls perfectly well, text people with legible T9 text prediction, and listen to music thanks to the expandable micro-SD slot (up to 16GB).

At least the screen won't be covered in greasy fingerprints.
(Credit: Buzz Moody/CBSi)

The fact that there's no 3G mobile internet connection on the Gleam makes it hard to use for any kind of browsing — that is, the browser is pretty bad, to say the least. There are only two games on the phone (Puzzle and Magic Sushi), so there's not a lot to say on that front. There is an FM radio, if that's your kind of thing — perhaps it's nice to listen to in your morning or evening jobs.

If we haven't already made it clear, this phone is fantastic for calls, texts and music. If you want a lot more from your phone, it's best to look elsewhere. If you're thinking of buying this phone for an older relative or friend, then it's certainly worth taking a look at this phone, as it'll be very familiar to a former flip-phone user.


There's a single 2MP camera — with no flash — on the phone that takes really mediocre photos, and cannot be used in the dark. You can't use the camera when you close the phone, so you can't take those easy photos of your beautiful face and then share with your friends on Facebook, who I'm sure appreciate it. But, for under $100, you really get what you pay for.

(Credit: Buzz Moody/CBSi)

(Credit: Buzz Moody/CBSi)

Should you buy one?

Look, we know it's probably getting repetitive at this point, but there's only so much that this phone can do. We believe it's a great old-school-looking device that performs really well for the basics of calling, texting and listening to your tunes on the go.

For AU$89, you can't be expecting a lot; however, the phone looks really cool, and does what it sets out to do.